The Yanqui Chronicles

Tales and photos from my time in Argentina (and maybe more) from June to November 2013.

Commentary:

"Riveting and unforgettable, 'The Yanqui Chronicles' somehow strikes the eternally-elusive balance between Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' (1774) and the masterful film 'Snow Dogs' (2002). I would sell my firstborn to be able to write something half as innovative."
-A. Belano, Excélsior, 2013

"All aboard for a thrilling ride of sobs, screams, trauma, hilarity and (most likely) all four at once. If you aren't wearing a helmet, Meyer's work is liable to give you permanent brain damage. I'm not joking guys."
-Paula Arnold, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, 2013.

11 18 2013 - Last Entry

This is officially the last entry. I’ve read some of my initial blog posts and it’s amazing how unsure I was of everything, how foreign of a concept Buenos Aires seemed to me (even when I was only ten hours away from being there!), especially since now Buenos Aires is a place I feel like I know well, a place that will always be dear in my heart. Similarly to how I could not conceive of ‘tomorrow in Buenos Aires’ back in June, I am having trouble grasping what ‘tomorrow in Sioux Falls’ means. Of course it’s not as dramatic, it’s a place I know, but it still is actually a little scary to me, as stupid as that might sound.

I can’t believe the five months are already done! Even though it was the primary goal of mine, to tell myself on June 20, 2013 that I would leave Buenos Aires with extremely meaningful friendships was a far-out dream, a super fantasy. Of course, to be able to be invited to the apartment of friends from Argentina, to go out with people from here, drink coffee, mate, cook dinner, to be accepted as ‘un argentino más’ would be great, but I also didn’t want to expect too much and leave disappointed. And for that exact reason I’m sitting here in the airport on the verge of tears, incredibly incapable of understanding how the hell I’ve been so lucky. So many micro-moments encapsulate this feeling: cooking empanadas in Leni’s house with my friend Gabi on the 9th of July; trulling through the Tigre Delta last Saturday to go to a super weird island party with Piru, Kate, Marina, and Ami; watching The Nanny with Fred, Leni, Jail, and Vadu; seeing a small concert with my friend Emilia- the list goes on. I think in the multitude of moments where the very people who I crossed by complete chance in this bizarre corner of the world accepted me without question as one of their own. I’m probably not explaining well, but this is why I feel so lucky.

Maybe this will make it a little clearer. You know when a famous person gets asked how they felt when they first got famous? They tend to say, “Well I couldn’t believe it, it’s what I’d always wanted, and then to see my dream become reality was amazing, etc etc.” That’s how I feel. My true goal was to enjoy good company here, even if just for a few moments, and I got much more than that. And I still can’t believe it. That’s why while I’m sobbing hysterically, I genuinely don’t think it’s because I’m sad but instead because I’m super content with how I’m leaving Buenos Aires.

As much as I’d love to continue with this idea, I’ve probably beat it dead by now. I still need to write about my last day here. I actually can’t even post this blog right now because I want to surprise my parents in Sioux Falls, so if they read this they’ll know I’m leaving today and not Thursday (though they’re parents and tend to have instincts about these things anyway…).

Anyway, yesterday, the 17th, was an awesome day. The only big plan was to have a goodbye dinner with friends from Buenos Aires, a small group to be sure, but just to end things on a good note. Before that, I was feeling the kind of nostalgia I’m emptying onto you, dear reader, and so I spent the day keeping myself busy, packing, walking, reading, and buying food for the dinner. These last days I actually didn’t do any sight-seeing but instead focused entirely on doing goodbyes the right way. I also bought a few presents for family members.

Around 7 my friend Kate came over to help with some kitchen stuff. We exchanged some presents and I ended up getting around a pound of Colombian coffee which honestly meant the world to me. After that we tried to make an iced coffee but it turned out the blender was broken. So instead of doing anything we chilled on the balcony, listened to music, drank a beer, watched a final sunset over the skyline and waited for our friends.

In classic Buenos Aires fashion, a few people cancelled at the last minute and the majority of people showed up late. Fortunately, our friend Marina came over and helped begin to prepare things and another friend from the exchange program named Dylan rolled through, and so we started eating. A little later Fred, Leni, and Jail all came over which is when the party started (and when the neighbor rang our doorbell to be quiet). It was a peculiar mix of different friend groups and so it was funny to see how people interacted. On top being from different backgrounds and professions, it was also interesting that people I knew from day one (Fred, Leni, Dylan) were sharing the experience with people I met only ten days ago (Marina and Kate). Fortunately we all got along and had a great time listening to music and chatting. Afterwards some of us gave sentimental speeches, Jail and Leni said super nice things and I obviously thanked everyone for coming over. I’m surprised I didn’t cry. As everyone was leaving Vadu showed up in time to say goodbye.

