Tuesday, October 18, 2011

{friends in fiorito}

I'm still talking about Argentina!  I have days left to cover this trip.  Brace yourselves.  Nolan finished his full-time missionary responsibilities about 3:00 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26 and he was all mine!  We went back to the apartment we had rented in Palermo, served him root beer, asked lots of questions and laughed as he struggled to answer in English, stayed up way too late and made plans to get up way too early.  Good times!

Perhaps I've mentioned some of the cultural differences but NO root beer in Argentina?!?!  Of course, not everyone in the States likes root beer but my guys do!  Not having access to it for two years apparently makes you want it more.  We occasionally sent Nolan some root beer during his two years abroad . . . and then we packed some in our luggage.  I hope he liked it . . .

Another interesting bit a trivia . . . in Argentina "ll" (as in pollo) makes a "sh" sound.  So, chicken is "pollo" in Spanish.  Most Spanish dialects use the "y" sound and we hear, "poyo" but it's "posho" in Argentina.  My limited Spanish needed to be adjusted already.  So . . . our first stop was Villa Fiorito, which sounds like "vesha"!

I often joke about not being a hostessing diva.  I like to hostess but all the ideas for details come AFTER the guest arrive.  I think I learned more about being a friend and hostessing during my one day in Fiorito than probably any other place I'd been before.  It was a continuous theme throughout the rest of the trip!

Villa Fiorito is a very poor area of Buenos Aires - even google links and wikipedia refer to it as a slum.  We took a bus to Fiorito and it was impossible to not notice the change in "air quality" - the smell was almost too much for me.  As the bus became very crowded, the people were congested, and the external surroundings changed I began to worry that I would loose everything in my stomach.  I was questioning my mettle!  I absolutely love the people I met there!  I hope no one takes offense because it was never a problem in the homes we visited but up to that point I wasn't too sure what I was in for.  The stench was pretty bad.

Fiorito is also a very dangerous place.  I'm not going to share any of Nolan's scary stories now but know he had plenty in the six months he lived there. Nolan told us to keep our mouths shut as we got closer to the villa.  Hearing our English language and seeing our teeth was an invitation to rob us. (Not only are our  teeth fairly white and fairly straight but we also have them and I hurt for the people I saw that were loosing theirs - toothaches hurt!)

It wasn't that bad although we did arrive after their siesta time.  Nolan wanted to make it before since few if any people would be out. We arrived safely at Elena's home and it was heavenly!  She is the sweetest widow and works very hard to support herself.  Perhaps not everyone will think the gnome pictured below is adorable but if you had been in her home and met her you would adore him too!

Elena works all year making various gnomes then travels to Cordoba, Argentina once a year to sell them at a festival.  Apparently legend has it that the gnomes live in Cordoba so it's a big deal there - sounds fun!  Elena's gnomes are the best at the festival and all the tourist love to buy them.  I'm SUPER excited that we have one!  Meet "Axel Mario" . . .
Elena has a sweet cat . . .
Keaton thought this gnome looked like our remis driver. haha (See yesterday's post to compare the two.)
Nolan, Elena, and Axel Mario - our gnome.
This sweet lady had hurt her wrist and wasn't able to make any gnomes at that time but was steadily sewing the clothes for upcoming projects.  I hope her wrist is better!

Elena was so sweet and insisted on giving us gifts.  She didn't think she could do enough to make us comfortable and she let us look at all of her gnomes and collectibles.

I'm so thankful for modern technology and the privilege of taking digital pictures.  Alas, it's not the same as being there and I know you can't feel her home or REALLY see it.  The pictures do provide a window into a wonderful world though.

Next, we visited a really neat family!  Glad they didn't invite me to move in because I would've been tempted. I loved them, their artistic style and the way they decorated their home.  The walls were incredible!  The kids had covered the walls with newspaper and painted it or something and it also had a square pattern going on - stunning!  I hope you can get a feel for it in the pictures.  Totally rivals HGTV home make-overs!

When we arrived only Axel and Crystal were home - they're 14 and 11.  They were also very mature for their ages in my opinion.  I can only hope to be as well-mannered and hospitable as those two.  They invited us in, invited us to sit and they immediately went into the kitchen to get us something to drink.  We didn't realize that's what they were doing until they walked in with four glasses on a tray and served us!  As we were visiting, Crystal jumped up and left the house, returning a few minutes later with a bag of alfajores.  Yum!  (Note to self: request a serving tray for Christmas.)

Rafael and Gaby soon returned home along with their oldest daughter and some friends.  We laughed and had the best time!  We also tried the Argentine staple, Mate (pronounced Mah-Tay).  It's a herbal drink but Thomas thought it tasted like hay and Keaton described the taste as "cough syrup" - I didn't think it was that bad.  Nolan loves all things Argentine.
Axel has a super fun personality - vividly displayed below!  Isn't Gaby beautiful?!  She waltzed in, put on her apron and was hostess extraordinaire!  Crystal is the sweetest little behind-the-scenes hostess imaginable.  She disappeared to make Mate and then she and her mom brought in a tray of various crackers, bread and dulce de leche.  We were given more to drink every time our glasses thought about reaching empty.
Their first taste of peanut butter!  Of course, they loved it!
The cutest smile. . .

