Argentina: A welcoming culture
February 6, 2015
On Monday, Dec. 29, 2014, 16 South Dakota State University students and two adult chaperones met in Sioux Falls to fly to Dallas, Texas. Once in Dallas, we got ready for our 10-hour plane ride that would take us to our destination of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We arrived early in the morning the next day, flying all night. Then boarded our tour bus for a seven-hour trip to the La Pampa Province where we would spend the next week.
We spent our days learning invaluable information about the Argentina agriculture industry and had our nights free to talk with our guide and interpreter, Alejandro Casella, local producer Raul Fossati, and their families.
On New Year's Eve, the Fossati family of Santa Rosa, Argentina invited us to celebrate at their home. Here we got our first taste of a traditional "asado" or barbecue. One thing we all noticed right away was the lack of seasoning they put on their meat and we rarely saw salt and pepper. They like to keep food simple and wholesome without any extras. However, they did have some wonderful sauces and salsas for dips.
We had wonderful food and the opportunity to visit with the family and understand Argentine customs and their way of life. These conversations turned out to be an invaluable experience to truly understand the people of Argentina and their lifestyles. We also met some friends of the Fossati family and watched fireworks at midnight. The Fossatis were a wonderful, welcoming family that we are truly thankful to have the opportunity to meet.
New Year's Day was a day of relaxing and an opportunity to learn more about the Argentinian culture. We went to our interpreter/tour guide's house and celebrated with his family. The younger children taught us how to play soccer with the passion of Argentina people and played with us in the pool. The two young boys especially loved getting piggy-back rides in the pool. Again, we enjoyed some wonderful food, some traditional asado (pork) and delicious ice cream. Later, a few more family members came over which helped us brush up on our Spanish as we visited with them. That night we had more great food, including "empanadas," a traditional food in South America. They are like a meat pie or small calazone.
We ended the day playing more soccer, and teaching the family how to dance American style such as jitter-bug and two-step to our favorite country songs.
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After the holidays we had the opportunity to visit the Fossati family at their ranch called Don Pancho. Here we had an opportunity to sit down in a roundtable setting and openly ask any questions we had about agriculture, government or culture. It was great to understand their viewpoints and receive a non-biased, very open answer to our questions since we had spent the past three days building a friendship with the families. We ended the evening with another asado this time featuring lamb. Later some of the families' friends came to the ranch and played traditional Spanish music as a special treat for our group. This was the last time we would see the Fossati family and we all had an emotional time saying goodbye to the family who had become like an extended family. We all loved having the opportunity to be immersed in a different culture at these three get-togethers. We learned an immense amount about their culture, experienced new food, and had the opportunity to have in-depth conversations to learn as much as possible.
It was hard to believe but it was Sunday, day seven of our trip arrived and we traveled back to Buenos Aires. While it was almost 100 degrees outside our bus driver Miguel kept the bus cool! Once we got closer to the city we all realized a major difference in the scenery. We saw large buildings and backed-up traffic everywhere. On Monday, we started the day at the World's Largest Cattle Auction in the heart of Buenos Aires, called Linears. That was a slow auction day with only 2,800 head selling.
Next we visited, "Raciones Argentinas," a private pre-mix company which started in the basement of the owner's house, Grace. We toured the production plant and learned more about the business from Grace and her foreign trade director, Veronica. They spoiled us with their warm hospitality and hosted us at Grace's home for a wonderful Argentina style lunch and made us feel incredibly welcome. Lastly on Monday, we went to the Argentina Board of Trade. We had a great tour and our tour guide allowed us to ask any questions and watch the markets close at 5 pm.
We also had the opportunity to go to travel to Uruguay on this trip. We took a ferry to Colonia, Uruguay, and while on the boat we all enjoyed some time to relax, soak up some sun, and watch the beautiful scenery. Once we arrived in Uruguay we had the rest of the day to explore Colonia, a very historic town known to be a popular vacation spot. We found a great restaurant to try Uruguayan food, which is a little bit different from Argentinian. Back in Argentina, we spent one afternoon touring historical sites of Buenos Aires including a famous cemetery, a couple famous churches, and the government building. We also attended the "Sabor Tango Show." Here we had a great meal and viewed a great tango show. Tango is a dance style that originated in Argentina.
On our last day, we traveled to the airport and boarded our flight back home. While it was wonderful to come back home with a tan — I think we all missed the snow. It was 115 degrees when we left Argentina and 15 degrees when we landed back in Sioux Falls.
This was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. I learned invaluable information that I would not have learned from reading a textbook. I think all the students agreed we would go back to Argentina and Uruguay anytime. We were truly thankful we were allowed this opportunity through SDSU and thank everyone who supported us, traveled with us, and followed our travel reports online while we were gone.