Tag Archives: going home

The End is Near!

10 Jul

Just two days left in Argentina now. Wow. On Friday night we celebrated with my going away party in San Telmo, and though I didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone I wanted to see, we had a good time with those who came out and it was a fun evening. Though my friend Amy was delayed two days because of the ash cloud, she arrived yesterday morning and so far we’ve had a lot of fun. It was tough to get a start at first because we were both really tired from the previous nights, but we made our way to the Ecuadorian restaurant in Once, where she was able to relive some of the food she enjoyed back in Quito.

Yesterday was July 9th, the Independence Day for Argentina, and a traditional meal to eat is locro. I’ve had locro before, and though it’s more common to find in the northwestern provinces, my friend Pablo made a batch at his apartment where Amy is staying. It was a quiet and laid back night, which was perfect for me since I was too tired to really do much anyway. I was hoping to take Amy to a bar I used to like going to called El Living, but a dry law went into effect at midnight because of the Buenos Aires mayoral elections taking place today. I would have had to vote, but since my DNI never arrived on time, I’m spared from having to choose the lesser to two evils.

Today is a day of running around like crazy, with a lunch planned with a friend, coffee time with my old neighbor, and then an asado at night. And then tomorrow is finalizing the packing, trying to exchange pesos for dollars, and heading home. That is of course if the ash cloud doesn’t show up.

The Despedida, A Going Away Party for Argentina

8 Jul

Tonight is my despedida, or going away party, and as much as I want to see my friends one last time and share one more drink, I wish it wasn’t the last hurrah. I waved for a while on the date and place, unable to make up my mind and annoyed with the prospect of having to plan some great bash, but in the end chose on a bar in San Telmo called Krakow. I’ve never been there but have been told that it’s cool, and I reserved a private section. The bar has Polish food, various beers, and games to choose from. I’ve started to throw some clothes in my backpack, and this means that it’s real now. In just a few days I’ll be going back to the United States.

It’s so weird that it’s now my turn again for this. For the last two years (three including Ecuador) I’ve gone to countless of going away parties and deleted untold numbers of digits from my cell phone. Friends came and went, and now once again it’s my turn to go. I don’t like being the center of attention and so a despedida isn’t my style exactly, but it’s the easiest way to say goodbye to everyone without running all over town. As it is, I’ve been keeping fairly busy the last couple of days here, and I’m still overwhelmed by what I have to do before leaving. One potential issue that just came up is that this weekend is a dry weekend because of the mayoral elections on Sunday. No one is really sure if the dry law goes into effect tonight or tomorrow, however, so for the moment it hangs up in the balance.

It’s going to be another bittersweet moment for me, and I just hope all of my friends here know that I’ll never forget them and will definitely come back one day. It just depends on how long it will be.

Time In

22 Jun

I’ve broken down the numbers on how long I’ve been here for. Within the three year period of living abroad, since my arrival to Buenos Aires on August 22, 2009* to my eventual departure date of July 11, 2011, I will have spent 689 days in Argentina (not counting vacation outside of the country). I put an asterisk because initially I left home on August 20, 2009, but because I missed my connection I had to spend 24 hours in Washington D.C.

Going even further back, from August 30, 2008*, which was the day I landed in Quito, Ecuador, to July 11, 2011, I will have spent 1,046 days in Latin America since leaving home. This doesn’t take into account the three weeks of vacation I had between Argentina and Ecuador, and in reality I left home on August 29, 2008, but spent the night in Miami before waking up early to go to Quito.

It’s been a long time. And no, I had nothing better to do today.

Remembering My Latin American Life

21 Jun

When I first got to Argentina with Kristine

When I get a few minutes of free time and I can sit and think, I lately find that my mind tries to reach back for some distant memory of the last two years in Argentina that I haven’t touched on in so long. But these memories are so far gone, so foreign to me after all that I’ve been a part of, that it’s like reading about someone else’s life. It doesn’t seem like me. It another time, or another part of the world for sure, but most definitely not now or who I am. It’s even worse when I try to think of Ecuador almost three years ago.

I think of specific details when they’re available to me, like my arrival on a cold and overcast morning in August, 2009. Going on the highway from Ezeiza International Airport we pulled into La Boca, and I thought to myself, “For this I could have stayed in Ecuador.” Things got off to a rough start, but soon my friend Kristine visited after just one week, and everything was looking up.

