Back to Argentina: Guarani mythology

Come and discover the many creatures who wander around in the Argentinian forest…

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The Pombero
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He is the owner of sun but is a little shaggy and dark. He usually stalks houses and causes problems like opening gates of stockyards, braiding horses’ tails or putting out fires. He is also famous for his talent as lady’s man. The Pombero is the spirit who protects the birds. He looks over the forest and if he sees children hunting them, he takes them away and let them far away from their home. He usually kidnaps them during siesta hour, although he can also kidnap them at night, when they walk behind the fireflies. He does not make a sound when he walks. For this reason, in some places, he gets the name of Py-ragüé, Downy Feet. He can imitate the singing of the birds, and also, according to some stories, become a trunk or a water plant, or even become invisible. He likes fresh eggs and honey from the forest. He chews black tobacco and usually sleeps in the subdued stoves. Certain versions say that people who celebrate agreements with him may benefit from his help. To invoke him, you have to go to the forest and repeat his name three times in the evening; but the legend says that this is not advisable, because those who have seen him have remained mute or crazy. If one speaks about him at night, it has to be done softly, trying not to offend him, and it is a good idea to leave some tobacco for him to chew next to the house. To repel him, you have to put a clove of garlic in every corner of the house.

The Curupí or Curupiré (rough skin)
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He is a small man with his ears on top of his head, his feet backwards, ad his skin as scaly leather. He is always represented naked. As his feet are facing backwards, he moves very awkwardly, and he can’t swim: because of this, people make fun of him. His principal feature is his virile member which turns around his waist. He uses it to get women pregnant from a distance: he usually waits for solitary girls wandering in the forest. It is said that cutting his phallus makes him inoffensive.
Mothers usually scare their daughters with this story so that they don’t go alone in the forest. Meeting the Curupí is dangerous for them: if the Curupí gets them, they would end up pregnant, and even if they manage to escape his attempts, they would lose their mind due to his obscenity. This kind of phallic myth is a symbol of the multiplication and the continuation of the species. With this story, Guarani justify the birth of children of unwedded mothers, or try to scare girls from having sexual intercourses outside of marriage.

The Yasí-Yateré
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He is a fair-haired and muscular dwarf, who walks around the world with a big hat of straw and a golden cane, to kidnap children. He takes them to the forest, play with them and then leave them there wrapped in lianas. During siesta times, he hisses to attract curious children, boys and girls. The legend says that if a mortal manages to steal his golden cane, he would acquire his power to attract children and young girls.
This myth seems to take its origin in the habit of kidnapping children and women as plunder of war between tribes. Parents use this story to scare their children so that they don’t end up disappearing.

The Teyú Cuaré
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The legend says that at the bottom of the hill today called Victoria, in the park of the same name, was living in the maelstrom of the river the Teyú Cuaré, a giant animal half lizard, half dragon, which would sink the boats that were sailing on the Parana River. This was meant to explain the movements of the water when it would hit the cliffs of sandy stone by the river, as much as the shipwrecks or other navigation accidents.

The Yaguareté-Abá
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He is described as half human, half animal: he has the body of a tiger with a short tail, and human head, feet and hands. He was a man magically turned into the fiercest animal, and he uses his new abilities to take revenge from his enemies or to get to women. He cannot copulate with a female tiger or he will never become a man again. He always goes hunting at night. He is a very strong and dangerous creature, but it is possible to defeat him by cutting his head. You can escape him by climbing up a palm tree, the only one the Yaguareté-Abá cannot climb.
The Cainguá people of the Alto Parana think that if a tiger is sitting next to a grave, the soul of the dead person has been reincarnated into the animal and this belief has been passed on the Guarani tribes.

The legend of the Yerba Mate
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In ancient times, Guarani used to leave the elders behind so that they would not be a burden to these nomadic people. When the Spanish arrived, The Guarani were the most widespread indigenous people in South America, and were in the process of settling. This implied an important change in their habits (hunting, harvest…), and also in the way they were treating the eldest. It is probable that the legend of the Yerba Mate explains this period.

An elder person was left behind by his tribe, and while he was complaining about his misfortune, he saw two beautiful maidens coming towards him. They were the sun and the moon personified. Suddenly, an enormous tiger (yaguareté) jumped from the bush in order to attack the two girls. The old man used to be a warrior, so he took his long and heavy cane and attacked the beast, defeating it after a fierce struggle. The Sun (Cuarají) and the Moon (Yasi), grateful, gave him a small plant that would grow into the tree of the yerba mate (caá mate). They taught him how to dry its leaves by placing them on the fire, to grind them and to prepare the potion which is, for the Guarani people, the mother of all teas thanks to its vigorous qualities. When the old man shared his gift with his people, he was received with honors back into his community.

