Wow, tomorrow is Valentine´s Day! I had no idea until I looked at the internet today. It´s funny how far away I am from American life right now that I don´t even notice the date of a major holiday! It´s the first time in over a week that there has been enough wind power for me to use the computer for an extended amount of time. This week brought such heat to Cholila that by midday, nobody wanted to do anything except eat, drink, and nap. I got out for my morning runs with Kimun, and spent the rest of the day doing mostly inside tasks, especially organizing the craziness that are the various sheds and storage locations of Kaleuche.
The Fiesta del Asado kicked off the week in Cholila, when this tiny, sleepy, campo town becomes the lively host of a huge party dedicated to meat once a year. Three days of music and a small feria, and three nights of consumption of a ridiculous quantity of meat (and alcohol) and more music. I spent the first night of the Fiesta with a five-week old kitten as my meat-eating and dancing partner. The kitten and her sister belong to a friend of Dario and Laura´s, and a dog had attacked one of them, so we brought both of them to the Asado buried next to our chests under layers of jackets to keep an eye on them. I ate beets and fed the cat pieces of fat from the meat (no more meat for me, I´ve decided), then swayed the cat to dance to the Argentinean music as everyone around me grabbed a human dancing partner.
On the final day of the Fiesta, I went with Dario and some of his friends to go rock climbing in some hills right outside of Cholila. I ended up spending the evening with one of Dario´s cousins, a girl from El Bolson who loved to climb and happened to hear about the climbing event, and a couple of other people who had all just met to rock climb. At the end of the night, the girl invited us to her birthday asado this coming weekend and to stay with her in El Bolson. That´s one of my favorite things about Argentina so far. You can have absolutely no connection with a person, and if you somehow happen to start talking (or even better, take a couple of mates together) all of the sudden you are good friends. People here stop by each others´ houses without warning, greet people who they even have only met once in the street, and will offer mate to anyone who arrives at the time and place of the mate circle. It´s a culture where the concept of a stranger doesn´t really exist, and where everyone connects a lot more with people outside of their immediate circle.
So the festival ended Monday morning (definitely not Sunday night!), and the town returned to normal as if someone had popped an over-filled balloon. Since it was too hot to do much else, Alejandra, a friend of Dario and Laura´s downtown, invited me to sail with her in the lake next to Cholila. She has owned a sailboat for some 20 years and hasn´t done anything except carry it around with her in 10, but it looks as if she just bought it. On the way out, the wind was at our backs, and we had hardly any of it. Alejandra managed the rudder, and we just relaxed and enjoyed the heat. When we reached our destination on the other side of the lake, I jumped out of the boat to help guide it to shore, lost my balance, fell into the water, then submerged looking like a sea monster draped in algae and other lake flora. We made our way onto the beach laughing, then went to pick apples from an old gnarled tree by the beach. I climbed up into the tree to reach the biggest and ripest ones, and sat up there happily munching on unripe apples, just how I like them, and looking out over the lake.
On the way back, I took charge of the boat. We were sailing into the wind this time, and the wind had picked up a little bit. After I had resolved the physics of sailing in my head, I started to understand what to do in each situation and to feel it, too. We had to tack to reach the other side, so my main goal was to sail with the prow as close to the wind as possible without the sail starting to flap at all. I pulled in the sail as tightly as possible, and in the moments where I had the boat angled well, we would tip a bit to one side and pick up a decent amount of speed. Alejandra stopped having to say ¨mas por allá!¨or ¨no seas nerviosa!¨ and I could look ahead and enjoy the fact that I was really sailing. How much control that you have over the boat when you´re in a sailboat, and how much you have to feel the boat and the wind! I sailed all the way into the beach, with only a little bit of help with hand paddling when the wind stopped close to shore.
So the week ended, with lots of new things learned; besides sailing, I learned to give medicine to a dog, how to knit with one needle, how to fix a broken oven, and a lot of new Spanish grammar (it helps to have Alejandra, who speaks perfect English too, to ask every question that I can think of!). A hot week, and a somewhat lethargic one. Finally, the day before yesterday, I lay down for a nap at three, and when I woke up, it was a little bit cold outside! Laura and I harvested some sage and mint in the garden, and within an hour, it started to rain. Aah. After a week of 30-something degree celsius weather, it felt like someone had lifted a weight off my entire body. All the plants, dry from the lack of water, were going to be so happy, and all the people too. We planted new seeds – sunflowers, spinach, and cilantro – enjoying the rain on our heads and backs, and ran inside before the thunder and lightning started.