Published: January 9th 2008December 24th 2007
Enjoying empanadas with Mercedes and the rest of the Marx family.
We are used to wild and crazy, white Christmases. We usually brave an annual mini-roadtrip on icy roads to see both our families at two to three houses before a snowy celebration full of skiing, sledding and ice skating. This is the first time we haven´t been with our families for Christmas so we weren´t sure what we would do in summer by ourselves. Luckily, our amiga Mercedes invited us to her family´s house for an authentic Argentine Christmas with her padres and all but one of four siblings home for the holidays.
We met Mercedes in Sevilla, Spain six years ago. She and Liz were random roomies for three days at study abroad orientation and every weekend for the rest of the semester, we either traveled together to another Spanish city or hit the town like the locals do. (We still can´t believe our late-night performance when he and my best bud Lisa came to join Mercedes and I for my birthday celebration Spanish-style.) When we met, I was amazed by Mercedes´s stories about Christmases in summer with palm trees and pool time in her homeland of Argentina. It never occured to me that we´d be with her in
Guellermo giving us a matte tutorial. We made it in the kitchen and formed a matte circle outside.
the Southern Hemisphere some day to enjoy it!
Our reunion began with a real cultural experience. We met Mercedes at her family´s house just outside Buenos Aires and as we caught up, Trev and I pet their seemingly docile dalmation, Zeus. Turns out Zeus has a delayed reaction to strangers. A surprise attack left me dazed with a bloody puncture through my wrist, bites on my arm, and a scrapes on my already sunburned Rudolph nose. After a dozen countries full of potential predators aka stray street dogs, it was the family dog that attacked me. Trev, Mercedes and her bro Guellermo promptly took me to a place not many tourists get to go - the Argentine clinic. We stopped in for a medical check-up and prescription meds. Not to worry, I just finished my antibiotics and think I´ll pull through.
Once the bleeding slowed, we explored the Marx neighborhood and returned to Mercedes´ house where Zeus was securely caged for a matte lesson with Mer´s siblings. Guellermo, Ceci and Marianna taught us about the mystery and magic of matte. A few ground rules: the grass-like yerba matte should be fresh and packed to the top of the
Who plays a piano on the street, honestly?
gourde, the water for matte must be heated to exactly 80 degrees and not yet boiling. And the gourde should be filled with water and enjoyed completely before passing to the next person. Matte is a social thing, Ceci told us, best enjoyed on the river bank or beach with friends.
Mercedes and her fam treated us to a delicious dinner of empanadas in every flavor, and we continued to catch up about their international family. The Marx family is from Argentina, but lived in the U.S. for 10 years before returning 10 years ago. While in the U.S., the kids attended Argentine school on Saturdays, and while in Argentina, they attended American school with classes in English. Trev and I were surprised to see that the kids speak English to each other, Spanish to their parents, and now live in three different countries. Mercedes and Frederico live in the U.S., Marianna lives in Canada (we teased her about our little bro up north, but never did understand why she chose that place), Guillermo lives half U.S. and half Arg, and Ceci goes to college in Buenos Aires.
Since Mer only returns to Buenos Aires once a year
Turns out accordions rock.
for the holidays, we met her in her in the big city to explore together. On Sundays, the bohemian neighborhood of San Telmo is the place to be. Traffic is blocked so we could see guitar players, dancers, puppeteers, performers, and hippies selling their sweet wares. We also stopped in awe to listen to half a dozen songs from an entire tango orchestra on the street. We´re talking a piano, an entire string section, and a row of accordions. Wish we had a sample of the songs to play on the blog. Tango and the music that accompanies it is passionate and intense, and the music was so beautifully heart-breaking that we broke down and bought a cd.
We continued down the street passed antique shops galore (it´s like a Spanish version of London´s Portabello Road. You know, the street where the riches of ages are sold). And we finally found the main plaza that Trev and I remembered from our last trip to BA. This little square surrounded by leafy trees and pigeons is where tango dance-offs go down. Little old couples out of the crowd compete against the divas with gold high heels dancing with dudes decked
This little couple could tango with the best of them.
out in polka-dot ties and suspenders. You never know which inconspicuous couple in the crowd will be next to show off their tango skills. And when they do, you can hear the excitement as people pass on the news. ¨It´s a dance-off! It´s a dance-off,¨ they say as they gather around.
While at Mercedes´s, we found the closest thing to a Christmas movie we could find with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And on La Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), we did something we´ve never done before... We dreamed of a white Christmas, and instead spent it in sun and palm trees. At first we didn´t know what to do with ourselves without the winter conditions we grew up with. Buuut we eased our discomfort in this new, summertime environment by getting our bronze on at the pool with Mer and Guillermo, followed by an early Christmas Eve lunch with her family.
Trev and I did miss a few things about our usual Xmas Eve... Our family most of all. The spectacular spectacular at Aunt Janice´s with white elephant and Nicole´s famous pies. My Mom´s Christmas cookies and other gourmet goodies. Hitting the slopes, stretching stockings and watching
The outfits make the dance.
Christmas classics with my five sweet siblings. Tobogganing at Mom and Mitch´s house in Larkspur.
Muchas gracias to la Familia Marx for welcoming us into their home, helping ease our home sickness, and introducing us to the wonderful concept of Christmas in summer. Mer, you and your fam are welcome to join us in the snow next year!
There are more photos below