Hitting the Ground
[I found the below in my gmail Drafts box. It somehow missed being posted, so I’m throwing it in now. It was written in March, 2010. I’ve added comments in brackets but otherwise haven’t changed it.]
I bought my first pair of shoes here recently. I’ve been told that people can tell I’m not a porteña by (1) my skin tone, (2) my hair length and style, (3) my bathing suit (my bikini bottoms actually covered my behind), and (4) my shoes. I’m working on numbers 1 and 2, and if I feel so inspired will remedy number 3 [didn’t happen], but number 4 was a quick fix. There are tons of shoe stores within five blocks of my home and they all generally have great end-of-summer sales. Still, while there are blonde-haired, blue-eyed Argentinian ladies, I have accepted that I will likely not be mistaken for one of them. [I was actually pleasantly tickled when on two occasions after writing this I was asked directions from Argentines on the street. And in my heavily accented Argentine castellano, I was actually able to in some manner direct them.] I can however, take measures, such as buying strappy gladiator-type sandles, to not stand out too much. (I am resisting buying harem pants; they are HUGE here in an insane variety of patterns, fabrics, and styles: Harem-cut floral-print sweatpants, for example.)
I have been able to witness and participate in the typical life of a 20-something Argentine through the friends I’ve made here. Friday night I came home from getting a pedicure and an ice-cream (I am making friends with both Alicia and Christian, my manicurist and ice-cream purveyor, respectively) and started to get ready to go out when Diego, my roommate Gladys’ friend, came over. Diego is a piano player and student, amongst other activities; he, Gladys, and I sit in the kitchen, drink wine, sing songs (Diego can also handle the guitar and is going through a strong John Denver phase: “Annie’s Song” and “Country Roads” mixed with some Beatles, Neil Young, and Argentinian folk songs). Between songs and cigarettes we talk about life and love and art in a mix of English and Spanish. Around 12:30am I take my leave and hop a cab to Las Cañitas, a fancy residential neighborhood, where I meet up with Vico (my former roommate) and her girlfriends for their pre-game routine of talking about boys, the length of their dresses, logistics for the evening, and drinking wine and pink champagne. They are going to a super posh club called Shampoo; I would have continued with them for the night but my friend Remy was hosting a party at her house in Palermo Chico. The girls drove me to my party, which was on the way, around 2:30am. I walked in to find the opposite environment from the ladies’ party I had left: About 10 dudes, friends of Remy’s boyfriend Mati, gathered around a table cluttered with multiple bottles of Fernet and Coke, in various degrees of empty, and cigarettes blazing while one or two huddled around the stereo assuring a playlist of loud American 90s rock music. We hung out there for a bit before heading to the clubs in Puerto Madero at about 4am for dancing. This turned into one of those typically Argentine evenings [of which there were only a handful in my time in BsAs because of the havoc they wreaked on the following days] that ended with me getting home with the sun was firmly above the horizon.
Note: I wrote the below post a bit ago but haven’t had the chance to post it. I am, after teary farewells and a quick flight, back at the São Paolo airport for a six-hour layover and taking the opportunity to catch up on things in an airport bar (that is, after my 30-minute airport massage). I’ll be in New York in about twelve hours. It’s surreal.
(No Parking sign on the switchbacks up the Andes. Keep it moving.)
From June 10th to the 16th, I was a little traveling machine. I love that I’ve gotten settled into a nice comfortable existence in Buenos Aires, but Argentina is a large country with a lot to see and do. At the top of the list of places to visit was Mendoza, home of Malbec and beautiful mountains and vineyard-filled countryside. Being short on time, I opted to make just that one stop between Santiago and Buenos Aires. But first, I attended the annual SELA conference, organized by Yale Law School, in Santiago.
All photos are here.
In two weeks, I’ll be back in New York. It’s hard to imagine.
I once again find myself fighting off a cold, so have used the opportunity to finally load some pictures of the past couple months. They are here, in my catch-all album “Quilombo,” starting at photo 77. As I was loading and putting some captions on the photos I realize that they don’t come close to capturing the time and the experiences I’ve had here. They will be great reminders but I can’t rely on them to preserve for me the full experience (nor can they do too much in transmitting to others what my time has been like here). It’s sad to think that once it’s done, it’s done. I’ll have memories and these photos, but they won’t bring me back here. It’s a sign of success in this journey, that I’ve created something that I will miss. That I’ve made the most of my five months here.
