Well, I’ve always felt interested in South America. A feeling which has intensified in the last few years. It has always been my dream to emigrate there one day. I relate a lot to this joyful, talkative, crazy and friendly South American character. And when my best friend and I discovered the lovely little Uruguay 2 years ago, it was like falling in love with it. I don’t know if you know that feeling like you’ve found your second home? Well, that’s what happened to me.
Uruguay is the total contrast of the country I’m currently living in, Luxembourg. People are much more relaxed, actually love to talk to random people on the street, are incredibly friendly, speak loudly almost like as if they were singing while gesticulating a lot haha, and they love football, food and dance. Everything I love, too! They share so many of the same interests as me, that I feel like it’s that big family I’ve always been unconsciously looking for :’)
My love for Uruguay was the reason why I started learning Spanish (obviously the Uruguayan Spanish with the voseo and everything hehe :P) on my own, together with my best friend who shares the same passion. It was our way to feel a bit ‘closer’ to ‘our’ country :’). Later the mate would provoke the same effect!
Well, anyway, as you know, mate is also the national beverage (don’t like to use this word, since I think it’s actually more than just a beverage or just tea :’) ) of Uruguay. And when informing myself about the country and culture the first thing I noticed was how basically everyone on the street was walking around with a thermos and a drinking vessel. I had also noticed that even the NT players of the football team were walking around with that.
Of course I wanted to know what it was and what was the reason for it. So that’s when I first heard about mate and all its history and ritual. I told myself that I absolutely had to try it when I went to Uruguay one day. Although, I must admit that at that moment I wasn’t really convinced that I’d like it, because some Uruguayans told me it tasted like tea, and I actually don’t like tea at all! And to be honest, I didn’t think much about it anymore after that. It was not like I was all excited to finally drink it, since I had no idea of its real greatness!
But without even expecting it, my first mate came earlier than I thought. It was this summer when I went to Mallorca on holidays and I met an Argentinian couple at the beach! I’m by nature a curious and social person and never hesitate to talk to strangers and start conversations. And these ‘strangers’ were even more special, since they were the first South Americans I had ever met in real life! I really like Argentina, too, so it was just amazing!! So after the first hola and introduction we just kept talking for whole 3 or 4 hours, just like that, about every possible subject, from culture to politics, from politics to philosophy, till books, food and dance. I felt like we knew each other for years! So as you see, I was already all happy about meeting these wonderful persons and being able to have such a nice talk with them, so that I didn’t think one second about mate! But what Argentinean would go somewhere without their mate?? haha :D
So, after 1 hour, the woman took me completely by surprise when she said: ”Oh girl, now come let’s go back to the towels and take some mate!” You should have seen my face!! haha That was the big moment: I’d try mate for the first time and I suddenly got really nervous! I was afraid of not liking it, because of all that about me not liking tea and such, which amused the woman a lot. She proudly showed me the calabaza and prepared everything in front of me, while my heart beat quicker and quicker. When she finished drinking the first sips, she finally gave it to me! I don’t know if you know how much this moment meant to me! :’)
It was a perfect place to drink my first mate. I was on the beach in an awesome country, surrounded by Spanish voices, watching the calm waves, next to a wonderful, talkative Argentinean, and in my hands the mate. It couldn’t have been more perfect. The first thing I tasted was the bitterness, it was a strange taste and I wasn’t even sure if I was liking it or not. I took some more and just kept drinking without still knowing if I liked it. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t dislike it and that it wasn’t like tea at all!
I don’t even know how the magic happened, to be honest, but somehow after giving it to the man, the man back to the woman, the woman back to me, while we kept talking and talking, and this all over again… somehow it just happened, you know. it just felt right and perfect. I’m not sure if it’s only because of the taste… I think it’s more, it’s just all this about sharing, about friendship, it’s just… I don’t even have words to describe it.. I just knew that I loved mate from that moment on, that I loved to be with those two Argentinians and … it’s like the woman said after she saw how happy and relaxed I was: ”This is a moment you won’t ever forget.” And she was right :’)