Yes, I got to go to Argentina.
Paola was generous enough to extend an invitation to the country she calls home, and seeing how I’d never made it outside of Mexico or the U.S. I decided to carpe diem all over the place and buy a ticket to go there.
After a long, long flight with pit stops in Mexico D.F. and Chile I arrived and realized how much one gains by experiencing fall. Granted, I’ve grown accustomed to summers happening at this time of year, but seeing the trees relax into oranges and yellows made for a beautiful sight. On the way home we passed The Buenos Aires Temple, and a wall that epitomized so many things to me- it read “Never Give Up” in black spray paint. Hopeful street art is amazing, no matter where you are.
I happened to arrive during Argentina’s bicentennial celebration, which was the beginning on events that were excellent and unplanned.
Buenos Aires has an incredibly European feel.
I loved the architecture, the textures, the museums that seemed sprinkled throughout the city-many of those buildings have been brought from France and Italy, brick by brick to be reassembled in Argentine soil.
All the things you hear are true: Their beef is incredible (yes, be shocked. I have to eat meat now, doctors orders. Every visit I ask if I can stop eating it now, and all he says is ‘Sure, as soon as your iron stabilizes’. Moving along…). Their alfajores are amazing. They have a huge air of entitlement. Their people are beautiful.
But, on the flip side, all that you’ve heard is a lie: Their sense of entitlement might come from a fact that Argentina is relatively young and somewhat unsure of its roots (a thing I deduced from the justice of the peace who officiated in one of the most interesting civil wedding ceremonies I’ve ever been to). Their people are kind, and varied. They are some of the kindest you will ever meet, enveloping and warm. The Argentine entitlement is perpetuated by the louder ones, but I experienced kindness upon kindness from most.
I don’t think I saw a single house while there. Everything is condo buildings, high rises, concrete children all misshapen and stretching out. I saw buildings that evoked some long gone, romantic era, and tango dancers, and statues commemorating everything from Evita Peron to Charles Barbier (the inventor of Braille). I spent the good part of an afternoon filling the rooms in my heart with Degas, Manet, Monet, Piccaso and Renoir all in the Museo de Bellas Artes.
On my first day there I got to eat heavenly paella made by two native Spaniards, and visit Evita’s grave. By the end of the week I had collected places and they’d collected me- Caminito, Puerto Madero, Teatro Colon, San Telmo, Recoletta Cementery – these places not only inspire awe, but speak to corners of the soul. I got to see the Obelisco, cross the widest street in the world, walk though Calle Florida, see Casa Rosada, eat alafajores to my hearts content (thank you, sweet tooth) and still found myself wanting to squeeze every last drop of the city.
I got to figure out that variety is the heart of life in large part by attending the wedding of Fernanda and Shankar, and see Spain, Sri Lanka, Colombia, the U.S. and Mexico collide, all with happy results.
I got my hair cut, and found out that taxi drivers are not to be trusted when it’s just you and them alone(most. traumatizing. story. ever). I found out that only Italians beat Argentines in clothes tailoring. I found out that I love picking out ties in candy colors. My belief that you can only fall in love with a city after getting lost in it, and getting conversational by hitting the pavement and walking its streets was reinforced.
I got to spend an afternoon saying goodbye to a friend without knowing that it’d be the last real conversation I’d enjoy like that. I got to see true colors of people in ways that I didn’t expect.
The trip to me could be perfectly summed up in my last day there: After a failed attempt to attend church, I walked through a park and to Little China. I bought Green Curry paste and realized that I had no actual money with me, other than 6 pesos. I started asking for help trying to get home, and was helped by a man in charge of a newsstand who wrote me a small map and 3 different options on how to get home.
After asking a dozen people how to make it to my final destination ( a train to French & Austria), I boarded wooden escalators and safely arrived home, with spices galore. It was then that things took a really dramatic turn: in a single evening I got short changed in the strangest way I can describe. But the unexpected thing is, people who were strangers days before were suddenly comforting me, and giving me strength. People are really, really amazing.
St. Augustine once said that the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page- in that sense, this trip was a chapter. I’m excited to finish the book :)