Today was just a normal day. I went to exchange some leftover pesos into dollars with a street vendor and then went over to Leni’s for a final mate. It was really awesome because in his house was Fred and Franko, and those three were the very first people I met in Buenos Aires on the subway. Afterwards Vadu came by and we exchanged some more gifts- Leni gave me a shirt with his name on it, Franko gave me a really raunchy cutoff shirt, Vadu gave me his city guide, and Fred gave me a used metro card and 25 cents. When I left they all said that they knew we’re going to see each other again and didn’t seem too worried in the least. I really hope to come back, too.

In hindsight these months have been absolutely amazing. It was truly a blessing to come to Buenos Aires and especially at such a young age. I know that this experience will be something that influences me for the rest of my life, and the people I met here will always be in the front of my mind. I’m eternally grateful to my family, friends throughout the world, and whatever other forces brought me here. I wouldn’t trade these five months for anything in the world (except for a lifetime supply of Snow Dogs, obviously).

For those of you who read this, thank you very much. It’s nice to have a (relatively) candid record of Argentina, of my thoughts and perceptions in Buenos Aires and how they’ve developed and changed, and I’m not sure if I would have written it without an audience, no matter how small.

It’s almost time to go home, so here’s where I’ll leave it. Goodbye Buenos Aires, I hope we see each other soon.

-John

7:52 PM

11/18/13

Terminal C, Ezeiza International Airport

Last pictures of Buenos Aires. The group from Sunday night’s dinner (Marina, Fred, me, Leni, Jail, Dylan, and Kate) and then another photo before leaving for the airport with Fred, Leni, Vadu, and Franko. The last photo is of the nice gifts I was given upon departing.

Me, Kate, and Piru in Tigre waiting for the boat to get us off the godforsaken island.
11/16/13

Me, Kate, and Piru in Tigre waiting for the boat to get us off the godforsaken island.

11/16/13

11 11 to 17 2013

It’s so insane to think that the time here is coming to an end. It was one thing to say goodbye to my friends from the program, because we’re all in the same situation, leaving back to our homes in the world and then a few months later to our respective universities. But saying goodbye to people here is another thing. Getting integrated into these groups of people was a really awesome experience, and I have this feeling that I’ll be missing out on something when I leave, that my friend Leni will still have people over to drink mate, that Katherine and Marina will keep seeing each other, and that things will just be normal except without me. I know for my first days in the US it’s going to kill me thinking about those people, but fortunately I’ll have my family to look forward to, meaning this isn’t at all a bad situation, just one with a good and bad side. And of course, as always, the sadness about missing my friends here is a result of a real friendship which is absolutely amazing. It’s a good thing to miss people, even if it sucks a bit.

So what happened this week? Well I was in Ushuaia the last time I wrote, and we had just finished getting off a boat tour through the Beagle Channel which was amazing. Our tour guide was super qualified and talked to us about all the different animal and plant species there. Interestingly, the Island of Tierra del Fuego only broke off of mainland South America some 10,000 years ago, and only 14,000 years ago did the first humans arrive in the island. So that was really interesting. The boat trip itself was awesome, too, because of the group. It was recommended by the hostel since only 12 people could go on the boat, and apparently it had a tendency to attract a younger crowd which was true in this case. Since the group was small, we all got to know each other. One guy I remember really well was Xavi, a fifty-something Spanish tourist who came from Spain to Argentina and told me that he absolutely loved it. It was his first time in South America and said he couldn’t believe how much more open and friendly the people were. That was interesting to me, because I’ve heard from other Latin Americans (mostly Colombians) that people here are a little colder, so it was a cool perspective to hear.

Tuesday the 12th I walked up a hiking trail to a miniature glacier in Ushuaia with a dutch guy in the hostel named Bobby who has been travelling South America for 9 months. He’s an electrician but saved up money and decided to make it last over here, so he’s been through all the continent and still has until the summer of 2014 which sounds super awesome. Anyway, we walked the trails even though the weather was bad, and when I returned I played cards with some German people in the hostel who were visiting their sister in Buenos Aires.

