17 Days In

Above: a building covered with graffiti. Such displays are common throughout the city, and seem to be more akin to art than vandalism (although there is plenty of the latter as well).

Today was my 17th day in Buenos Aires. While the number 17 doesn’t really have any particular significance in and of itself, this is usually the point in a trip when most tourists back their bags, snap a few last pictures, and then head home. I, on the other hand, will be here for another two and a half months.

In the past, whenever I’ve started to feel comfortable in a foreign city, started to remember street names, be able to orient myself without a map, and get used to local customs, my vacation has ended and I’ve had to leave. But this time I get to stay.

I bought a bus/metro pass that I can swipe automatically when using public transportation; I have a (very basic) cellphone with an Argentine number; last week I did laundry at a local lavandería; I’ve been mistaken for a local twice while waiting at a bus stop, and had to respond “Lo siento, no sé, no soy de acá” (“I’m sorry, I don’t know, I’m not from here;” at least that’s what I said the second time — my first attempt was a bit more jumbled); I’ve been to the grocery store several times now; I don’t have to think about which way to turn the lock to my apartment, or the knobs in the shower; I know when to get off the bus without having to squint at the passing street signs, and I know what a typical cup of coffee should cost. These are things I haven’t done or known in any other foreign city, and knowing and doing them here feels pretty good.

At the same time, the initial sparkle and giddy excitement of being abroad by myself is starting to fade as I settle into a routine. However, that’s not as bad as it might sound — getting to know a city is exhausting, as is doing everything for the first time and fixing all the little problems that come with traveling to someplace new (e.g. needing more socks, locking yourself out of your phone, running out of the local currency, etc.).

That being said, there are still so many things I haven’t done yet, places I haven’t seen, and foods I haven’t tried. There might be a day-trip to Uruguay in the works, and there are several holidays and festivals coming up this summer that should be quite entertaining. My point is that even though I’m no longer an enraptured tourist, I’m certainly not a jaded local either, and I don’t expect to be bored anytime soon. In fact, knowing I’m going to be here for another ten weeks is, in a way, reassuring and calming as I don’t have to worry about absorbing everything all at once: I can take my time in restaurants, I don’t feel rushed to buy every adorable trinket I see, I know I’ll have time to do everything I want, and I know I’ll appreciate the city all the more because of it.

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