My Argentine Family

September 16th, 2007 Posted in lifestyle

Written by Shanie 

When we told our friends and family that we were going to live full time in Argentina many thought we were crazy, some wished they could do the same and some wanted to disown us. We did it anyway.

Now its not that we didn’t think that life would take on a bit of an uphill battle with moving to a new culture that speaks a foreign language (and one that I had only just begun to learn). No, we did. Actually, it’s those many experiences that we come across everyday that has made me consider sharing some of these life lessons that we have learned so far.

The experiences have been vast and varied in the last 27 months of living here.

We started our lives in Argentina as the owners of a beautiful farm with a brand new, nicest-home-I-had-ever-lived-in 2000 square foot house, a vineyard in need of a little TLC, a plum orchard in need of a lot of TLC and open land.

School commenced June of 2005. First class, “Know thy Caretaker.”

Our 65 acre (26 hectare) chardonnay grape, plum and future olive farm came with a family. Their names, we came to learn, are Juan, Ann, Jorgelina, Maria Sol and Eduardo. When we arrived, the five were living in a small house with another five member family. They did not have their own place to lay their head at night nor any payment for past work done (except for a small lot next to our farm with a partially built house).

Our first lesson was of cultural differences. We were told by the past owners of the property that Juan and family were good people but “…were not our friends and shouldn’t be treated as such.” This all being in Spanish, of course.

Jamie and my ideologies in life had a hard time accepting this bit of advice. Despite misgivings, we listened to another’s word instead of being attentive to our intuitions.

We initially hired a management company to overlook things but hired Juan to be working on the property as well. Because of our language barrier and not knowing each other we thought this to be the easiest way to start out.

I should also mention that we were versed in the drinking the bottled grape , not growing it.

It was apparent after a few months that the management company was trying to swindle money from us but we weren’t absolutely positive nor had any proof.

The day after Jamie and I discussed talking with the management company we had a huge thunder storm.

For those of you that do not know- a thunderstorm in the San Rafael region is of Godly proportions.

The ting of raindrops started hitting our metal roof…exciting, we were finally going to get to see one of these “thunderstorms!” 

Within minutes the winds picked up to a steady 35 mph, gust to 70 and the rain turned to hail. And not your normal hail, either. This hail was the size of a swollen golf ball. And when it started to come down, it was in sheets. The view that only minutes before was sagebrush, the vineyard and the river was now complete white. Visibility was no farther than the end of the porch.

And then it was over. Finished as quickly as it began.

Jamie and I peeked out the door. It felt and looked as if we had just been at war with Mother Nature. Large tree limbs were on the ground. Our beautiful, flourishing grapevines had been raped and beaten. They no longer looked like the vibrant plants they were a few minutes earlier.

We started to walk around the vineyard slowly, taking in the damage.

Through the rising mist of the melting hail, I saw a silhouetted figure coming our way. At first I couldn’t make out who it was; it was Juan.

He was lingering at an exceptionally large grape vine that had visibly been torn to shreds. He gingerly held the leaves between his fingers. We walked up to him.

“No bueno. El administación es malo, muy malo.”

With broken and reconnected Spanish we began to understand that Juan had seen the management doing unmoral activities with our farm and over charging us. Juan had been concerned to tell us because he didn’t know if we would believe him.

Despite the knowledge of being taking advantage of by the management team, it felt as if a load had been lifted off our shoulders. Our feelings had been right. They weren’t just and forthright people. We knew it; time to move on. Adelante en Castillano.

We decided to go with our intuitions this time. We hired Juan as our full time caretaker. The farm was his canvas; he needed to show us what he could do with it. We also hired a full time employee to work underneath Juan. For the first time in his life, Juan was being trusted to show his intelligence in regards to grapes and his ability to be a boss.

Growing up with a father as a caretaker and learning the ways of the vine from a young age developed Juan into a true expert of the field.

Juan did amazing things for our farm and in the meantime we did things for his family. We provided electricity, a roof, furniture, housewares, clothing and other needed items. We even bought Ann dentures; it was an incredible feeling when we saw her new, beautiful smile.

With time the language barriers came down and the family that we were once warned against became our new Argentine family. Their love, trust and ability to teach us the little importance of materialistic values was, at times, overwhelming.

When we chose to sell the farm (another story for another day), the Juan family was one of the main reasons we were sad to do so.

On our last night on the farm the family came to wish us goodbye.

We gathered in a group hug to say our farewells. As I felt the warmth and affection from Ann and Maria Sol on either side of me I realized that I was hearing the sniffles and short breaths of tears being shed. Tears flowed down my cheeks.

This was a grand life lesson; follow your heart and love will follow. These five people are now a part of me. My Argentine family. They are the truth of Argentina. There are wonderful people here. It doesn’t matter if you live or travel to Argentina; the people are worth the journey.

  1. 15 Responses to “My Argentine Family”

  2. By Dik on Aug 24, 2008

    Very interesting. I’ll subscribe on your RSS. Do you want to write more about it?

  3. By Patagonia on Nov 8, 2008

    Hi Dik,

    Sorry, your message was missed somehow and I just read it. Thanks for subscribing. Sure, I can write more on the experience. What are you thinking?

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