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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Buenos Aires: Facing my fears = plenty of tears

Winning Vote



Suggested By: Graham Dean in South Africa and Craig Munks in Australia
Winning Vote



Suggested By: Johnny Fromont in Hong Kong and Kate Corleison in South Korea.
      624 Votes VIEW POLL COMMENTS

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 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 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 to come.

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Latest Poll Results
New York: What will Indiana June do in the big apple?
21% Track down and visit Oliver Jeffers:
Renowned Children's storybook writer & illustrator
11% Walk the High Line:
A linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated NY Central Railroad 
11% Be a NYC detective for a day: 
Part game, theatre and tour to discover some of NYC's most off-the-beaten path spots
13% Explore the City Hall Subway Station: 
Abandoned & hidden from the public for 60 years
12% Flying trapeze class:
Hone her circus skills learning how to fly on a trapeze 
30% NZ Flag + Statue of Liberty:
Bodypaint the NZ flag on her body and go up the Statue of Liberty
2% Go to Queens and find a 'Nanny' sound-alike:
Video someone with the nanny accent saying "noo Zealand, i love that place"
Voting closed | 204 VOTES
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