So I am close to halfway done with my time here in Buenos Aires and I am not sure how I feel about it. I arrived in February not speaking much Spanish and not knowing what to expect at all. Now I am conversational in Spanish and feel like this city could be my home. While I may never totally fit in here, I know my way around, I have mastered public transportation, and I find myself hanging out with porteño friends on the weekends instead of English speaking friends.
So far this experience has taught me many lessons. Now I can empathize with others who may not fit into a culture or who are the minority. It is a totally different feeling when you look different than the rest of the people or are used to a totally different culture. Although, assimilating (or trying to assimilate) into another culture has taught me a lot about myself. Also, watching others assimilate or fight it has taught me at times how I do not want to be. I even find myself liking certain aspects of this culture better. Before coming here I never would have thought of American culture as cold, but looking at it now I find myself agreeing with the people here. In the US we don’t touch each other much or show much affection, whereas here the greeting is a kiss and with people you are close with an embrace also and you do the same when saying goodbye. Whereas at home it may be a handshake or just a verbal acknowledgment. This physical contact and effort to come together can be very reassuring and shows how you feel about a person. The culture here just seems so warm and inviting, even the greeting is a part of it.
This experience has also shown me a lot about the true meaning of being independent and truly removed from your immediate support system. While I have always thought of myself as independent I have never been in a situation where I lived on my own and was responsible for most every aspect of my life. At times this has been overwhelming to me, such as when I first got here. But I am now able to cook a fair assortment of things, I have learned how to get around, and discovered that I can manage on my own- in a foreign country! I think one big factor in all this is that while I am removed from my support systems they are still able to function through e-mails and skype which both make me feel not as far away. To be honest I can count the number of times I have been truly homesick on one hand but I would account this to lots of e-mails. We all know no matter how much I may love it here it would be impossible to not miss home. I think the hardest thing about being here and the thing that can make me homesick fairly easily is not being able to fully express myself or be understood as a person. Sometimes what I want to say or how I am feeling just does not translate into Spanish and in times like this I feel very very alone. While I have some close porteño friends sometimes I just cannot communicate what I want to and this is extremely frustrating. Sarcasm and commentary can be hard to put into a context that they can understand, or even just common phrases in English that don’t have a Spanish equivalent. I never realized how important it can be to have friends who get you inside and out, who you have inside jokes with and who always know when you’re kidding and when you’re serious- being here has made me realize how valuable those people are and how hard life can be without them. Just to be understood- sometimes I would give anything. But on the other hand, when I go on trips with my American friends and we only speak English I feel like I am missing something. I think this will be a hard transition to being at home. I don’t want to lose all the Spanish I have gained while being here. But more than not wanting to lose it I just love this language and I want to keep learning and eventually be truly fluent. I will have to find a Spanish buddy. Or get mom and dad to the speaking stage- get ready!
This transition would have been impossible without my friends here in Buenos Aires- both other foreigners and porteños. While my other American friends and I can make each other feel more at home and understand each other, my porteño friends have taught me about the city, the language, and the culture– invaluable knowledge.
Hopefully my next 2 months will be as good as the last 2! Here’s to living the dream in Buenos Aires!!