Last night, I took an Uber home for the first time, and the experience made me realize that I have been allowing my fear get in the way of becoming an Argentine.
Before I continue, I want to clarify what I mean by “becoming an Argentine.” It is a way of thinking and making decisions. Becoming an Argentine goes beyond learning about Argentina’s history, culture, and language. It is accepting and partaking in the social, economic, and political systems, or in other words, to be one with the nation.
Continuing on, last night, I went to a fundraiser and a movie night with my fellow Pepperdine students. My friend’s mother is part of an organization called Pena Solidaria, and last night they hosted a fundraiser to support the community of El Negrito. Each person paid one hundred pesos (about six dollars) to get in, and with that came the opportunity to participate in cultural dances, interact with locals, and eat homemade food at a beautiful church called Parroquia San Benito Abad.
My friends and I had a great time. We enjoyed the food- I finished a medium pizza by myself. We clapped to the rhythm of the music as a live band performed and people danced on the dance floor. We laughed and shared stories as the music played in the background and I braided my friend’s hair.
I had a good time, but I stayed in my bubble of American friends.
After about two hours, my friends and I left to go walk to McDonald’s for ice cream, and then we walked back to our school to have a movie night. There were still plenty of people at the fundraiser, plenty of locals, but we chose to leave. We chose to continue on with our American lifestyle and dismiss the beauty of the new culture that surrounds us.
It was only during my ride back home that I realized that I have been afraid, and this fear has kept me from becoming an Argentine. I saw my Uber pull up in front of my school. It was a black Chevrolet Cruze with tinted windows. Right when I saw it, I was scared.
“What if this guy kidnaps me? I remember someone mentioning that sex trafficking is a thing here. Uhhh, I really should not get in this car,” I argued in my head. “But you have no choice. It’s four in the morning, and you are not going to walk home,” my head argued back.
I opened the door, and the Uber driver greeted, “Diana, Hola! Como estas?”
I gave a one word respond, “Bien.” I told myself that if I keep my mouth shut, then there is no chance of me sending him any signals of vulnerability or flirtatiousness. If I keep my mouth shut, he won’t know that I do not speak Spanish very well, and he won’t take advantage of me.
I sat quietly until I was in front of my house.
Before I left, I searched my purse for tip money. He turned around with a big smile, and asked me if everything was alright. I said yes, and I asked if I was supposed to pay in person or through card with Uber. He said that everything was fine and that my card should automatically be charged with Uber. Afterwards, I reached over to hand him his tip, but he refused with a big smile. He said that it was not necessary, but I handed it to him regardless.
That was when I realized how I have been allowing my fear to get in the way of my assimilation process here in Argentina. In the fundraiser, I was afraid I would not be able to understand the locals and that I would make a fool out of myself, so I sought the easy way out and got ice cream. In the Uber ride, I was paranoid because I was unsure of how Uber works and how safe it is, so I chose to make myself invisible. Not knowing, not understanding, and not being sure all scare me, but I cannot let it close me into a small world with only my fear. Yes, there is danger in being a new country where I do not know the language and the systems in place, but people are nice and are willing to help. I just have to try and learn to ask for help. The locals at the fundraiser were teaching other Pepperdine students how to dance because they were trying and they asked for help. The Uber driver did not hesitate to help me understand how the payment would work. It has been almost a month since I have been here, and I have allowed the fear to build inside me.
But I will cease to let it get in the way of becoming an Argentine.
From now on, I will be on a strict lookout to make sure that I open up to the locals. I will say “hi” and try my best to make small talk as I wait for the subway or wait in line at the grocery store.
I have half a year in this country, and I will make it worth every minute. By the end of my study abroad program, I will become an Argentine. I will come home and proudly say that I am an Argentine.