I am here!
Living. In. Buenos. Aires.
My life in Buenos Aires. I don’t think I have ever in my life been more outside my comfort-zone. Moving from tiny Ashland and small Loveland, to Buenos Aires (the 10th largest city in the world with 13 million inhabitants) is quite the change. I ride colectivos (buses) and subtes (subways) everyday and in order to find anything but skyscrapers you have to go to a park. But yes, that is like any large city in the US.
However here (as you may have guessed) everyone speaks Castellano, with a very distinct Argentine accent. The “ll” and “y” in words are pronounced like “sh”. So calle becomes cashe and ayuda is ashuda. They also speak so quickly that a sentence easily transforms into one long word. About half of the people here speak do not english including the Argentine family I live with.
My first evening I was incredibly overwhelmed. I could not quite fathom that I had actually made the decision to move here and was unable to deal with all the stimulus I was taking in. When my host mom, Marita, picked me up from the hotel where I was with all the other study abroad students my stomach was down at my knees. I was so nervous and scared that the first thing she said (after the customary kiss on the cheek) was “estás temida!”
I have learned when I get into situations where I am expected to know Spanish or get nervous my brain completely freezes. I forget all the Spanish I have ever learned and my tounge locks up in my mouth. I am completely useless. This is how the taxi ride to the apartment felt. Marita kept talking to me and I kept nodding having absolutely no clue what she was saying while simultaneously having an internal panic attack.
We got to the house and I spent a couple hours setting up my room before dinner. La cena was with Sol, my 20 year old sister, her boyfriend Mateo and Marita. Everyone was so nice, welcoming, and friendly, but again I was so nervous and exhausted I just sat and let the conversation flow around me (looking ridiculous when a question was directed at me). After dinner I facetimed back to the states, freaking out and just getting lost in this completely overwhelming situation I had put myself in. I made a wonderful decision that evening to go to bed early and sleep. (Sleep is a magical thing when you’re traveling long distances).
End: Day 1.
Now I am about to finish day seven, I have been living here for an entire week! What an eventful week it has been. I am already 100x’s more comfortable with the language. I still have a LONG way to go, but a lot of progress has been made. I am able to particpate much more in dinner conversations and actually understand about 70(ish)% of the things my host family says to me. Who by the way I love. Sol and Luli, my 24 year old host sister, are great. They are patient with my speaking and are excited to give me lists of good bars and clubs, look at photos, and talk to me about the city. Tomas, my 17 year old brother, is an avid soccer fan. A bit more quiet (I mean he lives with 3, now 4, other women) but funny and awesome to watch the games with. Marita is wonderful. Concerned about my safety, cooks yummy dinners, and helped me get an Argentine phone, which was an absolute headache.
I have also gone on a tour of the city, taken a tango class, tasted mate (the national drink – it’s tea), cooked empanadas and alfajores, learned new Argentine games, made great friends also in the study abroad program, and am slowly getting orientated about the city.
Surprises in Buenos Aires
But there is some sort of surprise every day, for example:
(A small introduction) The legal exchange rate between an Argentine peso and US dollar is about 8%, i.e. one US dollar is worth 8 pesos. There is a blue dollar rate which is 13%, which is illegal but very commonly used. However you must have cash to obtain the blue dollar rate. There is an app, Xoom, that allows you to link a bank account and pick up money for a rate in between the blue dollar and legal rate- right now about 11.3%.
Today Kayli, a girl in my program, and I embarked on finding the place where you pick up the cash that you exchanged thru Xoom. We finally found the little office off Corrientes, the street that never sleeps, and successfully picked up my money.
As we were walking back on this extremely crowded street I felt something clock me in the back of the head, hard. “What the…” I look and can find nothing that I can attribute to whatever smashed into the back of my head. I keep walking and yelp as someONE slaps me in the back. I turn more quickly this time and catch this 10 year old girl quickly looking away and withdrawing her hand. I shake my head, but keep walking as she looks a little mentally disabled.
Kayli and I are throughly confused at this point, but continue walking down the street, when for a third time, I get slapped on the head. I quickly turn and without thinking give the girl a shove and tell her knock it off. The two kids she is with start apologizing and shake both of our hands. As we start to walk away, one of the kids who JUST apologized hits Kayli.
We start sprint walking away, not knowing what else to do, cross the street, and literally break down in tears because we are laughing so hard at the absurdity of what just happened. My back was stinging and sure enough, there was a vivid handprint from where the girl had slapped me.
The whole rest of the way home we kept checking our backs, sure that someone would hit us again as we were walking. Even now I can almost not think about the situation without laughing, from our confusion to finally determining what was actually going on.
Pickpockets in the City
After we got back to the house, Marita explained they were trying to pickpocket us by distracting us. Yes getting clubbed in the head is definitely distraction, but luckily they were unsuccessful. I can’t believe everything that has already happened and I’m only finished with week 1 of 5 months. I am excited and can’t wait for all the upcoming experiences. Although I won’t complain if I don’t get hit again while walking on the streets 🙂