Up to the Mountains

By Madeline Blasberg

In the past several weeks, I have had the same conversation over and over again.  The first month in a new place, you are always a bit of a novelty.  I imagine that in the eyes of the discerning locals, I look a little out of place.  I don’t bust out my parka when the temperature dips below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I don’t own parachute pants, I can’t rock a mullet – and would argue that very few can – and no matter how hard I try, my glow in the dark white skin will never be the color of dulce de leche.  I surrender; they’ve spotted me.

And so, I accept that for these first days, weeks, months, I stand out a little.  I’m a little bit of a novelty, and as such I am obliged to partake in the same conversation over and over again, whenever I meet a new face.  It always begins the same, a kiss on the check and a round of rudimentary interrogation:

You’re name is what?  …and how do you pronounce that?  Mardi?  Madri?Marry?…Right, you’ll be Magdalena.  And where are you from?  Minnesota?…no I have no idea where that is.  And why did you choose Mendoza?

The last question always takes me a moment or two longer.  Why did I choose Mendoza?

Well, lots of reasons.  If you were my parents, I would have said because it’s safe, relatively inexpensive, and I can study the things I love.  If you were my teacher, I’d say because the University is second in the country, because it will whip my wayward Spanish into submission and because I can go there and still graduate…eventually.  If you were a friend, I’d say because it’s the land of wine, and tango, and staying out until 6 a.m. and in a part of the world I may not get to see otherwise.

And it wasn’t until very recently that I realized I had left one rather significant reason out of each interrogation.  It’s a little embarrassing that the Mountains never really crossed my mind.

The city of Mendoza is nestled against the Andes Mountains, which form the border between Chile and Argentina.  From my home in the city all you have to do is climb a couple flights of stairs, move a chubby cat from his perch, wrestle a rusty latch, and stick your head out a window to take in the beauty of the cordillera.

Thanks to my mamá and a little tour van, I was able to get much closer to the mountains than a third floor window.  Together we spent the entire day making hair pin turns on mountain sides, zigzagging back and forth, up and down, around and back again.  My mamá shook me awake to watch the sun rise over an abandoned hotel, poked my arm to point out the different colors of every individual mountain, smacked her lips at the beauty of Acongaguas (second tallest Mountain, second only to Everest), and laughed when I found a hairy toe of some animal swimming in my stew at lunch time.  As the day came to an end, I added the Andes to the list of things I love about Mendoza; I added my mamá to the list of things I am thankful for, and I added motion sickness pills to the list of things never to be left behind when speeding through the mountains.

My mamá and I, on the Argentine side of the border.

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