The lingerers

Is that a creepy title for a blog post? It reminds me of this song by The Cranberries.

The point, though, is that I’ve now met two. Lingerers, that is. Here, in Buenos Aires. Two people, a man and a woman, both roughly my age.

Both came to Buenos Aires and decided not to leave.

One, my friend Kari Paul, came here last spring, with the Missouri School of Journalism’s study abroad program. The program ended in early May, but she’s still here — she spontaneously canceled her flight home and found housing on a moment’s notice. I had dinner with her the other night at a cozy Argentinian restaurant called Cumaná. Over piping pumpkin empanadas and hot stews, I asked her why.

“I just love it here” was her answer. “It’s impossible to know the city and not like it.” Her enthusiasm was evident as she scribbled out a long list of must-dos/sees in Buenos Aires. Riddled with stars and arrows, the list, bequeathed to me outside the restaurant, is on my bedside table, waiting to be used.

The other I met at a bar. El Alamo bar, to be exact. He’s a bartender there and his name is Tim.

Tim is from my hometown: The Woodlands, Texas. Imagine my shock as we narrowed down locations first to the U.S., then to Texas, Houston, The Woodlands. He lives down my street, in fact.

He came to Buenos Aires two years ago after graduating from Oak Ridge High School, got a job at El Alamo, and never looked back. He wants to go back to the states for college… eventually. He stayed because he, like Kari, fell in love. With Buenos Aires, its culture, its people, and his job.

These two lingerers baffled me. A very homesick me wondered how they could possibly live here longer than intended, how they could stand to miss their family, friends, and chunky Jif peanut butter for more time than strictly necessary.

But they truly, earnestly love it here. Maybe if I take to heart Tim’s encouragement, if I follow Kari’s list with its stars and squiggles, I’ll find out why.

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The lingerers

Sunday in the parks of Recoleta

The rush of traffic. The smoke snaking up from dead cigarettes in the gutter. Car horns. Grimy fingernails. Traffic. People who refuse to wear deodorant (this happens in Argentina more than you’d like to think).

Sometimes the city is overwhelming. Sometimes I miss the green parts — they have a lot of those in Texas. That’s where parks come in.

Somewhere along the line a brilliant person decided to save a few city blocks from the same covered-in-concrete fate as their neighbors. These blocks, where grass and trees and such are apt to grow, make a welcome escape.

Last Sunday I needed to get off the streets for a bit, and my trusty combat boots and I ended up wandering Recoleta, from one green area to the next.

First up was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Inside was a selection of paintings from all eras, as well as a lovely exhibit on Fernando Botero occupying the second floor. Outside was green and glorious.

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Across the street wasn’t too shabby, either.

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A few blocks down Guido (which I learned is pronounced “gee-dough” and not like a Jersey Shore character) and a turn onto Vicente Lopez meant I stumbled upon a street fair that I definitely wasn’t looking for, but didn’t mind finding.

Cutsey crafts-for-sale abounded, including woven winter accessories, leather goods, handmade jewelry and popcorn-covered candied apples. I thought about springing for the latter, decided against it, and instead strolled from booth to booth while various vendors smiled at me in that I-know-you’re-not-from-around-here way they have.

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Oh yeah, and there were tango dancers, because Argentina.

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Right next to the fair is the Cementerio de la Recoleta, where people like Evita (Eva Perón) are buried. It’s enormous, architecturally beautiful, in some parts deserted, and infested with friendly cats. Needless to say, I loved it.

I’ll spare you the 4721 cat pictures (I did make friends with three and acquaintances with one), but the tombs and obelisks are must-sees. There are rows upon rows of tombs that line miniature tile “streets” to make up a giant, walled necropolis.

I’ve found my reading spot for the next two months. That’s normal, right? Reading Game of Thrones alone in a cemetery?

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There you have it. Here’s to cemetery cats, perfect Sundays and green spaces tucked away in concrete jungles.

Sunday in the parks of Recoleta

¿Qué es un porteño, anyway?

Porteño/a – (noun) – Someone native to Buenos Aires.

Why porteño? Because of the port, or puerta, a.k.a. the reason for the the city’s existence in the first place. Buenos Aires sits on the Rio de la Plata, and was founded as a port city. It has grown outwards, sprawling over miles and into 48 separate barrios, or neighborhoods.

And I have to know them all. (Cue Pokemon theme song.)

But seriously. As a periodista, how am I supposed to cover neighborhoods I can barely navigate? We’ve gotten lost at least eight times, seriously lost about twice, and my feet are feeling it. Combat boots are cute, but not the most supportive.

Aside from finding our way around, these first few days living in Recoleta have been a blur… so much to do!

In case you’re thinking of living for a bit in another country, consider: the communication (an Argentinian cell phone was in order), transportation (a re-loadable card for the subte and busses), digestion (grocery shopping), navigation (a Guía T, the bible of all street maps) and transaction (bank visits, por supuesto).

