The Coolest Thing I’ve Done Recently

“What’s the coolest thing you’ve done recently?” This question plagues my conversations with nearly all of my loved (and liked) ones and every time I am asked this, I rack my brain for anything to satisfy their desire to live vicariously through me. But all that seems to come up is a lot of empanadas, some good drinks with good friends, and the question, “Haven’t you seen my Facebook?! I put a lot of work into fulfilling my role obligated by society as a study abroad student so that everyone knows how cool I am.”

This may not be exactly what I’m supposed to say on a blog about my cultural whirlwhind that is my experience abroad, but the thing is, I haven’t been doing a lot of individually cool things. But like, I feel like my life is still like, really, really cool. Also, you must be new here if you think this is a blog full of things I’m supposed to say on a study abroad blog. Cue maniacal chuckle/tears.

Sure, I can rattle off a bunch of restaurants and coffee shops and dogs we have seen, but when it comes down to it, none of those things are individually all that interesting. This is where I think we are wrong about what we tell those who are about to go abroad. My friend Alli (sup gurl) made the great observation that people romanticize being abroad so much. It’s portrayed as four months of sightseeing and partying. And I suppose for some people, it could very well be just that. But I’ve lived my whole life priding myself on not being “some people”.  

What I’m getting at is that I think there’s something deeper to experience while living abroad: living. Living in a new culture and experiencing on a realistic level how the people of this area of the world actually live, and consequently, view the world. At least, that is my preference. I understand that it’s also natural to do unforgivably touristy things like take pictures of every picturesque street or grab drinks BEFORE dinner, but I came on this trip to experience what it’s like to live here, and LIVE HERE I WILL, dammit.

Inevitably, there is an element of self-discovery in this, which basically means you have to skip class a couple times to cry in your room and eat Alfajors (United States peeps- you’ll get one, cherish it). While these cry sessions are not usually welcome, there’s really no way to prevent them. At some point in the day you can just feel it creep up on you and, just like in the Dane Cook sketch, you know that as soon as you get home and are left alone, it’s going to happen. I normally stop by the store on my way home to grab some Oreos, because my addition to the quote “a wise man is never cold twice” is “a wise woman never cries without Oreos twice”.

The goal is to come away from these with one more small slice of understanding who you are and what makes you tick. And mine are normally followed by a cold shower and a promise that I won’t eat any more of your Alfajors followed by a step on the scale, which makes me feel much less fat because there are roughly 2.2 pounds to every kilogram, so I get to pretend I’m under 100 lbs here. It’s kinda fun.

During these cry sessions, you normally send some irrationally angsty texts about how stupid this place is and how you can’t wait to come back. And then your friends say all the wrong things like “You need to enjoy this experience while you can!” and you resent them for a minute for not understanding your super cool but still super hard life. I know, nobody understands you, right?

But then comes the realization that if the roles were reversed, you would probably say the same things. Living abroad is an incredibly unique experience and really, the only people who can relate are the people who have done it before.

Here is where you fit in. You are one of the lucky few who has the privilege to lose yourself enough to find yourself. Nobody ever develops a great relationship with himself by being 100% happy and 100% comfortable 100% of the time. These have not been the best months of my life. These have not been the hardest months of my life. However, they have arguably been the most important when taking into consideration the sheer amount of understanding I have gained. Understanding of myself and of the world around me, which I was only able to gain by first trying to understand others.

There’s a quote that is way too overused in DIY projects of painting globes on Pinterest that says, “If you travel far enough, you’ll eventually meet yourself.”  While I’m normally not a proponent of anything that anyone wants to paint on this beautiful world we live in, I really like this quote. That is, to lose enough familiarity that you are forced to become familiar with the only thing you have left: yourself. So I suppose THAT’S the coolest thing I’ve done recently.

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Sorry, dignity.

 

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Sup guys? Yep, I’ve finally mustered up the willpower to compose myself enough to inform everyone of my oh-so-wonderful life in Buenos Aires.