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Stories found in the Teyú Cuaré Park, near San Ignacio, Misiones, Argentina.

Life on Mars

The bus trip out of Cordoba was fair enough, and we woke up after twelve hours of road at the feet of the mountains, in Salta la Linda. It is a very nice city, with pink-colored churches full of ornamental flowers and ribbons all over the facade, little colonial houses, and oh joy, a lot of sun! Lots of pilgrims too, and folk bands, had come for the weekend to celebrate the patrons of the city, El Señor y la Virgen del Milagro.

At first we got to the wrong hostel, because there were three of them called “La Linda” o “de la Linda”, but soon we managed to find the right one and meet again our crazy German guy known in San Ignacio. We climbed up the 1070 stairs (yes, I counted them while I was panting on the Highway to Hell, or should I say Stairway to Heaven?) of the main mountain of the city, where we could see a beautiful panorama of all the surroundings at twilight, and had a lot of fun in the evening with Mickael and Domitille, in calle Balcara, the bar and concert street of the city, eating empanadas de llama, humitas and tamales while listening to peña, the local music.

Then we left again for Tilcara, where we had a little trek of two hours in the mountains to see the huge Garganta del Diablo (the devil can make really impressive things, uh?), hidden in a desert of cacti swept by a cold cruel wind, and jumped over the rocks of a little river to reach it. We had to speed up a bit as night was already falling, but it was easier to walk with the wind in our backs and Queen singing up on Janyce’s iPhone.

That night, a mystery happened : while the clients of our hippie-like hostel were all gone to a concert bar around midnight, and while I was using the computer just at the entry of the hall, someone got in and stole the television! I heard nothing, nor saw anything suspect (a man with a telly in his arms passing by and saying goodnight , maybe?). Weird. Batman must have needed the tv for the night.

Next day we climbed up the Pukara (always escorted by dogs), the fortress of the Aymara, made of little houses and lots of prickly cacti, visited a botanical garden with twenty different species of cactus (Janyce was in heaven) and a strange volcanic stone, called “La Piedra Campana” : when you hit it with another stone or the knuckles of your hand, it tolls like a bell! In the evening we took another bus to Purmamarca, to see the beautiful Cerro de los Sietes Colores in the twilight : amazing! Purple, pink, yellow, dark green, pale green, rusty red, blue cobalt, all those shades were twinkling from the canyon covered up with blue-green sand, yellow-dried flowers and white cacti. Overwhelmed by such beauty, we decided to build a little tumulus to the Pachamama, to express our thankfulness. It was like exploring another planet, Mars maybe, with its huge red hills made of clay and stones, looking like giant termite-colonies.

From Tilcara we moved again to Humahuaca, where they were celebrating the local patroness, like in Salta, the Virgen de Candelaria. We deliberately went to Iruya, a little pueblo at 70 km afar from Humahuaca, lost between the highest mountains of andine Argentina. Seems like nothing, eh? The trip took us three hours, because only the first 20 km where on asphalted road, the remaining 50 km were spent bouncing and bouncing over the rocks, turning again and again round wonderful mountains inhabited by spare indios, llamas and wild vicuñas. The village itself wasn’t impressive, the road taken was rather the main aim and discovery of the whole expedition.

This is how we spent our last days in Argentina, climbing and jumping over rainbow mountains, and of course, eating humitas y empanadas.

Bolivia was already calling us, so we took another bus to La Quiaca, where we had to walk a bit and cross by feet the bolivian frontier (yeah, that’s it, baby), to get into Villazón. The acre smell of coca leaves floating in the streets caught our throat and nose.There we took a private taxi with a very funny English couple towards Tupiza, far nicer than Villazón, and almost feared not getting to our final destination, since the driver kept driving in the middle of the road, if not in the other way, avoiding at the last moment the buses coming in front of him. And he was as scared as us, apparently.

To change a bit, we decided to go walking in the surrounding mountains, through the desert, to see the Puerta del Diablo and Canyon del Inca : we went without a guide. All we had to do, according to Alfonso, was following the traces of the horses. What a challenge! Tiring, but completely worth it! And we could eat the best Bolivian tomatoes, empanadas de pollo (also called salteñas or tucumanas) and sweetest pineapple ever, under a tree hidden in a cave after climbing the Canyon del Inca, where our voices kept echoing (ouch, my ass! Beware of that rock, OK, you can climb there, thump! oh no my bag! The tomatoes are still alive?). Janyce got her first war scar while crossing a treachery bush full of thorns, and had an overdose of sun, cured with a good night of deep sleep and a liter of Sprite.

