Last week I celebrated seven months in Argentina– a surprise I realized during a conversation with a friend that left me beaming.
It has been a very full seven months. Writing this on a lazy Sunday afternoon, with my windows open to the sun and traffic and with no pressing concerns, it seems silly to try to characterize the passing of my time here as fast or slow– instead I can only say that it has been full.
When I first came here I was frustrated by the transience in my life. Most of my original friends (all foreigners) have returned to their home countries, to apartment leases and jobs that they put on hold so they could have an adventure in South America for a while. I remember wondering during my first few months how I could make a life here when people always seemed to be departing it after a short period of time. My frustration also came from living in a shared house, where there is quite a lot of turnover in roommates– so far I’ve lived with 17 different people.
But now I have to laugh at how I looked at the situation then– I really had my head up my ass in some respects. First of all, I was ignoring the fact that I have very dear friends who are here permanently– Juli, Fer, Leentje, Juan– and also the hard truth that it takes a long time to build up a life that is rich with friendships. It took me quite some time to cultivate the friendships that I have in the United States; part of it was the magic of finding the right people and part of it was investing a lot of time so those relationships would grow and flourish. The fact of the matter is that meaningful, lasting friendships don’t just spring up overnight.
A third point I hadn’t considered is that even though some people are only in your life for a short time, more often than not these people do still bring value to your experience. The best example is people who become great friends while passing through, like Charlie. While he was only here for four months, I know that he and I will be friends for a really long time. But even the people who I lived with briefly and who I don’t have much contact with now still resonate with me– conversations we had on the terrace, meals we shared together, a number of brief but rich experiences. Ever since I got back from vacation I’ve taken very little effort to communicate or share much of myself with the people in my house because I figured, Hey, if you all are leaving in however many months, why should I bother getting to know you? But even if the likelihood is that these people will never be more than friendly acquaintances, that doesn’t mean that we can’t pass the time well together and share some of ourselves with each other. I tend to have an “all or nothing” personality when it comes to many things– either I’m totally invested/interested or I don’t give a damn at all. I’ve realized it’s a huge mistake to approach relationships in that manner, because most people have a lot to give to you, even if it’s in the briefest amounts, for the briefest of moments.
So to end this philosophical waxing on friendships, I want you to know that I’m treasuring the friends that I have here and trying to spend as much time with them as I can. I met a few wonderful people who live in Buenos Aires during my travels in February, and I’ve seen a couple of them since then– I hope to see them more in the coming months. I’m going to give these relationships time and space to grow and enjoy them as they develop. And as for my friends back in the United States, I am investing plenty in those too. Sometimes it’s hard to coordinate schedules for Skyping and emailing and gchatting, but if I haven’t talked to someone in a while, I try to drop them a note and let them know I’m thinking of them. I haven’t forgotten about that very important part of my life back in the United States.
So, all is well here and incredibly busy: I’m teaching about 15 hours a week at an institute in downtown Buenos Aires, in addition to my freelance work. Teaching out of a book is not something I particularly like; it feels forced and boring. But when my students start a discussion about a topic that’s interesting to them, hot damn if I don’t become the student. I learn so much from them– and I’m learning a lot about the best ways to put information in students’ minds. It’s tiring (I teach early in the mornings and late at night, and then do my freelance work during the day in between), but it seems like it will be a really good experience to have. My favorite classes are the ones that I teach outside of the institute, where I can let the lessons wander according to the students’ interests and not feel pressured to meet certain academic benchmarks. Hopefully next year I can negotiate a schedule without early morning classes!
I have more thoughts on permanence and building my life here, but I’ll save it for another time. Thanks for reading. xo