Two at the Same Time: Reflecting on Argentina and Ecuador

16 Aug

With my friend Jhenifer

As I’ve previously written, I have a few Ecuadorian friends visiting this week. They arrived Saturday morning after a long jaunt down South America, and we’ve kept busy in, well, ways–different ways for sure. I’ve never been part of so much consecutive shopping and beautifying that I feel like I’m getting ready for the prom. Today was another unexpected day of shopping, this time down in San Telmo. I thought we were going for a little city tour, but after lunch at Desnivel, I was slowly alerted to the fact that walking around San Telmo meant going in and out of every shop. Still, it got me outdoors on a nice day, when I would otherwise be in the office (today is a national holiday in Argentina) and got me to spend time with my friend from out of town.

A couple of the girls have family and friends here in Buenos Aires, so I’ve also met some of them along the way. It’s been so enjoyable to hear about Cuenca, listen to slang words from Ecuador that I’d long since forgotten, and share time with people who act differently from the porteños of Buenos Aires. I was reminded of how different the cultures are last night when the girls rode a subway for the first time. They looked around at everything with wonder, eyes large as a musician played. Luckily for them it wasn’t rush hour during the week. My friend Jhenifer hadn’t eaten rice in 5 days and was craving it badly, so she made us a simple yet traditional Ecuadorian dish of beef and rice. It was delicious.

Even though this isn’t my city, there was a slight sense of pride when they told me how beautiful everything is and how much better everything seems than their hometown. Even though in retrospect I think of Cuenca highly, I know it wasn’t nearly as developed as Buenos Aires. Yet from time to time I forget just how far ahead Buenos Aires is compared to other parts of Latin America. For other Latinos visiting here, it’s sometimes a shock, aside from the local dialect. The girls have been having an excellent time shopping and taking advantage of the fact that Ecuador uses the dollar, but we’ve talked about other things as well.

Being stupid in the Japanese Gardens

Last night I told Jhenifer that she couldn’t waste any food on her plate and she asked me why. I explained to her some of the things life in Ecuador had taught me, which aren’t necessarily true in the United States or Argentina. Finally we worked our way to talking about things like sharing, for example drinks or food. In Ecuador you buy one drink and one cup, sharing with everyone before buying a new one. It’s partly to take advantage of the drink while it’s still cold and partly to share what you have with others. In the United States it’s every man for himself, with everyone getting their own food or drink. In Argentina sharing goes on, but to a lesser extent, though it’s highly done with mate.

Jhenifer and I talked about the concept of not having much, but when you have something, you share what little you do with others, and when you don’t have something, others will share with you. This way everyone keeps afloat somehow if you can’t get ahead by leaps and bounds. Thinking about these things and how I’ve changed over the last two years is always helpful for me in reassessing why I’m here and what I’m doing. And it makes me sure that it’s all worth while. So even though I can get down on Argentina from time to time, it’s nice to remember that it’s still a great place to live when compared to so many other places in the world. It’s been a while since I’ve had these talks.

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