Guess what! I’m moving!!!

…and not just to Argentina. Been there, done that…it’s a new week, people. No, this blog is moving. Please visit/bookmark/subscribe/write down on a tiny scrap of paper (drumroll): http://buenoseye.wordpress.com/

This blog (Besuquear) was mainly born out of my intense curiosity about this intercultural relationship I was embarking on, and my desire to hear from others in the same situation. But as I’m sure you’ve noticed lately, I’ve been wanting to branch out for a while and talk more about life in general, and also include more photos. So now that I finally made the physical move, I thought it was time for the virtual one too. Don’t worry, all the old posts are still there. Why is BuenosEye a good thing? Because it’s prettier. And cooler. And funner. And I swear, to commit to it as an actual blogger who really writes more than once a month just so her archives can look nice. So, um, in case you didn’t click already, DO IT! DO IT NOW!! And then never come back here again. 🙂

http://buenoseye.wordpress.com/

So here I am…

Finally. And it feels good, that secret little smile that comes out every time someone asks if I’m happy to be here. And yet life keeps moving, and because have to deal with it, I don’t even have time to feel elated. I remember telling a friend back home how I realized I was expecting Buenos Aires to be fabulous, but was aware it would probably end up being normal, which is to say, a mixed bag of fabulous and crappy and just plain fine. She laughed. Which I think is the right response.

I’ve been here for a week, and as it turns out, making huge life transitions while searching for a job and an apartment is pretty exhausting. I keep waiting to have that moment to breathe and take it all in. And whenever I do, I feel pretty damn happy. But mostly I feel like so much is happening at once. In this past week, I’ve started an awesome internship, gone to shoot photos of a lovely printmaker in quiet Villa del Parque, stayed out in the provincia with my boyfriend’s family, been devastated when his car was broken into the first night at our Palermo sublet, had three job interviews, gotten health insurance, teetered all over the city in heels that just don’t work on cobblestones, learned how to use a smart phone (though mine is more like a mildly-intelligent phone), visited three potential apartments, tried and failed to obtain the elusive SUBE card, and made pizza on a parrilla. And that’s why I haven’t unpacked anything, cleaned anything, or bought anything to eat except fruit and mate.

I try to be a person who is very present and life, who lives in the moment. But sometimes it’s hard to avoid the constant feeling that as soon as the next step happens all will be well…I wanted so badly to finish school. Then I wanted so badly to come here. Now I want to have a steady job that pays well and inspires me. I want to be settled in the apartment that will become home, and make friends with my local fruit seller, and find a place to do pilates and yoga, and establish a routine and some tranquility. I know all these will happen, just like the others did. But the real challenge is being able to awaken to the moment, now, and recognize that life happens during the process of reaching milestones, and not just in their completion. At least, that’s the goal for tomorrow…tonight I’m too exhausted. 🙂

Argentina Dreams

All I can do is dream about Argentina.  I’m supposed to be enjoying my last month at home before moving abroad, spending quality time with family and friends because who knows when I’ll see them again, and living it up in the land of organization, dishwashers, and lattes. I know I will miss all of this, the people most of all, and the real sense of belonging. But right now I just want to be there, because I belong with H too. And I want to start the fabulous life that has been feeding my imagination for so long, even as an awareness of the many difficulties I’ll face lurks at the back of my mind.

I’m waiting in state of mixed-feelings limbo, hovering somewhere in between nostalgia for what I’ll say goodbye to and excitement for what’s to come. As much as I want to be a person who lives in the present, my present is too shaped by desires and experiences that are far away in space and time – or soon will be.

