T-minus 2 days until Albuquerque. How weird. I’m watching a lot of my friends (who’ve been here a semester) get upset and anxious about going back to the States. They’re trying to squeeze every last second out of Buenos Aires.
I don’t feel like that. Although I’m pretty sure I would have if my stay had ended after one semester too. But after living here for a year and really, truly integrating into culture (to the point where I’ve completely accepted cultural norms like lateness, poor customer service, and naps from 6-8 PM), I’m not trying to rush around and “see more” of Buenos Aires.
Touristy stuff has ceased being interesting. The same thing happens to NYU students that move to New York. Times Square becomes an awful cesspool of idiot, slow-walking tourists and when your friends come from nearby universities and want to go see it, you resent them a little bit. Similarly, I no longer want to go to an upscale parrilla or the Boca.
My favorite parrilla is on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood by my gym. I get stared at when I eat there because there are no other gringos in sight.
As my friend Lily (also here for her 2nd semester) pointed out last night, Argentina stopped being a crazy, foreign travel experience this semester. It became our home. We know locals, cook our own Argentine food, pay rent for apartments, and drink mate. That may be part of the reason we 2nd semesterers never really connected with the bulk of this semester’s students. We were no longer experiencing the foreignness that they were; consequently, the things they often wanted to do (go out to bars and clubs all the time) didn’t jibe with our idea of fun. (That said, I met some great friends here and had a very good time with those people.)
And now we go back to the States, having entirely shifted our perspective on what constitutes a “normal” life. I’m excited to come back and I feel prepared to leave Argentina, but readjusting to life in the US is going to be difficult. Yea, some things will be great right off the bat – supermarkets with all the things you need to make any meal, a wide assortment of ethnic food, delicious breakfasts – but other things are going to be a huge system shock. I don’t know that I can say what those are yet. But I know they’re coming.
I’ve spent half as much time in Buenos Aires as I have in New York City. That’s insane. Can I really call myself a New Yorker? I certainly wouldn’t call myself a porteño. But, in many ways, I live like one. I’ve internalized it. Now I’m about to spend the summer in Washington, DC, a place that feels far more foreign than anywhere in Argentina.
Yet time lurches forward. But not before a big asado this afternoon. Time slows way down for asados. And that’s what scares me about the States: time never slows down.