A few mornings ago, as I opened the window in my room like I do each morning, it hit me that things were different. Upon feeling the chill, I noticed the leaves on the big tree next door were thoroughly, beautifully yellow. It was quiet and still out. The sky, too, had lost a bit of its blue brilliance.
It’s fall here in Buenos Aires. People are donning their fancy warm weather shoes and coats, complaining about the cold or a sore throat, and the energy is much more harried than the pace I’d become accustomed to as a symptom of Argentina’s oppressive heat.
It’s the first seasonal change I’ve experienced since I moved to Buenos Aires. When I arrived in November, spring was a-bloomin’ into summer, but I wasn’t leaving behind winter like everyone else here was. In a feat of hemispheric genius, I was leaving behind summer in the States to arrive to another summer.
And while the cold isn’t my favorite, I’m quite enjoying transitioning with the rest of the city. I feel part of it. Plus, the opportunity to get cozy and homey and make soup is feeling right. Six months in a new country, a different language, a new barrio, a totally unfamiliar reality, and I’m ready to take a breather and dwell in the life I’ve built for myself here.
I’ve been noticing, lately, what that life looks like. Now, I have friends at the vegetable stand, the bakery and the laundromat, who greet me with a “It’s been a while, where have you been?” if I haven’t come round in a few weeks. I have the semblance of a routine, with various weekly commitments including a fantastic Spanish class, a visit to the suburbs to the teens I tutor, a few hours with a nice group of familiar faces who come to my Saturday yoga class. I seem to have transitioned from talking superficially to everyone I meet (“Where are you from?” “What are you doing here?” “Why Buenos Aires?”) into having deep conversations on a regular basis. Meat has officially lost its novelty (I’m basically a vegetarian again). I’m slowly but surely shedding my inhibitions when speaking Spanish, and I’m surprising myself with the random vocabulary words I pull out in conversation. I experienced a major world news event from its epicenter (one word: Repsol). I even understand how to use the Guia T, the profoundly confusing guide to Buenos Aires’ public transportation system.
Six months has also definitely been enough time to feel a wide range of strong emotions. Unfortunately, it was enough to miss an incredibly important family gathering at home. During that time, I felt — really felt — what it means to be so far away from those I love most when I would have given anything to be with them. To be able to mourn my grandfather’s death in the company of other loved ones, and not alone in a foreign place. To be able to hug and kiss and smell and see my family.
Most of all in this new life, I’m learning how to take care of myself right. On one of those days when I was feeling particularly far and lonely, I walked to the bakery down the street, where I often stop in for a cookie or an empanada, to treat myself to Chipá (yum!). It’s one of my favorite places in the neighborhood. On my walk home, sheepish from shedding a tear or two in front of the shop owner, I realized that, in a way and without even trying, I’d managed to seek out comfort food, a friend, and a decently familiar shoulder to cry on.