From the Archives

The last time I was in Argentina was six years ago. I landed in Buenos Aires this past Monday, at 4:30 in the morning with both the remnants of half an Ambien and an airplane coffee in my system. I muddled my way by various buses straight to La Plata, the nearby university city where I spent two months in 2009 working for an afterschool organization called Educaser. I arrived on my host parents' door sweaty and sleepy and feeling, strangely, like I was eighteen again, un-baptized of college, a year in the NYC jungle, and recent months of re-discovering home and re-routing "career" plans. (Is there a word that means career that isn't so terrible? Please let me know).

This weird feeling of time travel continued on Tuesday, when I visited my friend Mari Elena on the other side of La Plata. In honor of that feeling,  I present to you an email I wrote to a friend from my host family's creaky PC after the first day I met Mari:


hola che,

writing you finally because i have been meaning to forever, and today was so cool i forced myself to find a computer and sit down for more than 2 minutes. 

this morning was a crazy mess like any you might have when you're trying to get used to living in a new, foreign place--i'm in la plata now, my 2nd week, starting working (supposedly) one of these days. i'm living with a host family and was trying to get to what i thought would be my first day on the job and was wayyy late because our shower didn't work and i had to connect a pump or something to the well. of course the buses weren't really running right either. then i got to the office of my organization feeling overwhelmed and was told that actually i wasn't going to start today, that the director was still on vacation and that i would start tomorrow, so i should go meet one of the past interns and go with her to see her friend. so half an hour later i was on a bus heading out into one of the outer barrios, into the country, with this woman jennifer who has been here for a year and has gotten so involved with the organization (which does after school programs and cultural education for kids up to about age 12) that she just sent in a request/proposal to the argentine government and is meeting with the health minister in a month. she also just came back from paraguay and basically glowed with the travel bug.

her friend is one of the teachers for the organization and bought the piece of land her house is on by selling bread and cleaning toilets during the crisi in 2000. she and her friend built the house with their own hands, and i swear the whole place, wooden ceiling and plants growing in empty pomelo bottles and yard and trees and field and sky stretching far away, is magic. we sat outside from about 2 pm to 9:30 talking about everything, drinking quilmes and mate and eating empanadas and something made me so comfortable that i was thinking in spanish/castellano (i always say espanol by accident and then feel like i'm being un pc haha). i wish i could descrive the scene better--maybe i'll take some more time later and write a real description but i don't want to bore you with a novel, i just wanted to say i understand what you meant when you said this place was crazy. we had some epic nights and no sleep and 5 peso wine in buenos aires and the vivaciousness of the argentines in general is loco but today was just wild, mind blowing. like even if i don't need bug spray and jungle clothes to go exploring i'm going to stumble across something shivery.

Maite 2009