I think back to how we wandered around San Telmo getting to know the streets, perhaps unwisely walking around Constitución at night and then back to La Boca well into the night by myself. We met a Spanish girl named Iris and went to Colonia, Uruguay where we argued about whether the Río de la Plata was a river or part of the ocean. I was wrong, fooled by the way the sun set to the west of the river which I knew to be on the eastern side of the city.

The first time I made empanadas

I try to think of every place I lived in (5 different apartments) and how each place was odd and a new thing at first. Soon they became my home and a small sense of reality and sense in my abnormal life. What did I do as a newcomer who lived in the Microcenter? How did I spend my weekends living alone and practically friendless in Plaza Italia? What did I do after work in Recoleta? I try to reach back for these day to day memories which amount to nothing much priceless reminiscence and though would be boring to a friend, made up what was my life in Buenos Aires. Those little things which no one will ever touch or know.

I reflect on my life in a sort of before and after, using my current home base as the after, when things started looking up. I was saving more money on cheaper rent, loving the new apartment and area, and joining a running team that kept me busy after work and introduced me to new friends and challenges (the good kind). And soon these last 6 months will also be in the before time. I can’t go back and change the bad memories though I try in my head all the time, wondering what would have happened if I said or did something differently or if I took that job or lived in a different part of the city. In the end it gets me no where but back to where I started, confused and trying to remember what I’m doing here in the first place.

And then I go back to the little details of my bedrooms in Ecuador, or my morning routine before work. Again, it’s like reading a book about someone else and I think that this isn’t me. This couldn’t have been something that I did because it’s a thinner person who’s more sensitive to other cultures, and it’s not in Sharon, Massachusetts or with the people I grew up with all my life. But there are actual pictures and articles published, and of course a blog which has documented it all along. So though I feel as if it’s a parlor trick, I know that it’s real and these things did happen. I existed here.

I feel so strange to be going back home and the combination with lousy weather has me in a sort of funk—not happy, not sad, but indifferent. I’d like to combine both worlds but unless I get some kind of amazing job which gives me 6 months here and 6 months there, it’s unlikely. Yet I’ll still take the memories with me until my brain starts to fail me, and the knowledge that at one point in my life I lived out my dream of living abroad in South America.

A Short List of the Things I Won’t Miss

20 Jun

In keeping with the reminiscence of what I’ll miss when I leave Argentina next month, it’s only fitting that I include a short list of the things that I won’t miss about this country. After all, if you’ve read along you’ll know that this hasn’t been the easiest experience I’ve had. Excuse me if this list is longer than the good stuff, but it is what it is. Again, it’s in no particular order:

-A lack of respect for other people’s time. Showing up late is common and expected. If you want people to arrive by 10 pm you have to say 9:30 pm, and even then they’ll be late. It’s sort of rubbed off on me as well, and I need to plan on showing up late to places even though I’m planning it that way.

-No responses from text messages. This would be just plain rude back home. If someone takes the time to send you a message and ask a question, the polite thing is to at least respond with something. But here, maybe because texts cost money which no one wants to spend, you often times just don’t get responses. Later when confronted they’ll say something like, “Yeah I got the text, but I just didn’t feel like answering.” And to them that’s perfectly acceptable.

-Traffic disasters. Whether it’s a road block, bus that doesn’t stop for any reason, or the Subte breaking down, Buenos Aires is a giant headache for public transportation. It’s a shock when you get somewhere in decent time.

-Inflation. I’ve seen prices rise steadily and sometimes sharply overnight on everything, from rent to milk and sugar. It screws everyone over and the salaries don’t increase to match this inflation, hurting those who need a few extra pesos the most.

-Racism. Say what you will about racism throughout the world, but it’s clearly prevalent in Buenos Aires. It’s normal to hear someone say something like “negro de cabeza” (head of a black person) or “negro de mierda” (black piece of shit). They aren’t necessarily referring to racially black people, but to darker skinned mestizos who most likely live in a villa, or ghetto. I’ve had arguments with people about this who claim that their translation of it isn’t the same as it would be in the United States, for example, but it’s very clear that there is a classicist and racial viewpoint of many porteños.

-Incomplete plans. I can’t count the number of times friends and I have had either tentative plans or definite plans which have fallen through at the last minute. For whatever reason, something always comes up and we have to leave it for another time, which of course never comes.

-A lack of food variety. Yes, Argentina has amazing steaks, empanadas, pizza and pasta, etc. Yet after a while you want something different and it’s not exactly easy to find something international of decent quality. That is, of course, unless you want to pay an arm and a leg.

