It has been an epic month. I suppose this is why I haven't really been able to sit down and just write - I've been too hot, too tired, too busy. From my two months in Portland I went from Northern Hemisphere to Southern, winter to summer, cold to hot, dry to humid, small city to big city, house to apartment, small life to really, really big life. My first two weeks here were just a huge hot muddle, while I tried to make some friends and learn enough about the city to at least partially get myself around, and fully survive. The closest I've been to a massive Latin American city has been Mexico City (Cusco was not even close) and I thought that Mexico City was a scary place. While Buenos Aires is hardly Mexico City ("Paris of South America" ?) I have been extremely...overwhelmed.
I'm living in Palermo Chico, a small section of the very large Palermo neighborhood. I live on the fourth floor of a high-rise on a wide avenue near art museums and huge "bosques de Palermo" which is essentially a forested park area like the Upper West Side and Central Park. My neighborhood is fancy and snobby and a little boring - I don't love it, but thankfully my activities and studies take me far away from here everyday, and it is nice to come home to the cool, green parks. Obviously I have never lived in a shiny building with an elevator so this has been an experience. We have a team of 24-hour doormen including a little old man named Coco who either salutes me when he buzzes me in or pretends like he's filming me and yells "hello, beautiful!" (in Spanish of course). At first it was cute...now I'm realizing it borders a bit on lecherous, (like 98% of my interactions with Argentine men.) We also have an empleada (maid/cook) named Susana who is really sweet and friendly and makes delicious food. The apartment is very fancy and traditional and white. I have my own tiny, tiny bedroom, tiny tiny bath, and a little white office where I keep all of my school things and computer, all in a little hall.
My host family consists of two people - my host mom, Silvia, and her 23 year old daughter, Maria Jose. María José isn' t home very much, but she and her adorable boyfriend Agustin sometimes join me and Silvia for dinner. Otherwise, María José and I really only exchange pleasantries, and sometimes not even that, which kind of strange. She, like most of the women in Buenos Aires, is tall bronze goddess, so I find her a bit intimidating. Silvia is on the more academic side. She is extremely tiny and mouse-like, but also very elegant. At first I wasn't sure if we would have all that much in common, but it turns out she's really sarcastic with a dry sense of humor, which I really appreciate. I like our dinners, but Silvia is pretty intense, and is finished eating and back in her room within 20 minutes. So...lots of time alone in the Lascano household for me.
Silvia works out of our house as a psicoanalista, which I think is the equivalent of a psychiatrist, except here they all follow either Freud or Lacan and not just bullshitty therapy stuff. It's a Buenos Aires thing. Silvia likes Freud. She has all of her other 50-something female friends over quite often to talk about the men they are dating and gossip about friends over glasses of wine in the fancy living room. They say things like "Oh yes that Judith, she is such a character! Ugh! She doesn't shave her armpits or color her hair! Can you imagine?" Or "Yes, I went out with that German man but he was sooo old! He had hip problems! He kept trying to give me drinks and get me drunk!" They are really funny. Sometimes I take part in these little sessions and listen. We also talk about politics and world affairs and things like that. They are all really intelligent, successful, well-educated, and well-dressed. They have complemented me on my shoes several times, which makes me feel good about myself in such a fashionable city.
We have spent a lot of time getting classes and academic tutors and all of that stuff straightened out - this is a very serious study abroad program, actually. My main tutor kind of looks like Donatella Versace (i.e. a bit over-processed), but like, if Donatella were a professor at Bryn Mawr. I suppose we'll see how things work out. For the first two weeks we had daily Spanish lessons, Argentine history talks from our ridiculous gay, fancy, bearded program head Mario, and meetings in a palace-like building called Circolo Italiano. Parts of Buenos Aires are so damn fancy and Italian, but in a really effortless way. There is an expensive bar downstairs that rushes sparkling water and capuccino around to the different employees, tutors, and teachers from our program. It's very luxurious.
As far as classes are concerned, I am kind of sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to begin my new life here. I have now registered at the Universidad of Buenos Aires (UBA - the big, prestigious, public university) and Universidad del Salvador (USAL - a much smaller, private university). We have the option of 4 different universities, but I narrowed it down to those two because I wanted to experience both big public and small private, and also because they had the most classes that interested me. For some reason the departments I'm in don't begin until next week, so I have had lotssss of unscheduled time. Where this time has gone, I do not know - sleeping, cultural activities and traveling, sitting in cafés with friends, riding public transportation and being lost would be my best guesses. Today I went and signed up for a Latin American/Argentine/Pre-Columbian weaving class at the Universidad de Buenos Aires art enrichment center, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm just itching for everything to start, so that I feel like I have places to go and somewhere to belong.
There have definitely been beautiful moments here, but there have been some ugly moments too. Two steps forward, and one step back is the way it seems like things are working. The past month has held beautiful trips to the Andes and to Uruguay, but I've also been assaulted and robbed right on my block. I've met some amazing people (Argentine and not) but I've also felt more self-conscious than I have ever felt in my life due to the way that some people treat a 21-year-old American girl (because apparently we are all supposed to be straight out of American Pie. The U.S. really should think about what exporting movies does for creating stereotypes abroad).
But. Life continues, two steps forward, one step back. I think I'm okay with that for now.
I really miss you all, please tell me about your lives!
c/o Institute for Study Abroad
Avenida Corrientes 880 8°C
C1043AAV, Capital Federal