We’re slowly getting more accepted here (and, for our part, more comfortable socializing). On Saturday, we had a LOT of socializing. Our subcontractor invited us to their weekly asado.
Let’s not pull any punches here. This was not a tony affair. The meal was served in the middle of a sad-looking field, next to the remnants of a burn pile with a herd of stray cats running around. The meat itself was served in slab form on a door that was wiped off and used as a table. There were probably 20 people there, and only two sets of utensils and four cups for Coca Cola. So, there is not the same level of hygiene as we are used to in the States. Given that… the meat was fantastic. Chorizo (fat, spicy-ish sausage) that you can either eat on its own, or as choripan, where you cut the sausage in half and stick it between bread. Vacio which is some variety of cow, and is absolutely delicious. Perfectly cooked, always juicy–just wonderful. Then, pollo, or chicken. There were apparently some ribs as well–but I seemed to have missed those. Just in general, and bunch of construction guys enjoying the Saturday afternoon sun. There was a lot of kicking the cats away when they tried to steal food and people were playing music on their phones–Bob Marley was a big winner there. T tried to explain to them how he had lived in Jamaica for a little bit–but I think all they got out of it was that they now think he lived in Bob Marley’s house. Oh, lost in translation…
By the end of the afternoon, we were invited to a barbeque at a coworker’s house that night. (All we do now is eat meat…) Some of the Paraguayans were going to come over to our side to celebrate one of them getting their engineering certificate. I’m not sure if there is a difference between a certificate and a degree… but regardless, if a capybara sneezed, I’m sure someone would consider it a reason to party.
We live in a kind of interesting DMZ between Paraguay and Argentina. With our work badges, we can go over the border to Ayolas, Paraguay (although we haven’t tried it yet), and the Paraguayans can come on over to Ituzaingo. I’m told that, if you were really feeling adventurous, you could probably sneak beyond the borders of the town with no big problems… but it’s not recommended. I have no urge to spend time in a Paraguayan jail, so we’ll hold off on that. At some point, we are going to get our Paraguayan visas, but that requires handing over our passports to their embassy in Posadas for a week–and any minute I don’t have my passport on me makes me itchy. It is interesting, though, to see so many interactions between the two countries. People who live in MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela are the big members, with Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname as junior members) can go in between all of these countries just using their national ID card and a slip of paper that essentially notes what day they entered and gets punched when they go back to their country of origin. For Americans, even though we will (eventually, someday) have DNIs, we still count as non-MERCOSUR, and therefore have to jump through their sometimes crazy visa processes. I’m sure as we go through that nonsense, I’ll be able to detail it further on the blog.
Back to socializing… we were told that they would probably start grilling at 8pm. Now, we should have known better because we’ve been here for almost five months. Argentinians are notoriously late. And not in the “eh, traffic was bad, I’ll be there in 15 minutes” sense. They are epically late–by hours, days, weeks. So we run out, grab some cervezas to share with everyone (because we have no idea what else to bring to an asado, and you can never go wrong with something alcoholic), and decide we’ll stop by around 8:15. Thankfully, the party was just the next block over, so we swing by on our way back from the supermercado. No one’s there. We go back to the house, watch the end of “Herbie: Fully Loaded” on Disney Channel, and try again at 9pm. No luck still. We finally get a text at 9:30 that the first set of people have just arrived, so we head on over.
Everyone grabs a chair, sits in a circle near the grill, and grabs a beer. The parrillador or GrillMaster hangs out by the grill the whole time, and throws all of the meat on. When the meat is ready, he pulls it off, puts it on a cutting board, cuts it into bite-size chunks, and walks it around to each person. This continues for hours of eating meat, drinking beer, and talking. I’m understanding most of what is said at this point, but T’s still a bit in the dark. Once the talk turns to specific soccer teams and plays, I’m out–whether it’s in English or Spanish.
They’re revving up for the World Cup in June/July down here–and everyone is going to be watching it, even though the Paraguayan team didn’t make it. The Argentinians were put in a group that pretty much gaurantees that they’ll make it beyond their group and into the top 16, if not even further. We’re putting the dates of each game on our calendar, and hope to catch one or two while we’re down here. We’ll probably just go to a local bar and watch with the locals. They are super–passionate about their teams, so it’s best to always know where your emergency exits are in case of a fight.
There were a good mix of people at the asado, and we try to mix the Spanish we know, and the English they know into some form of conversation. They always have lots of questions about American holidays and American customs. US tv shows are everywhere down here (Big Bang Theory, Bones, Family Guy, Simpsons, etc) so they see a lot of the quintessential American-isms. Lots of questions about how we handle Christmas, how Easter is different (remember, no bunnies down here!), and endless questions about colleges and college life (particularly fraternities and sororities).
Argentina deals with post-secondary education in an entirely different way from the US. If you want to go to college, you go. All of the national colleges are completely free of charge as long as you maintain somewhat reasonable grades. You don’t have a part time job or anything while you study–and it is expected that your parents entirely financially support you while you are in college. It absolutely blows their mind the amount that people in the US spend on a college education–and they can’t imagine having that sort of debt when they graduate. Even more, once they graduate, they live with their parents until they are married–and a lot of the time, their mothers will cook, clean, do their laundry up until the day they move out. Craziness. They’re enchanted by the idea of fraternities and sororities–understandable considering the amount of American cinema and television devoted to that particular facet of college life. T’s regaled them with stories from college, and I’ve explained sororities–although girl drama isn’t nearly as interesting as themed parties and giant cookouts.
We finally gave up and went home at 1:30am–just as the Argentinians were ready to head out to the club. I still need to work myself up to that level of energy!