"It is not down in any map; true places never are." - Herman Melville
Pujato is a town of 3000 people, in the middle of the campo (country), surrounded by fields on all sides. This little island is the place the 22 students in my program called home for 5 days last week. Even though we went to this rural pueblo to simply experience everyday rural Argentine life, it wasn’t a place where I just "went through the motions” of life… even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. First of all, I generally had no idea what was happening/where I was being taken, which made going through any sort of motions difficult (ok, that's a slight exaggeration, I didn't have trouble moving there...moreso just knowing when and where to go) but even if I would have had a better idea about what was going on, there was nothing I could do about the fact that every day easily lent itself to spontaneity, and anything but simply motions. This past week there was spontaneous relaxing, playing, talking, listening and learning.
Instantly upon arrival we were welcomed to Pujato with a delicious lunch and mini concert by the local high school drum line. Then, sooner than I expected, I was being hugged and kissed by my new homestay mom Marcela. Marcela SanMartí. Marcela lives with her 2 children, Florencia (22) and Gastón (18), her mom, Nena and their dog, Greta and cat, Baltazar (or some name like that). We spent lots of time with the SanMartí family, (unfortunately Gastón wasn’t there for most of the week as he stays at the university during the week) and I have come to the conclusion that my 2 friends and I certainly lived with the best family in Pujato J
- - -Mini little grocery store to buy dulce de leche. Score! (We ate SO much dulce this week)
- - Different store to order new slippers for Nena… apparently the dog got a hold of her old ones
- - Bus station to pick up Florencia from school. YAY! Such a great sister!
- - Raúl’s house. This trip was particularly funny. (During our homestay we had to interview an important person in the city, we were assigned to Raúl, who is the director of the public health sector in the community. The interviews in Pujato were practice for our future individual research projects and part of the process required that we set up a time with our interviewee on our own.) Our mom decided to help us out and just drop us off at his house so we could talk to him face to face and set up a time. But, we, like normal, had little to no idea what was going on, so when were dropped off on the curb, we sheepishly walked up to his door, rang the doorbell and had an awkward encounter with Raúl. He was ready to have the interview right then and there. We were not prepared AT ALL, so we planned on meeting up at 2pm the next day. Luckily he was nice and it all worked out in the end.
- - Panadería – In some round-a-bout sort of way Anne and I ended up at a local panadería, or bakery where we were invited to help make bread, pies and cakes. To many of you, this probably sounds like a disaster waiting to happen considering my history in the kitchen, but fear not, I did not burn anything, including myself, I did not set a potholder or towel on fire, I did not leave peanut butter in the microwave for too long and no, thank goodness, I did not mix expired Crisco into a hopeful batch of cookies ;) Indeed, my skills were put to the test, but if I do say so myself, the dulce de leche I spread over the cake looked pretty dang profesh J
The week was also filled with guitar jam sessions, runs around the wheat fields, games of frisbee, attending a class with Flor about taxes in Argentina, visits to the local school and believe it or not, a half hour long, impromptu water- balloon fight with 5 little neighbor boys. SUPER BIEN!
It amazes me how much adventure and excitement there was considering the size of the town. Good things come in small packages, right? And, in addition to all the activities out and about in Pujato, the time spent inside the house with just our family was equally memorable. I think one of my favorite memories has to be about Nena, our quite little grandma, who cooked basically every meal for us. She didn’t say a whole lot but when she did, it almost always caught me off guard. So for lunch one day, Marcela decided to cook up some hamburgers, which was a pretty big deal considering she almost NEVER cooks. So, to remember the event, I got out my camera and snapped a few fun fotos. When Nena saw this, she came up to me, and said, “Hey! What is going on? Why didn’t you take any pictures of me? I'm the one who actually cooks!!” (She was legitimately a little upset haha) It was so funny, I was so surprised…. I mean here was quiet little Nena, dishin’ out the sass! I found it hilarious that she wanted to be photographed so badly but I also felt bad that I had neglected to photograph her and the asado (delish bbq she made the first night)… So, for the rest of the trip, we made sure to take lots of pictures of Nena and her scrumptious cuisine– she was such a diva! But, seeing her with tears running down her face as we pulled away in the bus broke my heart. Saying goodbye to everyone was sad, I certainly did not want to leave.
In one week I bonded with this family more than I ever imagined I would. In one week I learned a little bit about soil production, politics and health problems, but I learned a lot about community, family and generosity.
Hopefully, I can at some point return to this very true place.
Love you all,
Hope all is well!
Besos y abrazos,