Sunday, May 2, 2010

The trip back, part 2

When we go back to Buenos Aires in two weeks, it will have been almost exactly sixteen years since I left. I’ve been examining my own life and what has changed in those sixteen years and wondering how much Buenos Aires itself has changed since then.

My sister and I boarded the plane to leave Argentina on June 24th, 1994. I had just graduated from high school and this was my first time to travel without an adult - and I had my kid sister in tow, headed halfway around the planet while my parents stayed behind to pack up our stuff. I remember the date so specifically because we woke up on the plane on June 25th - my sister’s 13th birthday. I asked the flight attendant if there was something special she could do for my sister. I was hoping they might have a nice muffin or an extra dessert. She suggested I buy her something out of the SkyMall magazine. To this day I marvel at how that lady just didn’t “get it.”

When we left I was a kid, now I’m a grownup. I have a college degree and a nice house in the suburbs of Houston. I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful children (happy third birthday, Vanilla Bean!). I have agood job and pay my taxes. I am, by any measure, a bowl of vanilla ice cream - not necessarily very exciting, but nice and predictable.

Buenos Aires has always been a melting pot. I usually describe it as a European city that just happens to be located in South America. Many people assume that since Spanish is the primary language in Argentina, it must be at least somewhat similar to Mexico - nothing could be more untrue. The food, the architecture, even the racial ancestry of the people in Argentina is very Western European.

I don’t know how much it will have changed in the time I’ve been gone. Will there be a more unique, independently Argentine identity? Will there be a strong American influence? I suspect Buenos Aires will not have changed as much I have. I would never have described it as a particularly fluid society. When I lived there in the ’80 and ‘90s I think it was probably much the same is it’d been since the British were kicked out in the ‘40s and ‘50s. All that being said, I wonder how differently the 34-year old will respond to what the 18-year old left behind?

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