A Lonely Expat on July 4th

4 Jul

At this time last year I was barbecuing with my friends at the art studio in Cuenca, Ecuador. It was a mix of American teachers and Ecuadorian artists, and in the back courtyard of the studio we set up the charcoal grill and made far too many hot dogs, cheeseburgers, sausages, french fries, mashed potatoes, salad and more. We drank beer until nightfall and then later in the night met up again to continue festivities. It was a great day. This year I unfortunately can’t say the same. My scenery has changed and I’m in Buenos Aires now, with fewer friends and, sadly, not one American friend to speak of. So it’s a tough day.

Even though the past is always on my mind and I think too much, I don’t often dwell on homesickness or the U.S. I want to make the most of my time here in the now, so I avoid getting sentimental at all costs. I’ll think about the States when I’m back there someday. But days like today are always trump cards. On top of that it’s Sunday, which is the loneliest day in Latin America to be a foreigner. Everyone is with their family and you are alone unless you hook up with some other expats or locals who let you into their circles. And though Buenos Aires is sort of an exception to this rule because of its size, today I find myself alone in a giant city.

It’s winter and even though we’re having spring-like weather this weekend, I miss the summer of July. I miss the 4th of July of my youth, with barbecues, fireworks, friends and family. There are various ways in which traditional holidays can be made better by an abroad experience. For example, a beach vacation for New Years Eve or a special Thanksgiving dinner put on by locals for your benefit. But other times, when you find yourself without that support which keeps you going, it’s just downright depressing. I know that everyone back home is together with their families and friends. Maybe I’ll be mentioned in some sentence like, “Oh yeah, he’s still in South America,” but that’s the only way in which I’ll be present today.

I walked around the new neighborhood today, trying to spot out shops I could use and get a feel for my surroundings. Then I sat down in Plaza Francia for a while watching couples embrace and children run around. No one noticed me, nor passed me a hot dog or Sam Adams. So today I really wish I was home for just a few hours, to reach out and feel my America, my homeland. But I’m here in Argentina instead, working on other things. Independence, personal growth, field experience. Happy Independence Day.

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