Well? I have arrived at my last day of international travel of this gap year. Right now, I feel like I have three feet, and one is in the Patagonian past, one is in the present at Fabiola’s house in Buenos Aires, and one is already back at home in San Francisco.
The patagonian past. Every time I hear a story about it, it makes me wish so badly that I had gotten to live that past with everyone here. However, in a way, I am living it now through the memories and stories of my family. Last night, Francis even showed me a video of the asado during the despedida (good-bye) to El Fortín, and of all the places, buildings, and horseback riding routes that Francis tried so hard to record before saying good-bye to it all. Everyone had their own ways of saying goodbye. Mamtschi had said good-bye ten years earlier, with the beautiful phrase, “Siento y escucho a mi madre cantar al ritmo de los álamos de otoño.” I sit and listen to my mother sing to the rhythm of the autumn Poplars. That phrase, as Monica wrote in her Fortín memory, marked the beginning of the end for Mamtschi, and perhaps for the Fortín as well. Fabiola, to say goodbye, shut herself in one of the sheds for half an hour to fill her memory with the smells of lanolin, bundles of sheep wool, and alfalfa, then grabbed a horse and galloped off across the pastures, letting go of the reins of the horse and just feeling the wind against her face. Mariela, my cousin, grabbed a horse and rode up to the top of the Sierra behind El Fortín, and sat without doing anything for the entire day besides perhaps listening to her walkman and looking out over the Valle 16 de Octubre that cradled El Fortín. Of course, El Fortín still lives on in all of them and now in me, too.
To bring a little bit of El Fortin into the present, my cousin Julia and I made “La Torta del Siglo Pasado” (Last Century Cake) yesterday, one of Mamtschi’s favorite recipes. The cake probably consists of almost fifty percent dark brown sugar, in both the bottom buttery crust and the top layer of candied nuts. It’s simple, but delicious, and in less than 24 hours it has already disappeared. The story behind this cake (which nobody quite knows if it is true) is that Mamtschi’s friend found the recipe underneath a table when exploring an abandoned Welsh house in either Trelew or Trevelin, and brought it to her. She, in turn, adopted it as one of her favorite things to bake, and like lots of Mamtschi’s creations, it goes wonderfully with thick cream on top.
Spending my last few days here more with the members of my generation here has been a lot of fun. The girl cousins all went out to dinner on Friday night, then on Saturday, my cousin Theo invited me to go watch his gothic rock band play at some sort of underground club. Though the head-banging, deep-voice-yelling, wailing-guitar-solo music isn’t what I normally listen to, to say the least, I loved it and loved being there with his family, too. (He gave me a CD if anyone is interested.) On Monday, Veronica came to visit at Fabiola’s house with Poli and Juli (nine and four years old), and we spent the night encontrando a Wally in some Where’s Wally books and dancing around the living room to the music of Glee. The next time I see them, they’re going to be so big, I’m sure! Finally, last night, while devouring the rest of the Torta del Siglo Pasado, we laughed about who-knows-what and ended up going to bed late.
It’s fitting to spend the last couple of days here at Fabiola’s house, because I can remember sitting at that same table almost four months ago with Clara hesitantly trying my first Argentinean mate and trying to stumble my way through Spanish to tell her about Kenya and Nepal… and last night, I ate a cake made from an old family recipe and caught every nuanced joke in Spanish. Gap year plans, knowledge of homemade things, wilderness first aid knowledge, and probably above all, love and appreciation for my family and my family’s history here have all changed since when I first hopped into Fabiola’s teal green truck to leave the international airport and enter Buenos Aires. Now, I get to hop back into that teal green truck and start the journey back home. My flight leaves Ezeiza at nine tonight.
Of course, I’ll be bringing a bit of the present in Argentina with me, because my project is nowhere near to being finished. In fact, four days after getting home, I head down to San Luis Obispo to talk to Meiti and compile the massive amount of information, pictures, stories, and maps that I have accumulated. First, I get to see everyone at home, enjoy the food of the Bay Area for a bit, and watch Bridget’s showcase tomorrow night. In the next few weeks, expect some photos posted and a couple of last blogs before I shut it down for the year!