Saturday, November 22, 2008

Experience Life in the People You Meet

Our first days in BA, we were in for a good year...
Maybe it has yet to sink in, I am back on US soil sitting here in San Diego doing my best to stir up my memory bank to recount the last year of my life in South America. I spent much the time on my long flight home- between connections in Lima, Peru and San Salvador, El Salvador before arriving at LAX 20 hours later- reviewing what I might have learned by living abroad for and extended period of time. Besides the obvious of adding a new language to my toolbelt, I struggled to put into words what I have learned. Maybe it's not all that practical or maybe it's too practical that I just haven't noticed. I find these days to be very interesting because it feels like I just went into a time warp for a year and WHAM, here I am back in San Diego, just one year later. It was this same time of year just nearly one year ago when I departed to Argentina with my good amigo Mikey to discover a new world eternally and internally.

I will never forget how Mike and I were feeling when we first arrived in Buenos Aires, everything was new and we had all of one contact that we hadn't even met yet. Uncomfort was at a high level for both of us and we were not sure what to expect on a daily basis. We felt like we were just passing through and traveling instead of our new residence for the first month or so. My Spanish was sorely lacking which created even more discomfort. I think, looking back on it, Mike and I depended a lot on each other, much more than we really knew at the time, to get accustomed to our new home. Time was in slow motion all until we moved into the Salta house aka Casa de Eduardo. It's a huge international residence where we met about 10 new friends all at once, many of whom we are still in touch with. This is when our full residence of Argentina began, we were in a rough neighborhood of Monseraat, which made us feel really into the mix. The landlored, dueno, of the house is a middleaged man named Eduardo who is a character to the fullest. He is really hard to describe in one sentence but he always makes people unsure whether they should love him or hate him. It was at this house that we developed some great friendships and true learning process launched into full swing.

Fast forward nearly 9 months later and I was at the point of departure from South America having to say my goodbyes, or better yet 'hasta luego's' to all of the great friendships that I was fortunate enough to have developed. I think it was in the last week of my time in Buenos Aires when I just began to realize that my experience was fully based on the people I met. It's all about the people... whether it was a crazy landlord named Eduardo or Pamela- the Uruguayan landlord who we lived with the last 6 months in San Telmo- or it was a great profesora named Julieta who has an impeccable sense of humor. Then was my Bomba del Tiempo buddies Brian and Lucho. If you're asking what the hell is Bomba del Tiempo, I write my next blog about this. Then there was my good buddy Rodrigo, who is one of the most intelligent young men I've met who studies his brains out and enjoys a good porro at any available moment. How can I forget the best Argentine futbol player we played with, Marcelo who was like a field general and made Mike and I better every game we played with him. How can I forget my three favorite students who made English Teaching a sincere pleasure; Leandro, Emilio and Rodolfo. These three individuals opened my eyes to seeing that they are much like adults in the States, just doing what they can to provide more for their family in a volatile economy. I wish Leandro much luck in his goal of going to the US or Australia to start a new life.
Representing Argentina with Lucho

Last Bomba del Tiempo, l to r: John, Mikey, Brian, me

My favorite students l to r: Leandro, me, Rodolfo, Emilio

I was also able to meet many great people from other countries around the world; Sophie from France who was like our mom at the big international house; Timm from Germany who was a polite Adrien Brody look-a-like; Sam from the UK who was a melancholy young man but always provided a very blunt point of view of how the world works; Andy from Scotland who is very opinionated and will let you know what he thinks whether you like it or not; Keegar from Ireland who could run past 5 defenders with ease and score a goal with a Guiness in his hand; Pauline from France who was a doll-faced housemate the last several months in San Telmo; Jenny from Australia who was also a housemate for four months in San Telmo and one of the nicest girls I have ever met; Isaac from Brazil aka the big goofy Brazilian who had the most unique dancing style at our Bomba de Tiempo outings; Dave from England who also became a great friend from the futbol field and is one I hope to keep in touch with down the road. This blog wouldn't be complete without mentioning one of my new best friends, Barry from Cuba who has been a citizen of Argentina for 12 years and produces music for a living. He is one of the most admirable people I have ever met for the way he lives his life and treats other people. Barry laughs and smiles more than anyone else I've ever met, his positivity is truly contagious and his athletic lifestyle has him looking like he is 30 years old even though he's really 44. We met him on the futbol field and he became a workout partner and he even challenged me to a wrestling match after my last futbol game. I took the big guy down before he flipped me over on to my head and gave me a nice scar on my forehead to come home with. That is my Barry scar and a constant reminder not to wrestle big Cuban guys but more a reminder of the great friend he is to me. All of these friends I hope to keep in touch with and have stimulated my interest in visiting their countries to take a peek at their lifestlye.

