Buenos Aires buzzes. It buzzes with the vibration of colectivo (bus) wheels on pavement, it buzzes with the voices of a sea of pedestrians, it buzzes with the veins of subways which run under its concrete, cobblestone skin. And I have to say, I’m pretty buzzed off of being here. When I stepped out of the EZE airport, the invigorating winter air gave me the feeling that things here would be different from what I left in the sizzling Dallas summer. The differences here certainly have extended past winter breezes, but are equally as invigorating.
For starters, the pedestrian culture is alive and very well. I know a grand total of two people who own a car; the rest that I’ve met travel via taxi, colectivo or subte (the wonderfully catchy name for the subway system here). With this manner of travel being most popular, the web of the city is tightly knit. For example: if you wake up without a pear to cut up and put on your cereal (as I did this morning), you don’t even have to walk a block to find a store to buy one from. And no matter where you are in the city, you can find a colectivo to take you where you’d like to go. It took me a few weeks to get my footing with the public transportation system, as it takes basic knowledge of the city to navigate; and while I’m not a colectivo pro yet, I feel confident that I can get where I’m going without getting lost in this cosmopolitan and historical city. In addition to the pedestrian culture, another aspect of this city has me completely enamored: the dream of the 90s might be alive in Portland, but it’s absolutely thriving in Buenos Aires. I don’t mean to say that they’re “behind” here in any way, but that it seems like they’ve preserved what matters through the digital age. On every big avenue, you’re sure to find a music or book store, where you can browse through well-cultivated selections of records or discover a new poet. From what I can perceive, these stores aren’t struggling either; the fact that the demand for tangible literature and music is so high makes me fall in love with this city even more. Another wonderful difference is the Argentine way of greeting: a single, simultaneous kiss on the cheek along with an “hola, como te va?”
At the risk of generalization, everything seems a little bit less wound-up here; plenty of hugs, directions-help from strangers, and shared drinks have peppered my life since arrival. (An entirely separate entry is needed to describe the drinks here; for now, just know that mate and fernet are very Argentine and very wonderful.) And with Spanish being my second language, it truly is helpful to have these manners of bonding with strangers. There are times when I just have to derail my sentences and start over due to mind exhaustion en español, but for the most part, I can make my feelings known. My Spanish abilities are a lot like my navigation of the public transportation system; I know how to get to where I’m going, but it might take a little longer to reach my point and I also might get a bit lost on the way. But slowly but surely, every day I’m becoming more apt at both. It’s been two weeks since I’ve had to give up on a trip solely due to being lost, and I can see my Spanish growing from conversational to semi-fluent (key word being semi).
With classes starting soon, I know that the adventure has only just begun; and I’m so excited to see what will happen next.