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Reflections: Buenos Aires

June 04, 2015
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
I have a little mental game I like to play every once in a while. I step back and take in the present moment, and imagine what it would be like if I were viewing it from some point in my own past. With this perspective, the present moment becomes surreal and astounding, almost unimaginable to the past version of myself. I find this happens quite often with all the novel moments I've experienced here during my semester in Buenos Aires.
 Argentine flag at Plaza de Mayo

It happens as I spend an afternoon in the park conducting an entire conversation in Spanish with Argentine friends, only realizing at the end that I was indeed speaking a different language. It happens when I reach the summits of hikes I completed while traveling and staying in hostels. It happens as my taxi whisks me through the blurring lights and faces of Buenos Aires at midnight, passing the towering Obelisk in the the center of the city.
 View of the lakes from San Martín de los Andes

Everything they say about traveling is true - meeting new people, conquering new experiences, expanding your worldview. But these worn phrases sound so hollow in comparison to the actual magnitude of living it in first person. The best I can do to convey the experience is provide a few examples of learning to live with and appreciate the duality of Argentine customs with my American mindset:

Argentina is more liberal about PDA compared to the U.S. and definitely ranks as one of the most progressive Latin American countries. This could be a put-off to see upon first arriving in the country, but quickly it becomes something refreshing, to share in the happiness and affection of the lovestruck.

The schedule and pace of Argentine life is definitely slower, with dinner and nightlife famously starting very late. But this permeates most other everyday activities as well, such as waiting for food at a restaurant or developing a business relationship. In a narrow American frame, this would seem inefficient or frustrating, with tasks hard to complete. But I've learned to appreciate the Argentine ability to enjoy and savor every moment and event rather than rushing it to completion to hurry to the next thing.

Due to the overall less stable nature of the political and economic situation of the country, Argentines don't plan as heartily for the future and are comfortable living under a moderate amount of unpredictability. This translates to a a tendency to shy away from concrete plans far in advance, and I was at times frustrated by my inability to pin down dates and times with Argentine friends. But I learned to enjoy the idea that life can be less regimented and more fluid, and to relish spontaneity and the joy of the unexpected.

Overall, studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to learn about and celebrate differences. But beyond all the differences I absorbed and adaptations I made, what sticks with me the most as I prepare to depart is what all humans share at the core, across cultures and continents. We're all seeking the same simple things. We want to share special moments and fall in love. We want to work hard and provide for our families. We want to laugh, blow off steam, and share a drink with our friends.

 Weekend at the plaza in Recoleta

Across time and geography, the strongest connections we map are the ties we build with each other. I feel immensely privileged to have had an opportunity to weave my own cross-continental threads and contribute my own droplets to the great ocean of human interaction. Leaving Buenos Aires is bittersweet - my time here has been unparalleled but my body knows it's time to go home and recharge. However, I also know that now that I've had a taste of international life I won't be able to stay put for very long, continuing to seek new landscapes and challenges. But nothing will be overtake Argentina's place in my heart as my first home abroad.
 Puerto Madero at night

So I do not say adios, Buenos Aires. I say hasta luego. Until next time!

Maximilian Mohr is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is currently a junior at the College of William and Mary.

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