Up to this point, I have been quite intentional about immersing myself in Argentina’s rich and vibrant culture. Each time I sit down at the dinner table with my Argentine family I make it a point to not just learn about what they did during their day or what their plans are for the rest of the week but to also learn from them… about their history, about the politics of this quite complicated nation, about their perspective on Americans, on their own lives, on this crazy world that just keeps on spinning. And I have learned SO much.
History= his story.
A history nerd, I’ve always indulged in books that tell a little hiSTORY about where we all come from. But when I sit down at the table and ask my Argentine ‘dad’ about the Falklands (Malvinas) and Margaret Thatcher, the Dirty War and what World War II meant for Argentina and Brazil… and South America, I can actually feel his-story. He lived those years, he knows them as he knows his childhood. His accounts, his stories, his perspective have come to enrich my own.
The thing about strangers.
When I take the bus or go to work, I make a point to talk to the strangers I meet. More often than not, I find that they’re not so strange after all :) I’ve chatted about everything from the Civil War to SNL to Sarah Palin at this point and I really see no end to the conversation. Partially– admittedly– because I talk too much ;) But honestly, in explaining– no, sharing– with Argentines my own culture, I’ve gotten to glimpse their own. It still blows my mind that American TV and music dominates the culture here, that I can ask anyone who the president of America is and they will know (which is not so mind-blowing as is the realization that most Americans my age would probably look at you dumbfounded if you asked them who the president of Argentina or Paraguay or even Brazil is.) But more than all of this, I’ve been astounded by the generosity of the people I’ve met. It is true that you will be warned about ‘ladrones’ (robbers) on the streets and yes most people do walk around Buenos Aires clutching their purses and backpacks close to their chests BUT if as a tourist this is the only thing you glean from life in Buenos Aires, I feel incredibly sorry for you. Because when I take a bus, I can ask just about anyone where my stop is and they’ll tell me. No, they’ll tell me, give me directions, proceed to ask me how I am, and then make sure– along with 10 other Argentines who have miraculously picked up on our conversation– that I get off at the right stop.
When I go to work, I am greeted with kisses all around (a part of Argentine culture that I will indulge you with later) and when I’m in a rush to finish a task and decide to eat lunch sitting at the computer screen I am met with a concerned supervisor who gasps ”Tranquila, tranquila.’ The thought of eating lunch and doing work at the same time is just not a thing here. And it shouldn’t be. Lunch is more than just eating. It is a social activity. It is an hour of conversation, a break in the day that you indulge in alongside your coworkers. You don’t talk about work. You don’t look at your phone. There is no time limit. You just eat, chat, and indulge… tranquila, tranquila.
I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met here. They’ve welcomed me and taken care of me and in a city that is pretty restless, I feel comfortable. I don’t mind wandering around a little bit. I know I’ll find my way home.