Having been here for about a month now, I’ve had time for it to really sink in: I’m actually here, in Buenos Aires. After so much anticipation and the overwhelming excitement of arrival, I’m left with a jumble of thoughts and emotions that have finally surfaced now that I’ve had time to process a bit. Yes, I’m having the time of my life going out to boliches (clubs) and dancing all night, shopping way too much and enjoying all sorts of delicious food. However, I’m realizing that a fourth of my time here has already slipped by and I’m starting to reevaluate how I should be spending it.
Before I came, I imagined myself speaking fluent Spanish, blending in with the Porteños and laughing with a group of Argentine friends who I adored and would really miss when it came time to leave. However, I’ve yet to accomplish any of these things and have been traipsing about with Americans every day. Meeting Argentines my age is a lot more difficult than I anticipated and I’m starting to worry that I’ll leave after only having experienced the city on a superficial, touristy level.
One obstacle is that though I’ve shed the map, camera and overwhelmed expression, I will never stop looking like a foreigner. And thus, people treat me like one. Walking down the street, I encounter a symphony of catcalls and every time I go into a store the male employees circle around me, asking me where I’m from and throwing me compliments and phone numbers. Being American is unfortunately very desirable here. The other day, I realized what an effect this has had on me. I’ve shut myself off from strangers, ignoring all attempts at conversation and avoiding eye contact with anyone male. The way guys treat me really bothered me, and instead of trying to get used to it, I tried to block it out. I didn’t realize how cold I’d become till one of my guy friends tapped my shoulder and I turned away with an annoyed expression, assuming he was another unwanted predator.
I realized that I’m not going to make any Argentine friends if I refuse to talk to anyone. Sure they may come on a little strong, but that’s just the culture here and I came here to learn a new way of life, right? In the last few days, I’ve been trying to be open to the people that approach me on the street, answering their questions about where I’m from and inquiring about their lives as well. Sure, I’ve encountered a few awkward situations and more than a few creepers, but I’m hoping random conversations may lead to meeting something interesting. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a new friend — wish me luck!