Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Malbec is Muy Bueno

(A Rainbow in the Fountain at the Plaza Italia)

I remember clearly our first day at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We took the boat across the lake to explore another village and got caught in a torrential rain storm. Seeking shelter, we ended up at the first restaurant we could find to have a beer and wait out the rain. There was a couple in the courtyard taking a private Spanish class. I was envious but at the same time thought I would never have the courage to expose myself like that. You see, I've always had this irrational fear of speaking another language in public. I like to be correct. And when learning a new language it's inevitable that you'll make more mistakes than not. That was the fear that gripped me as I prepared to leave, but as soon as I stepped off the plane, the fear was gone. I don't know how or why I was just at ease. And I'm not afraid to make mistakes. In fact, I welcome the corrections and I have been making sure people address me in Spanish so I can learn more. It's very liberating and I'm not embarrassed about my lingual limitations any more.

(Plaza Espana)

Most of the day, today, was spent in Spanish class. I met Ana, my tutor, for breakfast near my apartment on a terrace overlooking the city. Much of our class today was practical. We spoke in Spanish which Ana acted as my guide in the city. She took me on a tour of some of the main plazas in the city, Plaza Chile, Espana, San Martin and Independencia, explaining the history of Mendoza and Argentina as well. On the way to the main plaza (Plaza Independencia) we stopped in the Central Market. It reminded me more of the Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles than the main markets i most other countries where I travel. Argentina is more similar to Europe than to anywhere else I have been in the rest of Latin America.

(Plaza Independencia)

In the Plaza Independencia we stopped briefly in the modern art museum located under the plaza. It houses only a small exhibition but it was interesting to see, nonetheless. Our tour of the city ended with some ice cream at a popular local shop. It seems that ice cream is quite a national favorite here in Argentina. After the ice cream, Ana took her leave of me and I decided to grab some lunch, against custom.

(Plaza San Martin)

My schedule is very much off the Argentine schedule because of my classes. Here things shut down from 1:30 until 4:30 (or later) for siesta. There are some restaurants that still serve food, though it is not the custom here. Many of the restaurants that do serve lunch offer a special "menu del dia" only available in the afternoon. It's a prix fixe menu generally with a starter, entree and drink for a decent price. I decided to try the menu del dia at the popular Azafran. The waiter was taken aback that I was dining alone and asked me why I was solo (all in Spanish might I add). I explained I was here learning Spanish and my husband couldn't join me because of work. This time I made sure to order my steak rare. Unfortunately, while the food here was wonderful, again they over cooked my steak. This time I was sure that I had ordered correctly so I got the courage to tell the waiter. He apologized and offered to take it back and bring me a new one, but after 20 years of vegetarianism I have a hard time sending meat back to be wasted. He ended up bringing me a glass of Malbec as a "gift" to make up for the mistake. Well, okay!

(Ana at our wine tasting)

Later in the evening I met Ana for another class (since I missed my first class on Monday). We started with coffee and then were supposed to go to a wine tasting but when we got there it was cancelled. She seemed very distressed and angered by the predicament. I tried to assure her that I was fine. I'm on vacation after all. I can roll with the punches. We ended up at another wine bar and had a wine flight paired with sauces that complemented each wine and I learned how to speak about wines in Spanish. So, even though I didn't get a full day to visit the vineyards, thanks to United Airlines, I did get a lesson in Argentine wines.

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