(Dear Beautiful Buenos Aires,)
I didn’t feel like my blog was quite complete yet, so here are my final thoughts to you!
As I sit here so safe and cozy in my own room in New Hampshire, with the snow piling up outside my window, it’s hard to believe how different you are from my life at home. It’s crazy to think how much I grew to love you. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t love you at first. You were a huge challenge. You scared me more than anything has ever scared me. From before I even boarded the plane 5 months ago, you overwhelmed me. Was I going to Buenos Aye-rays or Buenos Iris or Buenos Ah-ris? Just saying your name stressed me out. And then I arrived, and I plodded through orientation, just following, still unsure of who you really were, but sure that I really sucked with direction, as I couldn’t walk out of a building and know which way I had come from. The Guia-T (the 200 page book of maps and colectivo routes), became my best friend and are now just tattered, ripped pages that sit in the bottom of my purse. Not to mention that I was afraid I was going to get run over by a bus every time I crossed Nueve de Julio, even though the walking sign was on. And every time I spoke, my small-town, American accent stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt stressed about returning to this host family I was supposed to call home, because well, I had to speak Spanish, and that took far too much thought after a draining day.
But, at some point during the journey, faster than I thought would happen, and at a time I can’t quite pinpoint, you weren’t such a huge obstacle anymore. Suddenly you became just a stimulating challenge. And also a place of security. A city I would walk and get to know intimately, and that made me feel alive. And as I started to travel around Argentina, you became less of my representation of “Argentina” as a whole, and instead a home for me to return to as I got off the 20 hour bus in Retiro with my backpack strapped on the front, in need of a shower and breakfast.
You are a place that made me feel frustrated and anxious at the beginning. To get to class, you made me wait for the colectivo for 30 minutes, sometimes more, but never with warning. Your subtes were packed so full I could barely put my hands by my sides. Not to mention that everyone was making out so close to me that I was being bumped into. PDA: no problem here. Nothing seemed to work right the first time. Your systems were disorganized–teachers would not show up for 45 minutes and we prepared that damn psychology presentation for class, and never even gave it. You don’t believe in hydration and certainly not free water, which contradicts my main belief: water can fix everything- a little headache, a tired human, a depressed feeling. Even more so, you allowed for inequality and for macho men who would whistle at me on the streets and holler “vos sos alta.” Yes, I know I’m tall. I know I stand out. You made me furious sometimes.
As annoyed as I could feel some days, I still grew to love you, even for your weaknesses. Because as much as there were things I just won’t ever agree with, I think you had a lot more positive to offer. And many of those aspects that I saw as negatives from the start (mainly your disorganization), are actually most what I want to take back with me. I liked how I felt in your presence. So much more laid back and able to go with the flow, because what is the purpose of always having a sense of urgency? You helped give me the confidence that I hope will stay with me; to try new things and always say yes to opportunities and invitations. You are a place made for meeting people and for appreciating people, too. And most of all, you teach patience so well.
You are beautiful to me because your streets were a constant learning experience, more so than anything I learned in la Universidad del Salvador or la Universidad Católica Argentina. My Spanish grammar may still be far from perfect, but in five months I have learned how to express myself and how to communicate. And even more so, I am not trembling every time I open up my mouth to speak, although I still smile when I come home from a night out with Argentine friends and realize we only spoke Spanish, or have a really great dinner with the host parents and think back only to realize how much we discussed in this once so-foreign language. You make me appreciate learning this beautiful language, and for giving me the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people I never would have had the chance to get to know. You were my first real immersion experience, and that is special. I will miss “vos” in place of “tú” and the “j” sound you make when you say “me llamo” y “la calle.” I will miss “ojo,” and “como te va?”, and “permiso,” “todo bien,” “lindo,” “che!,” “chao chao,” “me entendés?,” “que sé yo,” and “de dónde sos?” more than you know.
To me, Buenos Aires, you are an authentic representation of Argentina. To tourists, you may just be tango, “the Paris of the south,” great beef, and wine. But I know you are more than that. You are unique, you are challenging, you are challenged. You fit somewhere special among the Andes, the glaciers, the campos, the horses, the deserts, and the political and economic history of your country. You are complex. You are resilient. And so it is almost just as overwhelming to return to my safe, tiny town in the states and my comforting, familiar campus at school, and try to explain who you are and what you have done for me. In fact I can’t even say yet, because I have not been back for long enough. But, I feel strongly that I am changed and that I will soon learn exactly how. For now, you can be a 5 month blur to me, or you can be a 5 month series of snapshots that form my mixed up picture of Buenos Aires.
You are full of a series of firsts, of the excitement of making Argentine friends, of exploring the Jewish community of the city, of celebrating the high holidays, of every asado dinner, the gracious families who invited me into their homes, of my crazy internship (Martha!), of free museums and fun restaurants, of Jacobo laughing at Vivi almost every dinner- “ahh ella me pone loco,” of Hillel conversation club, of saying “uno-sesenta” on the colectivo, of the San Telmo fair, of showing my real family this life, and watching the sunrise every weekend with friends. You are the one hour colectivo rides to class at UCA, but becoming the only one on the bus halfway through. You are every chat I had with Vivi, my host mom, in the kitchen as she did the dishes, and those moments when my Spanish would just “click” and I would feel liberated. You are my Argentine spinning classes and body pump, too, and you are my exploration of my love for horseback riding and hiking mountains. You are remembered by my little Argentine phone slowly filling with numbers and connections, you are eating icecream far too many times per week, you are the dog walkers in the city, watching people getting stuck in subte doors, constantly dividing Argentine prices by 10 to get to the dollar, and watching winter turn to spring. You are every kind Argentine who welcomed me in, who took me under their wings, and who encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone. You are these ridiculously long blog posts (sorry!!) and the support of my incredible family and friends whose comments and messages ALWAYS cheered me up and kept me going!
Gracias por todo, hermosa Buenos Aires. Thank you for the challenge and for the opportunity to get to know you. For giving me the right amount of time to just begin to really understand you. And for the welcoming people who made me feel like I belonged– I hope one day I can give back like you all. I am so appreciative.
I know I will return one day! Te voy a extrañar, Buenos Aires. Nos vemos pronto.