Monday, January 14, 2008

First from Argentina

Warning: this is a long one

Sarah and I have made the long journey to Puerto Madryn. We met up in Atlanta, flew to Buenos Aires, took a bus through the city to another airport, flew to Trelew, and took a bus to Puerto Madryn. Seattle to Puerto Madryn: 27 hours. Mariana (my boss/mentor here) took us to our apartment. It makes my BYU apartment look spacious and ritzy, but it is nice. Our local roommates, Natalia and Florencia, are on a field trip until the 21st; so we are learning how to operate things ourselves. The shower is easiest; just make sure to squeegee the floor well. There are two toilets, we have yet to master the most familiar looking one and have yet to try the other (looks like what I imagine a bidda to look like?). We have haven’t used the clothes washer, but have looked at it skeptically; there is no dryer, just some wires on the little porch. No dish washer, but very few dishes so it doesn’t matter. (We noticed that Florencia and Natalia only had three little plates, and there are four of us, so we bought two more little ones to use).
The small stove/oven was the funniest to learn to use. It is gas. Mariana took us shopping the first day and we bought an interesting looking ready made pizza for a quick dinner that night. There is a brown handle above it on the wall that we turn to get the gas flowing. The knobs on the stove direct gas to the burners and oven, and a door opens below the oven to light it. I had tried unsuccessfully for some time to get the oven lit so Sarah came in to help. She operated the knobs while I lay on the floor and worked the lighter (which was almost empty to start with). After burning up all of our matches, we tried the lighter one last time. Ignition! Sarah quickly pulled out on the knob, twisted to the left, then the right, and there it was: a working stove. One somewhat tasty, burnt pizza later and we were more than ready for bed.
Friday Mariana took us around town and helped us with some trip logistics. Saturday Sarah and I ventured out on our own to explore the town. The main part of town is a good 45 min walk away, but we walk along the beach front so it is enjoyable. We ran a few errands, looked at the wares of street vendors, and decided to have a quick bite before heading home. We were too far into the small cafĂ© when we realized that we didn’t know all the vocab needed for a restaurant, or the proper procedure. We blundered through, but without grace.
Between 1pm and about 5pm all the shops close for lunch and siesta time. This is also when the beach becomes packed. Sarah and I took off our shoes and strolled along the beach to go home for siestas of our own. That evening we went to “Fiesta Nacional del Cordero.” Almost every town in Argentina has one big annual festival of some sort. In Madryn it is the National Sheep Festival. Guachos (Patagonian cowboys that raise sheep) come into town with their horses and sheep and there is a 4 day festival with artisans, guacho food, local musicians, Argentine rodeos, sheepdog demonstrations, etc. On Saturday, when we went, they were doing sheepdog demonstrations and some horse displays. We ate pastries, sampled really strong cheese and sausage, listened to music, and watched the guachos in the sheepdog competitions. Lots of fun!
On Sunday we walked 3.5 miles to church. It is the biggest ward here, but in the U.S. it might not even be a branch. Everyone was very welcoming, and as is Argentine custom, greeted us with a kiss on the cheek. I am beginning to get used to it. It was comforting to be singing familiar hymns and learning about Jose Smith. We now have Spanish Book of Mormons and Spanish lesson manuals so it is easier to follow along.


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