Let me start by saying that I had empanadas three times in my first 48 hours in this country. I’m not mad about it.

I’m not gonna lie, guys. I have no idea what this picture is in front of or what cultural or historical implications it has, but it’s a picture of the group of students who are here with me. That’s all I got.

Moving on, the empanadas have been the highlight of my experience thus far. I know this is where I’m supposed to say that I am loving every second of it and I’m supposed to allude to my late-night experiences which are supposed to contain absurd amounts of alcohol and losing my iPhone and getting lost in the streets of this strange new place, and it pains me to be such a disappointment in this category. Maybe check back in a couple of weeks, but for now, I’ve been alternating between feeling like I finally know what’s going on and wanting to crawl into fetal position and listen to Taylor Swift on repeat. Dan Savage put it best: It gets better. Sure, I’m not LGBTQ, but it’s easier to identify with people who must feel so foreign in a straight white man’s world when you’re a gringa in a straight tan man’s world.

The thing most people seem to forget about trips like these is that the first week is never fun. Orientation, getting lost, culture shock, and trying to compose a sentence in Spanish while avoiding contact with the man making cat calls from across the way are not exactly my idea of “fun,” just to clarify we’re all on the same page here. That’s been my agenda for the week. We did go out once as a group, and I had two drinks. Count ’em: one. two. Very good. What can I say, I’m a little loca.

Buenos Aires is nothing like I expected it to be, but it is amazing nonetheless. Picture if NYC and Rome had a baby. (Only picture the baby, not the lovemaking, you sickos). That’s Buenos Aires. Big-city feel, tall buildings, lots of traffic and lights with oddly placed historic buildings with amazing architecture and incredible stories behind them. Rickety cobblestone streets, lots of kioscos selling candy, flowers, and magazines, and an incredible public transportation system. At any given time, you can see like five buses in a one-block radius. Pretty much the greatest thing ever.

The city is incredible, the coffee and empanadas are great, and my host mom is everything I could have wanted and more. Super sweet, funny, and hospitable. Yesterday we had housing orientation where we learned the customs of the houses and what is considered socially unacceptable, and many of the students were asking questions like “Why is there no hot water? Why did she leave me half a rotten banana for breakfast? What do I do with my hair in the morning? Do I carry my high school diploma around with me?” I can’t help but feel guilty while sitting in my hot bubble bath with wifi, empanadas, and perfect hair. (I haven’t yet gotten my diploma laminated, so that has to stay out for now). Seriously though, Cristina is great. She’s very patient with my mediocre Spanish and has helped me in so many ways. I still haven’t learned how to say “host mom” in Spanish, so I simply refer to her as my madre en Argentina, which tends to confuse many people whose parents apparently have enough money to fly to Argentina on a whim.

Only complaint I have is that there’s not a mirror in my room, so I have to use my laptop as a mirror. Basically, I look like I’m Skyping myself every time I do my makeup. “Hey Miranda, what’s up?” “Not much, just doing my makeup. What about you, Miranda?” Casual.

Anyway, enough about me.

Just kidding. More about me.

One thing that is kind of soul-crushing is the amount of skepticism I’ve been taught to have during my stay. About 75% of the orientation has been reserved to inform us of people here who want nothing more than to steal our innocence, our lives, and most importantly, our money. (What? We all have priorities in this world…) I haven’t yet witnessed the things they’re talking about; the people of Argentina seem perfectly decent to me. But the astonishing lack of eye contact is a little bothersome for someone who loves nothing more than to peer into the souls of those with whom I’m speaking. I’ll get over it, but expect lots of intense eye contact the second I’m back on (North) American soil.

So, friends. That concludes today’s public service announcement. I’ll try to post more regularly. Kidding, I totally won’t. I’m busy, dudes.

Que tengan un buen día.

P.S. I haven’t really taken a hot bubble bath, but I’m sure I could if I wanted to.

P.P.S. My obsession with John Mayer is only worsening with each passing day. Sorry, Taylor. Sorry, dignity.