My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Translate This!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Greenwich Vs. Candelaria

I know I already wrote about Candelaria, the tiny pueblito from whence my boyfriend comes, but there’s more to be said. For this round of Contemplations On My Boyfriend’s Hometown, I’m going to compare Candelaria, Argentina to Greenwich, Ohio (the village where my mother and the family were raised).

It deserves this extra post because when I went there, I was intrigued by how similar the place felt to the hometown of my mother, aunts and uncle. The more I got to know the city, the more weird similarities I found.  And then when I started researching deeper, the similarities multiplied like single-celled organisms and this blog post was born (or perhaps spawned spontaneously).

Population Background: Candelaria’s population according to Jorge is around 3,000 people. Greenwich’s population estimate for 2012 was around 1,500. calls Greenwich “100% rural”. Interestingly, has nothing to say about Candelaria.



Realtime Family Background: All of Jorge’s family was raised on the outskirts of Candelaria (not even seen in the map). Jorge is the youngest child and was the first child to be born to electricity in the house in 1986. Three out of his five siblings continue to live and raise families in 'downtown' Candelaria (two left for the capital city). Of the four children my grandparents raised in Greenwich, all left to pursue families and careers in other cities and states. All of them were born to electricity in the household throughout the 60's and 70's.

Other Facts: Candelaria (in the state of Ayacucho) was founded in 1870; Greenwich’s first settler arrived in 1817 but it was formally incorporated in 1879. 

Now let’s get to the good stuff…

Valley Beach vs. El Muro: Looking for a fun summertime spot to while away the blistering Ohio/Argentinian peak weather? Valley Beach sits about 15 minutes outside Greenwich in a city called Norwalk, Ohio; and about a 15 minute drive outside of Candelaria sits El Muro (in English, “the wall”) in Quines, Argentina. Both are dedicated to daytime grilling, summer passage of moments and cooling off in bodies of water. Valley Beach features grills scattered along the landscape, while El Muro has one dedicated asado center which looks more like a mausoleum. Valley Beach is flanked by deciduous forests, and has cement pools with an exciting array of diving boards, slides and ancient ropes for swinging into said bodies of water. 

Valley Beach: Whoo Hoo, Childhood!

El Muro, however, is flanked by the unimpressed and unmoving  face of the Sierra (Andes mountains); bathing options include natural rivers and inlets that end in a waterfall that apparently everyone knows not to go over (lifeguard usage is unknown). Editor’s Note: El Muro would be expressly forbidden if it were in America.

Totally fine and permissible unsupervised waterfall area
at El Muro in Quines, AR.

Another view of El Muro -- truly a spectacular daytime hangout.
Mausoleum-style asado area not featured here.

The Green Witch vs. La Heladeria: Need a spot to cool off, sit down and eat some damn ice cream? Both countries got this one. The Green Witch in Greenwich kills two birds with one stone, allowing patrons to both buy ice cream AND wash all those sweaty summer undergarments at the attached Laundromat. 

Best dang Oreo Flurries in the land.
Not so sure about that peach shake, though. 
Or whether it doubles as laundry detergent.

In Candelaria, the local Heladeria offers no such multi-tasking efficiency, and their tasty treats have nothing on the Green Witch’s exciting array of both hot and cold consumables (note: does not include the laundry detergent next door). La Heladeria only offers about 10 flavors of ice cream. Both establishments are run by the daughter of someone your grandparents are close to, and both maintain that weary air of one regretful owner trapped in a small, dark room amongst the whirring machines in the peak of summer.

Well, it's better than nothing, I guess.
In true first-world problem style, it looks like you'll have to
wash your sweat-encrusted unmentionables outside of the establishment.

Soy Vs. Soja:  Candelaria’s list of growables (and whatnot) includes: berries, watermelon, wheat, soy, corn and potato. The town also has a startling amount of sheep, cows, horses, goats, and chickens.  Jorge’s family alone deals with the majority of these items. Most of the people operating these farms and businesses are recently immigrated Italians or purebred Argentinians (which means, of course, partially Italian, and prone to excessive gesturing and consumption of Fernet).  

Farmland in Candelaria, Argentina.

In Greenwich, the production is mostly the same—soy, wheat, corn, hogs, chicken, and dairy operations. The majority of the farms fall outside of the village limits, and are run by one of two camps: the Mennonites, or the Children of People Your Grandparents Taught.  

The sprawling farmlands of Ohio.

Siesta Vs. The Food Coma: Americans don’t participate in the siesta (basically translates to “socially acceptable adult nap time”) on a cultural level but for a couple times a year: July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shannon, what the hell are you talking about, you might be asking. I’ve never taken a siesta in my life. But you have, my dear American friends! The American Food Coma is the closest approximation we have to the siesta. And I point out July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas as the most definable moments of when you overeat yourself into a coma and then crash on grandma’s couch for a couple hours afterward. And in Greenwich this occurs without fail, especially for July 4th celebrations and that ridiculous amount of GMZ Deviled Eggs/Potato Salad/Anything Fried from the Downtown Festival.

The Siesta in Latin America falls between 3 to 5pm (give or take), and occurs after lunch—right when you were getting sleepy anyway. This works out in Candelaria because that time of the day is also the hottest – and we’re talking a heat where even if you wanted to do something, you couldn’t. Air conditioning is not utilized. Add onto that the ridiculous amount of rural, home-cooked Argentinian food, plus red wine (BECAUSE IT’S ARGENTINA), and, well…you’re looking at waking up in the early evening with a thick layer of sweat and a desperate need for a shower.

