I’ve been in the new apartment in Recoleta now for a few days, which is long enough to formulate the ideas for what I think of it so far. Before living here, Recoleta was an exclusive neighborhood that warranted a special reason to visit. It wasn’t simply a neighborhood that I’d be accidentally passing through. But now I live here and I can see that it’s quite residential, with hardly any useful shops. As Woody Allen said, “I wouldn’t want to be part of any club that would have me as a member.” The mystique is sort of gone now.
Take for example the idea of the shops. There are a couple of supermarkets nearby, but I can’t seem to find any fiambrerías or carnicerías (places for deli, cheese, and meat) which would generally have cheaper prices than a large supermarket chain. They could very well be around but I haven’t found them yet, but of course the farther I have to walk to find them means I’m less likely to go shopping there. I’ve already written about how the price of laundry is exaggeratedly higher here than in Palermo, and the price of food is equally intimidating. I don’t even want to think about going out to eat here. There is a nice looking cafe on the corner that I’ll always walk by and never set foot in. What a waste.
It’s such a beautiful and peaceful area, Recoleta. It really is quite Parisian, with tree-lined streets and belle epoque architecture that doesn’t seem in line with the rest of the city. Even in the middle of winter it has a sense of spring. So I don’t really belong here. I feel like such a sell out that I kind of feel queasy walking through the streets to work. I came to South America looking for something different, and I wound up in the elitist neighborhood. This isn’t what I really came here for, but that doesn’t mean I should feel resentful. However, I continue to walk by a familiar scene that drives me nuts. I keep seeing the maid walking a family dog or doing the food shopping, taking out the garbage, etc. They’re wearing their maid uniform and walking past me like I’m just another person from the neighborhood. But I’m not, and I hate that they have to do these things. It makes me feel awful. Obviously maid service wasn’t invented in Argentina and is a traditional profession throughout the world, but I hate it anywhere I see it. Pick up after yourself. If you want a dog then you can’t just pet it, you have to take care of it too.
To digress, I walk past embassies, five star hotels and the restaurants listed as the best in the city. But I don’t see any dives or corner bars where you can stop to mingle with some locals after work. I don’t see many friendly faces because everyone seems to have a car or taking a taxi. Recoleta is right next to Retiro, the large bus and train station. Yet no subway line runs through Recoleta, making transportation a bit more complicated. I’m not sure, but I get the feeling that this was deliberately done to not only keep other people from getting in, but maintain exclusivity. I find myself embarrassed in telling people where I live now, and don’t want to get the stigma of being some rich kid for living here. I think I’ll just tell people that I live north of the center.
As for the apartment, it’s a nice place to call home, though like with any new surrounding, I’ll need a few more days to adjust and realize that this is my home now. I can’t help shaking the feeling that I’m back in my host family apartment in Sevilla, Spain. Maybe because this is a semi-host family apartment, but it’s also the set up. The signs that people come and go frequently. A single, saggy bed with wire underneath the mattress. A makeshift spot for socks in the form of a plastic cubbie. Placards on the walls explaining the house rules and the lonely feeling it has when no one is around. Yet it’s not all like that. Family photos hang around and comfortable furnishing shows that someone took the time in setting it up for livability rather than to just accommodate someone who will be there briefly.
Considering I still can’t be sure of where all the plates are and which switch turns on which light, I say again these are just basic first impressions, and with time I’ll get the hang of it. But either way, I think I’ll always feel like a bit of a fraud here in Recoleta. We’ll see with time.