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

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