For a city that's literally named "good airs", Buenos Aires doesn't always offer the high air quality one's respiratory system would expect. A walk through its streets delivers all the enticing scents of city life: a breath of car exhaust, a waft of overfilling dumpster, a refreshing whiff of tar-flavored construction dust, the sweet aroma of whatever some poodle ate for breakfast. Of course, those less-than-pleasant odors are met with smells so wonderful they make your eyes roll back: the earthy scent of fresh bread emitting from the bakery at 4 a.m., smoke from the streetside asador grilling up steak and chorizo, the flower stand filled with frangrant boquets of roses. Buenos Aires is a city of stark contrasts, a mosaic of both enchanting beauty and grotesque defects that you experience with your whole being. Early morning jackhammers and the constant droan of car horns are met by buskers playing classic piano on the subway and parakeets chirping perched on a window ledge, ancient trees watch over chaotic city streets while filthy trash litters world-class parks, weeks packed with too many tasks and not enough time mesh with days where there seems to be nothing to do. Every day, Buenos Aires pulls me in and pushes me away like the ocean, but with each wave the flow of the current tugs me a bit deeper out, and I find myself falling further in love with this place.
My relationship with Buenos Aires hasn't quite been what I had expected. When I arrived five months ago, I was met with a cold, grey, foreign city, along with warnings to wear my backpack on my front, to not walk home alone at night, to not trust cab drivers or street meat or crosswalks or Coke cans. I was wary, tiptoeing my way around, unsure where to start, how or if I wanted to go about getting to know this place. And to a certain extent, I felt those same reservations from the city towards me; a strange accent, an anxious over-the-shoulder glance, a kid who didn't quite belong and the question of if he should be allowed to see the city's secrets. Slowly, we warmed up to each other — I started find my groove, places and people and sounds and tastes that I liked and kept going back to, and Buenos Aires kept giving me more to love. Still, the more I got to know Buenos Aires, the more flaws I found, many at first completely disgusting and frustrating. Only in becoming closer to this place was I able to understand these faults, why they existed, which ones could be changed and which I would need to learn to live with. As with any love affair, in falling for Buenos Aires I realized that I would get the good and the bad, the pieces I adored and those I couldn't stand. Slowly but surely, Buenos Aires began to show me its full self, an honesty I repaid by opening myself up, becoming more comfortable and vulnerable here, exploring and experiencing everything I could and challenging what I found to be off, allowing everything here to do the same to me.
Buenos Aires and I warming up to each other has been mirrored almost poetically by the change in seasons here. What at first was a cold and wintery place has slowly became more hospitable, the sun kissing my skin and the humidity teasing me to put on shorts and expose my pale self. In exchange, the city unveiled its natural self — slowly, the grass became greener, flowers began to bloom, the spindly skeletons of giant trees began to grow leaves, the jacarandas blossomed in their beautiful shades of purple. My friends who have left for home saw this as one last goodbye, but being here another semester I see it as an invitation — an invitation to experience summer here, to grow closer to this city, to float a little bit deeper and become to a piece of the mosaic that is Buenos Aires. Seeing all of my friends leave for home has made me more sure that my time here can't be over, that there is so much more to do in this city and so much left for it to do to me. One day, when we've exhausted what we can do for each other, Buenos Aires and I will head in different directions. For now, however, I'll keep opening myself up to this place and enjoy how beautiful it is when it opens itself up to me.
This post, I tried to capture what it looks like when Buenos Aires "warms up" to you.