To the invested readers of my last blog, chloeseestheworld, welcome to “Chloe runs out of money and needs to get a job.”
After several months of being lazy and avoiding to add new posts, I have decided to start a new blog. This one will be focused on my day to day life in Buenos Aires. Now that I have settled down (temporarily, I am sure), my life is not the same as it was when I was freely traveling from hostel to hostel and city to city. Now I’m packing myself like a sardine into train cars during rush hour and waking up before sunrise to arrive to work on time. My life is less glamorous than it was, but I ran out of money, so I have been forced to get a job and be a productive member of society again.
I have found work as an English teacher and currently teach around 22 hours a week. I have approximately 30 students and am doing my part to impart the knowledge of English on them. I have found that it is improving my Spanish vocabulary as well, which is always a plus. I make sure to inform all of my students that I am speaking gringa Spanish out on the streets of Buenos Aires, embarrassing myself, so they should never be nervous or self-conscious when speaking English with me. I strongly believe that to be an effective (affective? I should know this) language teacher, you must be studying a foreign language yourself. I tend to learn at least one new word a day just from life experience, but I am also about to hire an Argentine friend of mine to give me weekly lessons again.
As previously mentioned, this blog will be focused on my everyday life in Buenos Aires. Traveling in hostels is a lot different than actually living in a foreign country, looking for work, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc, so I will be sharing my experiences. For example, the greatest challenge of this week so far has been finding two peso coins so my roommate and I can wash our clothes. The two peso coins are not in wide circulation and yet, the machine will not accept one peso coins, which I always have plenty of. In the meantime, I have been washing my socks in the sink. I have about two pairs of clean underwear left, so soon they’ll be getting washed in the sink too.
I love living in Buenos Aires, but at times it gets tiring always being the foreigner. A little bit of background on terms, a gringo is anyone from an English speaking country that is in a Spanish speaking country, sometimes Europeans that are not native English speakers also get put in this group (the Dutch, Germans, etc). A yankee is a term used in Argentina to describe people from the United States. The accent of Buenos Aires pronounces “y” like “sh” so here I am a shankee. I appreciate the term given that I am a seventh generation New Yorker. Also, “american” is not typically used to describe people from the United States because you are American if you were born anywhere in this hemisphere, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. So, Argentines are Americans too, as are Peruvians and Mexicans and Cubans and so on and so forth. In Spanish, the official term for people from the United States is “Estadounidense” (Estados Unidos=United States).
My Spanish ability has progressed fairly well over the months. I place myself in the intermediate category, I can have full conversations and I understand even more than I speak, but, I still make lots of mistakes and my overall vocabulary is limited. I always tell people that I am a lot smarter in English. They usually believe me. I am fully embracing the local accent and slang, so my Spanish is far different from anything I was ever taught in the States, but at least I don’t speak with a lisp like they do in Spain. Embarrassingly, I still cannot roll my r’s. One of my students is 11 and she thinks it’s hilarious that I lack the skill. Every time I see her, she asks me to say the word “perro” (Spanish for dog). Every time I remind her that I cannot say it correctly, but I always attempt it anyways, she always laughs. My only hope is that my Spanish mispronunciations will encourage my students to speak more English. Ten months abroad, more or less, and I still cannot pronounce the r’s correctly, perhaps there is something wrong with my tongue. Too bad.
Buenos Aires has its flaws like any other place, but for the most part I absolutely love the city. There are tons of parks, the buildings are beautiful, and craft micro-breweries are the latest trend. Spanish speakers can never pronounce my last name, but I inform them that it is the greatest last name to have, Brewer. The culture of Argentina is part of what I love so much about this place too. The Argentines are outgoing, friendly, and love to have fun. I have been brought into families and friend groups here without question and treated as if I have always been there. My bosses feel more like surrogate family members and my students are becoming like friends. When you are five to six thousand miles away from your real family, you have to find family wherever you are.
I also have quite a few friends who are also foreigners. We bond over the shared experiences of being expats and the struggle of learning Spanish. My roommate, Addy, is from Portland. We share a one bedroom apartment to save money and take turns being the one to sleep in the living room. We often fantasize about what our apartments or houses will look like one day. I picture a huge loft overlooking a city with tons of books, art, plants, and natural light. I imagine a balcony and my own washing machine so that I don’t have to track down uncommon coins. I imagine my own bedroom with a giant fluffy bed and a kitchen with knives that cut and pans that don’t act like glue. But I am 21, so really, sharing a one bedroom apartment is the only place I belong at this point in my life. It’s a small price to pay for happiness living abroad.
Tragically, my US bank account is almost completely empty, so I am making the full switch to pesos. I am technically working illegally, so I am also adjusting to a fully cash based life. Within a couple months, my savings account will be an envelope full of pesos shoved in a hole I’ll have to cut in my mattress. Again, I am 21, it’s the only way I should be living right now.
Above everything else, I am really happy here. I feel like I belong here right now more than any other place in the world. I have found my people and if that means that I have to wake up at six am to take a bus outside the city to teach at a U.S. based company, then that is what I’ll do, because happiness is more important than just about anything else.
I’ll be trying to keep this blog updated, so check back often for more stories of my life being a gringa abroad.
Chau! (spoiler alert: most of South America doesn’t say adios)