Final day toast, l to r: Barry, me, BJ, Mikey

Barry showing off the scar he gave me, one strong dude!

the infamous 10 vs. 10 game, the futbol crew!

Buenos Aires is home to the largest ex-pat (US citizen) community outside of the US in the Western Hemisphere so I formed a ton of relationships with fellow yankees as well. Jessie from New Jersey who became my best girlfriend in BA, she was the most hospitable person I knew and I wish her the best of luck with her big goofy Brasilian hubby, Isaac; Josh Wolpe, a fellow Coloradoan who was a housemate in the international house before he moved on to Israel and eventually back to Denver. He was well known for his gigantic salads, Wolpe Salads, that is now a part of my cooking regimen as well; Alan from Las Vegas who is another opinionated SOB and drew a laugh from me many times with his curt personality; Carlos the big man from Houston who was like a big teddy bear and became a friend to anyone he passed in the street; Sarah from San Diego who was actually our first and only contact when we arrived to Buenos Aires, it all started from her; John from LA who was actually born in Argentina but lived most his life in LA then moved back to BA, he was with us everyday and it felt like we had been friends for years; Nate from Pennsylvania who represented for Americans on the futbol field with his physical play and hustle that could match anyone's talent; Kyle who was my fellow red head brother from San Diego and actually lived in the same apartment complex as I my second year of college, yet I didn't meet him until we played futbol together in Argentina, go figure; Eric Olsen who is from Aspen and worked with my brother then moved to Argentina with his girlfriend (Argentine), he was one of our great buddies on the trek through Torres del Paine and can light up any room with his outgoing energy; then there's William Alan Whittle Jr. or BJ as we call him who was my roommated all through college and is basically my brother from another mother. I consider him family and he made his own move down to Argentina in September and will be staying at least until April. I am truly proud of him for making the move and sticking with it. It was a sincere pleasuer walking the streets of Argentina with this 6'4 blonde-hair, blue-eyed California kid because he drew the most interesting looks from the people and was even likened to Nick Carter, the famous Backstreet Boys singer by some of the locals. It was classic! Remember BJ, you're not a tourist, you live there; And finally one of my best friends who went through the experience with me step by step and is practically full Argentine now, Michael Cando aka Chinito since he is Phillipino and all Argentines call any people of Asian descent Chino. Mikey is one of the most positive people I know and kept my experience in Argentina from ever being dull, he always had something exciting going on and kept me in the excitement and I owe Mike nothing but my full thanks and appreciation for sparking the idea in my head to move to Argentina with him, one of the best things I've done in my life and he has continually sparked my interest in seeing other parts of the world that I will someday see. Thank you Mikey, good luck with the rest of your time in Argentina.... who knows if you'll be back to the States :) .

last night with the Argentines, l to r: Rodrigo, Mike, Brian, me, Luchoht

ke, Brian, Me, Lmom's last night in BA, first row: Mom, Jessi, Isaac. Second row: Me, BJ, Mike, Simone, Pauline, Jenny

This is a blog posting about many strangers to most of your readers but this is all I can think about when I think of my experience in Argentina, it was about the people who shaped my experience. It would not have been the best year of my life without any of these people mentioned and the many others that weren't mentioned. When I was struggling with a way to put a closing to the experience on my last day in Argentina, I had to follow the advice from Barry and put all of the memories into my heart, not my head. I will forever store this experience in my heart because thats where it belongs and that is where these people belong. I am now back in the States and still struggle to sum up my experience abroad so I feel a bit lost in my transition but the best way for me to sum up the experience is remember the PEOPLE who made it what it is, the greatest year of my life yet.


jRags said...

truly inspiring words my friend. I for one am glad to see you back but will definitely long for your posts of your adventures. They gave me a chance to leave this dismal place and see a new point of view and new place for a little bit that I have never got to experience. I look forward to talking to you and hearing the many stories you have.

Welcome home brother!

Michael said...

CheCOLO! Wow, how surreal it is writing in your blog a year later, on opposite sides of the globe yet reliving it all over again.

It has been a true pleasure exploring the last year under sun with you che. En serio, couldn't have asked for a better partner in crime to do a little "experimental living" with than el Colo Loco. In my own regards after reading your entry, I realize even more how lucky we were indeed to have met all the people we did who changed our lives, in ways we may not even realize yet. I am excited to hear about your continuing adventures in the urban jungle of San Diego, or wherever life ends up taking you.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." (Marcel Proust)

And you're right, it's only 'hasta luego' for now. There are many more cultures to discover and adventures yet to be experienced. Keep up the spirit of 'la pura vida' with ya and remember..Let the world change you and you can change the world!

Abrazos fuertes desde la ciudad de Buenos Aires..

Tu hermano,
Mikey "el Chinito"