“We’re preparing an asado for you tonight,” Fabiola said, before we had even gotten into the car to drive out of the airport parking lot. There goes my vegetarianism, I thought. An asado is the grill of some sort of meat over a fire outside, and it’s a common aspect of a family gathering or any celebration. So I ate steak and sausage, for the first time in at least six years, and have eaten meat since, though I still decline it when it seems polite enough.
Clara, one of Fabiola’s daughters, didn’t leave for vacation until the next morning, so before the asado, we sat around the kitchen table sharing a gourd of mate and chatting in Spanish. I understood about 95% of what she said, and she showed me maps of the city and the best places to visit. We shared pictures of our respective travels- mine to Nepal and Kenya, and hers to Central America. We didn’t eat dinner until past 9:00, which, although it seemed so late after a day of travel, I now know to be the typical dinnertime, but I never got bored or too tired of speaking Spanish with Fabiola and Clara.
On Saturday, we went to the house of Claudia, another aunt. Claudia’s daughter Veronica and her two daughters also came, and we ate lunch and spent the afternoon in the pool. Poli and Juli, Veronica’s daughters (and my nieces of some degree!) are nine and three respectively. I swam in the pool with both of them, jumping into the deep end with Poli and jumping off the top step with Juli. Poli asked me if I knew the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, Ashley Tisdale, and other Disney Channel stars. She even asked me to sing a Lady Gaga song, so I reluctantly sang the chorus of “Poker Face.” We had more meat for lunch, then had mate and lemon bars a couple hours later for afternoon tea, which always happens around five or six. Again, I could understand almost all of the conversation, and on Sunday, when we went to Claudia’s house again, I could even participate in the table conversation freely and carry on one-on-one conversations with my two great aunts.
On Saturday night, Fabiola hosted a reunion with about ten of her classmates from high school. I played the host, serving and cleaning everything, and sat around the table to listen to everyone speak otherwise. The conversation started with discussing other classmates and friends who were sick or had died, then passed along to the not-so-much lighter subject of politics. They started talking at 9:30, and the political talk continued well past midnight. By eleven, every man there was sweating violently and had unbuttoned his shirt halfway. Everyone yelled, with two or three people talking at once. I could understand the general theme of what was being said, and which people everyone disagreed with, but I definitely did not understand each person’s rapid monologues and retorts. Sometimes, someone would get especially passionate, and would stand up ubruptly yelling “Para para para para!” (Stop stop stop stop!) or “Espera ‘spera!” (Wait wait!) Napkins were thrown in anger, bottles of wine drunk, and fourty empanadas eaten. The last guest didn’t leave until past two. It certainly gave me a taste of Argentinean politics and passion…