I've been having this type of experience a lot in Buenos Aires, of internalizing only a fragment of the stimulus constantly rodeándome, surrounding me. I’ve spent the last two weeks transitioning from vaguely recognizing that I'm heading in the right direction to - Wait, there's a pharmacy there? And a grocery store over there? They haven't been hiding from me? And I can walk just 20 minutes to find nice trees?
More than language or culture, what’s been the biggest shift for me is being in a city. Buenos Aires is a big city and it’s a great city, I’m just not a city person. That’s not to say I don’t like it here, it’s just an adjustment I’ve been having to make.
My primary focus here is to learn Spanish, and I’ve been having a ton of fun reviewing the subjunctive mood and befriending my classmates, ending each week with about 100 vocab words that I want to start incorporating more into my speech or are just plain new to me. I've also noticed myself starting to unintentionally eavesdrop on conversations in Spanish instead of them just being background noise, which is a tangible step for me in my progression with the language. Aside from class, I've gotten the chance to visit La Boca and El Tigre, check out awesome art museums, take a couple tango lessons - and a considerable amount of naps. The most topical thing I’ve done so far is go to a demonstration in support of legalizing abortions in Argentina.
The abortion demonstration took place last Wednesday, my second day in Buenos Aires. Porteños, as Buenos Aires residents are better known, sure can to protest. There have been large protests about Argentina’s negotiations with the IMF in response to inflation, utility costs, pro-Palestinian protests that led to the cancellation of a World Cup soccer match against Israel, and periodic strikes by teachers’ unions, transportation systems, and other public institutions demanding higher wages -- just to name a few that have happened in the past couple months. It's as if the city is immune to the ails of activist burnout.
The abortion protest was peacefully divided, with people supporting the bill to decriminalize abortion on the right side of the Plaza del Congreso and those who wanted to keep abortions illegal on the left. There were parrilla stands where vendors were grilling, and others were selling prints, pañuelos, and beer. Green pañuelos, or handkerchiefs, were prevalently displayed around people's necks and on backpacks to support the bill passing. The green pañuelos were everywhere - I had seen people wearing them around in public on my first day in Buenos Aires, before I even knew what they were. Those opposed had blue pañuelos, but I didn't see any of those around even though the vote projections were split down the middle. The next day in the middle of class we found out that the bill passed, 129 votes in favor, 125 against in la Cámara de Diputados, essentially the House of Representatives. It has been possible for a while to get an abortion in Argentina, but it is a very costly procedure that has to be done at a private hospital and is still a criminal offense, though it isn't usually enforced. Now that its legalization has passed the House, it's off to the Senate to approve, change, or veto the bill.
Oh yeah, and there will be a strike this Monday. In the U.S., unions don't really serve the purpose of organizing strikes anymore, so I'm quite intrigued by this prospect. The subway, trains, buses, trash collection, even taxis and international flights will be on strike. People who can’t make it to class are excused, but my language school will still be opening and a classmate and I plan on walking to class. For me, that will be about an hour walk, for him, almost two and a half. Welcome to the life of Nerds Abroad.™