In other words, I’m feeling complicated, but I’m ok with that. Even so, there’s no way to chose between this:

And this:

And this:

Wherever I’ll go, I’ll always be missing someone. But I guess that means there’s a lot of love in my life, for which I am so grateful

 

Happiness

This will be quick because the boy is in the shower and then brunch at the best roadside diner on the Mass/Vermont border awaits! Today is our two year anniversary. I almost never sleep in, but this morning I did, and my favorite thing ever happened, that we woke up together and sleepily snuggled for a long time. And then a card fell on my head out of nowhere….a beautiful, beautiful card with a confusing clue, and a TREASURE HUNT that eventually led me to rifle through the recycling in our kitchen, the owner of this apartment’s cd collection, and the dryer (the clue was, “where you put your clothes but I don’t put mine” — because if he puts his there, dryer-virgins that they are, they’ll shrink!!). It was such a lovely, unexpected surprise from my amazing beloved H.

Ok, I know I promised other updates, but they will happen soon, I swear! For now it’s pancake and waffle time.

A little update!

All is well in this rainy, misty little corner of the east coast, except that school and work mean I have no time to write or look for a job (in Argentina!) or read novels or do other important life things.

Living together was a little rough for the first couple of days weeks but now it seems like it’s getting better. What I thought would be hard about it is constantly being together, and having to share chores and worry about money and stuff. But it turns out that what’s harder (for me) is learning to let someone else into my daily routines and most intimate moments. I’ve lived away from home for six years now, and been really happy with that freedom and independence. I love doing things my own way, making my own schedule, seeing who I want to see when I want to see them, and having peaceful moments to do nurturing things for myself. But now H is here and everything is different. Suddenly I feel out of control, because a whole different person is sharing this space and this time with me, with his own desires and needs. I think it’s a little easier for him, because he’s used to living with family, and used to that intrusive warmth of Argentines in general. Mostly what I’m beginning to realize is that living with someone, you need to sculpt out those little moments for yourself again because they ground you and make you sit back and realize how amazing it is, despite all the little annoyances, that the person you love put his entire life on hold to come halfway around the world to be with you.

Now we have channeled the difficulties of the first few days into a few key moments. I read on some trashy but wonderful gossip website that Sarah Jessica Parker said the secret to her success in her long marriage was allowing herself to hate her husband one day a week. I think that’s sort of what me and H do, not on purpose, about every week or two. Every single time we go to the damn grocery store, we end up having a huge fight about SOMETHING. We don’t even have to be IN the grocery store for it to start, it’s more like the knowledge that we’re going signals to our brains that it’s time to get out all that pent-up rage. It’s about my driving, his need to buy nutrient-less white bread, whatever. Any excuse to finally get it all out, in a setting that means it can’t get TOO ugly and during the constantly distracting process of buying food that means that three minutes later, we forget what we were mad about. I actually think it’s a pretty good system, both cathartic and efficient. By the time everything is put away at home, we’re ok again.

Future topics to stay tuned for: H’s brief but exciting experience as an illegal immigrant worker, and H’s ridiculous manipulations of the poor, poor English language. Love it!

A tale of two salads

As I’ve mentioned before, for two people who love food, there is nowhere our cultural differences are more apparent than in the kitchen. Last night we decided to have salad for dinner. We cut up some tomato and threw it on top of lettuce. But that was where the similarities ended. He wanted raw onion. I wanted avocado.  He wanted olive oil, vinegar, and salt; I wanted a vinaigrette made with mustard (so similar, and yet so different – the story of our lives!). He wanted mozzarella cheese; I wanted croutons. Basically, we ate the salad side by side, but each with our own little bowl where we could do our own thing. This is not so dramatic, except it represents every step of the huge transition we’re going through, living together for the first time in the U.S. and trying to figure out who and how we are here.

Going to the supermarket was hard too. Because I realized that while I was in Argentina, I was ok with adapting to how things worked there – no real difference between organic or not, no silly concepts like raw milk or hormone-free grassfed meat. Here, where I can make those choices again, they are so important to me. But he’s wondering when the heck I got so crazy. That said, he made himself veggie burgers and broccoli for lunch today, and I wasn’t even there. So I’m taking it as a sign that things will get easier; the challenges are all part of the adventure. In this particular adventure so far I think we’re equal parts blissfully overjoyed to finally be together and lovingly desirous of throwing each other out the window. But mostly we just laugh about it and then chow down on the one thing we do agree on: alfajores.

