Sobremesa: Argentinian Tradition of Sharing Long Conversations After Dinner

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CIEE Buenos Aires

CIEE Buenos Aires

By: Sydney Weber, Liberal Arts Student

There’s a chalkboard in my host mom’s kitchen that for the past few months has read, “La vida es más linda cuando la compartimos”. I’ve done a lot of reflecting over my time here, thanks in part to my Intercultural Communication class, which emphasized introspection and awareness of thoughts and emotions. We had an assignment not too long ago to sit with ourselves for an hour. No phone, no food, no homework, doing nothing but thinking.

Trying to take advantage of the time, I asked myself a lot of questions. One of the best was, “What am I going to remember the most when I leave Argentina, and how does the realization of that impact what I do with my remaining time?”

The answer I came up with is a twofer: people and adventures. One of the first things to come to mind when someone asks what I’ve liked here or what some of my favorite memories are, is an extended sobremesa at a ranch in Buenos Aires Province. 

CIEE took us on a Día de Estancia, where we drove about an hour into the countryside to go to Estancia La Mimosa. We wandered around the ranch’s gardens, ate empanadas, watched folkloric dance and a few traditional games of horsemanship. 

After a brief horseback ride, we had an asado, a quintessential Argentinian gathering/meal that features many, many types of meat. Our group was the only one in the dining area, which was just as well since we took up one of the largest tables I’ve ever eaten at. We chatted and laughed our way through bread, salad, sausage, chicken, steak, and dessert. We stayed so long at the table that a man I assume was the ranch owner assumed we were Argentinian. 

And truly, the sobremesa is my favorite Argentinian custom (aside from shutting the country down for a few hours while the equipo nacional plays in the World Cup), more than besos given in greeting or sharing a mate. The practice of sitting around the table long after you’ve finished eating appeals to me on so many levels. It’s a moment of connection with the people around you, a deep breath taken in the middle of a life that is, at least for me, usually lived too quickly. 

That’s merely one example of the people part of what I’ll remember. There are countless more, like having an empanada picnic in the plaza in front of Teatro Colón or laughing with friends as kittens climb into our laps at a cat café.

That last one is an example of the adventurous half of my will-be-treasured memories. Wandering around the city is a delight, and there’s always something to discover. The view from Torre Monumental, Mercat Villa Crespo (and the Transylvanian stick cakes on the second floor!), el Puente de la Mujer. Paseo la Plaza, a crepe place near CIEE, un montón de cafés y bares notables, and more street fairs than you can shake a stick at. 

There’s also travelling around Argentina. CIEE took us to Jujuy, the northwesternmost province in Argentina, and I’m still stunned by the beauty of the mountains and desert there. We hiked and wandered around markets and I accidentally ate llama (doesn’t taste like chicken, kinda tough).

About two weeks ago I went with five friends to Ushuaia, the end of the earth. It was so incredible that I lack the words to properly describe it, and the time that we spent together was wonderful and chaotic and hilarious. Especially when we failed to get out of an escape room; we weren’t even close.

The escape room experience is the essence of what I’ll most remember: time spent with good friends doing cool things in an incredible place. Now this brings me to the final part of my reflection question: How does knowing that my favorite moments were spent with friends doing interesting things influence what I choose to do with my last few weeks?

It means that I seek out times like those, that if given the choice between staying home doing nothing in particular and going to a salsa class with a friend, I want to choose the latter unless I need the downtime.

It means I become aware of those moments when I’m in them, that I thank God for them. Because gratitude makes a good thing even better.

So, in my two remaining weeks, I plan to get some sleep (I don’t enjoy awesome adventures as much when I can barely keep my eyes open) and then get outside with a friend and do cool activities. Because life is more beautiful when we share it.

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