Wednesday I came back to Buenos Aires. Like every time, I felt at home again, and the reality of me leaving hadn’t quite set in. It was surreal returning. The city actually has taken on a whole new character since moving out of the homestay. Obviously things there were very free, but now I am staying with a friend in Palermo, and having my own key and place to sleep in a house that doesn’t have older adults is completely different. I also don’t feel the kind of web of support that I had earlier when I was here at first, with a study abroad program, host family, and huge group of international students who can help. To be honest, I like it in hindsight, and it makes me excited to come back some day. On the way to the apartment the cab driver and I talked a lot, and as it turned out he’s from Colombia. He told me all about Argentina, why it’s not the best place to work in his opinion, and why he’ll probably go back to Colombia or the US. As it turns out there’s Colombians everywhere. I’ve started to meet lots of Colombians in Argentina, and, to be quite honest and wide-sweeping, I’ve gotten along very well with them and it makes me want to go to their country a lot. Speaking of Colombian people, Wednesday evening I spent with my friend Kate who is also Colombian. She’s a friend of my friend Amy and we had only met the past week and got along well, so we got together to watch a movie.

Thursday was relaxed. I met up with my friend Samara for a coffee and then got pizza with her study abroad group which was really fun. And afterwards we went to the house of Chris (I think I described him a lot in the previous entry) and there was a small group doing a barbeque which was delicious. I had never eaten rabbit or sheep and so I tried it that night. Other than that it was relaxed.

Friday was the day of craziness. Actually nothing too interesting happened for a while, but Kate and I agreed to go to a party of a friend of an acquaintance who actually happened to live in the other side of the country (that’s just how it works here). I went assuming I’d be the friend of a friend of the friend who was hosting the party, but as it turns out I’m just the friend of a friend who has an acquaintance who does indeed know the person who had the party. Anyway, the meetup was in Tigre, which is an hour away from the capital in train. To make things even cooler, though, the party was set to be on an ISLAND in the middle of the river delta, meaning we had to get to tigre in time to catch what is more or less a water bus to get to the Island, and then we couldn’t get picked up until the morning. Obviously we were all pumped (and underestimating just how far the journey was), so we went. At Kate and I met in our friend Amalia’s house in Belgrano, and from there we went to the train where we met Marina and Piru. Marina is super hip and awesome and studies in a private university here. Piru is from Bogotá, Colombia, studied in a cooking school, and is moving to Chicago in February, so I’m trying to help him out as much as possible (Colombians move everywhere, I’m telling you!). And so we stayed on the train for about an hour, and from there we went on to catch the last boat at 12:40 which took a really long time to arrive, maybe an hour. It was actual pretty cold, and to be honest the party itself wasn’t that fun (apparently it was a birthday party and we didn’t know anyone there), but there was a fire pit which was cool. At 6 AM all the boats filled up to go back, so we waited until 7 to get a boat, and got to Tigre around 8. On the boat people started acting like they were from Jersey Shore and some kind of fight started (on the dock in Tigre) and the police came. Some guys got out there belts to fight which my friend Leni claims is a gaucho tradition, but fortunately nobody got hurt. By 9:30 we got to Buenos Aires, at 10 we chilled at Amalia’s for a while and watched Signs for some reason and then at noon I went back home and died.

Obviously Saturday was a day to catch up. In the afternoon I went to Leni’s and helped clean his apartment while listening to some music and chatting. In the night nothing interesting happened which probably makes up for the day before.

Today is the last day I’ll probably see quite a few people, and I would be lying if I said that this hasn’t bummed me out quite a bit. The sentimentality comes and goes- this morning waking up and yesterday evening for some reason were really weird- but now writing this makes me feel good, maybe just because I’m distracted, but that’s okay. Anyway, tonight some friends are coming over for dinner which will be really fun. So far Jail, Leni, Vadu, Freddy, Kate, and Marina are planning on coming over which is perfect. There’s lots of ways that I feel like this is the perfect closing. On one hand, I’m spending my last time here with the same people I met so early and have become close to (Leni and Fred) meanwhile bringing people who I feel equally close to but met recently (Kate and Marina). Apart from that, where I’m being put up now is coincidentally only three blocks from where I started in Buenos Aires. I feel like everything is closing as it started, and that makes me happy. In short, I’m sad it’s coming to an end but happy that the whole experience even happened. I’m super fortunate for that.

John

10:06 AM

11/17/13

A path my friend-for-a-day Bobby and I walked up. It took 5.5 hours in total to walk from our hostel to the base and up a few paths, but it was fun.