And then we decided to rest a bit, doing like tourists and going on an organized journey to the Salar de Uyuni with our English couple met in Villazón. We stopped at Atocha, then slept at the Salt Hotel of Colchani, very simple and frugal (just beds with seven blankets on it, in and out of electric power, I won’t describe the toilets). We woke up at five in the morning to contemplate the dawn on the Salar (just in time to see the Milky Way and its billion of stars disappear slowly, letting pink shades shine on the top of the faraway volcanoes covered with snow), and finally climbed up the Isla del Pescado, with its funny cacti enlightened by unreal beams. Back to Uyuni, where we left our kind but shy guides and our funny Manchesterians, we got to Potosî, the highest city in the world, and then Sucre. Very neat, white and with nice gardens. We came just in time for Spring Day (also Love and Peace and Student’s Day) and could enjoy the festive atmosphere in the streets and listen to a folk concert the Culture House. In Sucre too, Janyce attended to her fist mass in the Cathedral of Sucre, and we decided to write a song to understand better the bolivian spirit (with our faithful ukulele Jimi, and now our beautiful charanguito ABBA).

And now we’re are we? But in La Paz, preparing our next mythological intervention with children at the Alliance Française!

Hasta luego !

All Night Long in Cordoba

If Paraná was dedicated to work and daily human experience, well, Córdoba would be the city of intense nightlife. We’ve been hosted by Fernando, a nice and polite young man that just finished his studies in Veterinary Sciences, and his great family. They lived near the Sierra, a bit outside the city, and had four dogs, an official cat and a little lamb name Quililo (c’est trop mignon).

We arrived in Córdoba in the evening, at eight o’clock, had a dinner based on very good empanadas (actually, the best we had eaten till now), and went to discover the real spirit of this city, incarned by La Mona Jimenez. We thus learned to dance el cuarto and la cumba, and got home at eight o’clock in the morning. We also discovered the main cocktail of Córdoba : Fernet Coca, a mix of Fernet Branca and Coca-Cola (not so bad after the third glass). The next days were spent going around with his friends and especially going out till morning (and there, some things may stay untold). Very amusing, yet proving. We must have slept but eight hours in all these three days. On Sunday, we all went in the Sierra to prepare an asado, the argentinian barbecue (the meat is very good and omnipresent), and to visit the holiday city of Villa Carlos Paz.

However, during our staying, we could also chat with Fernando’s parents, and learn a bit more about the academic life back in the Seventies and the terrible reality of military dictature that provoked the disappearing of many intellectuals or young students opposed to it : los desaparecidos.

Living in an argentinian family enabled us to know a side of Argentina that may be hidden to tourists (even if it was very difficult to cope at first with the strange accent of Córdoba, quite nasal and very long on the vocals, but chanting and funny). And, oh, they were all very kind and generous, and the boys very couteous : they stepped back to let us pass first, they brought our heavy bags, and Fernando prepared us our toasts, while German made the panchos (hotdogs). 

Food Bonus : Battered Coffee with a spoon of dulce de leche is just perfect, as well as criollos with dulce de leche, sipping apple-flavoured red tea.

Non, rien de rien, non, je ne regrette rien.

Welcome to Paraná (myths, baguette and much more)

When : Tuesday 4th September 2012
Where : Escuela Normal, Paraná, Entre Ríos, Argentina
Level : 4e, 5e et 6e grades
Number of pupils : 35
Lenght of the session : 1h40
Chosen myth : Midas and the golden touch
Number of stories told by children: 6

After one week of (relative) calm holidays in Misiones, we finally moved towards Paraná to meet our first class in Argentina. We traveled by night and arrived a little late at the bus station (seven o’clock in the morning, instead of six and forty), because the Police stopped our car for a routine check of the passengers : Carina, Brenda and German were already waiting for us in the cold and kindly welcomed us.

After a swift and delicious breakfast, we went to explore the nice park by the Río Paraná, while Carina and Brenda had to attend to a reunion of the teachers at the Normal School. In the afternoon, we were invited by Brenda in a class of the Alliance Francaise in Paraná to chat a bit in french and answer to the question of the students, mostly adults. It was very nice and interesting to discover how they saw France, the French, and of course French cuisine. The students were rather shy in our presence and wouldn’t talk much in french, although they seemed very curious, so we had to alternate between a more clearly articulated french and our wonderful spanish.

