Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mate on Monday

This past Monday, I finally tried Mate for the first time.

But let’s start at the beginning.

I visited a class last week that I thought might be interesting and as it turned out it was a seminar that took place every night from 7-10pm for one week. As I had already missed one night and the seminar takes place again this week, I decided to come back on Monday. Same time, same place. Or at least that’s what Eloísa (the teacher) told me.

So on Monday I was gonna visit the seminar but when I arrived at the room where it was supposed to be, there was nobody there. I was already late so I figured it might be in a different room. Conveniently, they have  only glass doors at Universidad Católica so I peeked into a couple rooms and tried to see if I could spot Eloísa in one of them. Unfortunately I couldn’t find her so I went to the office and asked for the room number. They told me it was 207 – which was the exact same room where I had initially thought it would be. I told them that there was nobody there and they couldn’t tell me anything that helped me and sent me back there.

Luckily, by that time a guy named Gabriel arrived and wondered where the class was. I told him I had already been to the office and they couldn’t help me out there. So he went to check the rooms once more and I waited. He came back without finding them a little later.

Short time after that another guy from the class arrived and introduced himself as Mauricio. Gabriel informed him about the situation. So now he set out to find the class just like we did before and Gabriel sat down and poured himself some Mate. After some smalltalk he got a call from Mauricio who apparently had found the class. In the building of the nursing school which was down the street. I din’t even know where that was until then. To me it seems quite strange that the University is spread out into several buildings that are not all next to each other. That is because initially it was just the main building and with every expansion the University had to acquire some new property nearby since they can’t add onto the main building.

Anyway we eventually found the class and joined the lesson. It’s mainly group work and I was in a group with Gabriel, Mauricio and three girls that had been there before.

Now what happened to the Mate story? As the title suggests I had my first try of it that night. But first some basic info about the beverage.

From what I have seen, every second person here in Montevideo walks around with Mate equipment. A thermos filled with hot water and a Mate cup with a metal straw that is. The Mate cup is filled to the brim with Mate yerba (I think that’s what the tea leaves are called) and when you want to have a drink you pour some hot water into your cup and then sip it with the help of your metal straw which contains a strainer so the tea leaves stay in the cup. And since everybody here seems to drink Mate 24/7, almost every place sells "agua caliente" (hot water) so people can refill their thermoses.

Another part of the “Mate culture” is to share it with everyone. That means whoever brings his Mate equipment to class offers it to the people that sit around him.

Now it just so happens that one of the girls in my group offered me some Mate. I told her I had never tried it before. What a shocker! Right then, all eyes were on me. Of course I had to try it.

Since almost everybody had told me that no one likes Mate at first try, I figured they were all staring at me in order to see my facial expression upon trial. Pressure was on. Well I had been curious to try it anyway so what the hell. I tried. And I liked it. Big disappointment in the room.

After that, they kept offering me Mate every 5 minutes and of course I also had to try Gabriel’s “blend” because he drinks it stronger and hotter than the girl who first offered me some. They also told me that for example in Paraguay the drink cold Mate. Apparently it’s an art on its own.

So that is the story of how I first tried Mate. And now I have to get me a thermos, a Mate cup and a metal straw, and find out the secrets of Mate-making because I imagine it to be quite nice to have my own Mate during the winter months here. Well not my own because Mate is for sharing. And of course because they sell lots of cute Mate cups on the markets here and it makes a cute souvenir.

And at the end of the story there is the realization that I get more Uruguayan each and every day.  

Losing my German-ness...

No comments:

Post a Comment