Oh waiting is hard…

Just one week until a sweet, curly-haired Argentine boy steps off the plane in New York to run into my arms. Just one week until a whole year of long distance is over. Just one week until we begin our next great adventure in a tiny rural town, tucked into the Berkshire mountains. Guess who cannot wait. No really, CANNOT. If the waiting of this past year was hard, this week is the hardest.

But I’m so unbelievably excited : ) : ) : )

Are people different in different places?

On my computer I have a list of ideas for things I want to write about in this blog, and one of the thoughts  I scribbled down was “people are different in different places.” So a few months later I looked at it and was like, well, DUH, why did I think that was an insight???!! But then I remembered what I actually meant by that. I didn’t mean that Argentines are different from Americans who are different from Saudi Arabians. I meant that the same people are different when they travel to different places. That where you are has an effect on who you are.

For example I think I’ve written before that I think I’m much more fun in Spanish, and more easygoing and relaxed in Argentina. Because maybe those are the sides that being a foreigner on study abroad brought out in me. There is a certain ease and independence that comes from being a permanent outsider. If you’re not “really” from a place, then you don’t “really” have to engage with or answer to it. Sometimes I think that people travel because they become addicted to this sensation. If you purposely put yourself in a situation where you don’t belong, you escape from the fear that maybe you didn’t belong at home, either.

So sometimes traveling can bring out the best in people, and other times the worst. I had a dear friend from my international high school, from Colombia, who I almost hated after he spent a week staying at my house. In my eyes he became a lot less fun and a lot more needy and demanding. I could never quite look at him in the same way.

I heard about an American girl who started dating an Argentine guy pretty seriously in Argentina, only for them to fall apart a year later when he visited her at her home in the U.S. In his words, she was different at home, didn’t like to do the same things she had liked in BA, and she expected him to be different too. But he didn’t suddenly stop wanting to go out and party like they used to, and he didn’t start loving nature trails and organic vegetarian restaurants like she did. She had changed when she traveled to Argentina, and a whole side of her personality had remained hidden while another one came out. She expected him to shift in the same ways that she had, except maybe he changed in different ways when he traveled, and suddenly they weren’t compatible.

I’m not going to lie, the first time my boyfriend came to the U.S. it took me a while to get used to this other version of him, removed from his zone of comfort and confidence. It was a serious crisis of who is this person??! Maybe it was a good thing that we met up first in New York, on neutral ground, and had some time to adjust again to each other outside the pressures of family and friends and “real life” in my home city. And I still think our relationship is slightly different depending on where we are. He makes fun of me because whenever we have our stereotypical airport reunions where we run into each others’ arms, I feel “shy.” And I do! Because a million skype conversations  don’t translate into being familiar with a person’s essence, especially if who you both are changes depending on where you are, and so for brief while, you have to get to know each other all over again.

Do you feel like you’re different when you travel? Has it affected your relationships?

The Other Ones

Since I started this blog, I’m really trying to post at least once a month, even though when I’m not actually in Argentina it’s sometimes hard to find inspiration (and time). Is it wrong that this goal is more because I like the way it looks in my archives, than any serious blogging commitment?

So it’s really about time, and I thought it would be interesting  (=embarrassing, funny, awkward) to go back over the Argentine men who made an appearance in my life, before THE boyfriend.

When I first arrived to Argentina, I was sharing an apartment with a 22-year-old student whose mother and brother happened to be visiting the weekend I arrived. The brother lived in Chile with his Chilean girlfriend (who was also there), and my first night there, it was his birthday. So a bunch of his Buenos Aires friends came over to celebrate. I don’t remember much of it, other than sitting there shivering at a big table, trying to be strong and social but not understanding most of the fast porteño Spanish shooting back and forth around me. I think I was sort of in shock. They offered me Fernet, which I thought was something like dark beer, and tried to swig from the bottle til they shouted me down. One of his friends was kind to me, though, and asked me some questions. I appreciated the gesture of friendship. When I couldn’t stand the pressure and exhaustion anymore I excused myself and went to bed. A couple minutes later, though, the brother’s girlfriend followed me into my room and started quizzing me about the guy who had been talking to me. Did I like him? Did I think he was cute? He liked me. He was a swimmer. He had a good bod. Did I want his number? I didn’t know what to say. He was about to move to Italy anyway. But this was my first taste of the belief that there’s no such thing as an innocent friendship between men and women in Argentina.

