Monday, May 16, 2011

Time to Go

I’ve prepared my backpack, the apartment is tidy, and the sheets are in the wash. My hours in Buenos Aires are numbered--12 to be exact. Waiting for the landlady to check out the apartment and return the security deposit, I am taking stock of my belonging, checking the closets and medicine cabinets for nearly-forgotten objects. 
Despite packing conservatively for the trip, only what could fit in one backpack. I am surprised to find items that I forgot I had even brought. Goggles, ripped jeans, shoes that rub too much--all superfluous to my daily activities. Conversely, there are articles that I overused and would prefer never to see again. The seat of my green corduroys is threadbare and friends who saw me regularly could have bet with favorable odds as to what I would wear. 
Marisa and I in Puerto Madero
Due to a tight budget, I am returning with a bag that is physically lighter than when I left. (My treadless sneakers got tossed, as did the jeans.) The true souvenirs of this trip won’t adorn a coffee table or be framed on the wall. I am going home with an experience more real than any tangible object. In Buenos Aires, and perhaps any large city, ugliness, violence, pollution, and poverty exist alongside passion, friendship, dignity and kindness. I have seen a mob of men threatening pedestrians as they rode to a fútbol game along with men hugging and singing to one another on the street. Armed robbers stealing and impoverished families picking through the garbage. Regular people who were unwilling to intervene when I was in need and ones who opened up their homes and hearts. I am leaving with my Spanish much improved and deep gratitude for those Porteños and fellow tourists whose friendship has made it all worthwhile. Above all, a special thank you to Marisa for being my best companion and support. It's been an adventure!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I woke up to powerful wind blowing through the courtyard. A thick layer of grey clouds hung low and refused to move. My stomach rumbled. I have been fighting a digestive bug that makes it impossible to keep food in my system. Food in equals food out. In the bathroom I discovered that I had managed to use up three rolls of toilet paper over the past three days and that the paper supply was running dangerously low. I zipped on my hoodie and left the apartment to pick up more paper at the grocer five doors down. 
Out on the street, I immediately sensed that something was off. The streets were too  quiet. Where were the people smoking cigarettes on the stoops or the old ladies chatting about discounts as they returned from the supermarket? Where were the taxis rudely edging forward to cut one another off? The stores remained dark, their gates padlocked to the ground. Even the grocer was barred with no explanation as to where everyone was or when they would be back.
I pulled up my hood, stuffed my hands into my pockets and walked back home sifting coins between my fingers. After a quick search on Google, I read that today Buenos Aires celebrates the Día del Trabajador--the Day of the Worker. This makes the sixth national holiday over the past few months. Just last weekend, Argentinians took a four day weekend for Easter. The country supposedly voted last year in favor of the creation of more national holidays, so this year was the first time several were ever observed. I can appreciate the sentiment behind these days off, but as a visitor without a job these holidays are no cause for celebration. 
The Day of the Worker has put me in a foul mood. To be clear, I have nothing against workers getting a break and I do feel that it is unfortunate that their day off is actually a Sunday. My bitterness is not directed at any worker, but rather at my own inability to find good consistent work myself. I am tired of being underemployed or unemployed. I want to work and today I feel frustrated. Tomorrow won’t be a holiday anymore and I will probably feel a bit better.