A little while after, we met the directors of the Alliance Francaise and of the Normal School, both very welcoming and enthusiast about the project we were leading, and then had a coffee and biscuits with the french teachers of the school and their assistants : we talked about France, education in Argentina and the french dream, the hard role of the teachers, and a bit of history and politics, all very thought-provoking.

This first day was intense and full of new acquaitances, yet the next day would be far more busy and challenging.

On the 4th September, we had to expose briefly the greek and latin world and tell the story of Midas, the (stupid) king that changed everything into gold by touching it, to a class of 35 children between 8 and 12 years old. Carina had carefully organised everything for us, yet there was a surprise in the morning. On our way to school, Brenda received a call on her cellphone from Carina, saying that the local radio wanted to interview us by phone, to speak about our project, Paris and Buenos Aires. Argh! I hope that my spanish wasn’t too horrible. Brenda and Janyce were so stressed for me that they kept petting Aphrodite and Mister Persident, the beautiful dog and proud cat of Brenda, to calm down. Fortunately, they didn’t saw me blush from head to feet at the phone.

Once in the school, while waiting for the class to begin, the reporter of the school paper did just in time to interview us and take some photos before we were called in. And then, all the eyes were pointed on us. The children were seated in a semi-circle, curious and excited. We did a brief introduction of the Classic culture in french and spanish (a boy kept laughing while we were speaking), and then told the myth of Midas, trying to speak loud and clear, making gestures and showing Janyce’s drawings. At the end of the story, we discovered that the children had found it very difficult to follow in french and understand the drama. So, we decided to repeat the myth more slowly, with simpler words, asking what they had understood and trying to explain the more complex passages in spanish (fortunately, the other teachers helped us very quickly). Some of them already knew the myth and began to tell it to those who hadn’t figured out the main details.

Came the time in which the children had to draw chosen scenes of the story they would tell a little after, and it was very interesting to compare their behaviour with the french pupils we met in Saint-Romain : they were more lively and excited, not to say more loud or expansive, and more prone to work in little groups with friends. Yet, there was still the lonely wolf working by himself, very shy and secretive. We passed among the table to help them finding out stories, but often they would come to us to ask little questions in french (what’s your name? When is your birthday? Do you like mate?). It was not easy to advise them or to keep a certain order, and the teachers have been very helpful. It was funny to observe the implication of every child in the teamwork, and their good will (some of them tried to cheat for the drawing of a dragon). When the storytelling time began, we already had volunteers : however, once in front of the class, the children became very shy, not knowing really how to tell well the story. Some of them were interrupted by the public, when the story didn’t appeal, some received suggestions or corrections from it, when the story was well-known, while others chose to invent or reinterpret a story or a myth : we thus could hear the Little Red Riding Hood, The Ugly Duckling and a story of princess and dragon, mostly of european tradition. One of them told the strange story of the Minotaur, but a very personal one : one day the ugly monster fell again and again, and when he got up, he was beautiful. Only one group told us the inca legend of Cacheute, although they pretty most read it to the class, while another tried to tell the argentinian tale of the Elephant Dailankifki, but was interrupted. Even the most shy girls in the class came to tell a story,  and the children didn’t ask to go out, although it was a very long lesson (normally, they use to have 40 mn of class, and we kept them almost for 2 hours). Halas, due to a lack of time, few groups couldn’t pass and we have now to guess the stories with their drawing (one is suspected to illustrate Dragon Ball Z). They were all very cute. As Brenda pointed it out, children sometimes used a particular language to expose the stories, traditional formulas that they never use in every-day speech. The drawings of the children shall be the main material of a following post. We hadn’t the authorizations to shoot a video with the children, but we have recorded the stories so to write them down as soon as possible. It is true that we have heard only one local tale, Cacheuta, but we must consider that those children are raised in a society impregned by european values and conceptions. I think we should have different results if we could meet indian children. However, it is interesting to note which stories are the most popular, and how children can use the archetypes of the tales to make up one of their own.

At the end of the class, the journalist of El Diario came for an interview, and we told us our first impressions with the children. All this in spanish, of course, but somehow we worked it out. Carina had also scheduled for us a live interview in a local tv program in the afternoon, and oh gosh, this was a stressing experience!

After our exceptional performance at the telly (cof cof), we went to speak to a class of young adults in the Business School of Paraná and chat again about Paris, France (yes, I assure you, French people wash themselves daily – well, almost- and don’t make strong parfums to cover a bad smell), Parisian architecture and talk about the radio project they had to lead about France. Some of them were quite impertinent, some other very interested, and above all, very curious and welcoming.

