The Return

<from September 2014>

I feel like I’m on my third or fourth life of this dream as I’m arriving back in Argentina once again to make a go at writing my book here. Each time I’ve been able to come back I’ve learned so much in the process and have had new challenges and surprises awaiting me…what will it be this time?

I walk out of the airport to find my friend Jose waiting there for me with a cab and it feels more like home every time I come back. We talk excitedly, firing questions back and forth, filling each other in on what’s been going on in our lives lately. We’ve both been navigating a transition from Corporate America to trying to start new careers around our passions. I have this satisfied feeling in me, a deep longing has been quenched, to be back to my passion project.

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Carolina, Jose’s roommate, practically knocks me over with a hug and smiles and I feel a connection as if we’ve already had the inspiring conversations we proceed to have over the next week, the three of us holed up in the tiny kitchen, sitting on the counters, passing around maté and sharing stories and ideas about living a meaningful life. It feels good, no, priceless to have a tiny community of like-minded people to interact with and exchange support.

I quickly get to know the people at the fruit and vegetable shop around the corner and can never resist going into the bakery next door to get some hot chipá (little balls of chewy cheesy bread, made from tapioca flour and naturally gluten free). I love shopping for food in this way, each little shop specializing in their one thing; the conversations and relationships formed with the locals; everything whole, fresh, in season and homemade.

We turned the living room into a board room (a very cute boardroom), having brainstorming sessions and building websites. The brainstorming…I love, ping ponging questions and ideas back and forth and I’m reminded of my skill set and the parts of consulting that I loved. It feels so energizing to generate ideas and get creative, to help someone get clearer on their vision and be one step closer to manifesting it. The hardest part of building a personal business for me though is the business and technology part…hoping the challenge and frustrations will pay off if I can stick to it. Pretty soon my 5 year old nephew will likely be better at this than I am.

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We take a break to meet up with Lucho and head over to the feria de matadores…a traditional market where you are a minority as a tourist. I stand out with my blond hair and light skin, but I feel at home with the melodic castellano being spoken around me, the scents of choripan (a chorizo sausage and chimichurri sandwich) and locals strolling around the art stalls with their thermos of agua caliente (hot water) tucked under their arms.

We follow the crowds to the main stage where folkloric music is being played and everyone is dancing. Couples are circling each other, hands in the air, snapping their fingers to the rhythm of the music. Lucho and I try to join in which provides a great laugh to each other and everyone around us as we do.

photo credit - Jose Gastaldi
photo credit – Jose Gastaldi

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I get waves of feeling like we had been at the market a while, feeling it is surely time to leave, until I’m reminded of a quality I love about Argentina…busy-ness and rushing about just isn’t glorified in the least. It is the exact opposite. We won’t eat dinner till midnight anyway, we have loads of time. We end up staying for hours watching as the dance progressed to one where they twirl scarves about and caress each other with them.

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I stand there watching and smiling and feeling in my whole body that it was the right decision to come back to Argentina. It just feels so right to be here and I feel energized and motivated to accomplish what I came here to do.

**If you enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation that will go directly towards helping me finish writing and publishing my book. Also, check out my website for writing, photography and transformation practices. Muchas gracias!**

Español and Cultural Musings

These posts are the most fun because there are endless stories of botched translations and trying to navigate a new culture.

One thing about traveling alone is that it naturally lends to being approached by locals, which is always an opportunity to practice Spanish. The unfortunate thing about this is that when I met a family with an adorable 5 year old kid, I realized that my level of Spanish is not even close to that of a 5 year old yet. The family was lovely though, and practiced with me for a while. Only the dad spoke some English. I told them what I am doing in Argentina, and they were very excited for me.

In my broken Spanish I said, “Quiero vivir en Argentina. Estoy buscando para un lugar a vivir y trabajar.” (I hope that says, “I want to live in Argentina. I am looking for a place to live and work.”

The Dad: “Bueno, bueno. Tienes un novio?” (Do you have a boyfriend?)

Me: “Well, I am looking for that too.”

(only kidding Dad (if you’re reading this), I didn’t even know they had men in Argentina! ;))

They all laughed and then pointed at the brother hiking with them at which point I made my exit.

So yes, my Spanish still needs a lot of work, but I ask questions a lot and I practice everyday. Sometimes in asking an innocent language question, you’re a bit vulnerable.

Example: I asked my hostel owner in Chile how to say, “I’m excited” as in, “I’m excited to go on this trek!” He told me to say, “Estoy excitada” and then proceeded to die laughing at me when I said exactly that. It turns out that he had told me how to say the equivalent of “I’m sexually excited to go on this trek!” So note to Spanish learners out there, ‘excited’ is a word that is lost in translation.

Sometimes I just make the effort myself; confidence being the biggest asset I think you can have in learning a language. It doesn’t always work out, like at the grocery store when intending to say, “Do you accept dólares?” I instead asked if they accept “dolores”…basically asking if I could pay with pain. “Can I punch you in the face for these groceries instead of paying with dollars?” oops! Luckily she thought it was funny too.

Let’s talk hairstyles. The rat tail lives on in Argentina, enough to even call it popular. This isn’t to be outdone with the dred/rat tail mullet combo though. I apologize for not having pictures of this yet; I’m just still in too much awe that people are doing this to their hair on purpose to remember to take a picture.

And buses? It’s a pretty unbearable scenario for efficiency driven Norte Americanos. Many towns don’t actually have a bus station. They have bus shops while the stops are scattered about town. Any corner or shop front might be a “stop”. Some bigger cities, think Buenos Aires, have bus stations. What a treat! Once in the bus station you will notice that there are approximately 50 bus companies, each selling different priced tickets at different times to a mix of places. So while you are going from window to window to see if a company is even going to where you want to go and at a desired time, the exact bus you want is leaving. You read that right, there is no single place in the station that indicates which company has a bus leaving for a location and at what time. You might wait 10 minutes in line to find out that company doesn’t even go to where you want to go.

Camping, my love. There have been a lot of comments here about how rigid Norte Americanos are in regards to camping…so prepared and geared up and strict in our national parks. Whereas here they pack up a bunch of unrefrigerated meat to somehow haul up the mountain for a big asado. The outcome is amazing, but there is a level of casualness that makes me get a visual of someone just throwing some steaks into their backpacks and hoping someone else has brought a knife. Forks? naaahhh. In related news, you’re told to try to smoke sitting down and not while hiking…ya know, to prevent forest fires. For those of us all too familiar with the wild fires in Colorado and the thinness of air, there are so many things wrong with that sentence!

In all reality, Argentina feels so familiar to me, moreso than other countries I have visited. I can tell I am in a different place and there is enough unknown in the language alone where I am getting rich experiences and learning a lot. The familiarity is mostly in landscape and weather. It does challenge me to seek out the differences and learn from them or have a good laugh though, and hopefully I’ve shared some of that here.