As I readied for dinner in my new home city of Buenos Aires the other night, I happened to glance at the time: 9 p.m. Translation: by the time I finished taming my frizzies, walked to the parrilla I’d wanted to check out and joined the lengthy wait for a table, I’d be lucky to see a bife de lomo on my plate before 10:30. And the realization didn’t phase me a bit. Which then made me so happy I squealed.
“I think I’m turning into a real Porteño!” I cried out to Ayaz. A Porteño, if you’re wondering, is a Buenos Aires local. Less than I week in BA and here I was acting like a local. I was pumped.
Historically, the 9 o’clock hour has stirred in my old lady soul little more than thoughts of sleep. No lie, I’m usually in PJs and under the covers by 10:30, on a late night. I’m a bona fide granny, and there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with that.
Yet, in the past few days since moving to Argentina, I’ve discovered that in Buenos Aires not only is it possible, it’s the norm, to head out to dinner on a Sunday night at 10 p.m. and find myself snarfing ojo de bife alongside surprisingly chipper toddlers and hordes of adults. Now, with barely a shrug of the shoulders, I’m totally down with that.
Mind you, I’m the girl who lived in Manhattan and suffered bona fide anxiety when friends made dinner reservations for 8:30 p.m. “But it’s so late!” I’d wail (to myself, chiefly, since I felt every bit the weenie for my early-bird leanings).
Perhaps it’s inevitable I’d make the transition to Porteño so seamlessly, what with the wafting scent of delicious grilled meat perpetually permeating BA’s air, or having discovered provoleta, that magnificent round of provolone cheese grilled with magical spices, and of course, stumbling upon endless cafes hawking creamy dulce de leche as an omnipresent condiment. Trust, it all starts to get under your skin (and into your belly).
But it’s not just my evolving dining habits that have me giddy. My apartment is slick with great balcony views, and located in the excellent Palermo Hollywood neighborhood. Figuring out the basics: where to foodshop, how to change money for the enviable “blue dollar” rate, mastering the subte (subway) system, discovering where to get my grilled meat on — it’s all been managed with relative ease.
For this I owe T-Mobile an enormous, THANK YOU. Having international data and unlimited texting at no extra cost (crap, I sound like an infomercial!) has been huge. The simple, constant acts of using Google Maps every time I wander from my apartment, or searching for Spanish words I don’t know or understand has made my life in a foreign town ridiculously easy compared to other times I’ve moved abroad.
Of course, there’s still stuff I’ve gotta figure out. I have no idea where to buy fresh chicken. I found a fishmonger, but was told I bought the salmone blanco, or “white salmon.” Which I suspect might not even be a real type of fish. Spices, outside of an obscene range of salt options (who knew there were so many?), are pretty much non-existent at shops. And god help me, but I can’t seem to find a cheesemonger.
Have I mentioned the language barrier? No, of course I haven’t. That’s because I’m more than a bit embarrassed that after studying Spanish for around 6 years in high school and college, and living in freaking Spain while attending a language school in my 20s, I still freeze up like a vaca in headlights every time someone tosses more than a few simple words in my direction.
Naturally, I hope this will improve over time, but I’m looking into some performance-enhancing tools, namely, more Spanish lessons.
The new adventure is in full swing, complete with the expected highlights and bumps in the road inherent in living and traveling overseas. I’m love-, love-, loving the return to the sights, sounds, possibility and energy of an enormous urban world while still struggling to understand how to fully experience the sights, sounds, possibility and energy of said enormous urban world.
For now, I’ve decided it’s the small wins that will push me into a deeper understanding of my new home. And I’m pretty sure it all starts with a goopy hunk of provoleta at 11 p.m.