Sunday, June 27, 2010

The End of Freshman Year

One year ago today, I arrived in Buenos Aires for the first time. I remember how the cab driver gave me his own personal city tour as he drove me to the house where I would live for my first month here. I remember sitting in the car and thinking "now I'm struggling to remember all these names, but soon these places will all be familiar to me"... and now they are. This anniversary has gotten me thinking a lot about the concept of "home". Where is MY home? Is "home" the place where you're from, or the place where you live? How long do you have to live in a place before it becomes your "home" and your old home becomes the place you used to live?

They say that after college is when your "real, grown up" life begins. With the exception of the 3 weeks immediately proceeding my college graduation where I went to the beach with my high school friends and spent my time tanning and binge drinking (not super grown-up activities) I have lived my entire "real life" here, as a foreigner in a country that is not my own. This is the place where I have "grown up" and first done all of those things that grown-ups do; work a full-time job (not just for the summer), pay rent, bitch about the state of the economy. Its been wonderful! Don't get me wrong, I love my life here, and wouldn't trade it for anything. But, like many expats, I feel like I have the Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go" on constant repeat in my head.

This weekend has been kind of an intense weekend to complete one year here. Friday night we had a "despedida" or goodbye party, for one of my friends who I've known almost the entire time I've been here. It really got me thinking about a lot of the issues involved in "growing up expat". To start with, most of my relationships with my friends, not to mention my relationship with my boyfriend take place in a language that is not my mother tongue. I keep in touch with my friends and family "back home" via Skype. I try to be responsible and save money, but then I can't put it in a bank account because I'm illegal here. I've made amazing friends here, but they're pretty much all expats themselves (from different countries around the world), and most of them will eventually leave. On one hand, it can be hard being a more "permanent foreigner", but on the other hand, I wonder if I, myself, could really leave. Could I learn to be a grown-up somewhere else, in some other way? I was initially only planning on staying in BA for one year -- a number which has now doubled, and even that seems too short to me. At the despedida, I had a long conversation with one of my friends who is also in a mixed-nationality expat couple. It was interesting because I discovered that they consider the same problems we do. If they move, where do they go? His country? Hers? A completely new place? Should they trade off a few years here, a few there? What's fair?

While this anniversary brought up a lot of questions that I don't yet have answers to, I do know one thing for sure -- I LOVE my life here. Even after my honeymoon period with Argentina has worn off, I still think to myself "I'm so lucky to live here" at least a few times a week. I can't imagine living my "real life" anywhere else... for now.


  1. i felt the exact same way a year after being in colombia, but now im actually at a point where i can live my grown up life somewhere else. you couldnt predict your life now a year ago, and you cant predict your life in a year now. just enjoy the ride, eat plenty of food, and appreciate the fact that you are able to say "i LOVE my life here", because lets face it, many people never get the opportunity to say that even once in their lives.

  2. Rachel, this post was so weird for me to read. Your feelings about not being able to imagine your real life anywhere else were my feelings when I left Buenos Aires on that fateful day in February. Now, fiveish months later, its really easy for me to imagine living else where (Philly in particular). Living life outside of South America at one point was unimaginable and now I'm realizing it might be really nice to have a bank account that gets filled with direct deposit every two weeks, to live in a clean, safe city, and to live close enough to my parents so that I can see them every weekend. Now, its up to me to make sure I can bring the things I love about BA with me, I guess.
    Anyway, I loved the post, and I never had a south american boyfriend which is where things differ for us, but I love how BA swallows you up and wraps its tendrils around you and how hard it is to free yourself from its loving grasp. Oh Buenos Aires...te extrano...

  3. An answer to your question: Home is where you make it!! One thing that is great about humans is that we are so adaptable--we can figure out how to live just about anywhere, and make the best of it. You have no doubt made the best of being in South America, and I think it's great that if you do decide to leave, you can leave without many (if any!) regrets. There are always tough questions you have to deal with when it comes to big life decisions, but whatever decision you make will be the right one, because you will MAKE it the right one.

    Also -- I was near Corvallis briefly this past weekend and I should just say, it's beautiful up there in Oregon wine country and just a short drive from amazing coastline! :)

  4. Interesting question. I always think of my home as my comfortable place. Kind of like my bed. Other beds can be comfy for a week or two but getting back in my "own" bed always feels so good. Home is the place that makes me say "Oh I am so glad to be back home". Home is where your heart is! Or so they say.