And just like that, in the blink of an eye, my time in Buenos Aires had come to an end. As I sat on the floor of my now-empty room leaning against the oversized suitcase into which I had just shoved the last of my mate and alfajores – the physical souvenirs that would be devoured long before I would be able to fully unpack the memories and lessons I’d be bringing home with me – I felt the tears begin to push up from behind my eyelids. They’d been there three days at least, the result of two weeks without sleep and the heart-wrenching knowledge that I’d be leaving this home sooner than I’d like. And then (whether from said lack of sleep or plain old emotional instability, call it what you like) I began to giggle to myself as my brain clued in to the remarkable symmetry with a moment I had experienced on a much warmer evening in March when I first arrived: lying there on the same floor beside the same unpacked suitcase, just as exhausted, the same army of tears threatening to push through but with a very different motive. Being the wanderluster that I am, I’ve never admitted how terrified and alone I felt that first night in Buenos Aires. In the weeks leading up to my trip I was giddy with excitement and consumed with preparations and packing – but in that moment in March in that empty room, I was suddenly unsure: I was jealous of my friends who were heading back to schools filled with familiar faces and well-established friendships, nervous to leave my comfortable routine, and afraid of the unknown. And five months felt like an awfully long time.
Of course, in just a few hours of orientation my nerves were replaced with giddy excitement once again as I began to explore my new home. And, as I quickly came to realize, five months is nothing. Because now here I am back in New York, speaking Spanish aloud to myself and waking up confused in the mornings, wishing to be back in Buenos Aires.
I’m still sorting through all the lessons I learned from my time abroad, and it will be a long time before I can write eloquently about them. But some things have become clear: that transitions are both the hardest parts of life and the most worthwhile; that if you have enough time you can get used to anything; and that the true traveler never laments where she is or wishes to be elsewhere, but rather lives in the present as she awaits the next journey.
So, with that in mind, it’s time for me to say hasta luego, Buenos Aires (mind you, that’s not “goodbye,” but rather “see you later”) and enjoy my time here in New York before I head back up to Montreal and then who knows where. But before I do, here is a list of some things I will so dearly miss – and some things I won’t – in the city that became my second home:
Things I Will Miss
- My Peeps – yes, of course I will miss most of all the dear friends I made there, but they know who they are and we live in the 21st century so moving on.
- Annie in Travel Mode – I love the person that I am when I’m traveling: I’m always exploring, seeking out new experiences whenever I can, listening to strangers’ stories, and, for lack of a better term, YOLOing. But does this really have to stop now that I’m back in the States? New resolution: make an effort to always be this open and life-hungry (because really guys, YOLO).
- The Language – one of the hardest adjustments has been the transition from Spanish to English. Not only do I miss speaking the language – and I’m still thinking and dreaming in Spanish which makes waking up that much more confusing – but I’m constantly thrown off in public spaces. I find myself saying things like “excuse me” and “sorry” in Spanish out of habit, and am still taken aback when I hear a stranger speaking too loudly in English in public. Alguien hablame por favor!
- Chatting with Taxi Drivers – in general, I find the people of Buenos Aires to be much more warm and open than New Yorkers (which maybe isn’t saying much, as much as I love ‘em). And boy, do the porteño taxi drivers LOVE to talk. As soon as they catch whiff of an accent, they want to know where you’re from, what you’re doing here, if you like Buenos Aires… or they want to give you advice, warn you not to trust porteños, tell you the best places to visit, explain how their hometown is so much better than the capital… or they just want to share their own stories, tell you about their kids, or occasionally give you a lesson on Buenos Aires traffic rules and point out the fourteen ways that driver just broke the law. And sometimes they’re angels in disguise, like the driver I had on my last night who did his best to cheer me up as I drove home sobbing, already missing his city.
- La Bomba de Tiempo – let’s be real, this is really more of an addict’s withdrawal.
- Staying Out Until 6am (Without Even Realizing It) – seriously, there’s something in the water here.
- Fruit Stands & Dieteticas at Every Corner – the best fruit I’ve ever had, cheap avocados the size of my hand and two tiny women who know my name and my weak spot for dried figs – what could be better?
- Stumbling Upon Street Art at Every Corner – more here..
There are a thousand more things I could list here – those things I do everyday that are mostly irrelevant to anyone reading, the things and people I’ll miss that are too deeply personal to post here, and the things I miss and haven’t even realized it yet. So, moving on to the things I won’t miss quite so much…
Things I Will Miss Less
- Machismo – The machismo and everyday sexism in Buenos Aires is by far my least favorite thing about the city. On the street, the cat-calls range from the occasionally-mildly-entertaining deep-monotone “wow” to the disgustingly violating lip-smacking kissy-sound that I hate so much. In between are any number of offensive sounds, words and gestures. And then there are the bars and clubs, where “no” means “maybe” to most men (a few of which have received well-aimed punches courtesy of yours truly).
- Insecurity – I love BA, but it can be a dangerous city and I’ve had my own sketchy and downright terrifying experiences to prove it. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still live there, but it did feel nice to walk down the streets of New York City yesterday, bag open and singing conspicuously without a care in the world. (For those concerned I do recognize that NYC is also a big city and I promise to be careful.)
- The Exchange Rate – Okay so if that’s 100 pesos that means 20 dollars except it would be more like… 12 dollars with the black market rate… oh but I used Xoom for this batch of dollars and I think their rate is like 7.5 right now so… *brain explodes*
- Argentina Time – When you make plans with an Argentinian for 7pm and they make it there by 7:30, give them a medal or something because they are early (and they showed up at all). I, on the other hand, am used to stressing at the 5-minute mark if I’m running late. (Although now that I’m back in New York I’m realizing maybe this should be in the “Things I’ll Miss” section since I’m still on Argentina time and thus suddenly am the one who’s wildly late all the time.)
- BA Public Transport – rant here.