The next one was also my crazy roommate’s doing (for having only lived with her for three months, she had a pretty huge and lasting impact on my experiences and memories). She told me she had a friend from her university who was going to be a ski instructor in the U.S. soon, and wanted to practice his English. I said ok. We met at the door of the Recoleta cemetery and wandered through the neighborhood. He was nice enough, but an hour later my number was in his phone, his arm was creeping around my shoulder, and his eyes were giving me that distinctive “I’m figuring out if it’s time to kiss you” look (it was decidedly NOT). We went out a few more times, mostly in groups. By this time I knew enough about Argentina to know how to play the game a little, and never give him a straight answer. Which is why one night he got frustrated enough to grab me and force a kiss on me. Looking back on it he was always a little psycho. One of my friends said he looked like a “devil puppet” despite his blue eyes and blond hair. Obviously I ditched him after the kissing incident, but he re-surfaces every so often, maybe to see if I’ve changed my mind (never). Second friendship FAIL.

Around the time of Devil Puppet, I started dating an American guy from my study abroad program. One night he and I went to a party at an American friend’s apartment. She had her own group of Argentine guy friends, who I think she mostly bonded with over living in a student residence lacking basic living amenities like plates and cleanliness. One of them was really sweet, and we had had a few nice conversations before. It was  crammed into the narrow kitchen of her apartment, having a bantering, friendly conversation, that he leaned over and kissed me quickly, and then jumped back with terror in his eyes. Burning with embarrassment, I collected my yanqui boy and left. I think we both felt too awkward to ever talk or hang out again. It made me sad to lose what I thought might have been another friend.

And the last one, after all this and six months in Argentina, I could have seen coming from a mile away. We met at a bar frequented by yanquis in Recoleta. I gave him my number, since I was in the mood to ease my broken heart after a hard break-up with the American who turned out to be a disastrous match for me. I swear, being with him turned me into a clingy, insecure, hysterical nightmare. So anyway, Bar Argentine got my number, and promptly started calling me 10 or 15 times a day. I remember very clearly being in the Jardin Japones and seeing his name on my phone once again, and thinking, enough with this insanity – I’m just going to give it to him straight. I picked up and told him bluntly I wasn’t interested. Que no iba a pasar. He probably went straight back to that bar to search for another friendly norteamericana. I don’t even remember his name.

That same week I met my boyfriend. I think it says a lot that he didn’t act at all interested in me – I schemed to make the first move. Maybe that’s why it was the one that worked.

The moral of the story would be that friendship with a guy in Argentina is really, really hard. And if you think you’re just friends, he probably doesn’t. But it’s not impossible. One of my dearest friends is a guy I met in our student residence. Our first conversation was a heated argument over a controversial movie we watched and the U.S.’s role. And then I apologized and then he did and then we cooked together and all was well. Thank you, D, for your friendship.

