Let me tell you about Buenos Aires (almost there).
Thursday. I stayed up late last night watching a movie for my Universidad de Buenos Aires Argentine history class – we’re meeting with our tutor at 10:30, and I want to be prepared. My alarm goes off at 8:25, 8:30, 8:35 – I check the weather, doze back off, jerk awake with a start and rush to get ready. I wake up, as always, to notifications on my phone of all sorts, but the one that catches my eye is Strahan’s new single on Spotify, and I blast it in the empty apartment while I finish getting ready and have it blaring in my ears as I dash out the door. I’m tapping my foot impatiently at the bus stop, sube card in hand, when my phone lights up again with a message in our group text – “Tutoring cancelled!”
With time to spare before my second class of the day, I decide to go home and put a little more effort into my appearance, since I’d basically just thrown clothes and a little mascara on before. As I’m straightening my hair, I listen to a Matt Chandler sermon on prayer, and how our engagement in prayer – or lack thereof – reflects what we believe about prayer – do we really believe that God hears us, and that He wants us to be in dialogue with Him? All this in mind, I headed out to a cafe I keep passing that I’ve wanted to visit. It just opened this year, and it looks super hip – coordinating decor, doodles of coffee cups painted on the walls. I take a seat in the corner booth, with burlap throw pillows, and smile to myself as I look around at my fellow patrons, most of whom are retirees! They’re also all clearly regulars – they make jokes with the waiter as he brings them the daily paper and their coffee and call him by name. I order their desayuno clasico – classic breakfast – cafe con leche and dos medialunas. I sit there and sip my coffee and think about the fact that three months ago, I would have been petrified of walking into a random cafe on my own and ordering in Spanish. Today, it didn’t even faze me. I let that rattle around in my brain for a little while. I tear into a medialuna, wipe my sticky fingers on a napkin, then I start writing – slowly but surely, I’m compiling a list of places I’ve been, things that I’ve done, and things I’m grateful for in my time here. I pray, and I’m grateful from my head to my toes for everything I’ve done and seen so far, and for all the stories I can tell from the three short months I’ve been here. And I ask God to give me eyes to see the blank spots on the list, and I do. Laying it all out on paper helps me see where I still haven’t been – the Evita Museum, La Boca – and what I’d still like to do. I check my watch and catch the waiter’s eye – he brings over la cuenta, I hand him a 100 peso bill and he hands me my change. I leave the tip on the table, zip up my coat, and step out into the sunshine.
In class this afternoon, we’re finishing up our unit on peronismo – the sociopolitical movement led by Juan Peron that began in the 1940s and continues to influence Argentine policy and the public today. I’ve studied US History for as long as I can remember, and I love how there is always a new piece of time or space to dive into, but I can’t help but also love taking a break from that and learning the bare bones of a history I’ve never known or experienced before in a completely different part of the world, and digging into the details and processes that made the country what it is today.
After class gets out early, my friend Miranda and I decide to wander around until we find a cafe we like to do a little work. In just about any cafe or restaurant in the city, you can get a pretty decent and cheap cup of cafe con leche, so we stop at a little restaurant on Cordoba and order. But instead of writing, we start talking about travel plans before the end of the semester, and in a matter of minutes, I’ve got out my laptop comparing bus prices and Miranda is looking up travel guides on her phone and we’re planning a weekend trip to Mendoza. We laugh and chatter and catch up on the week for an hour or two, and then we wave to the waiter for the bill. As we leave, Miranda notes that even though we started speaking in English once we got there, he spoke to us in Spanish like we weren’t any different from anyone else. Maybe we don’t stand out as much as we think we do! Or maybe he was just a really nice waiter, but either way, it’s a good feeling.
I walk home at twilight and I watch the last few strands of sunlight sink between the buildings. I don’t have to take the busy main road anymore: I know how to get home on all the little side streets, where it’s less crowded. There’s more space to walk, and more space for my thoughts. I have my headphones in, as always, and I’m listening to “You Are In Love” by TSwift. I didn’t learn to love this song until last summer in Springfield, when I realized you could fall in love with a place and the people in it and the memories made just as easily as you can fall into a new relationship. I’ve lived a lot of places, I’ve left traces where I’ve walked and in turn I carry them with me whenever I go somewhere new. I turn left without really thinking about it, step out of the way of a lady with a stroller, glance up at the sky and realize that I’ve fallen in love with this place, that I love feeling like I know the language well enough to be confident in it, that I know myself well enough to stand on my own, that I know the people that I do and have been the places that I have. I’m in love with Buenos Aires just like I was with Springfield, and just like I am with home. That makes the month and a half remaining a little more bittersweet, but it means also that I’ve done what I came here to do, and that makes me smile.
I’ve spent my evening relaxing. My host parents order pizza for a quick dinner, as Boca Juniors – my host dad’s team – is playing in the copa latinamerica tonight (I think?). My host mom’s team is their rival, River, who didn’t make the tournament, so we eat our pizza and chat about the movie I had to watch for my history class and plans for the weekend while he’s engrossed in the game. He yells whenever they score a goal; my host mom rolls her eyes, but I assure her my own dad does the same thing at home when he’s watching his team play. She says I look a little tired: I probably am. But I didn’t have plans tonight and it only took “8-peso movie” for Miranda to talk me into coming to the cine with her and a few other friends. It starts at 11:30, still pretty early by argentiempo, and now I can add “seeing a movie in Spanish” to my list, so sleep will just have to wait!
It’s the ordinary debris of today, but the simple fact that I have a routine, that out of the millions of people in this city, I’m carving a path through each day along its streets just like everyone else, makes it worth recording.