Editor’s note: As I write this I’m sipping on a glass of Fernet Branca, Argentina’s most popular liquor (nevermind that it’s Italian – the only other factory in the world lies in the Buenos Aires province)
I arrived back in the US around 6:30ish Wednesday morning. As I sweated through the baggage claim lugging my 40-kilo suitcase, bursting at the seams with soccer jerseys and bottles of fernet and wine, the most obvious difference between Buenos Aires and the US became readily apparent: about 60 degrees (farenheit). At its coldest in Buenos Aires just before I left, the thermometer read 4 degrees celsius, or about 40 degrees farenheit. In Washington DC it was 100 degrees farenheit with 100 % humidity by 10 am. I much prefer the cold to the heat, though knowing I wouldn’t be mercilessly squashed – intimate parts and all – into a bunch of total strangers in the sweltering heat incubator that is the BA subway had a cooling, soothing effect on my own homestasis.
Speaking of DC, there’s hardly a more dramatic place to arrive after a year abroad than the capital, copiously overflowing as it is with Americana. So much for easing the transition slowly…passing by Congress, the Washington Monument, and a half-dozen bureaucracies helped make up for all the time spent abroad gazing at another place’s own propaganda. In the case of Argentina, this would equate to subway banners, TV commercials and the like all promoting one random program or another (like drug addiction assistance, for example) but uniformly and prominently mentioning that each one is a service of – let us all give thanks – “La Presidencia de La Nacion.” No matter what you think of the Prez, one thing’s for sure: he is making his presence known. Just a month ago the NYT published a brief piece on reporting in Latin America, noting that in Argentina the President has been lavishing money on the press, even accounting for 75 % of one paper’s advertising revenue through his own “awareness campaigns.”
Being home doesn’t feel as strange as I anticipated. At least not as much as when I arrived back in Bmore after my 5 month stint abroad in Barcelona. I’d imagine if I’d spent the whole year in, say, Asuncion, the reverse culture shock would be noticeably more pronounced than having lived in Buenos Aires, but I’m still surprised at how easy it’s business as usual back here. I think this is both good and bad – good obviously because I’m right back on my feet, but bad because the more seasoned you are the less “shocked” you are; unsettling as it is, feeling like a fish out of water is usually conducive to the shamelessly awkward experience.
It’s been a whole year since I’ve been behind the wheel a car, but for lack of a better phrase, it’s just like riding bike: windows down, 92 Q – Bmore’s own proper rap station bumping – and it’s just like old times. Actually though, with the exception of the unique Baltimore underground rap/house music hybrid, known simply enough as Bmore Club (such classics include the metaphorical “Shake dat ass Girl”), I’d have to say that most of the music on 92 Q absolutely sucked (lest you disagree with this choice word, look no further). With the likes of David Banner and Lil’ John leading the game these days, I think it’s safe to say I definitely didn’t miss much being out of the country for a year. In fact it was almost better being in Buenos Aires; even if they are years behind in their rap music at least the classics they play have a hook, as opposed to a guy screaming in repetition for 3 minutes, ala Lil’ John. ATL be damned – you’ve done ruined the game. After too many minutes of this talentless cacophony I popped in a disc of Los Pibes Chorros, my favorite Cumbia Villera group, instantly transporting me back to the good old days of Argentina and Once, the rough-and-tumble Buenos Aires neighborhood where I tracked the disc down.
While I haven’t as of yet met up with anyone with the distinctive rioplatenese tinge (as in “po-zho” for pollo or “ma-zho” for mayo), I’m quite pleased to report my Spanish has been in full use since my arrival. Yesterday I had lunch at a Mexican place and chatted it up with the waiter, who’s from Costa Rica. For dinner I went out with three Colombian family friends. Today I spoke with my housekeeper, who’s from Guatemala, and I randomly ran into a Mexican girl. Dare I say living in Argentina, where they speak notoriously fast and slang-filled, well prepared me to converse with the rest of Spanish-speaking Latin America, who in my experience speaks the language clearer and easier.
So far it’s not so terrible to be back, though I’ve a strong feeling the novelty will soon wear off only to be replaced by unrelenting boredom. 2 ply toilet paper was *sorely* missed. The heat is sweltering, but no worse than Buenos Aires on a scorching summer day. Still not sure what the next move entails, but in the meantime I’ll be slowly but surely converting my bedroom from 1996 to a modest Latin American art exhibit, and in the meantime catching up with everybody I haven’t seen in awhile. Stay tuned…
P.S. In response to the blog’s subtitle – I’ve found my biological father. Turns out he was the old guy I’ve been living with all these years. Go figure.
Tags: Argentina, Baltimore, home, USA