Last week my host mom invited me to go on a retreat with her to Victoria, Entre Rios, Argentina. Eager not to miss an opportunity to explore- I readily accepted, no questions asked. And I mean that literally.. Wednesday night I packed a suitcase with clothes for every weather and hopped on a (very comfy double-decker Mercedes-Benz coach) bus with no idea what the long-weekend would really bring.
13 hours later I awoke to see the landscape was no longer the tropical palm trees of home, but rather what my host mom called an "Argentine-Tuscany," cathedrals and villages tucked between valleys of rolling hills. I then watched in surprise as we turned into the driveway of one of those incredible cathedrals, grabbed our suitcases, and piled out. I soon learned that the name of this place was La Iglesia de la Abadía del Niño Dios, and that it was the first Spanish speaking monastery in all of the Americas... and that we were going to be staying there till Sunday! Through conversations I had with other members of the group, I quickly got the impression that this wasn't something many people got the experience to do, but because Celia (this happy, little 87 yr old who led our group) had a son in the monastery we had an 'in.'
The whole trip turned out to be one new experience after the next. I spent the weekend relaxing and exploring the pueblo and countryside around the monastery- a complete 180º change in pace from Formosa. My host mom played the "she's from America and wants to learn about the realities of all aspects of our culture- and might never get an experience like this again" card to get our very own private tour of the garden and workshop where the monks make cheeses, jams, liquors, and most importantly... Dulce de Leche!! It was fantastic :) On the tour I asked if I could go for runs the 'arb-ish' area behind the workshop and got the thumbs-up from Padre Nestor. This park turned out to be gorgeous, and I can now officially say I have run over the Río Paraná since a branch of it runs through the park!
The clear highlight of the weekend wasn't tasting incredibly fresh Dulce de Leche or even running across waters that came from the great Iguazu Falls. It was the mass Saturday night- something I know I will never forget. Late Saturday afternoon the sky started to chance from pure-blue to cloudy, and when winds really picked up and a thunderstorm rolled in half the pueblo (and all of the monastery) lost power, and the service was held at candlelight. It seemed that no matter how loud the wind and thunder grew outside, they were still humbled in comparison to the songs of the monks absolutely resonating through the cathedral. With each flash of lightning, the stained glass windows were illuminated and it was incredibly beautiful. I wish there was some way I could have gotten it on camera- though I think this more than anything was a "you had to be there" type of night. I'm so glad I was.
Before I go, here are a few photos from the weekend. Unfortunately I either didn't have my camera
or wasn't supposed to be taking photos, so I don't have many- but here's a peak at what I've been up to.
inside the first Spanish speaking monastery in the Americas
Argentina- the only place where the countryside is lined with palm trees