This busy and eventful day came finally to an end, and Brenda and German prepared a typical and delicious dish of Paraná, the chupin ; then we played ukulele and sang till early hours with German and Jimen, her talented niece who plays Murga-like music.

And next day, Carina brought us a surprise : we were on the front page of El Diario!

Our staying at Paraná has been very stimulating and rich of humanity. It was really heartwarming to see that our project made the children and the teachers so enthusiast. Moreover, we are grateful to Carina for her kind and generous welcome and very neat organisation, and to Brenda and German for hosting us, letting us taste the best argentinian specialities (wine, beer, alfajores santafesinos, mate, tortas fritas), telling us popular tales about food and siesta (we shall soon tell you about the dreadful Solapa, who takes away in his bag the naughty children that don’t respect the siesta time) and giving us contacts to continue our travel.

Muchas Gracias!

Epicness in San Ignacio

It’s strange, but after moving from place to place after Buenos Aires, we felt the need to stay a little bit longer in San Ignacio, at the hostel El Jesuita : thus, we spent a week here, talking with other travelers and the very nice people of the pueblo.

Well, we survived to the cold showers in the garden and finally enjoyed a warm, generous sun, seizing this chance for exploring the surroundings of the Misiones, and it was pretty crazy and funny.

First, we decided to have a walk to the National Park of Teyú Cuaré, almost ten km from San Ignacio, and hike through the three main paths : el Sendero de la Casa de Martin Borman, a Nazi that lived hidden in the tropical forest, el Sendero de la Selva y el Mirador de los Escalones.

 

Indiana Janyce in search of the hidden treasure

Hello, Paraguay!

It was quite hard to jump from rock to rock, sloloming between the tangled roots and trying not to eat to much cobwebs or bichos (yum, proteins, would say the crazy guy of Man vs Wild), but it was really impressive to penetrate in the dark and luxurious tropical bushes, full of unknown buzzes, flying insects and brightly-colored birds. We also saw a strange animal among the tree, similar to a rabbit, but without the long ears. And after climbing and panting over the natural stairs cut in the rocks, we could cast a glance over the huge Río Paraná : Paraguay, here we’ll com soon!

We rested a bit in the beautiful Mirador, eating our sandwiches while the lizards were bathing in the sun, then recollected ourselves and took our way back home. We might have walked 22 km that day, but the thought of home-made pizza gave us the strenght to perform this hike till the end! And thanks to Herminia for her delicious pizzas! Between our third and fourth pizza  (we were so hungry and the night was so cold, again), we decided to go with Michael, a crazy German guy we just met at the hostel, to visit  Paraguay next morning. Yee-haaa! Herminia suggested that we could take the boat, it was faster and with less change. However, we didn’t know the schedule of the boat and so we would have to call at the local port ; then the boat would have left us in the middle of nowhere, some miles from a city that didn’t exist on the map, and our spanish was far from perfect. ANd, oh, we had no guaraní yet. Too much incognitas, we guessed. The idea was nice, though.

So, we woke up at dawn to catch the first bus for Posadas, then took another one to reach the downtown, where Michael had to leave his backpack in another hostel. Janyce and him managed very well with the inexistent bus stops, although one of us probably didn’t pay the fare, ’cause we couldn’t underestand what the driver told us. This done, we took the International bus to Encarnación, and here began the adventure. We had to get off at the Argentinian frontier to had our passeports stamped, but there was a problem with mine : when I eventually got out, I just saw my bus going away, with Janyce and Michael! Gosh! What shall I do? and I was with no guaraní! Walk towards the paraguyan side, or waiting for another bus and then show my ticket? I didn’t really  had the time to abandon myself to paranoia, since a bus came almost immediately, and I found again Janyce and Michael at the paraguayan border.

Then, we missed our stop to the central omnibus station and had to walk ten or twelve blocks back, but it was a nice chance to visit Encarnación. We could see little stands of flowers and dried herbs for infusions or medicine at every corner of the streets : maybe there was some mary-jane, next to camomille and mate? And oh, lots of clothshops with strange mannequins : their asses were all pushed up (yes, here a cute ass is the most attractive mean of seduction).

