The past few days have been all about the culture of Argentina- the gauchos, the food, the shopping, the architecture, and of course, the dancing. I wholeheartedly admit that (as much as one can enjoy looking at different farms and ranches or discovering the heart of Argentine agriculture) the past few days have been the best so far. It was all about eating, eating, eating. And when we weren´t eating we were dancing or shopping- basically, we were busy being tourists...and we were pretty good at that.
Now when I say that we eat constantly here, I mean it. Imagine the American Thanksgiving...multiplied by a thousand...for every single meal. For example, we had the opportunity to visit a gaucho estancia. After enjoying horseback riding and sneaking pictures of the gauchos when they weren´t looking (like I said, we are good tourists), we went into the buildings where lunch was to be served. We started with bread. Then, they brought the salad. Then another salad. And another. Next, it was a link of chorizo...and then the blood sausage (which you should NEVER try...I´m beginning to think the word ¨delicacy¨ means ¨any normal human being would hate it¨). Before long, they brought out the biggest slab of beef I had ever seen. By this point, my stomach was about to explode. I wasn´t exactly certain how I would manage to scarf down that steak...and that´s when they came by with chicken. And then ribs. And then, when you really were on the verge of bursting into a million tiny pieces, they brought dessert. This entire process lasted over two hours. It´s wonderful and exhausting all at the same time. It is perhaps my favorite thing about Argentina- the fact that they take several hours to eat one meal. It also explains why they have ¨seistas¨; one meal and you feel like you ran a marathon.
After our lunch at the gaucho ranch, we got our first taste of Tango. Once again, I fell in love...only this time it was with the music. All along, I thought that Tango was just a dance. I pictured pacing back in forth, back in forth with a rose in your mouth. Ha. No. It´s not only dancing, it´s music. It´s an introduction into a whole different world. It´s almost an out of body experience watching these performers. You´re transported to this whole other universe in which everything is simpler yet exciting. I´m not sure if any of that even makes since, so let me say this: watch a Tango show at least once in your life.
Of course, the one at the gaucho ranch was only a teeny tiny taste of what would come later at the actual Tango show we went to, but it was a great introduction to the true pride of Argentina. Another thing they´re proud of? Gauchos. They have reason to be, of course. Not only are they adorable- they look like they just stepped off a Spanish ship- but they are TALENTED. A traditional gaucho demonstration is to stick a pen in one´s mouth, race full speed ahead on a horse, and try to pull a ring off of a flapping piece of paper that is tied to a pole...using only the pen in their mouth. I won´t lie. I was impressed.
Upon our return back to Buenos Aires, we got a final taste of Argentine agriculture. It was the day I had been looking forward to the most: the day when we would go to the Buenos Aires livestock market. I had previously antipicated how exciting this would be. After all, up to 50 different auctioneers work in the same market (simultaneously auctioning off the cattle in their sections) as the buyers make their bids from the cat walks or from down below on horse back. What I hadn´t expected was to hear about the crazy laws that the market is supposed- note the word ¨supposed¨- to operate under. For example, the Argentine government passed a law to move the market out of the city. The market didn´t move. A few years later, the government passed a separate law to move the market to a different city. They still didn´t move. So now, there are two different laws stating the market should be in two different cities...and it exists in neither of them.
We spent the next several hours getting lost on the streets of Buenos Aires, shopping in the local markets, and walking down the famous Florida Street. We toured the entire city from Boca (the poorest part of Buenos Aires where the people live in makeshift houses under the highways) to Palerma (the richest part of the city where there are palaces upon palaces). All of it was breathtaking.
Our final stop in the city was to the house of the US Ambassador in Buenos Aires, where we met with Foreign Ag Service Staff, students from an organization comparable to FFA, and the Ambassador herself. Each of these visits merely reiterated what I had already learned: Argentine agriculture is right on the heels if not equal to American agriculture...and their people make you want to rearrange your life so that it moves at a slower pace, so that you truly enjoy every thing you do.
And that was it. Adios Buenos Aires! We hopped on a plane and headed to Puerto Iguazu. I may not be seeing any more gauchos...but perhaps tomorrow I will see a jaguar. I may not get as close to it as I would those cowboys, but just like the gauchos, they will be nice to look at.