Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Top Ten Things I Noticed About Argentina

When I moved to Buenos Aires for a couple of months last fall, I promised my family stories of Argentina. I wrote tons of stories with the intention of publishing them on my blog but never got around to it. Well, I guess better later than never would apply here. I am going to try and publish some of these stories along with some of the stories of Austin. And I’ve also thought of ways to combine the two.

But this blog is going to be short and be about the top things I noticed about Argentina:

1. Food is cheap but clothes are not. You can get a great bottle of red wine for $5.
2. People at stores don’t like to give change. They want you to give them exact change even if they have a bucket in front of them filled with enough change to do the backstroke in.
3. There are people who walk around with carts and bags filled with plastic bottles. I don’t know if they work for a recycling program or if they just like plastic bottles. I’m not judging. I’m just saying that it’s interesting.
4. Argentines are proud people and truly believe that they live in the most amazing country in the world and that they are the most beautiful people in the world. Once I went to the bathroom in a bar and I couldn’t get to the sink to wash my hands because there were twenty-five guys fixing their hair. I guess if I had hair, I’d do the same. A lot of the guys have faux hawks or tails
5. Patagonia takes your breath away. Mostly because it’s cold and not too far from the South Pole. But it is simply beautiful and makes you look at life in a different way.
6. They speak Spanish in Argentina.
7. There is a large river in Buenos Aires that looks like an ocean. It has waves and you can’t see the other side. Yet, they call it a river. It takes you to Uruguay.
8. The empanadas are amazing. They are even better if you eat them while watching a couple dance the tango.
9. A seven o’clock appointment means anytime after eleven. Even the next day is fair game.
10. I loved every minute of it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rope Swing

About a twenty-five minute drive from Austin and a thirty minute hike through the forest is a beautiful river with a rope swing. Bohemian liberals and teenagers rest on the large flat rocks in the river. They seem as relaxed as if they had been born there and that they are safe from all of the evils of the world.

On a recent, warm summer day, two of my friends and I headed to the river with the rope swing. One of my friends described the scene as a Country Time Lemonade commercial. The other as the beginning scene of a summer camp horror movie before the killer finds its victims.

We set our towels down on a rock directly across from the rope swing. I jumped into the water immediately because I wanted to feel like I was part of the beauty of the river and the people surrounding it.

And then I sat down on my towel to relax and that’s when the rope swing captured my full attention. I became fascinated with watching the people swing from it. Some of them took it on as an Olympic sport. They cut flips and dove. They had grace and style as they dismounted from the rope into the water.

At one point, my friends asked me if I wanted to go on the rope swing. I told them no and then I sat and watched them. I thought the water might be too cold and I was too comfortable and I came up with a ton of other excuses why I couldn’t go.

When we left, I thought that I’d had a great day and was lucky to experience the river. But there was also something following me as I hiked out of the forest and I didn’t know what it was. I was beginning to wonder if my friend was right and I was in a horror movie and the killer was on my trail. Ironically, I was more accurate than I realized.

This came to me a couple of days later when I woke up at 5:30 a.m. covered in sweat. My entire body was tense and stiff. I decided to go for a run to clear my head. And while I was running, I realized what followed me out of that forest. It was fear.

I’m thirty-seven years old and throughout my life I’ve quit several jobs without having a new one. I’ve moved to several cities throughout the US and other countries without knowing the language or a single person. And yet, I was scared of a rope swing.

I wasn’t scared that I would be physically hurt, but I was scared of what the people watching me would think. I was afraid that I wouldn’t look as graceful as many of them had. It’s the same fear I encounter whenever I dance or throw a ball or ride a horse. I have flashbacks to all of the times I was teased for my clumsiness.

I’ve let fear hold me back from doing several things in my life. And everyday I try to conquer this fear because I don’t ever want to look back and say, “I wish I had done that.”

As long as I continue to carry that fear around, it will continue to kill my spirit a little more each day like a cancerous tumor or like the murderer in a horror movie. I don’t know that I will ever fully conquer my fears, but I know that I will take a first step towards doing so. That being said, I promise to you and myself that before summer is over, I will go back to that river and I will swing from that rope. And I will have a great time doing it. Even if people laugh or point, I will know that I did no harm to the world and I am only curing myself.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Kid Again

Sometimes trying to write is as painful as trying to write. I’ve been in Austin for a few weeks now and I’ve been trying to come up with some funny way to tell you what I’ve been doing. But I just haven’t been inspired. But because I know I have five readers dying to know my every move, tonight I’m going to try and write my first blog entry about Austin.

For starters, I should tell you that right now I’m lying on a mattress on the floor, which I pulled into my walk in closet. I was sleeping on two air mattresses when I first got here because they fit in my truck and the delusional part of my brain told me that they were rugged and bohemian. After a few nights, I decided that if I wanted to be rugged and bohemian, I’d grow a beard and wear hiking boots, because those air mattresses were about as comfortable as listening to parents tell the story of the first time they were intimate together.

So, back to why my mattress is in my closet. The window outside of my bedroom is pretty thin so I can hear a lot of outside noise. This closet is the most quiet room in the apartment.

I just killed a roach. Either it is the same roach I saw a couple of minutes ago or I seriously need to run to the grocery store tomorrow and buy a gallon sized can of Raid. When I killed the roach, it splattered something nasty on my sheets. So I just changed my sheets.

But back to Austin. The reason I came here for the summer is because I visited a couple of months ago with a friend and liked it. The people are incredibly friendly and there is a great running trail by the river. I also needed to be alone in my own space.

Having my own apartment is sweeter than pouring honey on top of pile of sugar that is covered in syrup. And floating in melted chocolate.

It’s been several years since I’ve lived alone. I didn’t really like it because I’m from a big family and I’m used to always having some sort of commotion going on in the background. Sometimes I would just turn the TV on even though I wasn’t watching it, just so I didn’t feel so lonely. Those are the things I remember about being alone. I didn’t remember all of the amazing things that go with living alone.

1. It is my apartment. I can leave dirty dishes in the sink for months. (Don’t worry mom. I’m not)
2. I can make a sandwich at 4 in the morning in my underwear and not worry about waking someone up.
3. I can take baths and listen to heavy metal music for 3 hours if I feel like it.
4. I am ruler of the thermostat.

I could continue with the list but I think you get my point. But there are other things which are less obvious that I’m enjoying now. And in a weird way, all of the things I’m doing are things that I used to do as a kid.

I’ve been sleeping in a sleeping bag. I have sheets and a comforter but I just enjoy sleeping in a sleeping bag. It reminds me of my first sleeping bag. It was covered in Indians. My parents gave it to me for Christmas. I loved that thing and would sleep in it year round.

The other night, I lay on the floor, surrounded myself with candles and read a young adult book for ages 8 and up. Then I blew out the candles and fell asleep right there in the middle of the living room.

Right now, as you know, I am laying in my closet on my mattress. And to tell you the truth, I kind of like it. When I was a kid, I used to play and sleep and pretend that I lived in all of the closets in my parents’ house.

So I guess the reason I moved to Austin was so I could be a kid again. Which is kind of weird because I was finally starting to feel like an adult. That’s called irony. I think I just figured that out.

Anyway, I don’t expect this blog to win any Pulitzer prizes but I just wanted to let the four people who read it know what's going on. I will keep you posted on how long I sleep in this closet. And how it feels to be a kid again.