Minority Nomad: I met JoJo in Buenos Aires. After having a few meals and drinks together I realized how unique a perspective she has. As an attractive minority woman that has lived in Buenos Aires four years, she has an insight into Argentine (particularly Porteno) culture I will never have. Sit back and enjoy because some of the things she’ll write about are definitely going to be eye opening. The views expressed in here are from The Jojo and by The JoJo. I agree and disagree with some of her views but she has full freedom to write as she wishes. Enjoy
Traveling to a place and living in it are two very, VERY different things.Now when I say traveling, I’m not talking about spending a week-long vacation on a resort, drinking mojitos and flirting with the pool boys. No, no. I mean, packing up your bag and heading off to a place with the intent on learning everything there is to know about it – talk to the locals, meet new people from all over the world and establishing relationships, learn languages, gain life experience, etc. etc. – the difference between having a relaxing vacation and making a foreign land yourcurrent life. In order to do that, most of us pick up a guidebook to help provide us with some insight as to the adventure on which we’re about to embark. The tourist guide books generally tell us what to do and where to go according to the personal preferences and “fun ideas” put forward by that specific author. But each experience that a person has is their own and HOW a person experiences being in a different place may not be according to what the guidebooks tell us. There were no guidebooks that told me how it really was in Argentina. I mean, they give you a heads up, but you really have to wait until you’re knee-deep in it to figure it out.
After being here for almost 4 years, all the Canadian homebodies who I am proud to call “friends” still believe that I am “living the dream” – I live in a foreign country in the southern hemisphere, I take trips everywhere all the time, I’m around another language and I speak it, etc. etc. But actually, what most of them forget is that this stopped being a vacation when it became my life. Life for me down here is similar to what it would have been if I had stayed in Canada – I study, I work (2 jobs, actually), I have a social life, I date, I worry – and life still goes on. And, no, I don’t travel all the time. I’ve vacationed here and there to other countries that are close by – but that’s what you do when you take a vacation and other countries are SO CLOSE. These things cost money, you live paycheck to paycheck, you get older….what are you going to do with your life? Well, what turned into a 6 month “vacation from life” became 4 years of “this is your life”. I had originally planned to return to Canada and join the Air Force. But when my original time was supposed to end, I was seeing someone at the time, a European, in what I thought was love and I didn’t want to end the relationship when it was just getting interesting. So, I decided to stay. During that time of exploring my relationship with this man, I was bored with just teaching English at the time so I decided to do a Master’s degree – how hard could it be right? My Spanish would improve drastically, I’d make friends…so that’s what I did. Now, here I am, trying to finish the thesis and get this degree so I can move on to the next chapter in my life. What that is, I have no idea.
How about I give you the run-down of what I’ve REALLY learned after living here for 4 years. Argentina is a beautiful country from the “End of the World” in Ushuaia to the North and it’s “Land of Mordor”-like scenery…but, sadly, I don’t live in any of those breathtaking landscapes. I live in Buenos Aires. This is what most people (and books) say about the city: the food is unbelievable, it’s like the Paris of South America only 50 billion times cheaper, the people are super friendly (even more so to foreigners), getting your citizenship and legal status is super easy, it’s a multicultural hub of activity and it’s the place where everyone falls in love. Sadly to say, there isn’t one thing in that list that is actually true.
Now, that’s not to say that EVERY aspect is a lie or completely negative and you should steer clear of this place, no. It’s more about those individual experiences. Living in Buenos Aires is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it’s hard. You have to get used to making 10 times less salary that what you would probably get back home regardless of your qualifications and especially if you aren’t legally entitled to work here. Even then, you don’t get paid your worth. You also need to get used to never getting a straight answer – especially if the questions you’re asking have to do with your legal status, a service provider, or anything else for that matter. You should also get used to the fact that because you’re automatically NOT from another Latin American country, you have an imaginary dollar sign attached to your forehead and no matter how well you speak the language, you will never fit in. Your accent will always make you stick out like a sore thumb. On the other hand, however, you can always easily spark up a conversation based on why you have such a funny accent.AND although it may not be easy to make local friends, you can always easily bond with other foreigners because they totally understand the situation you’re in. That being said, they usually end up leaving, while I’m the only loca (crazy) person who stays! Come on, Master’s!!