Considering how much I've travelled, I thought arriving in a new
country like Argentina wouldn't be scary at all - how wrong I was.
The best way to describe how It feels to be plonked in the middle
of a whole new world, is complete blindness. I'm blind to the
language, the customs, the culture and the simple things I normally
take for granted. Why can't I flush toilet paper down the toilet?
Why is everyone sipping tea out of silver straws? Why are the
restaurants empty at 8pm?
I found myself close to tears at least three times in the last
24 hours which has been quite unsettling. Like going to a tango
lesson with Argentinians that move like oil in water and feeling
like a left-footed fool, one clumsy step after another. Or eating
alone in a restaurant and having no idea what I'm ordering on the
menu. Then having a wedge of eggy goo placed in front of me and a
smirk from the waiter. I'm putting myself out there on an hourly
basis, feeling vulnerable, goofy and alone but after some careful
people-watching and questioning more clued-up gringos than myself,
the fear is easing up a little. It's like someone has their hand on
the dimmer switch and with every new word I learn and custom I
understand, I see a little more.
My best piece of advice, other than just hanging in there is to
find yourself compadres as soon as you arrive. Someone who has
surmounted the steep learning curve of arriving in a new continent
and is happy to share their pearls of wisdom. You'll find plenty of
locals who understand the fear of 'being new' on couchsurfing.org
or you could check into Bait hostel for a night and bend the ear of
Melvin, the friendly guy behind the desk or the girl on the bunk
next to you who seems to know what's what.
Another great source of information is www.landingpadBA.com an
alternative guide and booking service of things to do in Buenos Aires. It was set up by
an American guy called Jed who kindly met me for a coffee and gave
me a rundown of the must-sees and the secret to finding authentic
experiences. He booked me in for a cycling
tour of Buenos Aires' parks and plazas (highly recommend it)
and a social Spanglish session to help kick-start my Spanish. Then
he demonstrated how to spot a fake bank note and the social
etiquette of how No means maybe in Argentina.
I'm now four days into the South American leg of my adventure
and already the lights are starting to come up. On Monday I begin a
two week intensive language course at Interspanish which will no doubt be incredibly
frustrating, peppered with just enough lightbulb 'a-ha' moments to
keep me going. To ensure I don't go back to the hostel and speak
English, I'm staying with a local family in the Recoleta district
for a fortnight. It's scary and I feel stupid 99% of the time but I
wouldn't change it. This growing pain is what makes traveling in
South America so rewarding and I'm sure there is plenty more of it