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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon
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Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Rosario and Bombal, Argentina - 2013# Posted by Joel Dixon at 04/09/2013 21:12:23
Updated by Joel Dixon at 12/01/2015 23:32:11
When I last updated this blog I had just returned from my three month holiday in Europe - happy with all I had achieved and eagerly expecting the arrival of the best souvenir from the trip - my new girlfriend Paola. I had met Pao in a tour bus during my travels and somehow convinced her to spend a year in Australia instead of returning to her home country of Argentina. We've driven the Great Ocean Road, caught a footy game in Perth and reinforced my view that people from Sydney are crazy - but now a wedding invitation has given me a chance to experience life in Argentina, and to meet Pao's family.
The flights were event-free - other than serving to remind me that international travel is the worst time to be tall. We basically travelled for 36 hours (including an 8 hour recess at Pao's Rosario apartment) to arrive at Paola's parents house in Bombal completely exhausted. Imagine our surprise when the 5-person lunch we were expecting turned into a 21-place extended family gathering to welcome Pao back home. Thankfully the food was delicious, everyone was extremely nice and Pao's sister had also brought a boyfriend home - whom could speak Spanish - so he received all the difficult questions.
The cuisine of Argentina is simply described - lots of meat.
After some food I was taken on a bit of a tour of the town and I found it quite strange. Perhaps I am mistaken - but my memory of small Australian country towns is of very few houses with a lot of space separating them and paddock-bashers being used to get around the fields. Bombal was best described as a mini-city. The 7-by-7 town block had dense housing similar to an outer Eastern suburb back home. Bombal is also home to a car dealership, oil factory and a large petrol station - things I wouldn't expect in an Australian town of 3,500 people.
As part of the town tour - we stopped into the milk bar so I could sample the local candy on offer - and I think I now know why Pao and I were brought together. I distinctly remember first watching the debut-season Simpsons episode The Crepes of Wrath, in which Bart is sent to France on an exchange program where he is forced into slavery as his captors put antifreeze into the wine. The part of that episode that sticks out of my mind is when Bart tries to explain his situation to the local law enforcement - the police man does not understand Bart and so instead gives him a piece of candy.
"I ... I don't want a piece of candy, I need your ..."
I don't know why - but that piece of candy given to Bart always looked delicious to me! Everytime I see that episode I feel like eating a piece of candy similar to the one given to Bart. I've always found candy in Australia (such as Starburst / Natural Confectionery Company Fruit Chews, toffee apples, red skins etc) to be too chewy and they stick to the teeth too much. The closest chew that I really enjoy is a Sherbie - but I wish they were just a tiny bit less chewy. In the absence of any actual knowledge - I always assumed that the piece of candy that Bart received was the missing link of confectionery consistency that I was searching for.
During the plans for this trip to Argentina, Pao kept telling me about a type of candy that she thinks I would love - as we're both huge fans of tutti-frutti flavour jelly belly jelly beans. Sure enough - in Pao's childhood candy store I tried a "Flynn Paff" and my search to re-create the unattainable candy was completed. Not only that - but Flynn Paffs also come in grape, banana and strawberry/vanilla flavours. I am glad we brought along an extra suitcase with us - that's for sure!
Some of the candy we will be taking home with us. Yes, it will be added to - and probably half of this will be devoured before we get on the plane to Melbourne
After returning from my candy awakening, the party had died down and most of the guests had returned home. This gave me a better opportunity to chat one-on-one with Pao's parents - something that I must admit I was a tad nervous about. It went really well - I was surprised by the amount we could actually communicate even without Pao translating for us. Every single Spanish lesson I took helped in this regard - although so did a number of gestures between Pao's Dad and myself. I had a fun time and I'm not surprised Pao turned out the way she did considering how great her parents are.
After another meat-filled meal the next morning, we headed back to Rosario for the wedding that had brought us to Argentina in the first place. Pao is a huge fan of dancing, those that know me understand that this is certainly not the case with me. But my old friend Drunk Joel never passes up an opportunity to dance so I loaded up on wine (interesting side note: it seems most people add ice cubes to their red wine here - kind of took me by surprise) and strutted my stuff with equal parts of gusto and poor execution. There was a guy at the wedding that spoke English and worked in IT - so Pao thought the two of us could chat and would probably get along well. In the end - it was the truck driver sitting next to me that didn't speak a word of English that I spoke with for most of the night. Again, we found a way to understand what the other was saying enough to have a great time.
I've only just now noticed that some dude was giving me two cheeks of feedback while I was taking this photo. I am ok with this
All-in-all the wedding was pretty similar to those back home - but with a very different time schedule. The service started at 8 pm, the reception begun at around 9:30 pm and didn't finish until around 6 the following morning. After all that dancing, people end up getting tired and the excellent invention of "second foods" happens at about 4 am - with a second round of pata being offered. The wedding was a heap of fun - and I was really happy to be included.
Very surprising that you can still see my eyes in this photo - considering how drunk I was at this point. I guess the ice cream in front of my woke me up momentarily
The long wedding, lack of a regular schedule and perhaps jetlag finally caught up to me - I didn't get out of bed until 7 pm. We caught up with some of Pao's friends at a "Milanesa" restaurant - which is basically a parma store. The 12 Pubs of Christmas uncovered some great parmas on offer in Melbourne - but I don't think you would be able to find a place with as much variety as El Club De La Milanesa. What flavour parma do you want (about 20 on offer)? How do you want the chicken prepared (fried, oven baked etc)? Chips or salad on the side? Salad - what type of salad do you want? Too many choices - but it was all worth it for the flavour.
The next day we caught up with some more of Pao's friends, and I caught upon two trends that I have noticed that are pleasing to me. Firstly - Pao is a very strange Argentinian it would seem - as she does not talk with her hands at all when compared to her friends and family. I'm loving the inventive use of body language, such as knocking yourself on the face to indicate somebody is a "stone face" - and unable to hide their feelings, or pretending that your hand is on fire while shaking it to indicate that something should be done quickly. Another thing I love is that I have acquired a new nickname - "El".
Being called "El" reminds me of El Mariachi character from Robert Rodriguez's Mexico trilogy - but with less guitars
Instead of using my name a lot when telling her friends what we've been up to - Pao substitutes with the pronoun of "El" - or literally "he". When someone says "so then he fed some ducks" - it sounds pretty mundane to me - but for some reason the addition of "El" spices things up - "so then El fed some ducks". The idea that "El" was probably feeding the ducks from the back of a flaming motorcycle is implied. I've quite enjoyed being referred to as "El" - even though I am sure it's not being used to indicate my extra bad-assery (even though I can look pretty grim while feeding ducks).
In a word - I'd have to sum up my Argentinian experience so far as "uncomfortable" - the flight, the bus rides, the tiny beds and especially the life-changing lack of communication options. I'm so used to being able to express myself exactly as I feel - having to substitute "I grew up in a large-ish suburb and my family would always leave the doors unlocked - we never felt worried about crime" for "In my town when me child - no robbery much" while taking 3 times as long gets pretty frustrating. But that being said - comfort-zones are made to be broken - and I have been having the time of my life here - spending it with Pao and her family has made it extra special. Finding the delicious Flynn Paff candy didn't hurt either.
# Posted in the Travel section and tagged as: Argentina
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