In the blink of an eye, half of my semester abroad is gone and so is my time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I type this blog as I hastily try to pack before the van arrives outside of my homestay to take me to the airport for my week-long immersion field trip in Peru before I embark on the second half of my semester in Santiago, Chile.
As I sat in a random park in Recolecta drinking licuados (the Argentine equivalent of a smoothie) with my classmate and friend Nicole, we began to reflect on this half of the semester and our best moments with our classmates, learning the culture and fumbling through the beautiful Spanish language.
I reflected on some pertinent things about Argentine culture and my own identity while I was here. Initially, I was concerned on my identity as a black man moreso than anything else. Rather, I found my identity as American (estadounidense to the Spanish speakers) was more relevant than anything else. Wherever I’d go I could be identified as American and I had no idea if it was my loud English, my horribly accented Spanish or my mix of Sperry's, Patagonia and Vineyard Vines branded clothing that outed me.
However, my skin color did get me noticed a lot. Whenever me and my friends would be out I could garner a decent amount of attention by just existing. A few people were insistent on getting selfies with me at clubs or asking me to rap… which I sadly can’t (somebody in my cohort can rap very well however). I definitely could feel the stares from people sometimes, whether I was making my commute to class on a colectivo (bus) or standing in line at the airport waiting for my flight to the breath-taking Iguazu Falls.
Regardless, I had an amazing experience and did not feel my skin color came into play once. I do have some experiences where shopkeepers and taxi drivers may have tried to rip me off because I was American and they heard me speak English, but a simple explanation and bartering got me to pay the right prices.
I was really in awe of Argentine culture as I was experiencing it. One thing that stood out to be me was the sheer kindness of the culture. Being from New York City and living in Brooklyn, the term “line” is arbitrary when waiting for the bus… so is giving up your seat to the elderly or disabled. In Argentina, it happened so openly and commonly! With the elderly and with children. One day when me and my classmates Robrenisha and John were on our way to La Boca to buy souvenirs I witnessed one amazing act of kindness that seemed so casually.
One man did not have enough on his SUBE card (the method of payment for public transportation), so another man quickly covered him using his card. Although the other insisted on paying him and passed him a ten peso note, the man who covered him refused and tried to give it back. After failing to give it back, he handed it to a little girl sitting in front of him. That’s truly the essence of Argentine culture.
I’ve had an amazing experience and there have surely been trials and tribulations. Culture shock, confusion, language barriers… but I’ve had the time of my life and I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds for me as I venture onto Peru and Chile.
So Argentina… the truth is, I never left you.
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<p>I'm a New York City born and Long Island raised lover of food, travel and culture who currently goes to college right outside of Boston, Massachusetts! One of my favorite hobbies has to be reading and I spend every summer dedicating myself to a very intensive reading list.</p>