After three fantastic weeks in St. Louis soaking up the fall weather and spending time with family and friends, we began our adventure overseas. I never expected the preparation for the trip to be so exhausting. It truly became a full time job. I also never expected to be so nervous to begin our adventure. I think it was a mix of anxiety (wanting to ensure we had all we needed, hadn’t forgot to, for example, pay or cancel a bill or pack enough socks and jackets) coupled with the sense of uncertainty and pure excitement.
Nonetheless, the adventure began with a return to our beloved Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a city we grew to love when we planted our feet to live there for six months four years ago. The people, the culture, the language, the food, the architecture and the energy of the city made a lasting impression on us, and we have looked forward to visiting every since we left. Not to mention, we also have some very dear friends we made when living here who we were anxious to see and spend time with.
It’s been quite surreal to be back. Besides the incredible inflation the city has experienced, it seems to be just as we had left it. The green parks, grand boulevards, French-inspired architecture, ecclectic boutiques and vibrant flare of the city awaited us. To me Buenos Aires represents a mixture of what I like most about some of my favorite places in the world. Strolling the cosmopolitan promenades of the city you find the rich meats, cheeses and bustling cafe culture of France, the style and bravado of Italy, the tradition and sophistication of England and the energy, passion and unparralleled nightlife of Spain.
After immersing myself again in the Porteno (the name given to the residents of Buenos Aires) culture I’m reminded of the many things that once surprised me when living here and those things I just don’t know if I’ll ever understand.
Things that shock me…
Mullets continue to be high fashion for men and women alike
Stoplights turn from red to yellow and then yellow again before turning green
Bars don’t begin to fill up till 2 a.m.
There are bakeries on nearly every corner of the street yet overweight people are like needles in a haystack
Maternity clothes are few and far between – women everywhere are popping out of their seams
Lanes on streets do not exist
‘Gordo’ meaning ‘Fatty’ and ‘Negro’ meaning ‘Black’ are common terms of endearment between couples and close friends
When the stoplight is red men line up across the crosswalk, face the cars and hold huge billboard advertisements until the light turns green
The paseoperros, dogwalkers, walk up to 15 dogs at a time
Coffee deliveries are common place – delivered to homes, businesses, etc.; This is quite an art form and conists of talented delivery boys winding their way through traffic while balancing espressos on silver trays. Such service it is that they actually come back later to pick up the cup, all for the same price as a regular cup of coffee.
Things that irk me…
The poverty – barefoot children begging on street corners, walking into restaurants trying to sell Kleenexes, juggling in front of cars at stoplights, digging out scraps out of trash bins
Minature napkins as thin as a piece of paper
Having to pay everything in exact change
Extreme gap between rich and poor
Right of way? Forget it. People rev their engines and speed up in attempt to hit any pedestrian crossing the street
Spontaneous protests break out on any street on any given day causing stores and classes to be closed and cancelled
Dogs leave their mark on all sidewalks of the city and no one feels obliged to clean it up
Graffiti covering beautiful monuments
Things I’ll know I’ll miss…
Our close pals
Impromtu tango shows in plazas all over the city
Strong Sunday traditions – food, football and family
Drinking water out of wine glasses
Old fashioned elevators where you have to close a door manually for it to function
The sound of the Argentine accent
Lounging in the grass and reading in plazas all over the city
The adrenaline rush of crossing over Nuevo de Julio, the largest street in the world
The kiss on the cheek greeting, which applies to men greeting men, too
Best ice cream in the world
Walking through the book shops on Corrientes
Local crafts fairs at the ferias all over the city
Spending all afternoon in a café
The passion and unique culture surrounding the mate, Argentina’s national drink
Coffee always comes with small delicious cookies and a glass of sparkling water to cleanse the pallet
The excitement of Bosques de Palermo, our favorite park, on a Saturday afternoon
Sitting in the parks of Recoleta
The ever-trendy portenas
Asados – the Argentine BBQs unlike any other
I’m looking forward to rediscovering Buenos Aires and calling this city home again.