Whenever someone asks me how Argentina was, I never know what to respond. My mind sorts through so many memories that I barely let out a “good…it was really good”. *facepalm* Do better Ivy!
Well…this post is for you, all you who were genuinely interested but got my lacklustre response. So, a whole month down the line, I finally managed to get down some of the experience in lesson form — what could be more personal than that? After reading these I’m pretty sure (or at least hopeful) that you’ll have a good idea of what goes on and how it is to be in that land far, far away.
Ready? Let’s get to it then.
1. I am a sunset person. You know how people of the world can be only one of two kinds, for example, cat or dog person or milk first or cereal first or in this case, sunrise or sunset person. Nairobi sunsets are mostly of an orange hue, which I love but I’m a sucker for pink-anything, sunsets included. I can’t even count the number of beautiful sunsets I witnessed over there. Be it in the countryside or in the city. They were breath taking. Just look at the one below at ‘Camping’: this beautiful mall/eating area/park…I’m still not sure what it was but it definitely had an unforgettable view. You forget about your problems, even if it’s just for half an hour as God works his magic on the sky.
2. The correct way to pronounce Argentina. There really is no ‘g’ sound. I think this matters a lot, especially for natives. For instance, isn’t it annoying when the rest of the world pronounces the ‘e’ sound in Kenya like the ‘e’ in eat rather than the ‘e’ in ten?
3. A ‘Spanish-speaking’ country really IS a Spanish-speaking country. Right now, I look back at how silly I must have been to think people would be interchanging it with English all the time. The only English spoken was to accommodate my fellow Kenyan girls and I. Which, come to think of it, is actually something we should borrow a leaf from. Maybe someday we will all be speaking Kiswahili and leaving English for the foreigners —a girl can dream!
4. Quite a bit of Spanish grammar, thanks to the lovely and possibly the most fun and fabulous grandma (after my own) that I have ever met, Sussy Legarre.
5. “Vamos, vamos, Argentina!” and “De Boliche en Boliche”
6. How to defend myself from sleazy guys on a night out, in Spanish. Thank you random girl I met in the ladies’ room of the boliche. It really is a universal thing for girls to make friends in the club. ?
7. Living away from your parents and family comes with a whole bunch of lessons, lessons I thought I had learned a year ago on my six-week stint in Malindi. I thought wrong. The fact that my flatmates and I lived on our own, coupled with B.A being generally expensive, meant budgeting was on a whole other level. And we all had to get on that level if we were going to avoid eating medialunas every day for dinner. (Shout out to Suevia Panaderia for holding us down on plenty of occasions. If the stars align and any member of your management reads this, consider opening a branch on this side of the world. Trust me, you’ve got a pretty good chance of making a fortune)
8. Map skills. I have come to seriously appreciate google maps, except that one time I used it in CBD and it almost took me the wrong side of a one-way road, which is NOT something you want to do in Nairobi CBD —thank God for Cici and her town-savviness. Regardless of that, it’s a lifesaver. Granted, I already had a good warm up on my school Euro trip a couple of weeks before embarking on this transatlantic journey. From trying to find the quickest route to get to the nearest H&M and back before the bus to Germany departed, to mapping out the plan for the nights of our weekend in Cologne. So I wasn’t too shabby…but I still feel hella proud for managing to navigate B.A. on my own.
9. Public transport induced claustrophobia. This is not so much a lesson but a realization. I always had a suspicion that I was a bit claustrophobic (i.e. not liking being in a locked room or always wanting to sit at the edge or next to an opening/exit). The subway and buses of B.A at rush hour confirmed it. There are so many people that you almost have to push and shove to get in. And no, there’s no room to even think of personal space. To add to the claustrophobia, there is always that one or two…or five persons who will stare at you the entire time. The children are excused for they might not have seen a black person before but grown adults —no. More on stares later.
10.Family is everything. Okay, yes I already knew this before I left Kenya, but it was reinforced during my time there. Something I noted as I walked to work every day is that dads would walk their toddlers to school and pick them up as well – without fail. It was the sweetest thing ever seeing a man looking extremely dapper in a sharp suit trying to negotiate with his four year old daughter – who clearly has him wrapped around her little finger – that she’s got to enter the school building and he’d be there to pick her up before she knew it…or at least that’s how I think it transpired, their whole interaction was in Spanish after all.
11. Hospitality isn’t just a Kenyan (African) thing. The experiences with the wonderful families I engaged with were all full of love. They welcome you like they would in an African home, which says quite a lot. With food and laughter and lots of love. A special shout out to the Legarre family, the Brugnonis, the Larbel Family, the Riveras, the O’Farrells, the Cabos and Mariana Batalle’s lovely family!
