Note: The following posts are parts from a 45 page journal entry (in word 23 pages), I wrote while in Buenos Aires. The entries were written during my first three days in the city. I had a rough start but by the end of my trip all was ok. However, my final thoughts about my destiny with the city in part 8 still stand true.
P.S. I am including a soundtrack with each post. All the songs are from my “The Return to Buenos Aires” playlist. I hope you enjoy!
Here is part five of the epic journal entry. Don’t forget to read Pt 4 before you read any further.
The 70 degree weather was perfect but strange for winter. We walked into the night, chatting and laughing away, forgetting to pick out a restaurant. I pointed out some of my old Recoleta stomping grounds and told Wendy the story about how I tripped over stray cats as I searched for the tomb of Evita in the Recoleta cemetery. As Wendy and I decided to finally pick a restaurant, I saw a girl cross in front of our path near an intersection. Though she was fare skinned, her beautiful afro of natural curls caught my attention. My black girl in Buenos Aires radar began to tingle.
“Look that girl has an afro!” I said, pointing her out to Wendy inconspicuously.
“Oh you’re silly!” Wendy said as she laughed.
I noticed the girl glanced back at us twice. We had obviously caught her attention too. When we caught up with her at the curb, she turned to Wendy and me and asked, “De donde sos?”
Wendy looked at her strange and then to me with the “What is this girl saying to us and why is she randomly talking to us on the street” look. I touched my chest gently and said, “Los estados unidos.” Then I touched Wendy’s shoulder lightly, signaling for her to give her introduction.
“London,” Wendy replied. “And you?”
“St Louis,” the girl replied.
“Oh you speak English!” I said, excited that I bumped into a fellow African American girl in Buenos Aires.
She laughed. “Yeah!” Her tiny nose ring flashed a sparkle into the night. We all laughed and began our intros. She introduced herself as Darci and told us she was studying in Buenos Aires and living with a host family in Recoleta.
“So how do you like Buenos Aires so far?” I asked.
“Um… I don’t like it,” she responded. “If someone said the program would end tomorrow I would get on a plane and go back home.”
“Why don’t you like it?” I asked. I was interested to hear her answer.
“I’m just not used to this much attention,” She said. “Yesterday, I was waiting for the bus and literally everyone turned and started staring at me.” I blinked. Interesting I thought. Her answer could have been mine five years ago. Her answer was the same as many black women, living in Buenos Aires, who write me on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis. The city has not changed as much as you thought, a voice whispered through my head. Darci then explained that the stares were more intense the moment she started wearing her natural fro.
“Well, I lived here five years ago and the stares are much more tame now than they were back then,” I said. “Believe me.”
Her face lit up. “You did!? We have to exchange stories about how hard it is to live in this city.”
I laughed. “Oh! I have something for you!” I rummaged through my purse, remembering the Imported Chocolate luggage tags I had in it. “I promised myself to give this to every black girl I met down here,” I said as I passed her the luggage tag.
She looked at it and said, “Oh. You sell chocolate! That’s so cool!”
Wendy placed her hands around Darci’s shoulders. “No. You are the Imported Chocolate,” She informed her in a calm voice.
Darci glanced at the tag again as Wendy’s words sank in. “Oh. My. God. That is sooo cool!” She said, hugging it to her chest. “Wait! Do you have more!? I want to give them to my friends!” I reached in my bag and gave her all the tags I had on me that night. Excited, she stuffed them in her pocket like they were gold.
“Where are you off to now?” Wendy asked.
“To a pub crawl,” Darci replied.
“Ah. I remember those,” I said. “They can get crazy.” More evidence that BA has not changed as much as you thought, the voice reminded me. Pub/bar crawls are still on and poppin in BA and the preferred way to party.
“Do you mind if we join you?” Wendy asked.
“No! Not at all!”
Darci told us the plan: we would meet her friends at the meeting point — the Freddos ice cream store— and then continue on and travel as a group to the first pub.
“Just to warn you…” Darci began. “This is a coming out pub crawl. But I’m not gay.”
We assured her it would be no problem at all. “Gay parties are more fun anyway,” I said.
We made it to the Freddos and not too long after, Darci’s friends Quinlan and Cierrah joined us. They introduced themselves in Spanish but immediately switched to English when they realized Wendy and I were English speakers. Darci bestowed them with their Imported Chocolate luggage tags; their reactions to the tags were the same as Darci’s. Darci stuffed the stray tag in her pocket. “This one is mine. I’m holding on to it!” she said.
Quinlan leaned over me. “What school do you go to?” He asked. Quinlan reminded me of a tall modern day James Baldwin: there was eloquence in his movements and maturity in his speech.
“I’m 27,” I replied.
“Wait. You do not look 27,” he said. I could tell by his shocked expression that my answer caught him off guard. “You look 22!” He brought my age to the attention of the group. “Does she look 27?”
“No!” They all agreed with the same amazement.
I retold my story about what I was doing in BA and that I had lived in the city before.
“Were you a student?” Cierrah asked.
“I just drifted here and wrote,” I said.
“Wow.” Cierrah and Quinlan mumbled collectively.
After about ten or twenty minutes, seeking the #111 colectivo (bus), we found it and hopped on. It was Wendy’s first time experiencing the colectivo and she wanted to do so at least once before she left Buenos Aires the following day. Though it was 10:30pm, the colectivo filled until it was packed beyond possible movement. I picked a safe spot by an open window, catching the nice night breeze. The feeling of being squashed against the window was all too familiar. Another thing that is still the same the voice whispered again.
After a few shouts over the crowd in English — much to the amusement of the Argentines trying to help us find our stop— due to our group being separated by a mass of people, we found our stop and squeezed our way to the crowd onto the street…
(To be continued)