Discovering my family, heritage and myself

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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I got to meet my Argentine family today! My grandfather was an immigrant from Argentina to the United States in the 1940’s. He didn’t speak much English when he came, but somehow he managed to meet and woo my grandmother. They got married and my grandfather went on to become a minister in the Christian Reformed Church (very similar to the Presbyterian denomination in the Christian church.) Then, the two of them moved back down to Argentina as missionaries in the province of Chubut in southern Argentina. My father was born there. They stayed there until he was about 9 years old, then moved back to the states, but they brought many Argentine customs and culture with them. I grew up eating empanadas and milanesas and drinking matĂ©.  My father and grandparents instilled in me a love for a country I had never been to. This trip is a realization of an entire childhood of anticipation and a major milestone in my life.

            Though my grandfather chose to make his home in Western Michigan, the rest of his family stayed here in Argentina. Though I am familiar with most of my family, there is a whole other side that I have never met. Today, I got to meet them. I went to the apartment of my grandfather’s brother’s son (I have no idea what to call him, so I will simply refer to him as my uncle) and met his family. My uncle looks and reminds me a lot of my grandfather. He is very friendly and smiles a lot. My aunt speaks very quickly and is hard to understand since my Spanish is poor, but she is also very nice. They have 6 kids, all boys, who all live at home. Somehow, this family of 8 lives in a 2-3 bedroom apartment. Despite their being cramped, they are happy were they are and that makes them so nice to around. Their oldest son, Reuben is in the Argentine Air Force. He is short, stocky, and very muscular. The next son, David, is not home very much because he likes to stay with his grandmother in Mendoza (a Western province of Argentina). The son I got to know the best, Diego, is their third.  He is studying to become a lawyer and speaks a little bit of English. He has promised to take me to all the hottest clubs in Buenos Aires. The fourth son is Nanuel. He is 19 and has Down’s Syndrome. He is incredibly friendly and immediately started to show me all his drawings from school after I met him. Next, is Ghairo. He’s 16 and acts like to typical teenager. He was fascinated at how tall I was. Finally, the baby of the family is JosuĂ©. He’s 14 and reminds me so much of my 14 year old brother back home. We all gathered for a big lunch, then sat around afterwards and drank mate and talked politics.

Today was a great day. Getting a chance to meet my family and a taste of my heritage has helped me fit one more piece of the puzzle that is me and my family. I look forward to discovering more of who I am.

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Last night, May 19th, all of our group went along with all the UGA students that are staying in our residencia, took a bus to a huge asado/parrilla/party last night! It was incredible! The house it was at had a huge backyard with tables and chairs set up and then a dance floor in the house itself. The grill were everything was cooked was in the back corner of the yard, (I split my time hanging out there and the dance floor). The food consisted of delicious meats, including sausages and steak sandwiches. Even though I wasn´t hungry, I had 2 of each. They were delicious! I am beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as bad meat in Argentina. Everything I´ve tried has been great! After eating, a group began to gather on the dance floor. I joined and proceded to make a fool of myself, as is the case anytime I dance. Everyone was having a great time and simply enjoying being together and in a foreign country. I´m beginning to get a feel for Argentine culture, that get togethers (asados, parrillas, fiestas, etc) are a huge part of the society here. Simply cooking a meal and inviting friends and family is something that in the breakneck pace of the US, has been forgotten, except for the occasional barbecue in suburban neighborhoods. The pace is slower here in Argentina. There is also less of an independent, "I don´t need anybody" attitude here than in the US. Here, value is placed on time spent with others; on getting together and simply enjoying the company. So much more time is spent here (and, I believe, in most Latin American countries as well) simply chatting with others about politics, futbol, the environment, or nothing in peticular. We seem to be so rushed in the States that we have forgotten the value of others; enjoying relaxed time and conversations with those around us. I´m glad I am able to experience this difference in culture and hope I can bring just a piece of it with me when I leave.

-JB Boonstra

pacovera says:
Hola jb
Pues yo veo que escribes casi perfecto en español. Solo "el puede leer" que se dice "el pueda leer".
Estupendo. Que te vaya bien en tus clases.
Posted on: May 28, 2006
Boonstra says:
Hola Francisco!
No puedo escribir mis blogs en español por dos razones. Primero, no puedo escribir o hablar bien en español! Estoy practicando y aprendiendo mucho. Segundo, tengo que escribir éstos blogs para una clase estoy tomando acà en Buenos Aires y mi profesor los lee. No creo que el puede leer en español. Lo siento Francisco!
Posted on: May 28, 2006
pacovera says:
Hola Jb
Para que no se diga, para no renegar de los ancestros, haz un esfuerzo y cuentanos todo esto en español. Venga que puedes. :-)
Saludos desde Tenerife.
Posted on: May 28, 2006