abril 20, 2004

More News from Argentina

Hola, todos –

The halfway point of this trip, like any other landmark, puts me to thinking about bigger questions, profound ideas: namely, I don’t want to come back to the US. Not only do I feel more at home here in my apartment but walking around town. The guy with the wine store waves at me every time I’m walking to class, I have a flower guy (not a good flower guy, but he is my flower guy), a regular newspaper stand halfway to the university, the Ukrainian kid who runs the produce market knows me and Randy by sight. Really I’m finding almost everyone knows me by sight: I went to La Boca this weekend, where I hadn’t been in more than a month. While I was there to see an art opening I stopped in to buy a t-shirt I looked at last time. The girl said, “oh, you came back for the t-shirt—it was this one.” This could either be very flattering, or very, very bad. Yes, there are other palefaces here (some even natives) but am I really that impressively, unforgettably ghost-like?

But now it takes people I meet on the street several minutes of conversation for them to guess I’m foreign (less for Randy but still they don’t always get it right away); they don’t even really ask if I’m a tourist anymore. So I live here now, but knowing it’s temporary, not in any weird philosophical this-life-is-a-façade way, but having a plane ticket that tells me it all ends August 3rd, is unsettling. I have, as many of you have pointed out, an insurmountable nesting urge so the walls are getting covered with art; I’m starting to want things like furniture, nay, even apartments. You can get a beautiful, jaw-dropping apartment in one of the less wealthy neighborhoods for US$50k. Not shabby since this week I read the average price in Manhattan is over $1million. I don’t love everything here. For example, going to the bank is like chewing rocks. Every time I go they have charged me unexpected fees or failed in some simple task. Most recently it was ordering a second ATM card for Randy, which compounds both of the aforementioned consequences of going to the bank because, unbeknownst to me, they charge you 3 pesos every time you use the window (this is more than a dollar)! The utter lack of communication on the part of most Argentines is maddening, as is the comparably astronomical rent we pay as foreigners. But where in Tennessee of all places could I take a latin rhythms aerobics class with impressive booty-shaking by all the members of the class? Well, to clarify, not all members: my gringa friend Kayla and I had to have special instruction from the oh-so-wiggly male instructor (not flattering; if I weren’t already pink from sweat, I would’ve turned it). And we still go to the artisan fairs/swap meets every weekend where there are concerts rivaling for attention all day. Last week the city’s book fair started which is a huge convention center affair that lasts a month and is *free* to university students, making the illusion of saving money so easy when buying mounds of books I justify because they are either 1) a good deal or 2) things the US just doesn’t get, ie postcards from Cuba and cartoons mocking Bush in Spanish. Cities are nice. I order delivery several times a week. Sometimes it comes in the form of mouthwatering steaks and beef ribs, sometimes fresh rotisserie chickens, sometimes devilishly fried empanadas. Not usually pizza because I’m addicted to a place within a block of the apartment and have a waitress I like.

My goal for this weekend is to attend a fútbol game, but sadly have less than a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing Boca vs. River next weekend (amplify UT vs. Florida by possibly a hundred times). Instead I’m gonna flee to the countryside to a national park called El Palmar, which is a huge area of palm savannahs dotted with scrubby forests. Countrysides are nice, too. And cheap buses with leather reclining seats.

Well, I hope all’s well in all your parts of the world—I’d love to hear from you (love even more to see you in my part of the world).