Our clinging and rusty bus left us at the ruins of Trinidad : they were in  better state than Santa Ana and San Ignacio, but the atmosphere was a less suggestive, maybe. Michael climbed everywhere and we had good laughs! To get to Jesus, 11, 6 km afar (precision is all, you see), we had to take a shared taxi (a yellow noisy golf-car, to be intended here). The first one asked us 60000 guaraní, but it was way too expensive, so we walked to the nearest gas station and found another one that first asked us 40000 guaraní, but we bargained and had it with no difficulty for 25000 for the three of us, to and fro (and I’m sure we could have done it for less). Bargain, Bargain!

 

 

The Mision of Jesus was surrounded by fields and palmtrees in which parrots nested

On the yellow tcuk-tchuk

The visit finished, we return to Encarnación with plenty of money : we had to spend it all, because no one would have accepted to change them back! Thus we wandered near the central station, looking for a nice little place to eat, but could find nothing of the sort. Ah, to be so rich and not knowing where to spend all the money! We ended up in a comedor, ordered the biggest bottle of beer and then feasted a bit, eating comestible empanadas, asado, pollo and milanesa (fried and fried again)! And this time, while crossing the fontier, we all ran to get our three passeports stamped together (the responsible didn’t even look at them) and departed with Michael at Posadas, with the promise to meet again in Salta, have so much to tell (and yeah, we didn’t die in Paraguay!). We came back home so late that Herminia was getting worried. We should have take the boat, after all?

We decided to rest, next day, so we walked five km to the Playa del Sól. We discovered that the beach didn’t exist anymore, but his wasn’t the only surprise of the day : the guardcoast troup invited us to lunch with them, and then to dinner (pasta and asado on the menu) (don’t worry girls, they are all good guys, no sexo). Carlos “Aznavour” proposed us to visit the Cierra Victoria (spanish name of Teyú Cuaré)  and explained us the history of the place, talking about trees, Indios, military life in Argentina and narcotic traffic in Paraguay. We also visited a Guaraní village and its school (where they teach in spanish and guaraní) and almost had a chat with the cacique (he was doing his siesta, so we didn’t wan to disturb). Then Carlos brought up to the Sendero mistico, in the middle of the forest, to know some local legends and monsters invented to scare the children enough so they wouldn’t go with strangers (well, it did’nt work with us). How great, how unexpected, how kind! We couldn’t believe we were living all this!
 

El Teyú Cuaré, the Dragon-Snake of the Forest

And now we have a lot of new contacts and a bunch of legends to tell!

 

What about food? #1: Argentina

Hey hey hey, I can’t travel around the world and not speak about food, come on! Now that I’m all grown up and enjoy pretty much anything that can be eaten, I have to share with you the specialties of the countries we visit. So, first of all, what do we eat in Argentina?

Well, mostly meat. Vegetarians, pass your way! You can find every type of meat here, beef, pork, chicken … Cooked on the parrilla (barbecue), mostly. The parrilla is an institution here: every house has one, and on our bus trip in Buenos Aires, between our house in Liniers and the center, Erika counted at least 106 parrilla restaurants! And well, it’s pretty good, with a side of fries or salad.
Also, we cannot not mention the famous empanadas: we ate so many of these (filled with meat, or chicken, or tomatoes, or cheese, or eggplants, or …)! It’s so good, and very easy to eat as snacks whenever you’re hungry.
Also, you can really see the influence of the Italians in the food: all sorts of pastas, pizzas, Milanesas … We are not too lost facing our plates in here.

But let’s be honest, after a week of meat, I was craving for some vegetables, and so did Erika. That’s when we decided it would be easier to cook our own dinner! So, nothing interesting in our own dishes, very European.

On the sweet side, we can find a bunch of pastries (called facturas), filled with quince jam for example. As for the bread, they’re not extraordinary (hear the French chick complaining she can’t have croissants and baguette for breakfast…). But this doesn’t stop us from eating a bunch every morning! And of course, Dulce de Leche! Yummy, on toasted bread (thank god we walk a loooooot!). And we apparently cannot do without various sorts of alfajores, these chocolate-caramel-dulce de leche-whatever filled biscuits!
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And finally, last but not least: what do we drink? Mate! The coffee is generally bad (to really bad), thus we switched to the local drink: this bitter tea they all drink here all the time. It’s so funny to see the people in the streets with their special mug and straw and a thermos of hot water. I don’t how they can sleep at night, it’s so strong! But the ritual around it, when they share it with you is really nice: most of all, you drink quickly when the mug is handed to you, and you do NOT touch the straw and stir.
And well, the beer is good and refreshing (the Quilmes might a bit too white though).

