2.25pm - Growing

Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Portal del Sur Hostel Buenos Aires
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday 12 May, 2.25pm, the dining room

I am sitting right now feeling as pitifully non-Spanish as one can feel – there are two Dutch girls, Dorus and Jessica, doing their homework at the dining table, and Mike, an Aussie version of my friend Kris Bloom, is teaching his fellow Aussie Jack at the coffee table next to me. Over the last month here in Buenos Aires, I have picked up more and more Spanish, and now I can understand a lot of conversations as I overhear them, but I'm still not in the place where it has clicked in my head and the words just come flowing out. But it’s okay, it will keep picking up, I’m sure. I just need more and more exposure.

So my timetable has changed slightly, as my credit card expired and I am waiting for a new one to come from the UK. Thanks to Easter and the royal wedding, it seems that working days are in short supply back in Blighty, which has delayed everything rather, and now I am just spending my days hanging around here until I have the wherewithal to move on. The situation is good though – I’ve got a good hostel, the staff are ace, my Spanish is slowly improving, and most of my favourite people are long termers like me.

It’s a funny thing with Spanish. It was slowly sinking in when I was in England, but being surrounded by it all the time is something very different. Certain words (food, numbers) are coming up every day, so I am getting better and better at keeping them in my head. Other words (animals, body parts) are obviously not something you use a lot of, so they are vaguely drifting off. I need to get back into proper lessons, but I’m going to do that when I get to Ecuador. It’s just a question of becoming comfortable with the language now – I have the basics, I have to just build up my vocabulary of nouns and verbs. Certain small sentences are becoming second nature, but I’m still grasping for the words if I’m not concentrating. But it’s not easy to just pick it up in seconds, and I do feel slightly comforted when I meet people who are really good and even they say they have lots to learn and they find it hard to speak in Spanish all day long.

Then of course, you meet someone like Jessica, who speaks half a dozen languages flawlessly already, and is now tacking Spanish on top of those. (And we're not just talking the usual Dutch language expertise - she studied things like Greek and Latin as well, the swine.) She was teaching me some Dutch pronunciation last night – I brought up Amsterdam on Google Maps and tried to pronounce some street names, which amused her greatly, and then she told me how to say it properly. I still don’t think I’ll be able to bring it all back next time I’m in the Dam, but it was terribly good fun at the time.

As I briefly said the other day, it’s very strange being back in Buenos Aires, since it was the first non-English-speaking city I ever visited when I first started travelling alone. I found it pretty intimidating when I was here before – I didn’t understand what people were saying, I didn’t understand the vibe of the place, and it all seemed a little bit scary. I knew there were certain streets I shouldn’t walk on, that hanging around at night could be dangerous. Coming back now, having dealt with the trauma of local buses in Korea and ordering food in Mandarin and getting told off on the Japanese subway, it all seems a bit tamer. Not sanitised by any stretch of the imagination, but a lot more manageable. I think it’s hard to judge any kind of growth within yourself when it is not contrasted against something else. You can’t compare one experience to another when each experience is so different. If I had been going back to the same places over and over, or spending more time in one particular place, maybe I would be able to see something like that, but since I’m always just looking forward to the next step on my journey instead of reflecting on where I’ve already been, I don’t think too much about such things. (What can I say – I’m a deeply shallow person.)

Coming back to Buenos Aires, even though I hadn’t spent a lot of time here before, it feels like I am actually moving forward, that maybe I am actually changing as a result of the things I am doing and seeing. Because it’s happening incrementally, I just didn’t realise before now. The term "finding yourself" is so fucking wanky that I cringe every time I think about it, but that is what all this is about, surely. Growing as a person, becoming more interested in things outside myself and outside my own comfort zone. And it’s not just superficial, some of it is making a real change to the way I think. I had an argument with someone about the Falkland Islands yesterday, and was amazed at how quickly all that history came back to me, even though I haven’t really thought about it in a couple of years. I had a long talk with this American girl called Kylie about Hiroshima, and that too came streaming back. I have so many more opinions and thoughts about things which are maybe a little more significant to the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still squealed with delight when I was the only one in the common room the other day and found an old episode of Project Runway on TV to watch whilst I was having dinner. I read chicklit, I worry about my eyebrows, and I spend far too much time on Twitter. I’d love to be the kind of person who knows about wine and art and discusses important literature at intimate dinner parties with all the right people, but I don’t think it is my destiny to be high brow/an elitist prick (delete as appropriate). I am much happier utilising it only as the secret weapon in pub quizzes. Maybe it’s enough of a goal to have something vaguely interesting to say sometimes. Maybe it’s just enough to know that I’m marginally less selfish than I was three years ago.
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dini123 on

But beautiful as ever marching onwards with your best winning smile forward.

Pater Deux on

and blessed with better weather on the whole...

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