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.