Argentina – pictures

After getting a few requests, I’m finally getting around to putting up some pictures. My brother brought his digital camera along. I’m also waiting for Reid to finish scanning the pictures I took.

My cousins, Maria (on the left) and Stella (on the right). We were at Maria’s son, Gustavo’s, wedding.

It’s a shame we don’t have a good shot of Gustavo and his bride, Lorena. But here’s a shot of tony and my mother at the wedding. They give out hats and other goodies at weddings there, and have a mini-carnival. This was quite late, probably about 4am…

Stella’s son, Claudio, with his wife Daniella, and sons Ulise and Fabrizio. Claudio is an incredible artist. I was completely taken with his paintings in his lovely home. Although he’s got a day job, I think he should try selling them. Wow. An artist in the family. Can’t imagine it’s from my side.

My mother and her sister. My mother is wearing one of the left over carnival hats from the wedding. They’re on my aunt’s roof. (Most of the roofs in the area were flat).

Dinner on Monday night. Left to right, that’s uncle Alessandro, me, Stella, Lucas (age 5), Marisa (Stella’s daughter), Donato’s mother, Donato (Stella’s husband), aunt Luisa, my mother, and Donato’s father. Got that?? Didn’t think so.

This is a picture Tony took from the roof. I’m actually across the street (between two trees), with Stella and my mother, talking to a few neighbours.

We’re in front of Maria’s home, right next to her store. Left to right, that’s aunt Luisa, Maria, Tony, Ma, Felice (Maria’s husband), Felice’s mother, uncle Alessandro, Donato, and Valeria (Maria’s daughter) in front.

That’s most of my family in Argentina (still missing a few, as well as a bunch of second cousins). Incredible experience meeting all of them. A fine group of people.

Debbie has made me feel guilty for not writing down more of the stories I heard while I was there. I’ll have to get to that, too!

Buenos Aires – Security

(Fourth Instalment)

We visted about 6 homes in completely different areas, and they were all very security conscious. My brother and I noted that ALL the windows we saw had bars on them. The doors as well, and sometimes, the whole front of the home was completely gated. There was no space between one house and the next, so you couldn’t reach the back yard without going through the house. Therefore, there were no windows in rooms along the side of the house. There were tall walls (not fences) separating neighbours. And we very rarely saw cars parked outside. They were always parked in a garage within the house.

I’ve seen this before (in Mexico and Cuba), but it seems to me they’re much more worried about crime there. Donato used to have a watch repair and jewellery story. It was actually part of the house. He would use a garage-like door to enclose it at night. After he was robbed twice at gunpoint, he closed for good. He still does a lot of business, though. He has plenty of clients who come to his front door (must be old clients, or through word of mouth). When he opens the front door, he only opens the translucent glass portion. The door is still barred, and people pass him watches or jewellery through the door.

My cousin Maria, and her husband, run a small variety store. Their house is attached, and there used to be a connecting door. They’ve closed it off. They’ve been robbed 22 times. (Yes, that’s twenty-two.) Two years ago, they installed metal bars along the counter. Items and cash are exchanged through the bars. Since they’ve installed the bars, they’ve only been robbed twice.

In one of the nicer neighbourhoods, we noted that there were police officers in little booths at the street corners. The houses were still gated, though.

Regardless of what area we were in, we noticed that drivers didn’t obey stop lights at night. At first, we were shocked. ‘Hey, that light was red. You didn’t stop!’ They explained that in some neighbourhoods, they only slowed down or paused for a red light, checking both ways quickly before proceeding. They were afraid of criminals storming the car if they stopped. This wasn’t one particular driver doing it, we noticed everyone driving us did it. I believe it happened while driving through different areas, but perhaps it was the same area we were always driving through. I’m not sure.

Despite all this, the people were warm and friendly. Everyone is greeted with a kiss, always, even the men. Each morning we kissed everyone in the house good morning, and each evening, we kissed everyone good night. By the end of the trip, my brother and I were kissing each other, too. Seems rather cold to kiss everyone else, but not your own brother!

Buenos Aires – The house

(Third Instalment)

So here’s the scoop on my aunt’s family. My aunt’s name is Luisa, and her husband is Allessandro. Allessandro came to Argentina with his good pal Nicola, who is his cousin’s husband. They worked, bought some property outside the city, and built a (very) small home. They then called their wives and children from Italy. My aunt Luisa came, with her two daughters: Stella and Maria. And Nicola’s wife came, with some of the children. They enlarged the home, and it’s designed in a very unique way.

