Towards the end of last week, I went to El Club de la Milanesa with Mariana, Ludwig and Waltraud. It was a relatively new restaurant in the Chacras de Coria neighborhood, which specialized in, as you might have guessed, Milanesa. Milanesa is a thin slice of meat covered in a batter of egg and bread crumbs, fried, and typically covered with tomato salsa and melted cheese. We ordered the “for three” option and it ended up being more than enough for the four of us.
On Wednesday night, I helped Waltraud make the silverware holders for the wedding. We folded about 200 circular fancy paper things (I’m sure there’s an official word for them), placed a napkin inside, and used a sticker to hold it together. After I had gotten into a good rhythm, we stopped for dinner. Isabel had prepared some homemade lasagna and Carla, Mariana, and Gustavo came over to join us for the meal. After dinner we also attempted to light another lantern to practice for the wedding, but decided it was too risky.
Thursday morning, I went to a haircut place a block away from the house. My Spanish haircut vocabulary isn’t at the best level, so I showed Jesús, the hair stylist, a picture of what I wanted and it turned out pretty well. After getting my hair cut, I went to the Mendoza Plaza Shopping center to buy a wedding gift. It was about a twenty minute drive away, and luckily Carlos was able to drop me off. The mall was on the way to the house that the family is constructing. He has been going there every couple of days to make sure everything is going as planned. When I walked into the mall, I was surprised at how big it was — three stories, a huge food court, a mini indoor amusement park, and a theater. I made my way to Falabella, a store similar to Crate and Barrel, and managed to find my way to the wedding registry desk and pick out a gift. This was the first time I had bought a wedding gift, let alone while abroad, so it was quite the adventure. I also spent some time looking for a new pair of shoes with very little success. After asking multiple stores if they had my size, I finally found a nice pair on sale in US size 13! At the store where I got the shoes, I was talking to the lady who worked there and she asked where I was from. When I told her the US, she said, “that’s strange, I thought you were from France because of your accent”. Last time I checked, I don’t have a French accent, but I took the comment as a compliment. I had a few hours to kill before class, so I wandered around the mall for a while before taking a taxi home.
On Friday morning, we all went to the wedding venue, La Finquita 1920, to set a few things up. After packing up all of the hand-folded cutlery holders, and centerpieces, we drove for about 20 minutes until we arrived at the gate of the venue. After passing through the gate, we drove through rows of grape vines and arrived at the area where the wedding would be.
After we returned from the venue, I took a three hour nap in preparation for the long night. I woke up with about an hour to spare, changed, and was ready to go. Carlos and Isabel had already left to go to the hotel from where they would drive to the wedding. Their friend Alfredo and his wife came to pick us up at 7 pm and we started to drive; however, it seemed to take much longer to arrive. Turned out we were lost. Luckily, I had the location saved in my phone from earlier that morning so I helped navigate and we still got there early.
Upon arriving, we checked in, greeted Gustavo and some other members of the family we had met before, and went to one of the outdoor bench areas to sit down. There were many waiters walking around offering various little snacks and wine. Additionally, they had three different barbecue stands serving different cuts of meat (including a shark!) for a pre-dinner snack. I helped translate for Ludwig and Waltraud and the three of us talked to some of the other guests.
While we were sitting down, some of the kids at the wedding came up to talk to me. I started chatting with Ramiro, Santino, and Josefina. Two of them were learning English, so we switched back and forth a little too.
I also talked to Carla and Jona for a while. Jona and I ended up making a rule that I would talk to him in Spanish and he would talk to me in English so we could both practice. I also got a new nickname of “Chicago Matt”.
About an hour after we had arrived, Carlos arrived with Mariana and walked her through the grape vines to where the ceremony would take place. Everyone crowded around the couple before things got started. Gustavo and Mariana each had their best friend act as a witness while an officiant read the script. Afterwards, everyone yelled out “viva los novios” before people started making their way to the dining area.
After dinner, everyone went to the dance floor. Dessert was brought out at around 2 AM and the party was still going strong. Waltraud and Ludwig asked me to help them get home at around 3 AM so I talked to Isabel and she called us a Remis and we arrived back at the house at around 3:45 in the morning. I never expected to go to a wedding while in Argentina, especially within the first few weeks, and the experience will definitely remain a highlight of my time here.
After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up at 7 AM for a day of trekking in the mountains. As I was packing a day bag, I heard Carlos and Isabel come in through the front door (the weddings here go really late!). I met up with Molly and we walked over to the Plaza Independencia, where the bus was supposed to pick us all up. The rest of the girls arrived a few minutes after us and then we spotted Rodrigo by the bus.
The drive into the mountains was about 2 hours. I thought I would sleep some more, but ended up chatting with the Rodrigo, Vanessa (someone we met that day), and Eugenia. Throughout the bus ride, everyone was passing around mate. As we approached the beginning of the hike (around 3000 m elevation), the bus had to stop a few times to cool the engine off.
The hike itself was about 2.5 hours up and 2 hours back down. We ended up spending a while at upper part of the valley and the trekking guide led some sort of music meditation — not something I’m super into, but it was definitely relaxing.
After we made it back down to the bus, we started the drive back. Once we were about 30 minutes from the center of the city, the bus engine had some more problems. Upon some inspection, they discovered that all of the coolant fluid had leaked out. We ended up having to stop at a fire station and gas station in order to use cold water to cool down the engine. This ended up taking close to 2 hours, but we finally made it back.
Asado in the Mountains
The next day, we all drove into the mountains to go to a small church service and then to Gustavo’s parents house for an asado. I had a small cold (probably due to not sleeping the past night), but it was mostly bearable. For a few hours we had snacks and chatted while the meat was being prepared. Towards the end of the meal, we had some champagne (actually called espumante because it’s not from Champagne) and cider. When the champagne was being opened, the cork ricocheted off the ceiling and fell into my lap. Everyone from Argentina told me that’s a sign I’m going to get married soon. Waltraud and Ludwig said that, in Australia, it means that you have to pay for the bottle of champagne, and that would be the least expensive of the two options. After eating a bunch of different cuts of meat and trying out riñon/intestine (not my favorite), two of the kids taught me how to play Truco. It was pretty difficult to understand at first, but after a couple of rounds I got the hang of it.
Later in the afternoon, we all went to Potrerillos, where there is a giant lake created by a dam. It was really crowded with people having picnics and going kayaking. No motor boats are allowed because it would contaminate the water which is used for irrigation of the vineyards. We ended up staying for about half an hour to have some snacks and mate before driving back.
On Sunday night and early Monday morning, I had at least 6 bottles of water in an effort to flush the cold out of my system and after about 12 hours of sleep, I felt much better. After a quick lunch, I made my way to class. In my third class of the day, I was the only student so I asked the professor if she could teach it in Spanish (everyone else dropped it for various reasons). I was pretty glad with the amount I was able to understand (close to 95%). Now I just have to keep working on my speaking.
Soon after I got home from class, we all went to Mariana and Gustavo’s apartment in Maipu for a final dinner with Ludwig and Waltraud. On the drive there, it was really hot outside and when we got in the car I said “estamos en el horno/we’re in the oven” which caused Isabel and Carlos to laugh for at least a minute. Apparently that’s a common phrase and they kept asking where I learned it. After arriving we had some really delicious ravioli with creamy tomato sauce and fresh grated Parmesan. For dessert, we had more leftover wedding cake — super, super sweet — along with some espumante and lemon ice cream. The next morning we all said goodbye to Ludwig and Waltraud before Mariana took them to the airport. I’ll definitely have to take them up on the offer to stop by for a visit if I find myself in southeast Australia.