C’est la Vie or “Es la Vida”

Buenos Aires Obelisk and Traffic

Buenos Aires life runs at a different pace than in the United States. In the U.S., North Americans focus on all of the “rules” that dictate daily life, and things often go as planned. For instance, stores open at 9 a.m. sharp and don’t take afternoon siestas; cashiers have the correct change; waiters jump to attention at any customer flinch; and food ordered for delivery usually arrives in a half hour. Here, I prepare for the unexpected and learn to move with what turns up.

My subway (Subte) ride on Thursday is an example. I needed to get to class for my final written exam, but when I got to the Subte, a mass of transit goers were staring at an empty, paralyzed car. An announcement repeated at garbled intervals that there was a problem with my line to Cathedral–the location where I was heading. In D.C., harried government workers would be outraged. In Buenos Aires, however, people were quiet–looking plaintively around–and silently shuffling back up the stairs. Porteños often let bad news or unfortunate situations slide off their backs.           

After realizing that I could not wish the train back into action, I went up the stairs and ran through the sidewalks, navigating side streets to find an unoccupied taxi. I lucked out and found a taxi letting off a señora out at the sidewalk. When I got in, the taxi driver smiled jovially. He was a kind gentleman. We discussed the driving and porteño lifestyle. His parents were both immigrants–his mother was Greek and his father was Italian.  He’ll not be driving his taxi much longer, as the driving is too crazy now–much crazier than years before. He does not believe that the government does enough to dissuade a glut of new drivers. They get more and more dangerous.

Though I thought I was in a bind when I entered the cab, the ride ended up being a truly enjoyable experience. A quarter of the way through, I relaxed, realizing that I would have plenty of time to take the exam and that my profesora would not be upset at my tardiness anyway. That’s just the way of life here.





Filed under New to Town

9 responses to “C’est la Vie or “Es la Vida”

  1. stilllifeinbuenosaires

    This blog entry on grammar is apropos in the context of fussiness:


  2. Hola! Thanks for your comments on my blog! I was on the road, so I couldn’t publish them right away. I’m back home in B.A. now.

    I really missed the pace of life here while I was up in the States for two weeks. I kind of like the chaotic yet relaxed way of doing things… 😉

    I’d love to answer your questions on turning down dances at milongas here in BA, etc… let me know if you ever want to meet up at a milonga or in a cafe as I love sharing my “wisdom” (ha, I say wisdom with a giggle – really it’s just nice to know more people in BsAs…)

  3. I like the idea of people not getting freaked out about a change in circumstances like that. Just going with the flow and adjusting your plans. I wonder if that’s something we can work on up here in the States?

  4. Olivia

    Did you take that picture because of the similarities to the WA monument or b/c of the peeps jay walking? I’m back in DC now… missing you. Can we chat soon?


  5. D O Double G

    I think you’re forgetting the one city that can match BA’s pace of life, the golden city of San Diago (Anchorman voice). It was discovered by the Germans in 1902. You’ll find the pace of life is QUITE relaxed…hope you aced your test!

  6. stilllifeinbuenosaires

    Tina: Chaotic and relaxed–that’s the perfect sentiment!

    Chris: I think you’ll have to sedate people.

    Livy: I wanted to take a picture of the obelisk because of its similarity to the Washington monument, but I was also in awe of all of the traffic on the avenue Carlos Pellegrini. It is purportedly the widest avenue in the world. It’s a bear to cross.

    Nate: I haven’t spent enough time in San Diego, but it must be a zen state compared with DC.

    (I just realized that it’s just about time for the influx of touristas!)

  7. It always takes me a few days to get used to that change of pace thing when we head south. Like the idea of a trip to the bank taking all morning instead of a drive-thru…it’s so hard to shed the expectation that things should run according to plan!

  8. Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad I took at look at yours too because I got a glimpse into my future life in Buenos Aires. I love the way other countries approach time. The way Americans freak out when things don’t work out they way they think they’re supposed to is not only hilarious, but at times disturbing. I promised myself when I left West Africa that I’d remember the lesson of African Time, but I didn’t. So maybe the best solution is to just live where people know how to put time into perspective. Keep writing.

    Thanks for visiting the site, Jackson. I think you’ll like the pace here. It sometimes involves factoring in extra time to run errands.

  9. Wow, it’s like we’ve lived or are living super similar experiences. The same thing happened last week when I was on the D line on a way to a job interview. The train stopped after two stations and no one acted surprised or angry, everyone just got out and continued. I was super irritated but it ended up working out. It’s really all about going with the flow, I guess.

    The supermarket lines are the worst. It really teaches someone zen because lines never go fast and little old ladies ask a million questions.

    And by the way, I’m coming back in two days!

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