Axel (pictured below) is quite the artist and showed us some of his work.  He is very talented and so sweet to give Nolan one of his pictures.  Most kids in the U.S. go mow lawns to earn extra money . . . Axel earns extra money as a graffiti artist.  REALLY!  Graffiti is everywhere.  If you live there you will have graffiti on your house or any building BUT you can decide what type you'd like to have.  The culture is actually very friendly and non-offensive.  People don't spray graffiti on someone else's graffiti so if you don't want random graffiti you hire someone to paint something for you.  Axel's THE man!

(As you might have guessed, the gnome was named after him!  We had the gnome with us and the next thing you know it was named after Axel.  He thought it was a great idea! So did we!)
We had so much fun!  Precious little Crystal (bottom left in the blue shirt) left again only to return from the store with more snacks, mate, and sugar for us to take with us.  I really wanted to take them all with us!

The Caulo's were the darlingest couple!  I think darlingest should be a word. It totally describes them.  Once again, they insisted on giving us gifts and were so kind.  She gave me the cutest black & white ghost salt and pepper shakers - perfect for Halloween!  He took a picture of them off the wall! They each wrote sweet sentiments on the back and gave it to us as a memento.

Their daughter and granddaughter arrived in time for us to meet them too!  (see below)

He has Parkinson's disease and isn't able to get around very well.  My mind is branded with the image of our parting with them.  As we gave them hugs and prepared to leave I saw her hoist him onto her back and follow us to the door.  I told Nolan they didn't need to see us out but he said they were insistent.  This great man wanted to see us and our missionary that he loved until he couldn't see us any longer.  She walked to the door with him on her back - his feet dragging behind her - and they both waved as she was hunched over in the door way.  He was watching and waving over her shoulder.  We didn't deserve that special treatment but that's the goodness of their hearts.  How could I not love them?  How could I not write SUPER long blogs so I could remember all the details?  I must try to be as good.

We only got to have a brief visit with this darling family since they were also visiting at our next stop.  They were so considerate to help us fit so much in and were thoughtful of our schedule.  It was nice to be able to visit two families at once.  Super cute little boy!

Never hurts to spread a little Texas pride . . .
Beautiful family!!  Nolan Skyped from their house on Mother's Day so you can imagine how I feel about them.  :) Their kids are so adorable.  Once again, I left with a lovely gift . . . a beautiful silk flower, a rose, that actually smells so good!  I don't know what perfume last that long but I'm still enjoying the scent.  I probably left their kids really wound up with all the sugar I fed them.

We didn't get to stay very long but were so happy to meet this great family. Nolan really loved these people and continued to teach them until his last moments.  I hope they have a wonderful life and find so much happiness!  It was a pleasure to meet them.

As we prepared to go visit the last family on our schedule everyone was worried about us making it to their home.  Well, the families in Fiorito were worried.  Nolan knew we would be fine.  One of the families made a phone call to double check before we left.

It was dark and getting later but as we were walking I saw Nolan's face light up.  I quickly discovered why . . . the boys from the house we were going to visit had walked to greet us and keep us safe on our stroll to their house!  We were visiting as we walked and all was going well when we saw a large group of boys coming towards us.  They were loud and began to hollar at us, particularly to Nolan.  He was still dressed as a missionary and they were calling him out. There were around 20 of them and I didn't have a good feeling.  These incredible boys that were walking with us immediately changed their plans and our path so we could take a different route to their house, which kept us safe.  I don't know that anything would've happened but it was humbling to see these young boys taking such good care of us.

If there is a heaven on earth it would be in this home.  So much love and kindness packed into those walls.  We had the best time and never wanted to leave.  {I think we stayed until almost 11:00 p.m.!} Nolan had told them that Keaton could juggle so they quickly got him to demonstrate and then they started learning . . .

Beautiful girls and oh, so sweet!  Some were siblings, some were cousins and all of them were wonderful.
Everything was neat and organized and once again they were the perfect host.  We had plenty of soda to drink, games to play, and pictures to take.

Oh, the soccer moves these guys have!  Keaton was taking lessons at this point.

Keaton showed them some "moves" and they were quick to duplicate!  Mario was so awesome, we had to name the gnome after him too!
Unfortunately we didn't get to meet the dad / husband in this home since he was out of town for work.  I know Nolan really loved him and after meeting this family I know he was deserving of it.

We finally had to leave!  I think we could've stayed all night though . . . it was that much fun!  As we told them good-bye I was surprised to see them all begin to file out through the doorway after us.  ALL of them.
I soon discovered that they were all going to walk with us to locate a remis that could get us back to our apartment. {A remis is a privately owned taxi type service.  They don't drive the streets looking for work but wait at one location until someone needs a driver.  They are often privately owned cars and are less expensive than taxi's too.}  It's not any easy walk on those "streets" but once again they wanted us to be safe and to be together for as long as possible.  I think we walked about 6 or 7 blocks and were practically out of the Villa before we located a remis driver. That was one of the best walks of my life.  I have friends in Fiorito.  Real friends and I don't even speak their language.  I love that place.  I'm still wondering why I am so blessed.