Friday, May 22, 2009

Temporary State of First Worldness

So, I am in the states for a few weeks for a little business, a little pleasure and a little summertime. After a long ass flight, I am in Washington DC for the week, a place I lived on and off for over a dozen years. First off, in case you were worried, modern Rome is doing just fine. A little more gentrified then six months ago, which means a little more anger in the street, but otherwise all good. The flowers are in bloom, everything is fertile and green, and the sun is getting hotter as summer kicks off this weekend. Lucky me.

DC feels like a old pair of comfortable jeans in one moment and then in another, it feels like shoes that don't quite fit. I am loving the familiarity of the neatly tree lined streets, the stores that I shopped in for a large chunk of my adult life, the sweet smell of summer hitting the city. The girls are wearing their newest sundresses, their shoulders finally fully peaking out after their long hibernation. The boys are in shirtsleeves, their arms just starting the process of the inevitable summertime farmer tans. But after six months in the third world, it is very odd to be where there is so much order, so many straight lines. The rules are much more rigid in the first world, or maybe the compliance levels and expectations are just much higher. I am not sure exactly what it is, but there is a sense of order than just evades the south somehow.

In some way, I feel like a stranger peeping into a life that I only want to dip my toes into as to not be fully enveloped by it. When I was sitting in the back of a taxi yesterday morning, the early summer glow bathing the cars patiently waiting in the enormous traffic jam on the highway (sans crazy horn hocking a la Buenos Aires), all I could think was, “Is this the only way that people can live here? “ Jammed in their cars, following the path that someone before them grooved out for them and was drilled into them as they did the things that their families and society preached to them were the things to do: College, the big city, good job, insurance, security, spouse, car, children, mortgage, dog, college funds, 401ks, retirement, bigger job, bigger office, bigger salary, bigger mortgage, bigger car. Does it have to keep on getting bigger to be considered progress? There was a lot of the same thing in those shiny new Hondas, Toyotas, and Volkswagons.

This isn’t only a first world affliction anymore… the bigger, more syndrome. I saw it creeping into life in Buenos Aires, especially in my first world light neighborhood. For example, blackberries, Iphones – the accoutrement of most people with money and not enough time scrambling for excess– were more and more noticeable in my hood in BA and are ubiquitous here. In fact, I don’t know if I know anyone in DC who doesn’t have a blackberry/Iphone/PDA. Even me.

I am missing Buenos Aires this afternoon, mostly the crazy chaos and energy of the city. BA is eternally alive with its heart beating wildly, loudly, and sometimes even erratically each and every day. In Washington, I am trying but just cannot feel the city’s heart. Maybe I have to try a little harder to listen since maybe it's just not as loud as BA. After all, with it's buses and crazy cars and random third world trucks, BA's heart has some serious competition to be heard.


TCL said...

I lived in DC for 16 years and never considered the city orderly. Now that I live in BsAs I wonder if I will have the same reaction as you did?

Unknown said...

I never did either... but I guess if you compare it to LatAm, it looks kinda orderly. Plus, DC has changed a ton. I lived there for 12 years on and off and it is a very different city now.