Maté and Machismo

Yesterday I was late for school. This was because I insisted on eating breakfast, but couldn’t find matches so I could boil my eggs. Then followed the long walk to the bus stop and the long ride on the bus. Our bus driver had a thing for 80s hard rock, so we trundled through the pretty lake, woodland and snowy mountain scenery listening to ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Gorky Park’ at top volume, which cheered me up no end.

However, halfway to town, the police had blocked off the main road, so the bus had to take a slow detour down some tiny dirt roads lined with pretty log cabins. By the time I got to Spanish school, I was an hour late and Gaby and Roman (that’s the Russian’s name) were deep into reflexive verbs. Since there aren’t any reflexive verbs in Russian, Roman was having a hard time grasping the concept and became increasingly frustrated and irritated – even shushing me when I provided correct answers. (I’m having a pretty easy time learning Spanish, as I spent many years studying French and the two languages are very similar.)

Then we played a game that involved rolling the dice and having to answer a question in Spanish. I had to say what I thought about money (es muy importante, pero no es la cosa la mas importante per mi). Roman had to say whether he had or wanted children. Stupidly I chimed in and said I didn’t have any. There followed a long discussion in which Roman made it clear that he thought I was ‘infantil y egoist’ (childish and selfish) to be childless at age 36. He also informed us that gay people were deviant.

I wasn’t surprised. In an earlier game, we each had to describe a famous person for the other person to guess. Roman described Arnold Schwarzenegger. I described Nelson Mandela. While Gaby and Caroline immediately got it, Roman didn’t have a clue who Mandela was… even when given the answer.

Fortunately, the students in the other class (three Australians and a Swiss guy) are much less ‘machismo’, as they say here in Argentina. We had a cooking class after lunch (from which Roman was conspicuously absent) and Gaby entertained us with her ‘guess the measurements and throw it all together’ baking style (which is, coincidentally, the very same school of baking I come from) and we drank maté (stinky green tea stuff) together and photographed our ‘Maté Faces’.

Thomas, the Swiss guy, and I then went for a couple of locally brewed beers, which, at R50 a pint were at least worthy of the price. (Naturally, I did not consider it ‘machismo’ when Thomas insisted on paying.) Then I trundled back home on the bus (no soundtrack this time) and walked the 5km home down the cold and dusty road.

The good news is that, since Roman and I apparently need to work on different things to progress in Spanish, the school decided to split our classes. Roman now studies with Gaby privately from 9 until 11 and I get Gaby all to myself from 11 to 1pm. So, no more disapproving Russian opinions on my lack of progeny or the fact that I happen to like gay people. And I’m going hiking with Thomas this weekend. At last I have a two-legged friend in Bariloche. Hurrah!

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