Amistades nuevas.

Rosario is famous for 4 things: the Argentine flag, Che Guevara (Argentine figure in the Cuban revolution and adorner of college t-shirts), Lionel Messi (known around the world- well, everywhere except the US- for his soccer skills), and its beautiful women.  I’m adding “awesome people” to the list.
We went out for sushi on Tuesday night with Matt’s coworker, Luis, and his girlfriend, Vivi.  The place is called Itamae, and they have 2-for-1 sushi on Tuesdays.  Which meant we ate our weight in raw fish, and it was glorious.
Vivi is a fitness educator and banker, and she talks in that way that I’ve always associated with Latin cultures- the way that makes you suddenly much more animated because she’s got so much effusive energy in her language, her hand gestures, in the timbre of her voice.  A former college volleyball player and current runner, she is tall and athletic.  I instantly loved her.  She speaks only a little more English than I do Spanish, so our conversations were often punctuated by Matt’s or Luis’s translations, but she told me about her cat, her daughter, Luis’s daughter’s penchant for baking, her running club, her thoughts on season 5 of Dexter, the way she chose her apartment for its light patterns.  At the end of the night, we exchanged two cheek kisses.
Luis, Matt told me, has taught himself English, which makes his storytelling prowess even more impressive.  When Vivi excused herself to use the baño, he said he would tell us a story about her daughter.  Like her mother, she is also a college athlete, and one day when she was training at her gym, a man stepped onto the treadmill next to her and tried to strike up a conversation.  She waved him away and kept running.  He tried again, and again, she denied him.  A third try; a third dismissal.  Finally, he left her alone.
“And who,” said Luis, “do you think that man was?”
I leaned forward a little, waiting.
“It was…MESSI!” he cried, throwing his hands up into the air.
“No!” I said, simultaneously bowing my forehead to the table in mock despair.
“Yes!” he said.  “She turned him down!  Messi!”  Vivi returned to the table and he nodded at her.  “We…” he paused a little for emphasis,  “…KEEL her!”
I was positively shaking with laughter and if we’d been in America, I might have worried a bit about what the table next to us thought, but everyone else seemed to be as raucous as we were.  It was a pretty lively joint.
Luis and Vivi
I feel certain that one day this group will reconvene for another meal, Vivi and I will go running along a river somewhere, her daughter will marry Lionel Messi, and Matt will play piano at their wedding.
But we didn’t always have to go out with friends to make them (see: our popularity with 11-year-old Virginia’s birthday party).  On Monday, we went out to a restaurant called Amarra for paella- pronounced pie-ASia with an Argentine accent- and got to know our waiter.  We wanted to splurge on an expensive bottle of Malbec, so he indulged us with this vino line-up and his personal recommendations.  He asked us what Minneapolis was like and he told us about his favorite football club.

Mmm, paella.  Lots of squid tentacles, which reminded me of many a Chinese dish I enjoyed.

Salud.  Our wine, Joffre, was some of the best I have ever had.

Amarra at night.  I thought this street corner was quaint.

It was the same story throughout my time in Rosario: the city was charming, the food was delectable, the wine had finesse, and the people- whether I was alone or with Matt- smiled easily and already felt like old friends.  And I leave here inspired- by the Hangzhounese, by the Rosarinos- to go home and be a better St. Paulite.

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