Letters to Homer: Some Challenges in Argentina
I’ve been trying to come up with a different way to do some blog entries about Argentina and Buenos Aires. I’m not crazy about the travel stuff that goes “I went there and I did this…”. So I’m writing a series of letters to an imaginary buddy, “Homer”. Well, actually Homer isn’t so imaginary as he is a conglomeration of people I’ve known throughout my life. Let me know what you think about this ‘style’; I just might turn it into a book when this trip is over.
Well, tomorrow it will be one week since I left America. After six days in Argentina I’m definitely not an expert on the people or the country, so it has been a learning experience. Kind of like that time in the first grade when Mrs. Shaver caught us fighting over marbles on the front steps of Asheville Elementary.
Ale has been great since I got here. She’s lived in this apartment for about fifteen years and it’s been her ‘space’. Now suddenly she to share her cute apartment. And not just share it, but share it with someone who is comfortable sleeping in a tent in the Rockies or the streets of Washington D.C. The challenge for her has been great; being a great lady though she has risen to the challenge.
One challenge that I’m not doing too good at is the sense of isolation here. Buenos Aires is the most populated city in Argentina and the second most populous state in all of South America. But I feel alone much of the time. No one here speaks English. I miss being able to walk down the street and strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Here, asking someone something as simple as “What time is it?” is an insurmountable task and it just increases the sense of loneliness and separation from civilization.
Buenos Aires is a great mixture of the old and the new. Remember when the town got in a big uproar because Mr. Johnson over on Maple Street wanted to add a deck to the back of the house? The “blue hairs” on the town’s historical preservation committee got their knickers in a twist because decks weren’t around in the 1830s when Mr. Johnson’s house was built. Here, if someone wants to stick a twenty-first century addition onto the front of an 1855 building downtown, they just do it. No committees to talk to; no town fathers to run the idea by, they just tack on the addition. Makes for some interesting sight seeing.
The weather here is going to take some getting used to also. It’s December and it’s 75 degrees outside. Being south of the equator, all of the seasons are topsy-turvy. Winter there in Bent Fork is summer time here in Belgrano. The humidity is a monster too. Remember how bad the humidity was when we took that senior trip to Charleston, South Carolina? That was nothing compared to the moisture in the air here.
I guess one of the biggest adjustments I have to work on making is other men kissing my wife. When Ale and I are out walking to the supermarket or somewhere, we’ll often run into some couple she knows. Without a word or a thought, the guy and Ale will kiss each other on the cheek. Ale says it’s the custom here, and maybe it is. But can you imagine Leroy’s reaction if the clerk over at the Dollar General were to kiss HIS wife whenever she came into the store? Like I said Homer, it will take some adjusting on my part.
Well, Homer, I guess I’d better wrap this up and find me a cup of coffee. That’s something else that is a big difference here; maybe I should say how they serve it is a big difference. I like my coffee one way; plenty of caffeine and cream and sugar. I don’t want a candy-ass-yuppie fruity-tooty drink with whipped cream and sprinkles on it. You know what I found out though? If you want cream in your coffee you need to tell the cashier to put milk in it. If you tell them you want ‘cream’, they fix you a cup of coffee that’s about as big as Aunt Marge’s big toe after that spider bite and they cover it with – yes, you got it – whipped cream.
Take care buddy and tell the Missus I said hello. Or as they say here in Argentina, “Hola”.
Your friend, lost somewhere in the barrios of Buenos Aires