-Random strikes which cripple the city and/or country. You wake up one morning and all of the air crews at the airport decide to strike for higher wages, or Congress is surrounded by truck drivers, or whatever, etc etc.

-Mosquitoes in the summer. There must be a special species of Buenos Aires Blood Suckers which have pincers long and sharp enough to pierce through jeans. They are relentless.

Again, this is just a short list, and maybe I can’t think of more at the moment because I’m not in a bad mood, or simply because my situation has improved since I got here. But then again, every day is a new surprise of trouble here. You never really know which thing will tick you off more.

A Short List of the Things I’ll Miss

18 Jun

Meat, Meat, and More Meat

Next month I’m going back to the United States for at least two years. People keep asking me for how long and that’s my general response–“at least 2 years,” because in reality who knows what the future holds. After all, I’m going to be studying U.S. Foreign Policy with a focus in Latin America, so it’s very well possible that I’ll end up right back here. Yet at this point in time I have no idea if I’ll be back in 5 months on vacation or in 5 years to live here again. Another thing my friends have been asking me is what I’ll miss when I go back home. Here’s just a short list of the things I’ll miss about Buenos Aires and Argentina (not in any particular order):

Dulce de Leche, the rich caramel-like creamy stuff used in any kind of dessert

Empanadas. The best ones usually come from random places or estancias, but there’s a place around the corner from the office owned by a Brazilian family from Bahia, and every time I come in the mom comments about my eyes and jokes around. I’ll miss that.

Great steaks. Even though I don’t eat meat as much as I’d like to because of the cost, when you get a good steak in Argentina, it’s pure heaven.

Fernet and cola. Hands down one of my favorite drinks. Mixed with 2-3 ice cubes and ONLY Coke regular.

That's me! On the right

Excellent, fairly cheap wine. Both red and white varieties are lining the shelves of the neighborhood supermarket, kiosk, restaurant, gym, post office, bus stop, etc.

Alfajores. I don’t eat many candies or junk food, but I love helping myself to a good alfajor cookie once in a while. The two best brands are Havanna and Cachafaz, but equally delicious is the Capitan del Espacio from Zona Sur, though only as a triple layer. For some reason the single layer is just meh.

Maté tea. Both in drinking and simply socializing with people. Get a few people together and bullshit over some mate for a while. Also helps in staving off hunger for a few extra minutes.

Road races. Buenos Aires is probably the capital of Latin America in terms of running races. I’ve gotten very into running while here and have already been disappointed by the options in the United States. A deep search showed me that aside from 5k races and a few marathons sprinkled in, there aren’t that many races throughout the United States. Maybe because most Americans don’t run, but drive. I’m still hoping I just haven’t found the right source yet.

Mate with friends

Random sketchy bars/clubs. South America is full of random little dives and sketchy bars where it feels like a slamming door will set the place off. Not exactly like the Wild West, but there’s just the feeling of imminent danger, which is somehow so attractive. Leading me to the next thing…

The feeling of doing something so unique and interesting that I otherwise never would have done back home. Even this means sometimes putting myself in danger or stretching my personal comfort to its max. Living an amazing life rather than reading about it.

Meeting new friends who reinforce that there are good and interesting people all over the world. We all share similar interests and desires, and friendship is one of the most precious things I’ve been able to take away from my time here.

Of course these are just some of the things that come into my mind right now. There are clearly more, and as the days get closer to my departure I will no doubt add to it. I’ll probably add to it after I publish this list. And then when I’m home. And then days, months, and years later. Until I come back and do it all again.

Sit Back and Relax

13 Jun

Yesterday was a weird one in that I spent most of it in bed. I wasn’t sick and I wasn’t necessarily hungover, but rather just exhausted and in need of some down time. Generally, even after a long night out until sunrise, I still throw myself out of bed by 12-1 pm. I don’t like to sleep to late into the afternoon and then screw up my sleep for that night, and I try to be as active as possible. Whether it’s running, going for a walk somewhere or meeting up with friends, I have always wanted to make the most of my time here. Over time, however, that need has diminished.

It took me about six months to slowly see the main tourist attractions in Buenos Aires, mostly because I was working so much that I had to spread it out, and also because I knew I was going to be here for a long time and thus went slowly to take it all in. Later I would double up on things I’d already done, and while I spent the first year and a half here painstakingly looking for friends to hang out with on the weekend, I would often wander around on my own, either walking down new streets or going to a plaza to sit and read. Enough time went by so that in the spring of last year (October-November, 2010) I could usually find something going on. And slowly, laziness set in.

