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Today, we’ve been invited back to Alberto’s country house, where he’s having a large family gathering. We hang out a bit out with Chris and Yanina (and the dogs) during the morning. In the early afternoon, we pick up Josie in Santa Rosa and drive 30 minutes to Alberto’s house in Los Reartes. Referring back to Alberto’s accidental bang into my car on Thursday, I park the Subaru about 100 feet away and behind his swimming pool, i.e. as far away from where he parks his truck as possible. He’s not home when we arrive but I figure he’ll get the joke immediately when he sees the car.
There are abut 15 family members already there when we arrive, including some children, and the hours-long, meat grilling process is well under way, in the capable hands of chef Jorge. Big slabs of goat and lamb are suspended over the low intensity coals along with various other side meats. Several of the men are hovering around the parrilla and it takes some deft maneuvering to avoid spoiling my appetite with continuous offers of appetizers. One I manage to evade, if I’m understanding the words and gestures correctly, is goat brain on crackers.
Inside the house, separated from the grilling area by the glass wall, are most of the family women. Susan is in there holding conversations with Josie’s translating help.
Alberto pulls up, returning from a morning golf game, and as I expected, immediately laughs when he sees where I’ve parked. One of the guests is a precocious little girl named Sharon who engages with Susan and me. One of her first acts is to demonstrate the very complex shape into which she can fold her tongue. She adds gravely, “This isn’t easy. I had to practice a lot to learn this.”
Sharon knows the way to Susan’s heart. The little girl gazes repeatedly into Susan’s face, runs her fingers through Susan’s hair, and refers to her as a princess. Sharon is learning English in school and she and Susan trade English phrases, mostly numbers.
I alternate between the group of women in the house, where I can be with Susan, and hanging out with the men outside around the grill, where we talk as men talk and consume beer.
The afternoon progresses quickly and pleasantly, Both the goat and the lamb are magnificently tender and juicy. There’s a lot to be said to spending all day slow grilling meat. In the U.S., most food resides on the grill for 20 minutes or less before we wolf it down – and we use gas or chemical-saturated charcoal instead of natural wood.
I have to mention tattoos here. I’ve always considered tattoos and piercings (yes, including simple earring holes) as pointless, no pun intended, self-mutilation. I’ve never been enthusiastic about the modest set of tattoos my son has acquired. After spending a lot of time in Argentina, I’m now able to see it differently.
There’s hardly an Argentine woman over 16, and many under that age, that doesn’t have at least one tattoo, so by now I’ve seen many thousands – hey, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the designs visible in public. Skin art is a major form of expression down here and I’ve finally gotten over my “Ugh, gross!” reaction. There are some beautiful designs that are true art, ranging from modest images to what I would characterize as elaborate body murals. Note the woman on the right in the photo below is not wearing a tee shirt — that’s all ink. The skill and effort to successfully execute some of these indicates true dedication and craftsmanship. I’m now able to appreciate many of them as additions to, rather than subtractions from, a person’s beauty. I’m sure my change of attitude has made your day much better.
The afternoon ends with group photos and exchange of phone numbers. We take Josie home and head back for our final night at Cabañas Kangarú.
Our friend, Jaqui, who lives too far to the south in Argentina for us to visit this trip, happens to be in nearby Córdoba for some sort of retreat. She’s told us she’ll be out of touch until it ends on Saturday and then taking the bus to Buenos Aires. Since our plan is to drive there via Córdoba starting today, we modify it to add a 6-day loop to the north, return to Córdoba Saturday to meet Dr. Jaqui so the three of us can visit by making the long drive to B.A. in the Subaru together.
We sketch out a northern itinerary and realize we’re taking on a lot of hard driving to accomplish it in time. With this in mind, we retreat to the cabin in the evening and prepare for an early departure tomorrow.