We still have a few things to try: I want to check the Pastel de choclo, some other dishes, Argentinian wine … We’ll see what we get the next two weeks! 🙂

Iguazu Falls : the Kingdom of Butterflies

Here we go! we left Buenos Aires and her nostalgic and magic labyrinth (actually, it has a secret life : the true spirit of the city wakes up at night, when everyone dance or play pool) and embarked in a long journey of 17 hours by bus : we traveled through a flat, grassy and rather swampy land inhabited by cows and horses, with scattered ranches and beautiful sunsets. I must say that our “omnibus” was very comfy and clean : large, extendable seats, cushion and blanket, a nice and acrobatic steward, eatable food and hollywood films. What else? (George Clowney, help us with good coffee! this beverage gets really transparent in Argentina). It was nicer than going by plane (yet, choose well your traveling company and don’t hesitate to bargain on the price)! After Entre Rios, the landscape became to change, and it dawned over a red soil covered with luxuriant plants and palm trees. Waking up in the tropics, leaving the winter behind us – that was quite impressive! As soon as we got off in Puerto Iguazu, a beautiful sun greeted us. We just left our bags in Marco Polo Inn, a neat Youth Hostel just in front of the bus station, and ran to see the Falls in the National Park. You can take a bus for fifty pesos to and fro (ten euros) , with Rio Uruguay company, and be in the park in twenty minutes from the city station. The entree fee for strangers is quite expensive (130 pesos), but it is ten thousands worth it! Although we promised to take few meaningful and beautiful pictures, we couldn’t help broking our vows immediately and portray every corner of the two hundred falls of the Park, but also the butterflies and coatis that fluttered or sniffed everywhere.

Catch the rainbow

Oh Yeah!

 

A coati (and Janyce’s foot on the right)

La Garganta del Diablo

Our eyes were glittering with awe (or was it because our glasses were covered with waterfall mist?) and our ears were still hearing the roaring of the huge Garganta del Diablo and echoing with “wow!”. We spent the evening resting at the hostel and (trying) to play ukulele, in company of Harley from Manchester (whose name everybody thought was “Holly”) : you should have seen Janyce and him playing cards, two tigers!

Next morning, we got off early to pass the frontier by bus and go in Foz do Iguassu, where our host Carina was waiting for us : however, there was a strike or some protest from the brazilian side, so the bus stopped at the immigration bureau of Argentina and we had to cross the frontier by feet, slaloming between the camions and cars left still in the middle of the road. Pheeeeew! It was a bit tiring, but those accidents are part of the adventure and leave funny memories!

The Brazilian Side of the Falls was more panoramic, but less magic in a way (so Disneyland, I may say), even if the hazy light of a clouded day gave to it more dramatic shades : it was great to pass at the feet of the Garganta del Diablo and be almost showered by this huge mass of falling water.

Wow

Janyce thought this fall was the cutest of all

Do you see the little people all wet on the right? We were there too!

And now, where are we? By the countryside again, in the Misiones Argentinas, San Ignacio. Lovely, red and green, full of nice birds and juicy fruits, very nice people and… a damn cold weather! We had a walk in Santa Ana and San Ignacio ruins (we got lost a bit and a kind old man guided us and offered us very good medlars, but that’s another story) and it was very peaceful, even if our nose and fingers were freezing.

San Ignacio

Now, that is a cactus, tangled with two other trees. The creature couldn’t even be pictured entirely. And, oh, Janyce was standing on a step.

It was really interesting to know a bit more about the story of the Misiones and the culture of the indigenous people, the Guaraní tribes. They thought that words were sacred and that each man must tell a story, leaving his eloquent experience and knowledge to the next generation : silence was reserved to the dead. They also believed they were the guardians of nature and that they should respect the delicate balance of their land. The guaraní name of San Ignacio is Mbuá. They were also very artistic people, and the Jesuites used art and creation to spread the Gospel among them.

We are seriously thinking to bring a thermos of mate with us in the future, like the wise folks do here. As the shower and the bathroom are outside, in the garden, waking up is quite a challenge, but then you get ready very fast : not indulging in the bathroom is a matter of survival. Hace frío!

Hasta luego, chicos!

Sleeping Beauty (Buenos Aires Tango)

Waiting in Heathrow Airport

Well, well well! We have gone in the wind (almost, after 17 hours of flight with British Airways and two horrible dinners) and finally landed in Buenos Aires, the first step in our globe-trotter path!

The weather wasn’t really the best at our arrival, as we spent our first two days under an ever-falling rain, so persistent that the light ran out in the nice house of our three hosts and we had to wash in the dark and eat by the candlelight : it was very romantic, indeed, and we had some good laughing-time!

