I spent the weekend in Claudia’s house, and now I am staying at Monica’s house outside of Buenos Aires. She´s the head of a bilingual private school here, so in the mornings, I am going to her school and telling stories in English to the students. This morning, I visited three first grade classes and read Dr. Seuss’ ¨There’s a Wocket in my Pocket,¨ then tried to get the students to come up with other rhymes that went with the theme of the story, with a made-up monster name word rhyming with a household object (i.e. there’s a zillow on my pillow, or there’s a keezer in my freezer). Although the students were too young to grasp the creation of rhyming made-up words, they liked the story and found the monster pictures funny.
In the afternoons, I am doing a combination of family research and starting interviews with relatives. I have a beautiful room here at Monica’s house with a sharply triangular wooden roof and cozy furniture. To open and close the outside shutters, you unfasten a lock on a tiny square window with a blue wooden frame just big enough for your hand in the window screen, stick your arm out, and push open or closed the blue wooden doors. It used to be one of her son’s room, who plastered the door with quotes written in sharpie and whiteout in his adolescent years (sound familiar?). With a stack of old leather books in one corner, it feels like a writer’s nook… or a researcher’s nook, as it will be for me. I need to write down as much as I can find about basic Argentinean history, Patagonian history, the history of the Swiss in Patagonia, and my own past family history as it appears in books and on the internet before I turn to more interviews.
I got to talk to both Irene and Lilian over the weekend, which was much easier than I expected. Though the memories of their recent lives might be slipping, they still remember perfectly so much from their childhood. What’s more, they love to talk about it, I have found. It’s a lot to discover, since I know basically nothing about the history to begin with, but I already have a lot of leads to follow. Here are some things that I have found that interest me already, to look into more:
-Mamchi. She’s the mother of the three sisters, and, it seems, the source of a lot of our strong family genes. She had many interesting habits – like scooping the wrinkly layer off top of warm milk with a spoon and putting it in her tea. She also ran El Fortin for almost 30 years after her husband died, with the help of the kids.
-The horses. As well as making an extensive family tree, it seems I will be making a family tree of the horses. El Fortin was known for beautiful horses, and each of my aunts had a horse that they rode when they spent the summers there. Baboush remembers almost every name and color of each horse on El Fortin.
-La Institutriz Alemana (the german governess). The girls had a strict upbringing, from what I can tell, especially at the farm on the Eastern coast of Patagonia before they moved to Trevelin and El Fortin. Some days, they would wake up at 4 in the morning to wash their clothes with soap that they made in freezing water. The governess seemed to oversee much of this, and their schooling too.
I have my work cut out for me! As I find interesting stories, I will try to post them on the blog and try to record everything in as much detail as possible.