Thursday, March 12, 2015

finders keepers

The oldest barrio in Buenos Aires, San Telmo has easily become one of my favorite places in the city. It has so much character. There's a certain fading, crumbling grandeur to this neighborhood that is lined with cobblestone streets, packed with good eats, and home to a ton of interesting shops. It has definitely become a tourist trap these days, especially with the expansive street market that turns Calle Defensa into a huge stretch of antiques, treasures, and handmade knick knacks every Sunday. 

 I've always been a huge fan of perusing fairs and fleas in which by the end of the day I have added a hundred more things to my own personal list of incredibly cool yet mostly useless objects I have deeply coveted over the years. Back in New York, spending a weekend eyeing all the gems at the Brooklyn Flea and later stuffing my face at Smorgasborg was a weekend well spent. In my opinion, the market at San Telmo is definitely far more impressive than the one back home, perhaps mainly due to the change in cultural settings. Vintage Latin American goodies and handmade products hold such different stories. It's fun to see worn editions of Spanish comics, collectible matchboxes, 90s sunglasses, and clay toys within a new cultural and geographical context. 

I walked up to one table that sold some sort of whistling instrument, and the man immediately gifted me a really long cactus needle from the deserts of Tucumán, a province located in the northwest of Argentina. I wish I was more proficient in Spanish to understand the history and meaning behind what he was selling. Regardless, I took a little part of Tucumán home with me.

Choripan hot off the grill!
Nush and Daniel take on the art of adding delicious sauces to their choripan.
There's never enough chimichurri...
Churros filled with (of course) dulce de leche!

Amazing art. I was a little too afraid to ask about the prices. 
Seltzer bottles. I don't know how I'd bring it back to the states, but I want one!
New York finds its way to Buenos Aires 
Freshly squeezed OJ is the only way to go in Buenos Aires

While on the bus to the market, I overheard a family speak to each other in English. When we got off at the same stop, I mustered up the courage to strike up a conversation with them. I learned that they were from Georgia, and that the son was also studying abroad, at the University of Buenos Aires. Outside of nightlife, it's always a surprise seeing Americans in Buenos Aires because this is a city that isn't overtly overrun with tourists; I don't see any tour groups being herded around or noticeably lost foreigners clutching to maps. My life feels integrated amongst the locals whether it may be walking to class beside Argentines rushing to work, waiting in line at the supermarket with families, or even competing with each other to hail the next cab.

It was an even greater surprise to see Argentine vendors speak English with foreigners at the market. As I passed stall after stall, I would catch conversations about the quality, significance, and function of the things being sold in a language I could finally fully understand. Since I've been here, I've learned to really value the importance and convenience of being multilingual. Communication is universal and so incredibly necessary to be able to do some of the simplest tasks. We don't think about it, but we need to convey messages wherever we go, from dropping off laundry to refilling bus passes to even acknowledging the doorman. There have been so many times when I felt so frustrated being unable to speak Spanish, so sad that I cannot express my own thoughts without feeling tongue-tied. I'm working on it though! I've come a long way since I first got here.

I do miss New York sometimes. I feel pangs of homesickness in little pockets throughout my days, usually when I'm deep in thought walking home or zoning out during my daily runs (ah, exercise!). Nonetheless, I'm so glad I'm here in Buenos Aires, so grateful to have this unique opportunity to carve out a new life for myself. I'm growing in so many different capacities every day. I can't wait to look back and see all the changes that have incurred and all that I've learned about myself by the end of my journey.