Roxie and I are walking through Palermo on this quiet Sunday morning. We spend 2 hours or more every Sunday walking. It is the one day we always walk together. During the week she is with Juan her paseadoro de los perros. (Dog walker) Now that her health is nearing normal (she has gone from Michael Jackson nose to snotty nose brat)she can walk and play like before.
Usually she picks our route. It is pretty humorous. When we head out of the garage of the building she looks both ways and becomes "dog with a mission." She pulls her leash and me in the direction she wants to go. On rare occasions she lets me decide. Today it is up to Cordoba and down Scalabrini, across and over. While she marvels at the free doggie buffet on the street (of which she is not allowed to chow down at) I marvel at the architecture and really still that we live here.
I always tell my Argentine friends that Buenos AIres is a special place, that there is no where like it. It is not the city for everyone. Like San Francisco it attracts a very transient population. People come here and they fall in love. They want to throw it all away to come live here. I am amazed at how many people decide to live here after a short visit.
The city has an air of mystery, of fun. Of a life that you could have if you lived here. Easy to spin those fantasies. Lots of people come here to run away. They think the city will give them what they don't have where they are from. If you come to this city with a broken heart, most likely you will leave with it.
Wounds heal from within.
In the 2.5 years I have lived here permanently I have seen people come and go. They came with dreams and left. Few stay longer than 2 years. This is not an easy city to live in. Especially if you don't speak the language. No matter how hard you study, it is almost impossible to become fluent in a language at a late age if you don't speak another language. Different customs, laws, and ways of life. Eventually it all takes its toll.
This week I said good bye to two sets of friends. They came under different circumstances. Ken and Helen, fellow bloggers, left today. Ken pointed out that my party was the first party they went to. (New Years) and my birthday on Friday, the last.
Ken is a junior college English professor and Helen is a pharmacist in a hospital. They had barely been out of state, let alone the country. They chose Buenos Aires for their 6 month sabbatical. Neither of them spoke Spanish before they got here. Their only expectations came from what they read and researched on the Internet. This was to be Ken and Helen's Excellent Adventure.
Living here was a major culture shock for them. Ken adapted better than Helen. Watching them was like watching a couple of kids. They were dear. Ken was able to communicate in Spanish after several courses at UBA. Helen, well, is Helen. She was proud the day she stopped them from overcharging her for the bottle deposit in the market. (I told her how to handle it and she did - very well all on her own.)
They found that it was not easy to live somewhere when you cannot communicate. Little things like cuts of meat, finding a doctor, or getting directions can be monumental. On the other hand, being invited to dinner at a complete stranger's home, experiencing new food, new places can be exciting. They ran the whole gamut of emotions.
They had a great blog Un Año Sin Primavera . They started their blog to keep their family, friends, and students in touch with them. The blog was a journal of their life here in Argentina. All of their learning experiences, their daily life. Anyone who wants to see what it is like to live here for a short period should check it out.
Little did they know about the blogging world and how people from all over read blogs. They became the target of a hate mongering Argentine blogger. (It isn't bad enough that this blogger uses her blogs to promote hated against expats living in Argentina - she hypocritically lives in the US!) Ken was not only shocked but hurt by the venomous attacks he received just for writing about his experiences.
When I said good bye to them, I told Ken that I hope one day our paths would cross again. He said most likely when they come back to visit. I asked him if Helen was going to come with him and he said yes. However when I hugged Helen good bye I mentioned to her how much weight she had lost. I added that it was probably all the walking she had done. I was not prepared for the Helen blast I got "I got thin, because I HATE THE FOOD." I guess I sort of laughed and she repeated it "I HATE THE FOOD HERE, THAT IS WHY I GOT THIN." Well OK. I guess. Whatever. I think it was more the walking.
On Saturday I said good bye to Shelly. Shelly is my Canadian friend. She came here the first time for three weeks. She had such a great time that when she got back to Canada, she was suffering. Everyone noticed it. She negotiated a year leave of absence from her job and came back here to try living.
She went to UBA for Spanish. She already spoke French. Her Spanish always cracked me up. She speaks with a French Canadian accent. At times I could not understand her. We always laughed about it. The language was easier for her because she already was fluent in French.
She immersed herself in living here. I really admire her. She has done things I think about. She took cooking and pastry classes. She took wine courses. She loves food. She wants to find a way to live here and earn a living. Food and wine seem to be a natural for her.
But beyond that, even when her language skills were rough she made every effort to blend with the culture. She made lots of friends. She made a life here. We met through a common friend during the summer. We saw each other whenever we could. The both of us were always so busy - me with all my businesses and whatever else I have going, she with all her friends and traveling through Argentina.
We met in January. May seemed so far away. Then it came. She had a party at a restaurant last night. No one was sad. We know she will be back. She knows she will be back. She just needs to figure out what she wants to do. I told her not to worry. It will just happen. When it is the right thing, it always happens easily. I know, I have been there. Before we know it, it will be September and she will be here again.
Thursday I say good bye to Sharon, my Australian sister. I met Sharon through Tango-L. She saw my post about my accident and being bed ridden for 3 months. She emailed me. In fact she emailed me almost every day. We became good friends. She came last year when I was just getting onto crutches. Face to face we realized how parallel our lives had been on opposite sides of the world. (Only she didn't get into a car accident, thank God.)
She stayed for a month, then promised to come back. She did. For 8 months. Where did time go? I wail at her "I can't believe you are leaving me AGAIN!" We laugh about this. She is on an around the world ticket. I plan to go to Australia in January or February. "You´ll see me then." she tells me. "Then I'll come back to Buenos AIres after I make some money."
They come and go. Friends. Living here is an experience, regardless of how long you live here.