I left Chile! And then came back. This past weekend, I took a long weekend in Buenos Aires, where I visited the family with whom I stayed as a 16-year-old non-Spanish-speaker. I also visited my good friend Dino, who is studying abroad there.
The last time I saw this family, I could not communicate with them. I ran errands with them, not sure exactly what was going on. They taught me how to say things like “I went to the bank” and “I already ate breakfast.” This time, however, I could sit in their company and actually talk about how life has been and what’s new. Language learning is not just for the sake of being bilingual. It is for the sake of communicating with people in their own language and climbing over walls, only to turn around and see that those walls no longer exist. It’s quite a feeling of accomplishment. (Although I’m nowhere near to speaking perfectly, being able to hold conversations to the point of mutual understanding is a milestone!)
I think I’ll take a moment to highlight the differences between Chilean Spanish and Argentinian Spanish… There are many. I could understand the Argentinians, but I did have to struggle extra. Argentinian Spanish was influenced by Italian, because of all the immigrants, while Chilean Spanish was more influenced by the native populations. I think I also must have adopted some kind of Chilean accent because I know that I was speaking exactly how I would here in Chile, yet the family I stayed with didn’t understand everything I was saying or asked me to repeat things… In light of this, I realized how much I’m going to miss Chile even for that simple reason — I’ve been learning the specifics of this people’s language. I can use my Spanish everywhere, but let’s be real: When you learn Spanish in Chile, you learn Chilean, which is, as they say, distinto. Either way, learning to understand the “shh” of Argentina is fun too: el auto está en la cashe, más ashá, sho quiero la shyerba, vamos a la parisha…
Now, it wouldn’t have been a complete “weekend in Buenos Aires” without a meal at a parilla (grill) for the famed Argentinian steak. So. I went to a parilla with Dino, and we split a steak (the serving sizes are large, to say the least). Our waiter cut the medium-rare bife de chorizo with two spoons. Two normal table spoons. Have you ever seen that? Me neither. As amazing as that demonstration of tenderness was, my mind was even further blown upon actually tasting the meat: perfection. Really.
I also could not have rightfully left the city without eating ice cream, so we went to a shop for dulce de leche ice cream. (We may or may not have done so each of the three afternoons that I spent with Dino… Woops.) Argentina makes incredible dulce de leche. Argentina also makes incredible ice cream. You can imagine what the combination was like… Smooth, creamy, perfect.
Seeing some tango was another necessity. So we went to street markets and encountered a band playing modern tango music, a couple dancing tango, and an outdoor tango class in session — all in one afternoon. Thank you, San Telmo.
So I ate well, shopped in street markets, drank some mate, got on a bus going in the wrong direction, encountered the tango, shared quality conversation, and then found myself back at the airport.
Every time I’ve left Santiago, coming back has been a mix of “dang, back to the hustle and bustle…” and “ahhhh, home again.” Leaving the country, not just the city, magnified the “ahhhh, home again” feeling — I even got to go through the “Chilean” immigration line because I have a “temporary resident” card, meaning I zipped past all the “foreigners”! I then got on the bus from the airport into the city without thinking twice, knowing exactly where I was going. I spent the evening at El Oasis, surrounded by most of my favorite people in Santiago. I was greeted with kind conversation by the security guards of my condo community. I slid into bed with a feeling of peace, comfort, and belonging — wrapped up in the fleece blanket I have wrapped myself up in every night since the temperatures began to drop last month. This is my home.
But, one week from now, I will be sliding into my bed in Fallston, Maryland. Will that feel like home still? Yeah, most likely. But things are just a little different now…
Peace and Blessings and Ar-gen-tina or Chi-chi-chi-le-le-le? x
(From Santiago de Chile)