"When are you going to return to your country?" "How does it feel to be home again?" The first question usually comes from Argentines. The second when I hit the USA. Home is where the heart is. For me, home is Buenos Aires, Argentina. I made that decision more than 12 years ago. I live in Argentina because I like it. I think in many ways I have a better life. Besides, Los Demonios, Maxi and JerryBrown were born there.
Coming back to the USA is always a mixture of emotions. At first it is great. The technology. Every time I come, more things are automated. I am a technology junkie so I love to experience new innovations. Although not all are so great. Like phone trees. Calling Federal Express is worse than calling customer service in Argentina, where you get a live person who yells at you. I get to drive. I don't drive in Argentina. Then again, I miss walking when I am here. Nobody walks in the USA. I always park my car at the very end of the lot to get some exercise. The stores are amazing. There is so much to look at. Then reality sets in. The US is boring. Seriously. Although everywhere is probably boring after living in Buenos Aires.
Yesterday I was in Whole Foods. I was looking at the xanthan and guar gum. (You need to use this for gluten free baking.) A man asks me "Is it OK to eat cornstarch?" I turn around "Yeah, sure why not? It doesn't have gluten in it." He responds, "But what about the GMO factor?" My Argentine self comes out "Well I live in Argentina. I don't really care about all that. I mean it seems to me that people here are afraid of their food. Yeah, I know, I know. But you know what? You are going to die, so you might as well enjoy your food." He looks at me like I am a little crazy. "Humm, sorry." I say to him. He laughs, "You know what? You are so right." He throws a box of cornstarch into his basket.
Here the dichotomy, at least to me. In the US the message seems to be about death rather than life. There are so many messages about "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IF......" Just fill in the blanks - GMO, non-organic, gluten, sugar, If people eat so healthy, then why are they so fat? That is another issue. American junk food is the best (worst) in the world. I stand in front of the "snack" aisle. It is amazing. Rows and rows of junk. Gluten free junk.
Food is one part of the equation. Then there are those horrible child proof caps. Trying to open a bottle of pepto bismol (I love that stuff) is an exercise for your hands. In Argentina we don't have child proof caps and kids never seem to die. Our medications do not come in bottles, they come in blister packs in boxes. If kids were dying from ingesting meds, believe me it would be on the news. Argentine news is like the National Enquirer 24 hours a day.
Last night I watched TV with my friends. The commercials!! OHMYGAWD!! Pills for everything. Those commercials should be outlawed. In Argentina the drug companies are not allowed to advertise. This is a good thing. Although, yes there is corruption in another way. The doctors demand perks from the laboratories or they won't prescribe their brand. The positive is by law they have to put the generic on the prescription so you have a choice in brands and prices. If I watched TV here in the US, I would be constantly worried about what problem I may or may not have. Now I know why my American friends take so many pills and are obsessed with their health.
The last thing really frosts me. It is not that I am ashamed of my age, but it is a number even I don't believe. I cannot believe that my peers refer to themselves as "seniors" or in articles as "the elderly." People talk about "retirement homes" and "assisted living." I realize we are in the "third age" but I am not dead yet, nor am I close. The marketing targeted at my generation "the baby boomers" is disgusting. It is a constant barrage. I think that if you live here you do not even notice it, it is a subliminal message. "Do you pee in the middle of the night?" (something natural) There is a pill for that showing gray haired people. "Do your bones ache?" There is a pill for that...showing a baby boomer with a grandchild. Hello, exercise works wonders.
The worst or maybe not the worst, is that at 9:00 pm the only thing to do is watch TV. No movies, no theater, no restaurants. Everything closes. That, and you need a car to get there. In Buenos Aires, I can walk out my door any time of day or night and there is something to do. Here everything is programmed..in advance. Spontaneous is not a part of the language.
Is Buenos Aires a perfect place? Far from it. The pollution from the buses. The corruption. The crazy governments. However, the message is different. The message is to live now for this moment. Enjoy your life. You only have this moment now so make the most of it. I love our food. Maybe we don't have Thai, or Malaysian or Greek that is good, but the food is fresh. I learned that a meal is to be enjoyed with friends. Not to sit and critique, eat. and go. I love it when a big group of us go to a restaurant or share food in someone's house. The concept of "sobre mesa" is wonderful. This is where you sit and eat and then pick at the food with a group of friends. The idea is to enjoy your friends, the food is secondary.
In Buenos Aires I do not have a car, nor do I want one. I take the bus or metro. If I need to, I go in a taxi. I usually walk 3 - 6 km per day. (2 - 4 miles) Some days I prefer to walk 40 blocks and enjoy the day, than to take the bus. I have friends in their 70s who do the same. Life is harder here from the standpoint it takes forever to get anything done. You learn to be patient and have an almost zen like attitude.
I like coming to the USA. It is one big shopping. (I have the suitcases to prove it.) I love seeing my friends. It is the one time I eat the worst diet ever. Every trip here, I realize, I made the right decision. Home is where the heart is.