We’re back on the gorgeous California coast. We had planned to stay eight weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but we were restless, homesick and starting to snap at each other. This is not our style.
I believe that if we’re not having a good time it’s our own fault and we should fix it as soon as possible. This rule applies to many situations, from evacuating when we’re ready to leave a place to quitting books that have failed to hold our interest. We haven’t time to waste. Of course, shallowness is an optional explanation of our actions.
In this case, the truth is that I needed a good haircut and color and both of us were ready to burn our clothes, which we had come to loathe after wearing them in every combination imaginable for five months. More in subsequent posts about how our packing philosophy has changed. We had visited all the sites of Buenos Aires we cared to see – twice. It was time to go.
Continental Airlines was surprisingly cooperative, so we did not squander the children’s inheritance on flight-changing fees. Our pal Kaye, who lives in Los Angeles, put up with our jet-lagged dullness for a couple of days and we caught a train home. Our family offered shelter until we could move into our rented house, and we swooped into town and chopped, sauteed and laughed our way through a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. We are lucky people.
The learning curve in Argentina was steep, but the experience will help us in our future adventures. We understand now that tourists have an entirely different experience from travelers who choose to live like locals. In Puerto Madero or Recoleta, two upscale neighborhoods where there are big brand hotels, expensive restaurants, and a plethora of world-famous attractions to visit, tourists are treated with friendly deference. Many employees speak English, and service to foreigners is a priority. We were comfortable and relaxed there in what felt like familiar territory. Of course the prices matched the atmosphere.
In our neighborhood, Palermo, which was also upscale but contained fewer points of interest and jazzy hotels, most people were unwilling or unable to speak English. My very limited Mexican Spanish wasn’t very helpful. See Speaking Spantalian, about this topic.
Tending to the necessities of daily life like grocery and drugstore shopping, laundry, entertainment and transportation were challenging because of the difficulty in communication and the locals didn’t appear to be very interested in our comfort and well-being in the first place!
Upon reflection, it became clear to us that while our neighbors seemed harsh, the fact is that they were simply going about their business and their business was not pandering to tourists.
After several weeks we established a nodding acquaintance with shopkeepers, the laundry ladies across the street, waiters at our favorite spots, the manicurist and beautician around the corner and other denizens of our ‘hood because they saw us regularly. I’m pretty sure that if we had become permanent residents we would eventually have been accepted. We’re interested to see if we encounter the same situation in other cities like Paris, Istanbul or Marrakech. We don’t yet know if the indifference we perceived is peculiar to Argentina or if our expectations were unrealistic.
We had many memorable days in Buenos Aires and colliding with the unexpected nature of the Porteños did not dampen our appreciation for their beautiful city. Every day brought unexpected pleasures and new experiences. Here’s a sample of things we enjoyed:
Teatro Colón, one of the five greatest
opera houses in the world. We saw Magnon, which has been transformed into ballet. The opera house was the star. Brilliant!
Living in Buenos Aires confirmed the notion that traveling always presents unexpected opportunities for growth and an expanded world view. The experience tested our flexibility, endurance and our relationship. We came away stronger, wiser and more deeply bonded than ever. I’d call that a pretty good first lap on our home free world tour!
We didn’t burn our clothes, but we’ve certainly thought about sending them along to live in someone else’s closet. They are now tucked away in our storage unit awaiting their destiny. I hope we’ll find them appealing again in a few months, but I seriously doubt that many will make the cut for our seven-month trip in 2012.