It’s natural because the longer you live in a place the more likely you are to take it for granted. I didn’t want to run around the city all day on a weekend, and didn’t have the energy either. The full work week, plus going out on weekends and running wore me out. I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten into a vegetative state, but I’m more open to just sitting around at home now. Buenos Aires is another one of those cities where you can get lost in, and then longer you stay there the more you get into your routine and life. If I had no plan of leaving I would definitely get nestled in and eventually get in a hole making it hard to leave. It’s not just an expat life, but a regular life too.

Having done all or most of the touristic things and figured out a sort of routine, I allow myself to take more time in just sitting in bed on a Saturday morning or hanging around on a Sunday afternoon. Not only is it colder outside, but it’s nice to feel like I can just sit around lazily and recuperate after the week. It’s the same thing I would have done back home, and I can remember spending hours in front of the TV on a weekend rather than doing things around town. This tells me that I’ve settled into a “local” sort of life. I stayed in bed on Sunday until 4 pm watching movies even though it was a beautiful day. It hurts me to waste time like that, especially on a nice day in the late fall, but sometimes you need to do it.

The only thing to be careful about is that now with less than a month in Buenos Aires, I need to make the most of my time here and be as active as possible without getting exhausted. I want to eat out, enjoy the company of my friends and visit the places I loved here. It will definitely be a packed month.

Planning Upcoming Trips

6 Apr

In three weeks I’ll be taking off for my long awaited vacation to southern Bolivia and northwestern Argentina. Though I’ve been slack on planning or reading too deeply into what I can do, I’ve got some things in mind for what I’ll do during the two week period of traveling alone. I’m excited by the prospect of traveling again for longer than just a day or two, and being able to go at my own speed and leisure. So far, all I have planned out are the round trip air tickets to Salta. The idea is to show up and then catch a bus to the border, arriving in Bolivia by the morning. Because the train from the border only leaves twice a week, I need to get there that day before 3 pm to get my ticket and head to the city of Tupiza, where I’ll hook up with a tour of the Salar de Uyuni. If I miss the train, there’s always a bus.

I’m wary of buying my bus ticket from Salta to the border in advance because of my experience with Aerolineas Argentinas, which I’ll unfortunately be flying again this month. With the last flight of the day, I can almost guarantee a delay, and I don’t want to waste money on a bus which won’t get refunded.

Apart from this upcoming trip to the north, I’m starting to think about what I’ve avoided all along while down here in Buenos Aires: planning my return to the United States. The time is coming when I now need to look more deeply into flights, and over the last couple of days I’ve been searching heavily, and come up mostly empty as I find that even through consolidator Web sites, the cheapest airfare available back to Boston is close to U$1,300 with a route heading up to Toronto, for example. I was considering going to Atlanta for a couple of days on the way back to visit some friends, but it’s more expensive for some reason than flying 3 hours farther north. That part boggles me, but just as well I suppose because my friend Lauren will be out of town during that time.

Today my friend Vero passed me an email with flight offers from a travel agency just a few blocks away, and they actually had incredible deals. A flight to Miami was something like $250 and to New York would run $490. This was round trip and before taxes, but I wanted to double check before getting my hopes up. After work I went to check it out and though I had to prove that I work in a travel agency (it appears to be a special deal), the price was the same. Taxes are heavy though, and in the end flying to New York will run me about $1,100, which is still pretty good. It’s a round trip ticket which doesn’t have many strings attached, except that I can only use the ticket during low season (winter in the Southern Hemisphere) and during the week). Though it was listed as an offer expiring on Friday, the guy told me it’s basically available all the time, subject to availability.

I took the liberty of checking the price on Rio de Janeiro as well (listed at $148) and it would wind up being $300 round trip. It’s not too bad, but I’m still going to shop around a bit online first and see what other carriers have to offer. If this works out, I’m planning on returning to the travel agency tomorrow to buy the tickets back to the United States, which at least for now, seems to be fixed on taking the red eye on July 11, arriving in the States on July 12. From New York I could either fly back to Boston directly or go the cheaper route of taking the bus. There’s time to think about that, though.

It’s sad to see time winding down here, but it’s also a nice thought to picture myself back home and enjoying so many of the things which I have missed while being away. And with a round trip ticket with a changeable date, it doesn’t mean that I’m just going to leave and forget about this place. That would be impossible.