The home is actually split in two lengthwise, with a common hallway running down the center. The hallway has a skylight, so it feels somewhat outdoorsy, and the rooms all have windows and doors that open onto the hallway. There are no windows that look outside. I know that Nicola’s remaining children came from Italy at an older age. Donato, for example, came when he was 16. All the children grew up and married (many of them are grandparents now), but two remained: Stella, my cousin, married Donato and stayed in the house (so they’re actually second-cousins). In Italy, it is customary for the married couple to move in with the groom’s parents (don’t know if this is still the case). So Stella moved across the hall to live with Donato, and her in-laws. (Cute, eh?) When Stella and Donato had children of their own, they built a second story on their side of the house with 4 rooms and a bathroom. I should mention that absolutely everything in that house was built by my uncle Allessandro, Nicola, or Donato. Nicola’s a plumber, and had all the know-how. It’s very impressive.

Stella and Donato had two children, who have married and have moved out. (So my mother knew there was plenty of room for Tony and I.) Stella’s a grandmother, actually, which makes my aunt a great-grandmother. Stella’s in her 60s now, she’s the oldest cousin. And I’m the youngest!

Most of the older houses I saw in Argentina have flat roofs, with access to the roof from the back. Often, the roof features a huge, built in bbq (they use coals, not gas). I think every house has a bbq. It’s a big thing in Argentina.

The back yard is completely enclosed, you can’t get to it from the front (you have to walk through the house.) Again, I believe this is for security reasons. The back ends up feeling like a lovely, private courtyard.

I’m not sure what it’s like in other areas, but there were water tanks on top of all the roofs. I understand that the water pressure is so low, that they fill the tanks at night time using the low pressure. Then they use the water from the tanks during the day, with gravity providing the pressure. My aunt’s house is not on a meter, and I’m told that there’s plenty of water in Argentina. Which probably explains why they let the water run in the laundry tubs all day long. I couldn’t stand it – I’d wake up each morning and close the taps tight.

It’s spring time in Argentina, the complete opposite of us. (Fresh strawberries in October!) I knew it never snowed there, and so I expected it to be warmer than our spring weather. I was right, but unfortunately, I didn’t quite bring appropriate clothing. I thought I would bring layers: t-shirts, a sweater, and a jacket. This was fine for outdoors. However, not for indoors! Because the house has ceramic floors, and the hallway has tile part way up, it was quite cool in the house. This makes a lot of sense, since they have extremely hot summers and the most important thing is to keep the house cool (not like our houses, where we need to keep warm!). So where layers were fine outside, and I only needed a t-shirt if it was sunny outside, I froze to death inside. My t-shirts and sweaters weren’t enough. Silly me, I didn’t bring along a single long sleeved shirt. My cousin’s daughter, Marisa, gave me one of hers thank goodness. And when I got a chance, I bought a few more. (I’m often cold when everyone else is fine. My brother wore a short sleeves ALL the time, in and out. Arg.)

Next installment – Security

Buenos Aires – Arrival

(Second Instalment)

We arrived in Buenos Aires about 4 hours earlier than our relatives expected us. They had planned to pick us up, but we decided to get there on our own. Having heard about the dangers of grabbing any taxi (in fact, there were warning signs posted in the baggage areas warning passengers to take official taxis), we made sure we found the official airport taxi service. My mother called her sister to let her know we were early, and a lengthy conversation ensued between my mother, aunt, fellow at the counter and other members of my aunt’s family. The fellow at the counter had to convince them they were reputable. It was somewhat funny to us. This was my first experience of how security conscious Argentineans are.

Our driver was a very nice fellow. And he did his best, but got hopelessly lost when he approached my aunt’s house. The ride was to take 45 minutes, and after an hour, I knew the family must be getting worried. The driver received a couple of calls on his cell phone. I found out later it was my cousin’s husband, who had somehow gotten his number and was trying to guide him in. As we finally made the correct turn which got us to the street – my mother said, ‘There they are!! All of them are out by the house waiting!’ And I could see my aunt, obviously worried, raise her hands to her head in relief.

I forgot to mention something: my mother didn’t tell them my brother and I were coming. She let them assume my father was going with her. Although Tony and I were somewhat uncomfortable with this, she insisted she wanted to surprise them. And were they ever surprised. As we got out of the car, confusion ensued, and I remember my cousin saying, ‘Where’s uncle?’ But when she found out it was Tony and I, we were engulfed in huge bear hugs! It was wonderful. My cousin, Stella, had last seen Tony when he was a baby. She was 9 when she left Italy – it must have been a shock for her, he’s 54 now! I think they were torn between the joy of having us there, and the disappointment that my dad wasn’t.

Next – The house