Argentina in a nutshell

As previously mentioned, I just went for a vacation in Argentina with 3 friends.  We originally began planning in September of last year, when I was employed full time with plenty of banked vacation time and the ability to save at a reasonable pace.  We found a non-stop round trip from NYC to Buenos Aires for $530 – how could I say no?  Even though at the time I didn’t have the money saved, I took the leap.  Argentina was a place that wasn’t on my radar for vacation spots, so I felt I had to take the opportunity.

Between September and late March, I lost my PTO, got laid off, got a new job that seemed promising but didn’t turn out as financially profitable as I thought, and went through some overall pretty high life stress.  The timing was poor.  My friends supported me and gave me time to pay back the tickets, I cashed in an old small retirement account and went for it.  

Was it worth it?  Sure – with some hesitations.  I learned the lesson that I will never ever schedule a vacation without having the money available for the ticket and extra money saved.  That was silly.  Yet from all around me, I got the confirmation that yes, go for it, take the leap, you’ll never have this opportunity again.  So yes, for those reasons, definitely worth it!  Beautiful country, and getting to see another part of the world, not being fluent in the language, being out of my comfort zone, always, always worth it.  

I was in a weird head space on the trip.  Super stressed out about work.  As seen in my last post, last minute opportunities for job change.  Then I’ve just struggled with wondering if I’m slipping a bit back into depression.  Minnesota had a long, cold, HARD winter, and that certainly didn’t help.  So I didn’t go in the best mindset.  

That said, I liked Argentina, but I didn’t fall in love.  I’ve known a couple of people who went before, including one of my friends on the trip.  While there, the 3 people I was with loved it.  I liked it.  But I wasn’t fully present.  And I was sick right before the trip, and then got a horrible, lingering head and chest cold over the final weekend there.  It was tough.  On two of the days they went out exploring, I stayed home.  The pace was hard for me, I was worn out.  Before all that though, I want to get into my perceptions:

Buenos Aires is a HUGE, gorgeous, old, magnificent city.  We stayed in a highrise apartment that had a breathtaking view of the expanse.  It was glorious.  

But it’s dirty.  The beautiful old historic buildings were spray painted.  Picking up dog shit is not a value, so walking down the streets you have to keep an eye out for poop and overall garbage.  

My favorite places we saw:  San Telmo and the Recoleta Cemetery.  San Telmo is an old part of town, and they shut down several blocks of this one cobblestone street every Sunday for an open air market.  There are souvenirs and a variety of wonderful handmade crafts and artworks, antiques, and food.  Sometimes bands play on the corners, there are performance artists interspersed, and if you stay til the end, there is a tango demonstration and open dance in the square.  Really beautiful and fun, inspiring!  

Recoleta Cemetery is probably best known as the resting place of Eva Peron.  It, too, is very old, filled with mausoleums and statues.  I got some really beautiful photos there.  However, there was lots of juxtaposition there as well.  Some were beautiful and maintained, some had been vandalized.  The cemetery is raising money to try and maintain it.  I guess a big part of my conflicting feelings about Buenos Aires is that I love old architecture and historical things, but much of it seemed to be undervalued and not well kept.  Which could be for any number of legitimate reasons, including a struggling economy.  It was just sad to me.  The other thing about the Cemetery was the cultural difference.  It was so interesting.  In Minnesota at least, we don’t do a lot of mausoleums.  And if we do, they are typically solid stone and things are hidden away with maybe a little flower holder visible.  In Recoleta, it was lots of marble and glass. You could see coffins and shrines inside of the mausoleums.  It creeped me out a lot at first.  And then you would have the vandalized ones and you could literally reach in and touch a coffin.  I am very interested in death rituals.  My mom used to take me to cemeteries as a kid to just look at the old stones and statues.  I enjoyed it.  So this was very different and fascinating.  I loved it!  

The people of Buenos Aires were kind and helpful.  My Spanish is so-so.  Very good for someone who has only taken 2 short community ed classes.  I had 8 years of French, which gave me a leg up.  Still, you can go there without Spanish and probably be ok.  Many people there spoke a little English at least, and with restaurants, shopping, and tourism, there was almost always someone who spoke English.  Still, it was fun to go and try to use my Spanish.  During times when I went out on my own, it was a little nerve racking but I managed.  All of us tried to use our Spanish as much as possible and I would love to continue it.  

I could count the number of people I saw of African descent on two hands, and the majority were in San Telmo.  I was surprised to see how “White” everyone looked there.  Though there were a variety of skin tones and features, the influence of Spain was evident in the phenotype of the majority of the people.  With that, I expected some racism or staring or exoticism or double takes or something.  But nothing.  There were virtually no microaggressions.   A delightful absence.  However, I’m not exactly sure how I appeared to the people.  I’ve been asked by Mexicans a number of times if I’m from Brazil.  Though I don’t feel as racially ambiguous as many Biracial people, I know that when my hair is up you can’t see my tight curls which often signal my Black ancestry.  My skin was darker than most Argentinians, but maybe they thought I was just from another South American country.  The four of us had an interesting conversation about race.  I’m Biracial, one friend is Multiracial (1/4 Jamaican mixed with White, doesn’t look Black but you also know he’s not White), and then 2 White people.  With 3 of us coming from Minnesota, we had a lively discussion about the contrast.  Which gave me a lot of food for thought, but that’s for another post.  

It was a wonderful trip, and I probably would’ve experienced it differently if I were in a different frame of mind.  It was beautiful and there is so much to do and see!  I do recommend it, it’s a pretty great travel destination.  Myself, I have other places I want to see more before I would consider going there again of my own volition.  I’m thankful for the experience, and it’s always nice to get away, get back to myself, hit the reset button, remember what’s important in my life and move forward.  

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