adventure in Argentina, week one

In which we convert pesos, take siestas, eat asado and listen to a brief lecture on agricultural economics .

Tuesday, February 23.
We spent four hours in Chile today, and didn’t get a stamp on our passport. We were in the international terminal in Santiago and never went through customs. I exchanged a 20 dollar bill for Chilean pesos, however,which are worth about 2 cents. I spent about 9000 pesos for lunch and got to play with pink currency.

The flight into Cordoba, Argentina from Santiago was about an hour and a half. Customs into Argentina was long but uneventful. Then we were on the road with Ivan in his 1992 Fiat Uno, a little crowded with five suitcases and our carry-ons.

But the air was warm and the grass was green and we were grateful. Kim and Ivan live in Villa Carlos Paz about half a block from the Lago San Roque, a huge man-made lake that rivaled the Eiffel tower in architectural significance when it was built in 1894. It’s now a popular tourist resort.

We sat on the patio and had tea.

Wednesday, February 24
Siesta. Now there’s an idea a man could get used to.

In Argentina they apparently have.

Most shops close in the afternoon about one and reopen about five or six. It’s the traditional day time sleep of Spain and, subsequently, most Latin American countries.

Its origins are obscure, often related to either the heat or the let down after a large midday meal. But in Argentina they still do it in the winter and have their big meal in the evening. Late in the evening. To night we are going to a traditional bar-b-que, called an asado, that doesn’t start until ten.

It’s a culture that runs late and starts early. You have to get your errands done in the morning before the stores close.

After our trip, Katie and I didn’t have any trouble taking a nap this afternoon. Their home, with a small walled yard like all the homes in their neighborhood, is peaceful and quiet.

How our bodies adapt to a new rhythm is another adventure.

Thursday, February 25
Today we met Oscar and Caesar, two young men studying for the ministry with Word of Life near Buenos Aires. They are here to help with the church while the missionaries are away at conference next week.

By young I mean 30ish. And by young I mean the challenges of youth- choosing a career path, finding a mate, searching for God’s will.

Oscar has a romantic interest and we talked about it. She is a pastor’s daughter, and Oscar has had a shady past- alcohol and drugs. He felt her dad was trying to keep them apart but Oscar had received a message to call the father and he was unsure about what to do.

Caesar wants a ministry to those who have been abused as young people. He runs into them all the time as a camp counselor.

Both men have fathers who are not men of faith and they seemed to appreciate our counsel, as both Ivan and I spent the better part of our siesta encouraging them.

The adventure? Conversations of the heart, in translation. It’s possible. And important.

Friday, February 26

I went into Cordoba with Ivan yesterday. Now that was an adventure, and I’m not talking about Ivan’s well-documented directional challenges.

We went through three police roadblocks on the way. It’s very common for the police, who apparently work on commission, to set up road blocks to check that your lights are all working properly and everyone is wearing a seat belt. Think of it as the low hanging fruit.

When we got to the city there were lots of police, some carrying very big guns, standing around everywhere. Traffic control does not appear to be on their list of assigned duties. When we asked the guard at the auto parts store if we could park by the curb, he said “You shouldn’t, but you can.”

Cordoba is Argentina’s second largest city, about 25 miles away from Carlos Paz where we are staying. Driving downtown, with lots of one way streets and double parked cars, reminded me of driving through the garment district in Manhattan, something I try not to do very often. Except in Manhattan there are stop signs and people tend to notice them.

Here people don’t ignore them. For the most part they don’t exist. If there is no traffic light, then every intersection is treated as through there were a yield sign, which can be a little disconcerting for pedestrians who aren’t used to it. That would be Katie and me on our daily walks in Carlos Paz.

For a driver I expect it is liberating if not dangerous. I have a new slogan to suggest to the tourism department.

Imagine a land with no stop signs.

Imagine Argentina.


Saturday, February 27

I turned 57 today. Happy birthday to me.

We had breakfast at a nice little café on Main Street in Carlos Paz. Everyone was eating pastries but me. Since I’m diabetic I try to avoid carbs, so I had luncheon plate of meat and cheese. A large luncheon plate. (Yes, I shared.)

It caused quite a stir, since the people here eat large, late dinners and small morning meals. The waiter wasn’t sure it was a good idea. In fact, a man at a different restaurant where we ate tonight remembered us from this morning as the people who ate too much for breakfast. (See photos on Kim’s blog.)

Just four days ago Katie and I shared a similar lunch plate at the airport in Santiago, Chile. The airport was heavily damaged by an earthquake this morning. Kim and Ivan are joking that we won’t be able to return home in a few weeks because the airport, where we connect for a flight to Miami, is closed. We didn’t feel any effects of the quake, although there was another one in Argentina this afternoon.

But it did remind me of another birthday in another country. I turned 40 in Israel, visiting the Mount of Olives with my dad. According to Zechariah, when Christ returns “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley.”

Now there’s an earthquake that will affect us all.

Sunday, February 28

We had asado today, grilled beef and pork. Last night we had grilled beef and goat.

Asado is a culinary and cultural icon here, a social experience and expectation. Everyone has a grill and everyone uses it all year round. At the heart of this is meat: the mastery of it, the quality of it, the love of it.

At dinner last night a young man stopped by to practice his English. He was either the bus boy, the bouncer or both. He was passionate about agriculture. Everything depends on the farmers and the ranchers. When they do well, the country does well. He was concerned because the country is not doing well.

There was a national farmers’ strike a couple of years ago when the government raised the tariff on meat shipped out of the country to 33%. When the farmers struggle the nation struggles, he said. Meat, of course, is a major export.

I’m not qualified to make a judgment about the young man’s economic theory, but I feel safe in making an observation about his emotional one. Argentines love their meat. Whereas Katie and I might eat beef once or twice a week, they will eat it once or twice a day.

It’s an aspect of their security. They will overturn their government when meat is not available and affordable. It is not an appetite, it is a hunger for something rich and satisfying in their increasing poverty.

Jesus told his disciples he had meat to eat they knew not of. I’ve never understood this like I understand it now. He wants to fill us and to satisfy us, not with empty fillers, the husks of the field. He wants to fill us with a thick, juicy, substantial portion of himself.

My meat is to do the will of the Father who sent me, he said.

In doing this, we are all full.

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

3 Responses to “adventure in Argentina, week one”

  1. I hope you had a fulfilling visit. I miss Ivan and Kim very much…

  2. I like reading of your adventures best. It makes me slow down. Stop. Imagine another part of the world where things are different.
    Watch out for those cars.
    Be safe. Eat well. Keep posting.

  3. thanks so much for the notes on your adventures! It’s a pleasure to read them and feel like I’m visiting vicariously through your stories. Tell Ivan and Kim that Paul and I say hi.

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