I leave Buenos Aires tommorow night.
Aside from running around day and night finishing up the interminable last minute errands, this past week saw a lot of positive developments unfold, resulting in one of the most enjoyable weekends of all my time in Argentina. First, the English Institute I worked for paid me on time and in full, providing not only peace of mind that I was going to leave Argentina with all of my rightful earnings but also with a fresh injection of cash towards the party fund.
Secondly, my roommate left on Wednesday. I haven’t really dwelled on this topic in previous posts, but living with her for the past 6 months has been more than a challenge in its own right. While she used to be occupied enough with her internship from December till May, just before she was due to return to France at the end of May she decided to extend her stay in Buenos Aires for another two months so she could be with her boyfriend, Rúben, who’s practically been our 4th roommate for the past 4 months. Difficult as she was, at least while she was keeping busy we all had our own proper breathing space. For the past two months though getting up before 1 pm and leaving the apartment for the grocery store could be considered a productive day. Extra points if she actually left the block.
Living with her, it could be said, is like living with your mother – but with all of the bad qualities and none of the good, like cooking you hot soup and telling you how special you are. Said negative qualities include, but are certainly not limited to: incessant nagging, not being able to listen to music late (never loud), not being able to invite friends over without a hassle, bad temper for no discernible reason, guilt trips, unnecessary snide remarks, etc. As Nico – our other roommate – and I are both two young guys who like to play hard after we work hard, this type of behavior was far from welcome. Claire, mind you, is only 27 – not exactly the age to mope around doing nothing but watching American reality TV for hours on end.
Like the ancient Hebrews just liberated from Pharoah’s Egypt, the taste of freedom in this apartment was sweet and it was savored upon her exodus. I shouted purely on a whim. I listened to music after 10 pm, and did I ever turn it up. I left the dishes in the sink. Whoo-wee. In summation, the positive, relaxed vibe that had been lacking at home for too long and occasionally even kept me away from my own place blissfully returned, and with fuerza, culminating in a fantastic weekend.
Three great dinners out was a start – Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, where I had my last true Argentine parrilla, replete with two monstrous cuts of the most tender, mouthwatering steak imaginable, a big salad, bread, half a bottle of wine and soda water for 36 pesos between two people – $6 USD per person; Lord how I’ll miss this place (FYI this parilla, just across the Palermo line in Chacarita is, in my book, one of the best values in the city. The name of the place is El 22 and it’s at the corner of Jufre and Godoy Cruz).
Without a doubt though, the highlight of the week was Saturday when a bunch of friends – mostly Argentines but a fair share of yanquis, a few Colombians and even a smattering of Brits – and I got together for a little fiesta at a place in Las Canitas. Jordan and Sam, the owners of BA’s newest and finest Tex-Mex joint, California Burrito Company (on Lavalle 441) even graced us with their presence. Good people, good drinks, good times all around – I couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff. From start to finish it was a blast, with the night eventually ending at Kentucky, a reasonably-famous 24 hour pizza joint a few blocks away from my place, where to the waiter’s greeting of “buenos dias” (Good morning) my closest friends in Argentina and I rampaged through a pizza and several much-needed bottles of water. It was 7:30 am when I finally crawled into bed.
Final thoughts, for real
I feel strange right now, almost like I’m halfway between two separate worlds. I’m sad to leave the life I’ve worked so hard to carve out for myself down here, and I’m not exactly thrilled to be giving up my autonomy again – great as the ‘rents are – in a nondescript suburb that sits a 15 minute car ride away from the nearest restaurant, much less bar. What’s more, I’m coming back to ground zero just to start all over again while, in comparison, most of my friends are established and where they´re supposed to be one year out of college. At the same time it’s been a year since I’ve seen my friends and family, and for that I’m happy to come back. For sure, it’s not home I miss so much, but (some of) the people in it. I really think I could live in Argentina or pretty much anywhere in the world for an indefinite period of time.
Buenos Aires is an odd place. I didn’t even care for it much when I first arrived in Argentina. The noise and chaos that rules the street – and in many instances, life – is a bit hard to get a grip on when you arrive in this faraway land by yourself. Coming from a place where someone will always be held responsible for something, regardless of triviality or culpability (i.e. a too-hot cup of coffee or in the sidewalk), this rings particularly true; in Argentina, as in most of the world, things just happen, sometimes for a reason, but usually without redress.
In retrospect, I don’t think I gave it a fair chance. I lived alone and knew nobody except for other Americans from the English teaching certification class I was taking, the vast majority of whom I came to Argentina to get away from in the first place. I spent the daytime bored out of my skull in class and the nighttime doing even more boring homework in smoky internet cafes. This definitely wasn’t the life I envisioned, so as soon as the course ended I jetted off around the country without even experiencing Buenos Aires as a normal working guy. When I moved to Córdoba a month later I always had this nagging feeling that I couldn’t cut it in BA, so eventually I knew I wasn’t going to leave Argentina without at least trying my damndest to live in the Big City, even if I died a slow death, one milanesa or choripan at a time.
My how things have changed. As of this moment there’s a Guia-T, the city’s indispensable pocket-size street map, stamped into my brain. I can recite each green line subway stop in order, forwards and backwards. Without a doubt, after one year in BA I know it better than 18 years in Bmore. Yes, now that it’s all said it done, I can assertively say Buenos Aires has been good to me. I’ve found work, friends, and diversion all within its confines…slowly but surely she’s nursed me from her sweet bosom from a wayward straggler to a confident porteño, hand gestures and all…or something like that.
It’s been real Argentina. We shall me meet again, old girl – te lo juro.
Some pics from the party and other random shots:
Vicky, Juan, Caro (Nico´s friend) and Me
Sam, John, Jordan (not from CBC), Romina, Me, Dani
Me and Miriam
Yours truly and Nico
Dani, Brian and Miriam
Munching out at 7 am
The long walk home
At free tango class in Palermo – muchas gracias to the government of Buenos Aires
Scenic bar in San Telmo