Today started with a city tour, half bus, half on foot. Thank. goodness. for. the bus. I learned that Argentina, despite confusing street signs and unhelpful directions, is actually beautiful. Here’s proof:

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Apparently this cemetery is full of cats… I’m planning on spending a lot of time there to find out, since I’m a Future Cat Lady of America and all. It’s right next to my street, Vicente Lopez. Apparently Evita (Eva Perón) is buried there, so that’s cool too I guess.

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This is Puerto Madero, taken from right outside MU’s Study Abroad office in Buenos Aires. It’s one of the prettier and pricier barrios in the city.

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The Pink House, or Casa Rosada, is the equivalent of our White House — the President of Argentina works from here (though she doesn’t actually live in it). Why pink? There was some gruesome story about red and white warring factions, and also about mixing red cow’s blood with some white substance to make pink… whatever the reason I think we should consider making the switch.

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The front altar of the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires, a.k.a. where the new Pope does his Roman-Catholic thing. It’s a beautiful cathedral and houses the tomb of José de San Martín, which we sight-saw quite thoroughly.

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The ever-so-slightly instagram’ed picture of La Boca, a barrio with heavy Italian influence. There was a stray cat here too, just saying.

We were walking through this neighborhood when some men started yelling from the side of the street: Hey Barbie! Come back! Barbie! Over here Barbie! It wasn’t until we’d outdistanced them that I realized they were talking to me… since then I’ve been counting the natural blondes I see around the city. Grand total is up to four.

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My artsy picture of the Plaza de Mayo, complete with pigeon in flight. This is right outside the Pink House. There’s a festival on May 25 in the plaza, and we’re 150% hitting it up, so stay tuned.

More interminglings with the porteños are sure to come.

¿Qué es un porteño, anyway?

Chau for now

Suitcases do not make good chairs.

I reflect on this as the front zipper of mine digs into my upper thigh. I close my eyes and think like a boulder, hoping to weigh down the top. My mother struggles with the side zipper, trying to bring it around to meet its mate.

“One… good… push….!” 

With a herculean effort she zips the case and I stand up, wiping my forehead.

Mmmm sweat, the eau de toilette of a Texan summer. You can’t escape it here; it clings to your sheets when you peel them back in the morning and cools on your brow as you fall asleep, ceiling fans working frantically overhead.

But I’m going to winter. (Or, as the Starks would say, winter is coming.) Today, Sunday May 19, I leave for Buenos Aires. My flight takes off at 9:10 p.m. and touches down around 9:30 a.m. in South America, just in time for coffee and a bagel (Is that what they eat for breakfast in Argentina?).

I’m nervous, and not just because I’ve characteristically over-packed. Will my adapters work? Will I run out of money? Will I have any friends? Will I be crushed by the weight of coursework and an internship? Will I ever finish the Song of Ice and Fire series?!

All this remains to be seen. For now, dragging my two suitcases down the stairs and praying to a higher power they’re lighter than 50 pounds (overweight bags incur a $200 fee), all I can think is: It better be worth it.

Chau for now

Hellogoodbye

The goodbye

It’s happened. It’s here. The. final. week. of. the. semester.

Sitting in the Missourian newsroom during my last GA shift, reminiscing about all the life stories I’ve written here (and one news brief but that doesn’t count), one, and only one, feeling washes over me: relief.

Not that I haven’t learned loads — I have. It’s the way in which I’ve learned that’s exhausted, depleted and mentally unhinged me.

This semester has taught me how to talk to grieving families, how to write a news brief on highway closures, how to respond when threatened with a lawsuit, how to juggle five stories at once, and how to mop up tears/snot and present a respectable face to the public after a breakdown in my editor’s office.

But it also taught me how to connect with sources on a personal level, to relax when making phone calls, to write a clean first draft, how to find my voice, and that writing is, in fact, what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Pros and cons but, in the end, it’s over and I can breathe…

The hello 

…until May 20. This summer is goodbye to one publication, hello (hola) to another. In 10 days I’ll be traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina to intern at El Sol de San Telmo, a community-oriented magazine. Daily life? In Spanish. Articles? In Spanish. Dreams? In Spanish. Probably.

Yes, the anticipation is killing me. On Thursday morning I pack up my room in Columbia, speed to St. Louis, drop off excess possessions there and jet off to Texas. Three days at home and I fly from Houston to Buenos Aires, arriving in time for the shuttle from the airport on May 20. Whew.

Then begins two months of classes, interning, and finding my way around the city.

My friends Kari and Brandon hung out there all semester (the internship program is through the j-school and includes perks like apartments and cultural orientation) and are obsessed. They rant, they rave, and they build up my expectations almost endlessly.

Here’s hoping Argentina lives up to the hype.

And yes, the title is another band reference. A good one. Check them out, folks.

Hellogoodbye