Photo Credit: Bracani….Antonio
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write for example, ‘The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
A portion of Pablo Neruda’s poem XX, Twenty Love Poems and a
Song of Despair
There are mosquitos the size of bats on the ceiling. I’ve been grading papers for 12 hours now. In the courtyard, the beagle still bays out every day. He’s been joined by a cat that sometimes yowls for hours. I am going to miss this courtyard, especially the mornings heavy with rain, the cool patter on the tiles outside.
I look out into the night and see the lit lives of families. Those that dine at 10 p.m. passing salad around the table. Our mysterious next door neighbors who come by once a week to use the apartment as a party base. The woman who sweeps her balcony as her bull terrier tries to bite the broom.
Do they see me? The room darkly lit by a small table lap. Me at the computer, with white pajama pants, navy slippers, and a glass of wine. This girl who sits at the computer every day and every night. They can see me perfectly, as I can see them.
Photo Credit: silkegb
It’s raining today in Buenos Aires, a steady rainfall perfect for grading papers and catching up with favorite blogs. I’m contented, as yesterday afternoon I sat in Parque Las Heras just feeling the sun on my face. It was the first warm day in a long time where I could go without my jacket.
Photo Credit: Andshewas
In my Top Ten Things post, I mentioned that it’s worth your time to visit the cats in Parque Carlos Thays in Palermo.
It’s surprising how tame the cats are. They are used to cat lovers who arrive daily to set out little dishes of food at set locations. They are also used to Argentines willing to sit on a park bench and pet them. Some of them used to be in loving homes, so it’s natural that they enjoy human company.
Despite my best intentions, I could not walk past the park on Friday night without petting one. Despite the large sign that says, “Do not pet the feral cats.” I admit to having a weakness–combined with bad cat allergies.
Ricardo sat on a vegetable crate across from me with a wide, cheshire grin.
“I would love to practice my English with you. I am traveling to New York in the week after next.” I mustered a half smile.
I answered in slow, methodical Spanish, “You will love it there. Are you going to the theatre? You must see Times Square, if only for a half an hour.”
It was closing time at the vegetable stand. I shifted my weight back and forth. V. and I had been talking about our weeks. She asked if I felt better–during the weekend, I had stopped by pale and sickly, too much time spent working in the apartment. I had been semi-delirious and couldn’t string my Spanish together well. Continue reading
“But here, absolutely everything conspires to keep me staring into the dark.”
–Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
This was my feeling when I first arrived—learning the subtle movements and navigations of Buenos Aires I needed to see me through. Not only did I need to learn the literal language, I needed to learn the other language—the preferences and inclinations of the people.
Do you believe that residents of different countries have different walks? Someone told me this. I imagined myself delicately posing behind complete strangers on the sidewalk, trying to follow their lead and walk in step. A little faster? A little to the right, the left? This is madness, I said to myself. How can I learn another countrymen’s gait?
I’m beginning to believe that once a foreigner, always a foreigner. I have always been a tourist, but never a resident. Here I am neither resident nor tourist. According to Argentines, I am an “extranjero”—a foreigner. Another derivative of this word is the word for “extraño” for strange. I am strange—I feel extranjero leeching into my cells here, my blood, mi sangre, a cool disorientation.
I met an Argentine named V. She sells fruits, frutas, and vegetables, verduras, at our barrio stand. She is our favorite vendor. Her shop is the size of two closets, located a block away from our apartment. The moment I met her, I knew that she was an angel—otherworldly. She is sweet and genuine in an otherwise hard city. Continue reading
There is much Italian influence in the Buenos Aires. I’ve noticed that many portenos, or native Argentinans, have an Italian appearance. Also, when I hear the older men talk, I’m reminded of the cadence of the Sicilians in the Godfather. The wine is superb here. Unfortunately for us, they make really bad pizza.
As I walked through Carlos Thays Park in Palermo yesterday, the inevitable happened. After passing ten different cats in styles of repose on the lawn, he found me. A kitten. He was talking to a couple of young girls when I walked past. Once the girls decided to continue walking, what did I see stumbling after my feet? A little ball of dusty black fur and sky blue eyes.
I bent down as he pawed at my slippers. He mewed and cried at me. Narcissistically, I came to the conclusion that he wanted to be picked up and cuddled. After some dainty cooing and coddling, I came to the depressing realization that he was just plain hungry and saw me as as a reliant source of food. I had no choice but to put him down and purposefully stride away, hearing him mew in the distance.
As I left the park, I noticed caretakers setting out dishes of food and water near the entrance. I didn’t feel quite so bad. I’ll just keep repeating this mantra.
This is the view on the street outside our apartment. I’ve always liked tennis shoes hanging from a power line.
I am flexible with change and blend in with most environments. Before I arrived in Buenos Aires, I had the idealistic notion that no one would recognize me as an American. It’s not as though I walk around with a fanny pack and white tennis shoes. I’ve done a pretty good job with wearing the clothes of a normal Argentinean girl. Skirts and tanks are popular.
One thing I did to my detriment was to get a haircut the second day here. I ended up looking like Amelie, but not as cute. It’s so humid here that my hair frizzes up in a mass of natty curls. I’ve noticed while taking walks that Argentinean women don’t have short hair. As a rule they have wavy long hair that they pull up into loose pony tails or chignons.
Secondly, I am as pale as a ghoul. I haven’t seen the Washington, DC, sun in months, so people may think I’m German or Scandinavian.
I’m wondering if I should embrace my differences or try to assimilate.