Yesterday, Nina and I got to video chat with Brad and Danny and Danielle all at the same time, which was way exciting and made me very excited to go home in EIGHT DAYS. Amid our chattering, Danielle asked me whether I am liking Argentina better than I liked Brazil, and indicated that it seemed that way from my blog.
This is an interesting question. I realize that I have done an overwhelming amount of complaining about Brazil, and a lot of excited photo-posting and almost zero complaining about Argentina. I will now attempt to put my whining into context.
There are a few main differences between my experiences in Brazil and Argentina, into which I have attempted to thematically organize my rambling. They are: time, my role, language, and actual differences between these places.
First, I am about to go home. This whole time I've been away, I have been looking forward to this month as The Absolute End. I can now count on my two hands the number of days I have left. This is wildly exciting.
My role in each place has been completely different. In Brazil, I was trying to be a regular person, which was nearly impossible due to the way I look and to my effective but consistently incorrect Portuguese. The Brazilians were normal, and I was trying to fit into that. In Argentina, I'm a tourist. I'm on vacation. I'm not trying to assimilate, I'm just trying to see the city and have a good time. While I am trying to learn things about the culture, I'm not trying to understand it. My role doesn't require it.
There's not a lot of overseas tourism in the Fortaleza area, so not only does virtually no one speak English, but there's no automatic categorization of someone who is tall and white and doesn't speak much Portuguese as a tourist. While this is kind of good, it also makes you feel much weirder than you probably are. In Buenos Aires, there are about a zillion million tourists and a ton of them speak English, and so do a ton of the Argentines they come into contact with. Despite my even more minimal Spanish abilities, I have to rely on my own knowledge of the language far less frequently here than I did in Brazil. I think that alone does a lot for my mental state. It's not a constant struggle. Also, I see Nina every day, and we not only speak English but talk about the many other things we have in common. We can talk about our lives and our friends and have it make sense.
Buenos Aires also just looks and feels a lot different from Fortaleza. It's cleaner, for one thing. The buildings are older and to my eye are more beautiful. It looks more European. There are statues and monuments everywhere. The people look more European - there's not much about me to indicate at first glance that I'm foreign. That is probably the other hugest relief ever. I don't feel as different. Finally, the food is more familiar. It doesn't make sense how much the available food affects how you feel, but it absolutely does. In Buenos Aires there are a zillion kinds of pasta, pizza, pastries, ice cream like you wouldn't believe, and even sandwiches. I ate a hot sandwich with brie cheese, sprouts, onions, and squash on whole wheat bread. I ate two of them. At a restaurant. And it was normal. It was unreal, I felt like I could have been in Los Angeles. I go to fancy cafes and order coffee, and they give you cookies to go with it. At dinner or lunch they give you bread. It's seasoned. Sometimes it's toasted. There is butter. The coffee is not pre-sweetened. I could go on. It's important to keep in mind, though, that I'm also operating in a different social class than I was in Brazil. In Brazil, I was part of a working class family. While there may have been fancy cafes that would serve you cookies with your coffee somewhere (I never saw one in Fortaleza but they must exist in Rio or Sao Paulo or something), those aren't places that my family would go and therefore weren't places that were on my radar.
So, all of that said, I loved Brazil, and I am loving Buenos Aires, but Buenos Aires is sure a heck of a lot easier.