Monday, May 16, 2011

Mate (Mah-Tay)

     I was first introduced to yerba mate freshman year in the dormroom of my friends, Michaela and Lilia.  It was more or less green tea in a weird little cup with a metal straw, but I liked it.  Now that I'm in Argentina, homeland of mate, I can't get enough of it.  I got the chance to learn more about mate when I did a class project on it at the start of the semester.  Even the research process was rewarding:  I basically just asked two IES professors a million questions while one showed me the "proper" way to prepare un buen mate and then the subsequent etiquette of drinking mate in a group (because mate is a very communal beverage, to be shared amongst friends).
     In Argentina, mate is everywhere! and I love it.  Every park you walk through, there are people sitting with their friends, drinking mate.  Go to the library and every table of people has at least one mate (because it has caffeine and is said to stimulate mental activity).  Just the other day, I was in the Biblioteca Nacional when a complete stranger offered to share her mate with me whilst we studied; I was in desperate need of some caffeine and it was just the greatest, most unexpected surprise to be offered to share mate with a friendly stranger.  And on Sunday, I sat around with my host family, watching the Boca vs. River Superclasico and drinking mate.  How Argentine am I???  I even shared mate with the British girls I met in Patagonia; we drank mate and watched Mean Girls on the miniscule screen of my iPod one rainy day in our hostel room.
     I have my own mate set, and plan on using it very much when I return to the States.  I already had my mom take home a bag of yerba with her for me, because I haven't yet found out where I'll be purchasing yerba in LA when I run out...
     All are welcome to join and tomar mate conmigo :)

One funny thing that happened here that probably would not go over so easily in the States:  Before my trip to Patagonia, my host mom packed me some yerba in a glass jar for me to take with me.  I decided the glass jar was too heavy and fragile, so I moved the yerba into a plastic bag, only then realizing how sketchy a giant bag of yerba looks.  But of course, everyone in Argentina knows that yerba is yerba; I think I'd have to answer a lot more questions if I did that in the States.

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