I will write about, and load the photos from, my Chile trip soon. For now, I will rest and try to get better to keep experiencing Argentina while I can.
I have begun my last month here in Buenos Aires. My time here already feels like a dream. I am getting the most out of my time though and will continue to do so. This weekend, for example, was great: birthday party Thursday night, Friday I cooked a dinner for 11 people, Saturday slept until about 2pm then went to an asado with a full lamb from Patagonia (where I am assured the best grass grows, creating the tastiest lambs in the world), then finally another asado today out in Pilar with Joaquín, a group of our French friends, and the lovely American couple living with Joaquín now. I’ve been going “a full” as they would say and had to sit out a band practice/jam session this evening because I was nodding off in the car ride on the way home from Pilar and do need some time to recharge. I seem to have gotten into a very Argentine rhythm here.
A couple updates: On Thursday, I will fly to Santiago where I am going to this conference and meeting some of my future law professors. I will likely take a day to visit Valparaiso before heading back to Argentina on Sunday. I am taking buses back to Buenos Aires and will stop in Mendoza (to visit Norton, Trapiche, Estancia Mendoza, and other bodegas who produce the wines with which I have become quite familiar over the past four months). I’ll probably be back the following Thursday.
My internship is still going well and I had a hand in putting out this presser on investigating the recent violence in Jamaica. I’m talking with prosecutors in Bolivia and drafting a presser of my own that I hope will be out in the next week or two. Having this internship has really provided some great structure and balance to my time here and has really been a rewarding experience.
So one more month. I remember around Christmas how I was counting down the last month in New York. I had no idea what to expect nor what I would find down here. Now I am busy with concrete logistics for my return. New York, the U.S., is the land of real life, with plans and to-do lists and school and future. Here I have gone with the flow and in doing so have found myself in a great internship, in a lovely apartment with a dramatic Argentine woman, with some wonderful friends: I have built this great experience by flying by the seat of my pants and always being open to the opportunities that arise. I think that’s what makes it feel less real, more tentative and dream-like. That and the ticking clock and set expiration date for the circumstances in which I find myself. I know this existence isn’t sustainable and if I were down here for longer, real life would creep in.
I am already getting sad to leave it behind. I feel it slipping away and I’m trying to hold onto it. At least I have the memories and a whole boatload of photos to help.
Puente de la Mujer in Puerto Madero.
Before all the recent law school excitement, Arya came to visit me for a week at the end of April. This gave me my first excuse to do touristy things that I had not yet done. One of which was attending a futbol game. It was the most intense sporting experience of my life. Jon (Joaquín’s roommate from Pittsburg), Arya, and I joined a group of about 25 other foreigners to watch the Boca Jrs. play Independiente. We payed a flat rate (about $70) for the tickets, transport, and care of a guide, followed by pizza and beer after the game. Boca was the away team and not favored to win—Independiente has been doing really well but this was a very important game for them. Most of the group of foreigners opted to get seats on the Independiente side, but not a small group of about seven of us who decided to spectate with the barra brava as they’re called (the hooligans) on the Boca side.
As stated up front, my time here in Buenos Aires is meant to be a mix of learning experience and respite from responsibility before I head to law school in the fall. I submitted all six of my applications in early December and had no idea when I’d be hearing decisions. Turns out I didn’t have to wait long. I was accepted to NYU and Columbia in late December and early January, respectively. So I arrived in Argentina knowing that I had great options. But I was still waiting to hear from my top choice school, Yale. I did not hear a peep from them until mid-April when I was informed that I was placed on the waitlist. Knowing how competitive admission to Yale Law is, I was honored to make it to the waitlist. But I still wanted to get in. In the meantime, I was going about the logistics of setting up for three years at Columbia Law, happy with the thought of returning to a school I already knew inside and out and surrounded by brilliant and amazing folks again. But there was always the hope that Yale would come calling.
And this is just a quick video of driving into a small town outside of Cochabamba.
Here’s a video for Mom and any other bird lover. This is from El Chapare where a family of these birds with the most amazing call took over a palm tree. You can’t see the birds but at the end you can hear the call that echoed throughout the hotel. It sounds like a synthesized drop of water, or at least that’s my take. It’s a crow-sized dark bird with bright yellow tail feathers.