12. The reality of PDA. PDA in Kenya does not really count as PDA. In Argentina, and I assume most of the western world, it is the real deal. Of course there’s the overboard few who will make out for ten minutes straight right in front of you on the subway. Regardless, it is so refreshing to see acts of love shown so freely. I remember sitting with three couples at a charity dinner and just being amazed at how the six of them interacted with their significant other. It could be something so small such as the wife removing food from the corner of her husband’s mouth with a napkin to a loving husband caressing the belly of his expectant wife as a video with testimonies of children who have benefited through that charity plays for the dinner guests.
13. It’s a known fact that Argentines kiss each other on the cheek (once) when greeting somebody or saying goodbye. I had been told of this before I got there but I have to admit it took a little getting used to. My ultimate shock will always be when I attended my first Mass there and instead of the usual ‘sign of the peace’, they say the kiss of the peace. To be honest, I think I miss it now that I am back to my usual handshake. It definitely came in handy when you met a really cute guy…which by the way, was everywhere. (Viva Argentina! ?) I still find myself doing more of a kiss on the cheek when I hug my friends rather than the usual hug. I guess some things just stick with you.
14. A newfound appreciation for art. I visited three museums with my friend, Camila: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, MALBA and the stunning Museo Nacional De Arte Decorativo. At the first museum, there was a plaster cast of Rene Francois Rodin’s sculpture: “The Kiss”, which I found fitting as it reminded me how passionate people in this country are. This art isn’t limited only to the museums. Even street art is something to look at in Buenos Aires. It’s one of the things I had expected to see –from my Pinterest investigations prior to this trip, and I wasn’t disappointed.
15. Getting used to public speaking and small talk. There were so, so many self introductions that there wasn’t any choice but to adapt and learn to love small talk. Being probably the only Kenyans in that country, probably one of the few Africans too, it felt like we were default spokespersons for Kenya and Africa in general. What helped, however, is that people were genuinely interested to learn and know more about what goes on this side of the world.
16. Anybody who knows me knows I’m an avid foodie. I’m really glad to say I think I learned and tried quite a bit of the Argentine cuisine. It is incredible. I even made a list while I was there of what I had to make when I got back. So far, I’ve only made Arroz con Leche (recipe will be up soon!) and Panqueque con dulce de leche, which I may make a bit too frequently.
17. How to eat beef the proper way. Now, to anyone in Kenya, this has long been a bone of contention. Try put anything that’s even remotely pink on the plate of a Kenyan and they’re going to look at you like you’re a bit crazy (I’m still trying to convince my mum on this). Listen guys, I’m telling you, properly cooked beef shouldn’t be dry, grey and overly cooked. You will thank me later, just try it.
18. There exists a city that loves dogs as much as I do. Everyone owns a dog! It’s a dog haven. I only wish there could be stricter rules on cleaning up after them on the streets. There is no greater way to ruin your day than to step in poo.
19. This city has a little touch of all my favourite things. If it’s not the French inspired architecture of the buildings, it’s the quaint little coffee shops and panaderias on every block. They’ve even got cycling lanes and city bikes which I can’t stress enough on. I would be cycling to school every day if we had bike lanes and motorists who actually respected cyclists. Simply put, B.A is the gift that just keeps on giving.
20. There is no race issue. I get asked this question a lot because everyone automatically thinks there might have been an issue…as there tends to always be anywhere outside Africa. I learned that there are two kinds of stares black people receive. The first is the – sometimes mild, sometimes not – look of discomfort or even in some cases, a blatant disdainful look. I’ve witnessed this in some European countries. To be specific: The Hague, Netherlands and Cologne, Germany. The second look is one more along the lines of wonder or interest or one you would give something you find exotic. (I was tempted not to use the word ‘exotic’ as it tends to offend some people but I am anti the politically correctness of 2018 which in my honest opinion, threatens to destroy language) I have only experienced the second kind in Singapore and in Argentina. I don’t know how true my hypothesis is but I do know that the rest of the world should try emulate those two.
Bonus Lesson: Bucket List
I learned that this place is inexhaustible! I now have a bucket list of some of the things I didn’t get to do that I hope to do if when *Law of Attraction* I get another chance to visit this beautiful country again. Here are just a few:
- The Recoletta Cemetery (It’s such a shame that I missed the closing time twice!)
- Planetario Galileo Galilei
- Roadtrip through the wine regions of Argentina, i.e. Mendoza
- To visit Bariloche
- To see Penguins in the south!
- The Perito Moreno Glacier
- Iguazu Falls
Don’t forget to like, share and comment. Let me know what your favourite city is!
— Ivy xx