So Far So Good…

The last 48 hours have been a complete whirlwind, but a good one. Once I stopped trying to meet the 50-pound-per-bag checked baggage requirement, the packing finished up in a breeze, and I paid $50 to be able to take two heavy bags, one 66 and and the other 63 pounds. Worth every penny to speed up the packing, save my back (by avoiding heavy carry-ons), and bring what I want. I had three seats to myself on the overnight flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, so I wasn’t completely zonked when I arrived, but still pretty close. Got my bags, got money, found a taxi, and was on my way. (The taxi dispatcher even said my Spanish was good, so I started out confidently—or was he just being polite?) The minute I arrived at the place where I’m staying, in Palermo (long story—the other place in San Telmo didn’t work out, but this one’s just fine), my landlady for the next month started rattling off at break-neck speed about keys, internet, hot water, etc. etc. It was completely overwhelming, and a little frustrating, and I felt very ill-prepared, but I managed. She headed off to work and her daughter came over to study, and she talks even faster! Phew! I’m going to have to ask her to slow down. I missed most of what she said. I know she said she loves this city, she has relatives and friends moving all over—London, Barcelona, NY—but she doesn’t want to leave. And I think she said people think there are crazy people living in the States. Hmm. Will have to find out more about that next time I see her.

After a nap and a shower I headed out to explore a bit—I wasn’t feeling very energetic, but it really seemed lame to not even leave the house my first day here. There are a bunch of parks nearby, and I wandered through three of them, Parque Las Heras, Plaza Alemania, and Parque Tres de Febrero. I found a Citibank around the corner and a bookstore and yarn store up the street, plus a supermarket and lots of other little food stores—I barely have to leave a two-block radius for the essentials. Last night I took the bus to an “Irish pub” for a quiz night (questions in English) organized by the South America Explorers Club—I’m a member now, so expect to enjoy plenty of their offerings, including yoga classes, spanish conversation classes, Saturday afternoon movies, etc. I met a lot of people last night, and it was nice to have a little break from the Spanish (I don’t think that’s a bad sign… I think I was just exhausted and wanted people to commiserate with without having to think too hard!).

Today I slept in late—a much-needed luxury—then had a few sort of confusing conversations with the cleaning lady. I also made two phone calls in Spanish, which went fine—one with my landlady, and another with the internet guy, who needed to come back a third time to fix the connection to my computer. He arrived two hours later than I thought he said he would, but at least now my computer’s connected. After that I headed to the grocery store—I hadn’t eaten anything but a granola bar today. It was fun walking up and down the aisles, seeing what’s available, what’s different, what’s familiar. I saw quite a few familiar brands, but plenty of new ones. I determined that you can probably get a lot of things you’re used to from home—for a price. The differences between local and imported brands was stark—at least 4 times as much, I’d say, for the imported stuff. But, I think I can manage pretty cheaply once I figure out what’s good. Today I bought 1 package of salami, 1 small multigrain baguette, 2 triangles of gruyere (now determined to be gruyere-flavored processed cheese—oops), 1 avocado, 2 tangerines, 2 granny smith apples, 1 small round squash, 1 box of multigrain spaghetti, 1 small box of pasta sauce w/ eggplant, 1 package of Knorr Choclo soup mix (a corn soup I remember liking), and 1 bottle of wine. Total = AR$29.06, or just under US$10. Not bad. (To give you a sense of some other prices so far, the exchange rate is roughly three Argentine pesos to one dollar, and the bus costs AR$.80, my night out last night—at an expat (aka overpriced) bar, where I had two beers, a chicken sandwich with fries, and paid the entry fee for quiz night—was AR$40, and the short taxi ride home AR$7.50.)

My landlady, Virginia, is really nice, and interested in helping me improve my Spanish–I think she’s slowed down a bit to help me understand (or am I getting better already?), and she corrects me when I mess up, which is great—I think most people think it’s rude to correct someone, but I really want that. I’m pretty sure her English is quite good, but it’s better not to rely on that—unless there’s something really important I have to make sure I understand. Yesterday I was taking a little while to explain something and her daughter told me I could speak English instead, which I did, with a rush of relief, but really it’s better to try to stick with Spanish if I can—and so far no one in stores or elsewhere has lapsed into English with me, which I’m happy about. Virginia warned me before I went out last night not to get too comfortable with the expats… I think she was saying some people stick to what’s comfortable and just end up speaking English all the time, and I agree I want to avoid that. But I also recognize the benefit of having contact with people who are in a similar situation now and then. I’ll have to work on finding a balance between the two.

The apartment is nice and my room is comfortable. Probably about the size of my tiny room in Philly, but it feels much roomier since there’s only a not-quite-twin-size bed instead of a full-size futon. The bed is comfy but feels a little like a cot—it’s very narrow and barely long enough for me. I can’t turn over easily, for fear I’ll fall out! During the day there’s some semblance of a rock band practicing in the apartment upstairs, playing everything from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin. I don’t mind a little bass and drums through the ceiling, but their singing sounds pretty awful! I’ll have to get used to it, since I’ve got some work coming in soon and will be working at the desk in my room.

All in all, it feels good to be here—a little surreal, but good. Thinking about the fact that it isn’t just for a few weeks is a little overwhelming, so I’m just going to take it one day at a time.

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5 Responses to “So Far So Good…”

  1. Juan Says:

    So glad to hear you made it safely. It sounds like you’ll be fluent in no time, just tell these people to slow down!

  2. rebecca Says:

    you’re there! hooray! i love how books, yarn, and food top your list of essentials and that you don’t have to go far afield to find them! wow, four times as much difference in cost between name brand and local foods? but it’s much more exciting to try the things new to you than the same old chef boy-ar-dee. i’m sure it is easy to get caught up in all the ex-pat goings-on and forget all the wonderful, novel experiences and people you’ll meet on your own.

  3. santoki Says:

    66 and 63 pounds?! You packed the long johns, didn’t you? Nonetheless, I can’t wait to visit and hear you Spanishing. xox

  4. missmobtown Says:

    yay! I have been waiting for this post. So glad to hear you’ve made it and are safe and sound. Your neighborhood sounds like it rules, I hope you can stay there awhile (although the rock band might wear thin after a bit). Did you get my skype voicemail? — xo, CG

  5. Amy Says:

    No, no long johns. But I did throw in more socks and underwear and an extra book for good measure. :)

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