More pictures of the Beagle Channel, the city of Ushuaia from afar, and some pro-government graffiti, which for some reason or another was really popular here.

Pictures of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel where we took a boat (two times) on Monday the 11th

More photos from Tierra del Fuego National Park near Ushuaia, Argentina.

11 7 to 10 2013

These days have been really awesome in Argentina. I was lucky to meet an awesome group of new people this week, which on one hand is a bummer because we’ll be maintaining friendships from long distance for quite a while, but on the other hand I’m eternally grateful to have met them because we met. But that’s another story. For now I want to write about the other things that have been going on.

On Thursday the 7th I got all my grades back, and fortunately I got all 9’s and 10’s from my professors. It was nice to say goodbye, and the couple of extremely good professors I had exchanged information. That night a group of the exchange students all met up at Markus and Jonas’ house, and we planned on going out somewhere but ended up saying sentimental goodbyes and hanging out. It was overall a really good night. Also that night I said goodbye to Carla since she wouldn’t be over the next day.

Friday the 8th was an extremely busy day. In the morning I went to take money out of the bank for the trip to Ushuaia, then went to the study abroad office to drop off a suitcase, ate lunch with some more exchange students for a final goodbye, and then went to Leni’s house to chill with him and Jail for only a couple of hours. After that I went home to catch up on some sleep that evaded me the night before, and then before I knew it I was headed over to Markus and Jonas’ house again for a party with friends from Argentina. Unfortunately Vadu and Leni could not come, but fortunately a ton of different other people came and the night ended great. In terms of foreigners, Wade, Markus, Jonas, and a guy from San Francisco named Chris was there. Chris is the only one of these people who I didn’t mention. He’s super white but is from Los Angeles and for that reason has a super Mexican accent. He’s also super offensive in his humor, but that’s okay because he’s 28 so we just jokingly call him old. Anyway, along with him some friend of Jonas and Markus who work at Starbucks came, along with Sofia and Nuria, other people we’d met earlier, and Amalia, Katherine, and some other people who I didn’t know before. The whole night we chilled out and chatted, danced Salsa, and so on. In the end nobody wanted to leave because it meant goodbye for a while, but after the sun had been up for a fair amount of time Markus, Jonas and I made our goodbyes to each other which was hard, but it was nice to know that I’ll see Wade soon at Pitt. Anyway, then a group of five of us with Amalia, Katherine, and Martina went to get some food and then I slept for a few hours. It was a great day.

I woke up with few hours of sleep to get my bags, go to the airport, and move on to Ushuaia. It was honestly really hard to get going, partly because I was tired, but also because I didn’t want to miss any of my friends in Buenos Aires. But I knew I had to go, and so I arrived in Ushuaia Saturday night.

That evening I went to get a drink with some Dutch guys and we chilled out. Ushuaia is incredibly beautiful and fairly cold (30-40 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening, maybe 50 mid day), and quite isolated. The sun stays up late now since it’s the Spring which is nice. But the scenery of the city itself is the best part. It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lakes, but the scenery on the ground is much greener. It rains a lot and the weather here changes in a span of minutes. I think the pictures will speak of the landscape better.

Anyway, on Sunday I met an Australian guy named Harry at breakfast and we went to the National Park together (photos from earlier). We spent about ten hours there doing various hiking trails and fortunately the weather was beautiful all day with very little rain despite bad forecasts. The park itself is super beautiful and very frequently we approached the border of Chile. Tomorrow I am thinking of going back to the park to do a more intensive trail that has a nice view of the city.

Today a few friends from my study abroad program who arrived yesterday morning (Colleen, Rin, and Kelly) went on a boat together with me, but the weather, as always, changed immediately and we will have to postpone and see if we can go in the afternoon later. It was pretty insane, the waves were very calm and normal and within ten minutes they became huge and we had to turn back because the boat we were on is quite small (which is why it’s recommended, the tour has 6-12 people as opposed to 25-40). So that was a bit of a bummer, but the views were nice that we got, and we’re hoping to go out at 3 if the weather is kind.

As for everything else, I am content. Buenos Aires will be amazing to return to. Wednesday I will either watch a movie with Katherine or go eat pizza with Leandro, Thursday my friend Chris will have an Asado, Friday will be some kind of festivities with the crew, and the rest is unsure besides for a dinner on Sunday and making Colombian coffee and arepas one of the days with Katherine. But it’s all relaxed and I’m looking forward to going home.

Take it easy everyone!

John