Argentine altruism

In general, Argentines are pretty generous and giving to those lucky enough to enter into their confidence (it’s important to distinguish this from the general heightened mistrust between people who don’t know each other, and especially toward foreigners). A lot of what gets done in this country, from jobs to business deals to politics, seems to be the result of who you know — relatives, contacts, friends of friends. In the U.S. there’s a lot of buzz about networking, which is basically the same thing, but in Argentina these networks seem to extend much further, and the relationships involved seem more altruistic. Whereas in the U.S., both parties might be conscious that they give something to get something back, and networking events are specifically set up to allow people to make these contacts, in Argentina it’s an integrated and natural part of the social system. It’s not necessarily one hundred percent disinterested — but when the mutual expectation of generosity and giving exists on both sides inherently, it’s simply not thought of in the same calculating way. I remember learning in a high school anthropology class about the social uses of the godmother/godfather system in Latin American society. Basically the idea is that parents choose a godmother and godfather for each of their children from among their relatives and friends. The socially scientific interpretation of this is that those godparents are people who will be useful to the child and to the family — economically, helping them obtain work, and other favors. In Argentina, in addition to the two godparents the parents choose at baptism, when the child is old enough to be confirmed (at 17-18) they themselves choose two more godparents, multiplying their network. But from what I’ve seen the people chosen are not necessarily economically successful or politically powerful. They’re truly dear friends of the family, and the relationship created is often even stronger than that of blood relations, with the families visiting one another often, sharing meals and holidays and business secrets. But even if they’re not related by blood or by the church, Argentines love to do things for you, to put their own concerns aside to take on errands, help you solve problems, and show you the “right” way to do things (especially me, because as a foreigner, I’m truly a baby in their eyes).

On this trip I’ve been thinking about this cultural generosity more than ever because it seems that people who don’t even know me have been giving me so much lately. The fact that I’m even in Argentina is thanks to the good will of others — I won a (very cheesy, don’t care in the slightest) online contest sponsored by LAN where people submitted their love stories and whoever had the most votes won two roundtrip tickets from New York to Buenos Aires, business class. My boyfriend and I both pestered everyone we knew to vote, but at least half (and probably far more) of the people who voted for us are people I’ve never met — friends of friends of friends…And yet some of the messages of support and love I received from these strangers were truly heartwarming. And while my American friends were wonderful about it once the contest got going, it was noticeable that the first people to get into and show their support were the Argentines.

Once I got here, I received a welcome surprise that some other people I’ve never met (the parents of my boyfriend’s mom’s best friend, got that?) had offered us a studio apartment they own in one of the nicest neighborhoods in BA to use during my visit to have a little more privacy. Of course we insisted that we would pay — and of course they wouldn’t hear of it. But what we did do was spend a significant amount of time with them — I went with my boyfriend’s mother to have coffee with them the first day, and then his family hosted a huge, delicious, wonderful asado for them and their children and grandchildren, and then finally my boyfriend and I went again with a yummy ricotta cake to visit and thank them. So they gave us something, and in return, we both got wonderful company, and friendship. I feel real affection for this hilarious, sweet, adventurous elderly couple who so freely took us into their confidence. They are no longer strangers, but neither are they coldly calculated connections. They’re people who I know who help me again in a second if they could, and who I would go far out of my way to do something for if it was in my power and the opportunity arose.

And the final example is the least consequential, but perhaps the most glamorous. A childhood friend of my boyfriend’s wanted to meet me, and invited us to dinner at Isabel’s, one of those outrageously posh, no sign outside, only five tables, ragingly expensive bars in Palermo full of beautiful, glittery, thin people. It’s one of those places where you order 160 pesos (40 dollars) worth of sushi and they bring a few teeny tiny bites of something (is that fish? I can’t even see it) to the table. The drinks were amazing, though…I had the house special which involved vodka, cranberry juice, some other stuff, and raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries on the top. But with all that alcohol on a (nearly) empty stomach, we were VERY lucky to not be stopped by the breathalysing police on the drive home. And all I could think about on our arrival was scarfing down some empanadas. But back to the point, because he said he wanted to make a good impression on me, this friend insisting on paying.  Granted, this was a very different type of “altruism” in a very different world. Some might consider it fake, or all about appearances. But I think it’s that same Argentine desire to do things for others, manifested in a different way with a different generation. And admittedly, it was nice to enjoy a night of splurging like that without worrying about the dent it was going to make in my wallet. But  best of all it meant I had no regrets whatsoever when my boyfriend took me to the quietly elegant Club de Pescadores a few nights later, where we sampled exquisite seafood and delicious wine at a warmly-lit table overlooking the water of the Rio de la Plata. For these and many other reasons, it’s been a wonderful visit.