I’ve recently passed a few milestones in both Argentina and South America in general. How can I even begin to communicate the things I’ve seen and done, the people I’ve met and places I’ve been? Fortunately, I’ve been keeping track of it all along with this blog, and maybe one day I’ll be able to sit down and go through it and put all of the thoughts together. I think about things all the time, and though I can’t put myself in someone else’s head, I have to imagine that it’s more than the average person. Pensive thinking, that is. The thinking that centers on reflection and intro-analysis. To the point that it’s aggravating already, almost inhibiting further progression.
I’ve been taking pictures for years, but only since moving in to my new apartment in Recoleta did I put some of the photos on the wall. Sort of as a way to combat homesickness and remind me of better times, I’ve posted pictures ranging back to my college days, time in Spain, Ecuador and other places. They mostly include friends, but some are just scenery shots that I’ve taken as well. Though I don’t spend much time in my room, I’ve found myself on my bed the last couple of days, just looking at the wall with pictures. It reminds of me everything all at once in an incommunicable wave of experience.
I don’t have to wait until I die for my life to flash before my eyes because I have my pictures to do the job for me, and every time I take a look at one it brings up a full length movie of the memory. It’s not just pictures either–it’s listening to a song or entire album, or hearing a conversation, or thinking of a region of Ecuador, for example. In a way, it’s like trying to look at the sun. I can do it for a second before it hurts or my eyes dart away, and though I can only catch a glimpse of it, I’m aware that it’s there and is always around me, affecting my life in some way. I see these pictures or hear these songs, and it really takes me back there, but only for a split second before my brain gets out of focus. For the millisecond or so, however, I have a chapter’s worth of details and descriptions, yet I find myself unable to stay on topic.
Just passing one year in Argentina, I find myself thinking about my place in Ecuador. People always ask me what I did there. The scientific answer is that I was a volunteer English teacher, working at a university 20 hours a week. But what else did I do? I watched a lot of $1.50 bootleg movies and Simpsons DVDs on my laptop in bed. I listened to a lot of the same music over and over. I wrote. I thought–way, way too much. Trying to understand a world I no longer seemed to be much of a part of, I spent most of my time alone in my room. I can remember the cut out pictures of Spain from my National Geographic calendar on the bare white walls. The dim lighting and creaky wooden floors. The thick door which I had to push up to the right to shut, and quietly when coming back late. The saggy bed which forced me into a routine of stretching every morning.
It might not seem like much, but things like this were my life and in many ways have completely shaped the one I now have and will always have. I would sometimes get a sugar cookie for 25 cents after class. Even with a bad day, it would make things better. Simple things like that. These little memories pounce into my head and don’t go away easily, especially when I take the time to listen to some music and think about them.
So much of the time spent as an expat is acquiring these little memories, and when you’ve been at it long enough you get the chance to reflect on it before it comes to an end. The next goal becomes getting over these lifetime of memories of a lifetime, and moving on to make more. There’s plenty of time yet.