a diverse collection of travel photos and firsthand experiences while venturing across the globe. each destination has welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles, making us feel right at home. from argentina to utah - and thousands of miles in between - these are our visual memories of 'home'...just as we never imagined.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Family, Focus...and Strikes

Two months have passed since our return to Argentina. Progress and adaptation has come slowly, especially with the costs and extensive waiting periods described below - but we did finally get internet 37 days after our request was submitted! You learn to stick together in times like these - when you feel as if you are starting over again. We keep in touch with family via SKYPE, and we are blessed to receive Tania's parents in our home every 2 weeks (they live in San Juan - a 2.5 hour drive from Mendoza). Her father, a humble man of Mapuche origin, is determined to figure out how iPods work! We definitely enjoy their visits.

Our dear friends, here in Godoy Cruz, drive us out into the countryside often - Tunuyán, Luján, etc. The landscape is beautiful - crisp air, towering trees, endless vineyards of all sizes, and the majestic Andes always by your side (the peaks of which are now snow-capped). In turn, friends visit our home and watch movies on the projector (a "precious" item which arrived safely in our luggage, tightly wrapped in towels). We are absorbing all the experiences around us - we value this "cultural education", especially for our little boy. Our neighbors have been so kind - and did I mention the pizza place across the street? With 15 recipes for empanadas?

As for focus, we must remind ourselves that we are here for the experience, the journey, the pursuit of goals and aspirations. We are definitely not here for the flourishing economy and stability (which I will discuss below). The world was created and meant to be seen...not just as tourists. We figured now was the right time to change our environment for a period. Of course, Blockbuster and McDonalds are just a few blocks from our corner, but we prefer to steer away from the "American" experience - instead, we rent videos from the local kiosk and buy empanadas across the street (did I mention they have 15 different recipes?)

As we were packing our luggage, I was forced to leave behind my entire library of Latin American literature. Since Dallin was allowed to bring most of his books, I thought mommy would let me bring mine...I was wrong! I chose five books to survive - mostly based on personal improvement and leadership. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has been a guide for us here in Argentina. We are thinking positive and we are proactive! Even better, the Spanish translation is not found here, so I am sharing each profound principle with local business owners and friends (no - not as a sales pitch, but as free advice to break through local barriers).

Let's talk strikes. Due to higher export taxes placed upon farmers, many workers from the agricultural sector have decided to go on strike this month and protest such policies. Interstates are blocked with stones and fallen trees (to prevent truck routes), while disgruntled workers and residents fill the plazas of Buenos Aires to protest, banging on pots and pans to make their anger clear. Presidenta Kirchner tried to address the topic this week, but was met with hisses and boos. She refuses to negotiate until the strike is lifted - so far, neither side has made a move. Milk is no longer available in Mendoza, yogurt is scarce, meat has nearly disappeared (in Argentina of all places!), and chicken and vegetables have increased nearly 200% to 300% in price. Powder milk and noodles are becoming essential food groups, though not as bad as Buenos Aires.

This brings me back to the beginning...as a family, you learn to stick together in times like these. But did I mention the place across the street, with 15 different empanada recipes?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Too Close for Comfort?

Well, after waiting several weeks for all utilities to be installed, we can finally leave our home as a family and enjoy the many local attractions offered in Mendoza. For Dallin's sake (or maybe more for daddy's entertainment), we went to the local zoo located inside Parque San Martin.

The zoo is very organized with winding walkways that ascend into the hills. We were impressed with how clean the entire zoo really is, and despite the overwhelming odor of 200 red-butt baboons screaming in a cage, we were quite pleased.

However, safety precautions are much different here. Only a chain-linked fence separates you from the tigers and lions. Only a very low wall separates you from the bulls and bears. And as for the elephants... The gate door to the elephant habitat was open, and as Wade loves animals, and a good dare, he entered to take pictures. To his surprise, the African Elephant was very calm - he was able to pet her trunk (before she blew water in his face). We do not recall such adventures in Utah. Dallin enjoyed our little Argentine safari, although he seemed most intrigued by the stray cats roaming the premises (domesticated cats, not panthers).

Our journey continues...and even the ñandú seems surprised.

A Young Gaucha in Training

One of our favorite photographs. This young girl, along with hundreds of children, participated in La Vendimia parade here in Mendoza (described below). For those familiar with Argentina, you will recognize this image as a traditional symbol of local culture and heritage.

Friday, March 14, 2008

La Vendimia 2008 - La Alegría Te Invade

Another Vendimia has come and gone here in the beautiful province of Mendoza. With special performances by Mercedes Sosa and other celebrity figures, this year´s festivites brought thousands of international travelers once again. For those not familiar, La Vendimia is the annual wine festival of Argentina. During the first week of every March, Mendoza (now one of the Eight World Wine Capitals) plays host to endless parades, concerts, and wine tasting! Hotels are booked nearly a year in advance, and even then the prices are steep!

This was our first Vendimia to celebrate as a family. Not wine drinkers, we decided to stick to the parades. In addition to the traditional dancers and gauchos, the parade is designed to display the beautiful reinas (pageant queens) that hail from each provincial department - Las Heras, Godoy Cruz, Tupungato, etc. Waving to the crowds below, these stunning young women proudly represent their home and their community. Brilliant lights, vibrant floats, and pulsating music permeate the city throughout the weekend. Several youth gather in tight groups to greet the passing floats, each holding a handmade basket to catch those treats thrown below to the crowd. While not Mardi Gras in any sense, the reinas and their escorts toss grapes, apples, and garlic into the crowd - emblems of the local harvest. A massive honeydew melon nearly grazed Dallin´s head. And yes, I did see a free bottle of Malbec up for grabs!

During the closing ceremonies inside Teatro Romero late Saturday night, the crowd erupted in applause to perhaps the finest performance of the week - tango on water. Professional tango dancers twirled in passion over a shallow fountain pool on stage. Excelente!