America Smalltown vs. Argentina Smalltown: Both towns in question feature population’s small enough to allow easy face recognition for anyone that passes by, along with at least one juicy bit of common knowledge family history. Whenever I call to the local floral shop to order surprise flowers for my grandparents for a variety of occasions, I only need to say the first fifth of the address before they exclaim, “Oh, you must be the granddaughter of…!” And while the residents of Candelaria might remember me for awhile due to the fact that I am gringa and have dreadlocks,  I heard plenty of similar exclamations amongst locals while I was there: “Oh, you’re the second cousin of…!” And as in much of smalltown America, in Candelaria as well the weather is the first topic of conversation – always.

Another big difference?

Greenwich and Candelaria hit summer at opposite times of the year.

January 14th: high/low in Candelaria: 96F/67F, winds N, sunrise 6:31AM, sunset 8:32PM.
January 14th: high/low in Greenwich: 42F/24F, winds SSW, sunrise 7:53AM, sunset 5:26PM.



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tales From The South: Just Another Boring Sunday

On a Sunday not too long ago, my boyfriend and I decided to take a day trip out of Valparaiso. There are plenty of towns around here that we haven't visited yet, despite having lived here since March, so we  figured, HEY. COME ON. SERIOUSLY. Let's go do some sightseeing.

I made coffee, as I normally do. (Editor's note: while I have assumed some Argentinian customs such as mate, Jorge too has been adopting some North American customs, such as consumption of Mr. Smith's Hazelnut Coffee.)

I went to the sink to wash out the french press, as I normally do.

I reached for Jorge's typical red mug, as I normally do.

But inside of Jorge's typical red mug was something that is normally never there.

I don't know how this little guy got inside Jorge's typical red mug, but he was trapped. I screamed. I called for Jorge. Reptile doesn't make an appetizing creamer, I assumed, so Jorge helped transfer the new friend into a jar, where we spent the next 15 minutes looking at his awesome shiny colors and tiny feet.

Jorge eventually released him back into the wild (re: the stairway outside our front door) and then we continued with our day.

We ended up going to Olmue, which we accessed by taking the metro until the very last stop, transferring to a bus and riding for an additional 10 minutes. The metro was a lovely part of the trip because, contrary to most of Valparaiso, is it clean and orderly. There was a range of quality entertainment provided for us as well in the form of street musicians (or in this case, metro musicians), singers, theater, and snacks. The artists and purveyors roamed from car to car, and the entertainment respectfully limited the performances to one per car as we traveled. There was masked dramas a la Greek Tragedies, an up and coming 15 year old pop singer, a flute-and-percussion ensemble, and plenty of guitarists. Jorge and I tipped the crap out of these people. At one point, one of our seat mates was a man with a startling amount of body hair. If you've ever seen somebody with a startling amount of body hair (carpeted legs, I'm talking), you'll know that it feels simultaneously unsettling and fascinating.

In Valpo, waiting for the metro to go to the end of the line

Olmue is more in the interior, toward the mountain range, so it doesn't experience the heightened cooling effects of the sea like Valpo does. As soon as we got off the metro we almost melted. Valpo seems to sit at a perpetual 68 degrees, whereas Olmue was a sweltering 90. Once there, we didn't do much. No really, we did startlingly little. We perused outdoor markets, bought mate, ate a delightful lunchdinner that included ceviche and some sort of wine spritzer, and then bought pants and dresses. 

And then we freaking went back to Valpo.

I like my sightseeing to be pleasurable, lazy, and mostly unproductive

And there's your standard boring Sunday in South America. And by boring I mean not boring at all, because life is fascinating always, no matter where your Sunday is happening!

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014, are you...are you actually here?

Chances are, most of the eyes on this blog have seen their fair share of New Years.

That's not a thinly-veiled insult regarding everyone's collective age -- no, man. Come on. Back off.

But seriously, we've been around the block a couple times or decades, and we all know what's up. People make resolutions, break them, sign up for expensive weight loss programs, ditch it a week later, and wait until the next year to set new goals.


While I believe that real goal acquisition can occur at any time of one's life, no matter the date, no matter the calendar year, no matter the age, I also believe that goals should be realistic. Goals are just another way for us to try new patterns in life to see what works. We make resolutions to lose weight because whatever habits we have are not serving us and causing us to feel unfulfilled, or fat, or unhealthy, or bloated, or greasy, the list goes on -- so the resolution is hopefully a jarring-enough effort to imprint a new pattern.

But that principle underneath it all? The idea of trying new patterns and approaches, to see what ultimately benefits us? I really like that.

So, in the spirit of New Year's Resolutions, I offer to my readers my own attempt to shake up my own snow globe. I never make New Year's Resolutions, but this year I will think about some areas where I want to direct my attention, because attention to our patterns and habits is always a good idea.

1. Make a list of New Year's Resolutions for the blog (ACED IT)
2. Use the tag "Ways to Explain That Unexpected Pregnancy" at least one more time in a legitimate context
3.Buy a laptop that doesn't feel like the weight of a dead adult male after carrying it for five minutes
4. Drink less coffee..................maybe
5. Continue my dedicated Ashtanga Yoga practice
6. Enter another short story and/or travel writing contest
7. Move to another foreign country (might be goodbye to Chile soon!)
8. Complete an unaided yogic headstand
9. Actually read more, like things that aren't being wildly passed around facebook. Although usually good reads from NYT or Slate or whatnot, I want to get back to books and magazines.
10. Write. And write. And write write write write!!

What resolutions, goals, inclinations and ideas do you have?