10 March 2009

The letter you've been waiting for!

Hello to all! Attached in this note, I’m sending you warm breezes and soft rains from the sunny south of South America. Although I’ve only been here for a few weeks, Buenos Aires, famous for its tango, heroines, and beauty has not disappointed.

It’s a city envisioned by Spaniards, designed by Parisians, constructed by Italians and lived in by the world. I read somewhere that 90% of people who live in Buenos Aires (called Porteños) have an immigrant grandparent. While that may sound chaotic, much of Argentina’s capital city is actually rather well organized, at least on the surface. A great bus system, along with South America’s first subway, transports thousands of Porteños and tourists efficiently and easily. It’s also notable that Buenos Aires has one of the widest avenues in the world (Avenida 9 de Julio) and simultaneously still maintains some old-European-style narrow streets. Plus, the architecture is so well preserved that each day offers a visual tour through the various styles – classical, art-deco, Parisian, modern, etc. Simply put, it’s the loveliest city I’ve ever seen. Come visit!

My sincerest apologies for not having written sooner. For a variety of reasons, I have spent the last month as a nomad. However, I have finally found a small, silent apartment in the middle of the city. Don’t tell anyone, but I think the building I live in is a home for the elderly and they just rent out a few rooms to us young folk. This is not a problem for me because, as I mentioned, my neighbors are rather silent and plus they are constantly paying attention to the goings and comings of the building – it would be near impossible for a vandal to get past their watchful keep!

Getting established means that I have to begin to live a life of a Porteño. Precisely where touristy-Argentina ends and Argentina-Argentina begins is where things start to get complicated. And by complicated, I mean lines. Lines everywhere. Lines for the bus. Lines at the bank. Lines for translations. Lines for paperwork. The other day at the super market I stood in line for at least 45 minutes to pay for my groceries. When I mentioned that long wait to my Latino friend who lives and works in Washington, DC, his sincere response was, “Oh how I miss Latin America!” To each his own.

Still, lines interest me. In my travels around the globe, I’ve seen many lines. In England, they are the famously sophisticated ‘queues’. In Nicaragua, they are energized and conservational. In Rome, they are more like puddles. In Buenos Aires they appear to just be very long. In the United States when we encounter a long line, we might balk and decide to come back later, or speak our frustrations to the manager of the business. However, I think there is a different mentality here – almost like a general malaise on behalf of the people. Although the line is long, there is not much use in complaining, instead you just have to tough it out.

This is probably a consequence of Argentina’s challenging economic and social history. The difficulties the people of this nation have faced has resulted in a melancholy of sorts. When I was living with a local family for the first few weeks, I noticed that melancholy in the eyes of the abuela of the house. In fact, if you’ll pay attention the next time you see a tango, you’ll see that it is a dance of deep melancholy as well.

However, mixed in with the heavy clouds and heavy thoughts, there are days of clear blue and bright light, and Argentina’s history and future are no different. I am proud to be here, working with the university and the community to develop a more positive forecast.

Thanks to World View for facilitating this awesome opportunity to learn more about the world and thanks to you all for joining in on the conversation.

Write me anytime! Un beso,
~*~ Mary ~*~

PS: I haven´t taken many pictures so I promise to do so and to include more fotos for you next time!!

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