How to describe Buenos Aires? As my mother lived there for ten years till the early Sixties, she told me how beautiful and new it was, how broad were the avenues, how good were the empanadas and alfajores… so, in my imagination, I figured it like a Southamerican Paris with people dancing tango at every corners of the avenidas y boulevards. What we found was slightly different. We were impressed by the special atmosphere of this mysterious city. Great and majestic building next to abandoned places, old or broken cars forlorn in the middle of the streets, tagged wall and graffities on the ruins of ancient houses, vintage buses that reminded us of the Fifties… it seemed like Buenos Aires was waiting to awake and stirr in better days. Walking through Monserrat and San Telmo was like venturing in a haunted place or doing a Time-trip, between the Thirties, Fifties and nowadays, and a sense of irreality surrounded us. The streets smelled of barbecue and nostalgia. Saturday night, to cheer up a bit, Fernanda and Myriam invited us to a bar and played pool for two hours at least. It was really great. Fernanda and Myriam were excellent players and Janyce too mastered the art of pointing to balls in the most improbable position, getting them in the right hole. And I… cof cof,I  was a real beginner!

La Casa Rosada

A vintage patio in San Telmo

Every road takes to Rome (in a garden near the south-end of San Telmo)

On the third day, fortunately, the sun came out again, and we had a little walk from Plaza de Mayo, through Defensa with its folkloric Sunday market, till La Boca and Caminito, with their brightly-coloured houses and the Yellow Stadium, contrasting with the decadent state of the surroundings. We met a crazy Spanish fighter while waiting for the bus, or this is what we understood from his strange speech! Up to the North, we explored the great gardens of Palermo, full of parrots and exotic trees, and visited the Cemetery of Recoleta, where some most important historical personalities are buried, like Eva Peron, the star of Buenos Aires. Near the severe and grim Law Faculty, you can find the Big Steel Flower, really impressive!

 

 

Janyce and our mascot El Koalito at Caminito

The Parabolic Flower of Recoleta

Eva Peron’s Mausoleum in Recoleta

Since it was a cold and foggy day again, we decided to go in the Cultural Centre of Recoleta, very interesting, and the MALBA, the Museum of the Latin-American Modern Art. Modern Art can be quite cryptic sometimes, but it is funny to wonder about those strange creations of mary-janed genial minds. Victor Grippo, for instance, illuminated us on the artistic and philosophical essence of potatoes, expressed in different sculptures and synthetized in one motto, ´´La papa dora la papa, la conciencia ilumina la conciencia´´. Popcorn can also reveal the deepest meaning of life with a simple equation ´´Corn and too much hot make a burnt corn and no pop´´. So true.

Half of a school bus

Dare if you can! (Cultural Centre of Recoleta)

Oh, and today was our last day in Buenos Aires, before leaving for Iguazu, up to the North, between Paraguay and Brazil, so we decided to adopt another balladeer, after wandering in the street of the musicians, next to the clocks-one  : Jimi H., our fantastic ukulele! Then

Bailamos con toda el alma y el corazon, querida

El Congreso de Buenos Aires

Evita vs Stalin

Of course, in the meantime, we fed ourself with plenty of alfajores, delicious empanadas and barbecue or ”parrillas” (they are omnipresent in Buenos Aires), and at the end of the day, generally, our feet were almost crying for pity after walking those long, broad avenues with eight ways for the cars. Still it was wonderful, even if it was a little annoying to constantly keep spare change for the bus (the ticket machine only allows coins of one or two pesos).

And thank you Janyce for guiding me in the city and through bus lines!

My Buenos Aires querida…

Last but not least : the Spanish you learn at school is not the real one spoken everyday by hispanophones and it does not guarantee an immediate comprehension. So, prepare your best faces to express in funny ways “I don’t understand” and be strong, because all you’ll get the first few days of argentinian speech is a few words and many strange sounds (the intervocalic -y and -ll must be prounounced with a wet -ch here).

It’s the final countdown.

Two weeks from now, at about that time, we will be there:

It could be worse. =)

Meanwhile, still enjoying the French countryside: running after my cats, losing at tennis against my parents, figuring out what to do this weekend, life’s pretty normal. But that’s not everything, we are looking for the amazing people who will agree on hosting us in South America, for schools in some countries, and we’re finishing the last drawings for the storytelling project. And most of all, we-do-not-panick.

Everything’s fine. Great even: we’re leaving in two weeks!

PS: I agree, I haven’t looked far for the title…But we won’t say no to the soundtrack! 😉