As of today, I've officially been back in the US for two weeks though one week was spent on vacation in Washington. It's pretty weird to be back and as much as some things have change, much is still the same. Taking my first few steps into the airport after the 12 hour plane ride made me realize how much I had missed things and how remarkably good I had become at placing those things I missed at the back of my mind. I realize 6 months is not that long, but in some respects it's still a pretty long time. It's incredibly refreshing to be back amongst family and friends and in a place I know so well that I don't have to think and rethink every move I make in terms of leaving the house or trying to navigate a bus system or crowded subway in rush hour. I'm more than happy to eat the fatty foods I had forgotten and the spiciness I had missed so much. It's also kind of nice to drive a car again.
Anyhow, I've been meaning to make this final update to this blog for a couple weeks (honestly even before I left Argentina), but haven't gotten around to it. I've been debating this the entire time but I made an entry in my personal journal right before I started traveling in July that I think I'm going to transcribe here, though not word-for-word. It's a little bit over the top but I tend to get that way when I'm up late and have nothing better to do than just collect my thoughts. Here it is:
"I'm about to sleep in this bed for the last time and ironically enough I can't sleep. This reminds me a little bit of the way I was back on the night of February 18th, the first night I spent in this room. I was scared out of my mind and sleeping was the last thing on my mind. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I remember my first impressions of the apartment so well: the smells, the suffocating heat and humidity that aided my initial sleeplessness, the unfamiliar hum and roar of the busses and cars constantly passing the apartment thirteen stories below and the subtle annoyances of big city living that were so incredibly foreign to me.
Now I sit here staring into the darkness. How is this over? As cliché as this is, it feels like it was yesterday that I stumbled into Argentina. It saddens me to see the empty room and the dark shadows of my packed bags in the corner. I'll miss the small things I've become so accustomed to during my time here: a welcoming "Buen día" from the porter, the call to cenar (eat dinner) from our maid Rafaela, conversations with my host mother Greta, coffee and toast with dulce de leche every morning, alfajores, colectivos, subtes, taxis, Malbec, cheap beer, coming home on a colectivo from the bar or boliche at 6 in the morning (because that's normal), constantly speaking Spanish and always having to pre-think what I'm going to say and how I'm going to go about doing so, the parks, avoiding little land mines in the form of dog crap on the street and the Porteño attitude.
As much as I disrespect the elitist European-like-attitude that many Porteños like to fulfill, I'll miss them. I won't miss their blatant racism towards dark skinned people, but I've come to love their culture. The kiss-on-the-cheek greetings, mate culture, Tango, Gauchos, the silly accent…
I think back on the times when I was pretty homesick and realize how I've grown. What a fantastic experience this has been. I've met incredible people, seen absolutely beautiful places and learned that I can settle and thrive anywhere I might be. I will admit that I cheated myself on more than a few experiences; always resorting to watching the channels that played American shows (though they were better than their Spanish alternatives…), being shy around Argentines in class, etc. This experience has taught me how beautiful the world really is and how much of an urge I have to travel it. I've seen how badly some people have it as well and know that someday this experience will bring me back here, though God only knows for what reasons…
Studying here was the best decision I have ever made for myself and through thick and thin I have absolutely nothing to regret. I've learned so much and I'll even go as far as to say I'm fairly proficient in a foreign language now. I've been incredibly lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity to do this and I'm extremely thankful for having such great parents who supported me in this endeavor. Studying abroad has been a dream of mine as long as I can remember and it's almost anticlimactic that it's over; it's a little scary to think that the next big event in my life is going to be graduation."
The next day we took off on our 2000 mile journey through South America, another indescribably amazing experience. I can't even begin to explain how lucky I have been in the last 6 months. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world and this is something that I will remember and reminisce about for the rest of my life.
On another note, thank you so much for reading if you've kept up with this. I've tried to make most of it at least mildly entertaining but I still realize it's hard to remember to check back to someone's blog who is living on the other side of the world when you've got your own things to worry about. It means a lot of me that people were interested enough in what was going on with me to read this and I really, really appreciate it.
I got a little bit lazy with the blog towards the end of the trip, but if you want to know more about the end of it just let me know and I'll tell you. Thanks again, and if I haven't seen you yet, hopefully I'll see you soon.