Last week during lunch Leo brought up something which I’ve often thought about throughout the last almost three years. He asked curiously, though without malicious intent, what will happen to me once I go back to the United States. More than anything, he was saying how he’d like to see how I act in my element, back where I come from in the country that I grew up in. After all of this time here in Buenos Aires, almost two years, I’m become Argentinized. I expect that things won’t work well, I love a good piece of meat, and of course, I reach for my mate more often than a cup of coffee. So Leo wanted to know what will become of me now that I’ve gone through so many changes and struggled so much to become more like a porteño. It’s a tough one to answer and you might not like the answer.
I sort of realized a long time ago, back before leaving Ecuador, that you eventually reach a point where you can’t simply go back to how things were before. You can’t just go home and assume that your friends are the same, that the same shows will be on TV, or that the town will look exactly the same. You go through untold changes when living abroad and can’t just assume that it’s one sided. But that goes without saying. So after so much time away from what I grew up in, could I still consider myself your typical American? The truth is I don’t think so. And would I want to go back to that if I could? In retrospect, probably not.
It’s not that I don’t like the United States, it’s not that at all. It’s my country of birth and I’ll always have it as my own. But I’m not typical anymore, not in any sense of the word. Maybe I never was, and that’s what got me interested in living abroad in the first place. I try to relay the fact that the States are made up of so many diverse and unique people that saying we are one thing is nearly impossible, yet you can’t deny a certain stereotype or two when it mocks you to your face, and whether it be loud and obnoxious in bars or lacking a general sense of history and geography, I’ve tried to counter those arguments to friends here by setting an example. But then a friend from back home will ask me how Mexico is, thinking they’re funny, and it kind of makes my stomach hurt to think I’m going to be heading back into that atmosphere.
Not all Americans are like that, and since I’m going to be studying a Masters in International Relations, the people I’ll soon meet will hopefully think the way I do, or if not at least give me something new to think about. Leo was wondering if I’ll miss having mate in the morning, but I think he was also saying that I’m currently a model citizen. Many Argentinians (among other people throughout the world) can’t stand most Americans, and it took a long time for them to trust me and let me in enough to admit this. I’m an exception for them, and he’s wondering if I’m going to go home and become the same kind of person that usually puts him off.
I already feel the difference and have for a long time. It’s not a sense of superiority over others back home who haven’t experienced what I have, but rather a sense of inferiority in that I belong to such a small portion of the population who “get it”. It’s almost useless in trying to relate it to someone who doesn’t have their own personal experience with it, but to at least attempt it I’ll need more words and more time to better understand it myself. I first need to go home and test the waters, see how I feel, and then decide how far gone I am. I’ll keep you advised.