I must admit, I am naïve. I thought I prepared myself well enough to know what to expect in Argentina, but I was wrong. All the research I conducted served as a catalyst for selfish assumptions.
My research revolved around my desire to have a “vacation-like” experience, which blinded me from fully grasping the intensity of how difficult it is to assimilate into a foreign culture. For example, I looked up recommended restaurants and cafes, but I failed to realize that my diet will completely change. I grew up eating rice dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but here, I eat a light breakfast that consists of toast and tea, a snack-like lunch with empanadas or sandwiches, and a heavy dinner with meat and vegetables. There is no Jasmine Rice that is always in the rice cooker ready to be served with a meat dish. In fact, my homestay mother does not even have a rice cooker! I failed to realize that I will be eating differently for three months and that this change will affect my body.
Another change that I overlooked was transportation. In the United States, I looked up famous historical sites, recommended tango shows, and the best museums to visit, and in the process, I neglected to figure out an financially strategic way of getting to those places or, in general, getting around the city. Before I left, I thought to myself, “No worries, I can walk, take a taxi, or Uber to places!” Now that I am here, however, I realized how impractical my plan was. Uber is illegal in Argentina; I can only go so far with my feet; and taking a taxi is not financially sustainable. I was caught up in my desire to have a “vacation-like” experience that I did not research the different transportation methods and routes that locals used, like the Subte (train) and the Colectivo (bus). Buenos Aires’s train and bus systems are punctual and practical, and utilizing them gives me more opportunities to interact the locals and learn more about their culture.
Regardless of my failure to realize how my diet will change and how to travel cost-efficiently, my learning experiences have been pleasantly encouraging and eye-opening. I always ask my homestay mother, Madre Veron, what is in the food that she cooked and from her answers, I have realized how important fresh ingredients are to the Argentines. Madre Veron goes out to go grocery shopping everyday to get fresh ingredients for our food. She has not prepared me food that is drenched in preservatives- no canned corns, peaches, or tuna. The Argentines keep a healthy diet, and this in conjunction with the fact that Madre Veron cooks well makes me excited to go home for dinner every night.
My learning experiences with figuring out cost-efficient methods to travel have also been pleasantly encouraging and eye-opening. Taking the Subte costs about $0.40 (US Dollars), so the fact that I am not being charged by the miles traveled is highly encouraging. Now, I take the Subte everyday to get to school. Instead of going on a thirty-five-minute walk, I take the Subte and it takes me about twenty minutes to get to school.
It has only been a week since I have arrived here, so I am still in the process of adjusting. Each day, when I talk to my homestay mother about her life experiences, when I converse with the teller for the Subte, when I cross the street with them while the pedestrian signal is red, I get a chance to remove my American glasses and wear my Argentine ones. For now, I must admit, I am naïve, but one day, I will be able to say that I “was” naïve.