Hola Mate

18 06 2009

One of my favorite things about Argentina was the mate ritual. In South America, yerba mate has been known as the “drink of the gods” for centuries. The bitter tea takes a little getting used to, but it is packed with vitamins and insanely healthy. It is also a tradition in itself.

Mate is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. And drinking mate is not just healthy, it’s ritual. Mate gourds, usually metal or wood or a combination, are gorgeous, artful creations.  The gourd is shared between a group, filled with hot water each time and passed from person to person, each of whom drinks the entire gourdful of tea through the bombilla (straw filter) before pouring more water and passing the gourd. It’s a sharing of friendship and an honor to share another’s mate.

All this is a long way of explaining that mate is yet another thing I wish I could have brought back from Argentina in unlimited supply. But now I’ve discovered the next bet thing: Guayakí is a company that not only sells gourds and mate but that does so with a larger purpose in mind. The company partners with small farmers and indigenous communities, aiding in conservation and community development in the sub-tropic cultures of South America. Named for the Aché Guayakí people native to the mate forest, the company practices a business model called Market Driven Restoration, allowing consumer purchases of yerba mate in North America to support indigenous communities and sustainable agriculture and reforestation projects in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Namely, not only can I feel good about enjoying my mate again, I feel good about helping save the South American landscape I’ve come to love so much.

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I’ll be the girl with the giant backpack…

5 01 2008

Ok, I’ve done it. I managed to wade my way through the swamp of clothes that has been my living room for the past week. And I managed to fit all (or most) of it. The Squirrel, as my beloved pack was christened (though I can’t really recall why) on her virgin trip through Europe long ago, is standing tall in my living room. And by tall I don’t mean just proud: the girl is huge. But I am happy to say that I can still lug her around with the best of them. That skill came back like riding a bike. The week of preparation, however, was not so easy…

What to bring for six weeks? In Europe (for four months) I had exactly 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of thermals, 3 shirts and a jacket. I’m not exaggerating. But now that I’m older (and slightly prissier) that just won’t do. Not to mention hiking gear. So my week of packing in brief went something like this:

  • Five (yes five) trips to Eastern Mountain Sports to pick up gear. Partly because I kept forgetting things, partly because I wanted to make use of coupons, and partly because I just really got to love the gang there. Hey, if I can’t find a job when I get back, perhaps I’ll go work there.
  • As many trips to the drugstore to stock a pharmacy that I will now carry on my back for the next six weeks. Always best to be prepared for anything…
  • Two trips to the Outdoor World with my oh-so-patient brother because the first pair of hiking boots didn’t work out.
  • Then comes the everyday clothes. A last minute trip to Nine West to buy shoes (on sale of course) I could take for going out and not care much if their heels broke off after being stuffed in the squirrel.

But I survived, though I’m exhausted reliving it all. And now, it’s time to go. I’ll be in Buenos Aires at noon tomorrow, the girl with the towering backpack that looks nothing whatsoever like a squirrel.