I want to stand on the edge of the world just to come home and tell you what it feels like
They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. For the past three months I have stood on a very thin rope, balancing between comfort and discomfort, consistently vulnerable to all that Argentina has to offer me. For better and for worse. I have worked for every reward I have gained here. I had no idea I would be faced with so many challenges, both big and small, in my daily life here. It’s made me fall in love with this country and culture more and more as I learn all that this world has to offer me.
And yet, there is this small corner of paper that’s been ripped off. I’m always reaching out but still grabbing air. No matter how hard I try, from how I dress or how I pronounce my “ll” as “sh”, I will perpetually be an outsider. As comfortable as I have become, as immersed as I try to be within this life, I will always feel a little out of place.
I’ve got six weeks left here and I’ve never felt so emotionally conflicted. There will always be a small voice in my head that aches for the ease that comes with college and my life at home. But there’s a larger voice that screams at me every time I dream of home instead of focusing on the beauty of here and now.
Argentina has taught me about new interactions with strangers and the joy one receives when making a new friend. Just last night I spent my 20 minute cab drive speaking to the driver about the many local myths of Argentine culture and how I need to learn how to make empanadas and milanesa before I leave. He insisted, yelling a reminder out the window as I walked into my apartment building. Argentina has taught me the art of exchanging pleasantries, as I do this every morning and night with the 5 or 6 different security guards that sit in the back corner of our apartment lobby. One has taken an interest in me, probably because he’s beyond bored when I stroll in at 3am, and we chat for a while until I’m too tired to understand him. I’ve loved sipping into new worlds of Argentine life every time I converse with a stranger.
I could rave on and on about my wonderful host family, a trio I have yet to speak on. It’s been silly of me, but then again there’s a bountiful of explanations and stories that are too difficult to put into words for someone who hasn’t experienced them. I could explain the delight I receive every time I share a laugh or great story with my friends here. I don’t mention the smile that emerges upon my face as a violinist steps on the subte towards the end of the night and serenades our car with his strings. I could speak for hours on all I have read and observed on women’s rights in this country. Pretty sure I speak out at any chance I get about some fact or observation I’ve discovered to whoever will listen to me (Shout out to everyone who tolerates how much I’ve embraced my feminism here).
My confidence in Spanish has gone from a negative 4 to an 8. I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to speaking and writing and all that jazz. Whoever said you could easily become fluent living in another country for a few months must have been an extremely dedicated person who never becomes exhausted after focusing on a lecture for 3 hours. Or they were under the age of 14 and fundamentally it was easier for them to pick up. It’s pretty obvious after conversations that last longer than two minutes that I am not from here. Sometimes, the Argentine will decide to switch over to English or the little that they know to speak with me. It’s sweet, but burdens my growth. Let me struggle when I don’t fully understand. Just because I’m hard of hearing and truly need you to repeat yourself because I simply didn’t hear the words, doesn’t mean I won’t understand them.
Six weeks feels too short. It’s not enough time for me to finish checking off my BA Bucket List while also trying to crush all my final exams and papers, savor every moment with my friends here, and snag as many interviews as I possibly can from women for my research.
I’m a nostalgic person. I’m already bitter about leaving and I’m not even close to packing my bags yet. I beat myself up every time I think about all that awaits me back home, because none of it is going anywhere. A small part of me is ready to be filled with all my comfort foods and enjoy the luxuries of home I never knew I’d miss. There is a long list of wonderful people that I cannot wait to embrace in crazy awesome reunion hugs (jumping and squealing may or may not be involved).
That doesn’t mean I’m ready to let go just yet. I’ve created a wonderful life here and I hate the idea of it suddenly disappearing when I leave and only remaining in my memories. Sure, I will carry many lessons in my pockets and wear them gracefully. I will remember how many times I picked myself back up when I stopped believing in myself. I will hold onto the words of friends who barely knew me, but saw so much potential and strength within me. I will write and write until there are no more words left to write about this place.
If I’ve learned anything from las Madres, it’s that as long as the memory remains in your heart – the memory will never die. This country has skipped many a stone onto my ocean waves, the salty waters I have grown to call home. I can only hope that everything I have learned here will be ingrained within me, that I will be able to carry this culture and these lessons like splashes across my own sandy shore.
Argentina has made me face myself once and for all. The edge of the world makes me feel more alive than my comfort zone ever will.
That’s what I’d tell you. I’d tell you that in the end, it’s all worth it.