Friday, May 8, 2009
Wandering the World
I have a standing date most Wednesdays with a friend to have an intercambio, which is when you meet up and spend half the time speaking English and the other half speaking Spanish. It has been a huge help for me as I am working on my Spanish and has given me the chance to learn a bit more about Buenos Aires through the best source of information – the locals.
The other night I was waiting for my friend in Palermo, outside of the University of Buenos Aires. It was a mild fall night, the shadows of the bare trees reflecting onto the sidewalks and into the windows of the chic boutiques that line the cobblestone streets. As I waited for her to come out of her English class, I struck up a conversation with a woman who worked on the campus as a security guard type. Short, stocky, with a pockmarked face and ill-fitting clothes, we chatted about the erratic onset of the fall. She asked my about my bike, which I had leaning up against the light post a couple of feet away. Did I want to put it inside? “No,” I said, “I’m just waiting for a friend who should be out shortly.” We chatted a bit more and then she asked me if I rode very far. No, I responded, just from Las Cañitas. “Las Cañitas?” she asked, “Where is that exactly? I have heard people talk about it, but I don’t know it.”
Las Cañitas is maybe 20 blocks away, but to this woman, it could have been Mars. Another world.
I will give you that Buenos Aires is a huge, sprawling city, with a metro area as big as Yellowstone National Park. And this is not a phenomenon unique to BA. There are other people like this woman I have encountered in New York, Berlin, and Washington, DC. It’s more about curiosity about the world and this woman (and those who don’t leave their little universes everywhere in the world) just did not have it.
In my travels I have also met the other extreme, people who want to travel and cannot because of their government or their own situation with money or family. These are the people I love to chat with and will usually find me across a crowded room at a party. I am inspired by their love of adventure, especially when I grow weary of my own. They remind me why I go out into the world and how amazing it is to discover all that the world has to offer.
As for the non-nomadic woman, she reminds me about how wonderful it is sometimes to just be home.