On my daughter’s recent trip to Argentina, she was able to experience and immerse herself in the local culture by living with a host family.
One of her favourite traditions that Ricardo, her host father she affectionally calls ‘Hefe,’ introduced was drinking mate (pronounced ma-tay). Yerba mate is a plant that grows wild in the jungles of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. My daughter describes it as an “espresso-like tea.”
To drink it the Argentinian way, you must have a mate – a hollowed out gourd where the tea leaves are steeped. Some are made of wood or ceramic. It’s a little confusing since you are drinking mate from a mate. You also need a straw which also acts like a sieve – a bombilla – to drink the tea. It is often a metal straw (see below).
Yesterday she made my first mate, demonstrating what she learned after a “how to make yerba mate” course she took in Argentina and after watching her host family make it every single day:
She also explained the beautiful ritual associated with it. If someone offers you a sip of their mate, it is impolite to refuse. It is often shared between two or more people. She often found herself sharing a mate with her host family and house mates which sometimes added up to close to 10 people! Everyone walked around the town with their little mates, bombillas, and a big thermos of hot water.
The mate she brought home is for us to share. She explained that when shared between two people, the person sipping must do the listening and when the other person is done talking, the mate is passed to them to listen. The person that brews the mate must take the first sip ensuring that the tea is not cold or too bitter. They must listen first.
We shared our first mate together. I did most of the sipping as she recounted her Argentinian adventures. This would be our new ritual. We would have mate together and we would honour listening. Sharing mate is opposite of the speaking stone. The one with the mate doesn’t get to speak. They have the privilege of listening. It is an opportunity to empty yourself of thoughts and to be present in the conversation. The mate is there to remind you of your purpose – to open yourself and to hear it all without prejudice or assumption.
It is an act of mindfulness. It is a process that will remind me of my mountain image this year – to be still, to keep quiet, and to listen. If I listen closely, I notice the subtle nuances of who they are becoming. If I listen with my full attention, I can feel what is beneath the surface. If I listen with a willingness to receive the moment as it is, my heart will speak the truth to their hearts – I love them for who they are and who they will be. If I listen with patience, they will know the sound of their own voice.
100 scribbles…hurriedly writing the here and now.