For my first week in Buenos Aires, Fabiola, my mom’s cousin has invited me to stay at her house. Fabiola has four kids – three girls (there are so many girls on my mom’s side of the family!) and one boy – who are all gone for vacation now. So I get to stay in their room while they are gone. Fabiola and I get along well, and she’s the one who has been answering all my questions and helping me with all I need to know before spending four months in Argentina: when to use vos (the Argentinean version of “tú,” or “you”), and when to use usted (the more formal version of “you”); what all of the slang here means and with whom you should use it; and who everyone is in the family, who their kids are, and what is going on in their life. She drives an old teal truck with squeaky brakes, and I ask her all sorts of questions when we drive to different parts of the city.
Fabiola is an architect, and she designed her house about two years ago. The front door is a stained glass geometric design, and the whole house is white and neat and functional. The stairwell has olive green walls, steps made of recycled wood, and skylights that open up to the green leaves of the trees that line her street. The kitchen – the most important part, of course – has a little marble table where we eat all of our meals, a totally functional design, and no excessive apparatuses. The house is located in San Isidro, which is a district in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, so although it’s separate from the craziness of the center of the city, that craziness is only a 20-minute train ride away.
I spent my first full day here exploring San Isidro and falling in love with Argentina again. I walked down the main streets lined with stores and little cafes, and then walked down them again and entered all the non-residential side streets too. Around noon, I settled down in the main plaza on a stone bench, where I could see the beautiful cathedral of San Isidro through trees arching over the plaza paths. From my little place, I could watch tourists and porteños (the people of Buenos Aires) walk by, and hear the smooth Argentinean dialect, with the “zh” sound replacing each “y” or “ll.” Las porteñas dress fashionably, with strappy leather sandals and shorts or dresses in the summer. To generalize, the women here are strong; it’s not unprecedented at all to be an independent woman here. A woman presides over the country, and all of my female relatives are working or in school. There are more women working – in customs, in the shops, in sciences – than I have seen in any other country.
I left my plaza perch and had a frothy strawberry mint lemonade at a corner café, served in a glass pitcher, for lunch. I haven’t gotten a chance to explore central Buenos Aires yet, but that comes this week.