Not everything in my life revolves around writing, and this past weekend is a prime example.
We had guests from Junìn de los Andes in Patagonia, Argentina. They arrived via bicycle. That’s not an unusual occurrence for us—we are hosts for an organization called Warm Showers whose members volunteer to host touring cyclists for a “warm shower” and a place to sleep. My partner Charlie has been a part of Warm Showers for about ten years and we’ve met cyclists from all over the world—some are young adults taking a summer or a “gap year” to travel the U.S., some are older adults who are vacationing or are retirees. We’ve hosted cyclists from Vermont, Pennsylvania, Canada, South Korea, Japan, India, and Yemen to name a few. Many are traveling coast to coast. One couple’s goal was to cycle around the world. We love hosting these cyclists. It’s fun meeting new people from new places and learning new things.
Our guests, Marina and Juan, arrived around dinner time on Saturday soaked from a recent downpour, having ridden the Erie Canal from the east. They ‘d started their journey a few weeks ago in New Jersey, from the home of Marina’s brother, and traveled the east coast as far north as Portland, Maine before heading west through New Hampshire and Vermont. Their destination for this leg of their trip—along the Erie Canal—is Niagara Falls.
Marina and Juan are both educators and June-August is their winter vacation (remember, seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere). As Marina explained, the isolated community where she teaches closes the school for these months because of the weather. Situated just east of the Andes Mountains, there is a lot of snow and cold. (although not as much snow as here in Central New York lake-effect country!)
When our guests arrived, we were watching a Yankees baseball game—our usual evening and weekend fare this time of year. After taking refreshing showers, Marina and Juan joined us in front of the TV and told us that they’d only just been introduced to baseball and really didn’t understand it. Well, there’s nothing I love more than sharing my enthusiasm for baseball so I explained the basics of the game as well as what was happening as we watched. Marina happened to mention that they were taking a “rest day” on Sunday and the next thing you know I was inviting our guests to accompany us to a game being played by the local AAA affiliates of the New York Mets.
Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast, Marina and Juan introduced us to Mate (ma-ta), a tea-like drink that Argentinians drink like most Americans drink coffee. It’s made in a coffee cup-sized gourd, shown below. You fill the gourd nearly full of the mate, pour boiling water over the mixture, and let it steep. The metal implement you see in the gourd is a straw. There is only one gourd, and it’s passed around from one person to the next, each person taking a sip or two before passing it along. When the liquid is gone, you refill the gourd and pass around some more. I have to say it was very tasty—sort of like black tea but not.
At around noontime we walked the short distance to the baseball park, grabbed some ballpark food and settled in. Sorry to say the Syracuse Mets lost, but it was a great game and we had fun sharing an American pastime with our South American friends. When the game was over, Marina and Juan headed to their next destination (still in Syracuse and a short ride) with plans to ride about twenty or so miles to Auburn on Monday.
If you’ve never hosted guests from another country you should give it a try. We enjoy sharing our country and customs as well as learning about theirs. And those young folk sure do help us stay young-feeling too!