To be perfectly honest, the last 5 weeks have been...unpleasant. I don't mean that I hate it here, or that the past 35 days have all been negative. However, a lot of things have been...less than ideal. I expected this experience to be a lot more exhilarating right from the beginning, as most of the time I've spent in other countries has been in the past. Turns out that the reason that we are here for 5 months instead of the customary 4 is that you really don't do anything the first month. When I got here on February 16th, I had no idea that I would not start classes until March 25th. When you suddenly find yourself in a massive foreign city without any friends, you kind of want a place to belong...or at least something to do. First I worked on making American friends. Then I got about 20 huge mosquito bites that turned into 20 painful welts (a requisite step for me in South America, apparently). Then I was just so hot all the time I didn't do anything (had something to do with the fact that I was wearing jeans on 95 degree days to cover up the bug bites). Then I went through a phase where I went out a lot (this takes care of really planning days because since going out here means staying up until 7am, I would basically sleep through them). Then I traveled a bit, then I just got really depressed. Now that things have improved, I realize (hindsight is always 20/20) that this type of period is something that just has to occur. But for the love of god...five weeks of it??
Transportation basically rules my life here, for the obvious reasons. I have made two really great friends that I see almost everyday. Unfortunately, they also live a 20 peso taxi ride/30 minute bus ride away from me. Combine this with every other place I will eventually need to be in life, and I probably spend half my day on a bus. I'm generally okay with this, minus the moneda situation. I also had the misfortune to be placed in a part of the city that, while beautiful, is strangely inconvenient for public transportation. To get to a subway I have to walk over 12 long blocks, and most buses only come within five or six blocks of my house. This is annoying during the day, but manageable. At night, I have to take a taxi because walking in those areas isn't completely safe.
I like leaving my neighborhood. Buenos Aires is very much a Beautiful People city, and somehow I got placed right in Beautiful People central, finding out how the other half lives. I'm not the bronze goddess type, and I don't like to teeter around on heels. I don't have much money, and therefore don't have a wealth of fancy clothes. My hair won't smooth down (humidity is a bitch) no matter how I try. I don't like this, because it makes me feel awkward and ugly. Almost every family here has a full-time maid. I have to listen to my host mom complain about said maid nightly at dinner. I like my host family - they are good people. They are intelligent and hard-working. But they will never, in a million years, be my people. Everytime I am excited about something - for instance, getting to visit my facultad at Universidad de Buenos Aires for the first time, or signing up for an art class at the Universidad de Buenos Aires art center, my host mom Silvia will, in typical Capital snob style say, "Wellll that will be an experience - people are so weird there." In my mind, having uneducated, underprivileged women in maid uniforms who already have 7 children shipped in from the city outskirts to do everything for you, including make all of your food and your bed, is weird. So I guess we are just about even on what we think about the other's life. Living at my house is interesting - it is so different from everything that I'm used to that the experience is never boring. However, it left me wondering - will I find a place in the social sphere of Buenos Aires where I'm comfortable?
I tried for the first few weeks to assimilate to the Palermo Chico lifestyle. I would put on my best ladies who lunch outfit and sit in our pristine living room with Silvia and her friends. I would try to look fancy when I went out. And I was kind of miserable. Not only could I not pull off that look...I didn't feel like myself. We went to trendy bars and met people we were never interested in seeing again. Finally, yesterday I decided I was going to take shit in my own hands and fix this problem. Two entities came into my life yesterday that have just made life in Buenos Aires feel so much better:
1. A pair of white, high-top Chuck Taylor All Stars.
2. Nico, Adrian, and Guille
1. Everybody has them here. And in typical porteña fashion, they make them look so cool. Suddenly, with my new sneakers, everything changed. I wore them with an all-black outfit and a new scarf to a cool bar last night in the working-class neighborhood where my friends live and felt so good. I strutted around Palermo, Caballito, and San Telmo today and felt amazing. Never has a pair of shoes felt so powerful.
2. We met Nico and Adrian at a bar with live music a few weeks ago. They are both twenty and study where I study - Universidad de Buenos Aires. Nico is tall and handsome but dorky and a little condescending. Adrian is tiny and intellectual and hilarious. Last night we cemented our friendship with them by hanging out for reals, and they brought their third gang member, a 19-year-old named Guille, who also studies at UBA.
For some reason, my two best friends and I just really click with these boys. They're nerdy and cute and funny and harmless. They're all from different parts of Argentina (not Buenos Aires, which automatically makes them a little more chill and less neurotic). We talk about everything from families to Spanish words to music, to politics, to Freud, Lacan, and Focault. We had so much fun last night that we invited them to a mate session in the park this afternoon. Amazingly, they all showed up, waiting for us at the gate, with about ten bags of cookies in hand. We spent about 4 of 5 hours just sitting on the grass, eating cookies, drinking mate, and just talking and laughing. For some reason when we're with Nico, Adrian and Guille, Buenos Aires just feels smaller, everything just seems less daunting. They're cute and real and ridiculous. Having friends from here just makes us feel a lot more like we belong.
So cheers to new shoes, new friends, and classes that (FINALLY) begin on Monday! Things are looking up.