Sunday, May 17, 2009

Transience, abandonment, and the flakiest people in the world

Most people can't relate to me. My friends and supporters seem to find me interesting, intriguing, filled with stories, ballsy and independent, experienced as hell, well-traveled, free-thinking and adventurous (not to mention slightly insane), but can they actually relate to me? In many ways, yes, but in my transience, almost never.

It's a lonely life, being the one who's always saying good bye. Your skin just kind of thickens after a while, I guess. I keep pushing on. I can't really explain it, but there is something inside of me that keeps me moving, and it hasn't yet found its final resting place. I am (and people like me are) happier traveling, experiencing new people, places and things, and constantly living life in a challenging and slightly uncomfortable way, than I am living a comfortable life in the same place with the same people, doing stuff that makes me, well, "normal."

I sound like such an alterna-hipster, but I assure you, my soul is speaking quite directly right now, regardless of the current trendiness of transience. And the consequence of all of this, the dirty truth of the wandering soul, is that I live my life saying good bye to people I love. I grow attached, and then people disappear, or I do. I hate good-byes.

I'm really, really struggling with this right now. More than ever, my two selves are in conflict. One self wants to travel, see the world, keep moving, and continue to seek new adventures in new places for as long as the wind keeps blowing. It wants to be free, totally independent and guided by instinct. It doesn't want an office job, nor does it crave normality. My other self wants to create a lasting community, live my days with the ones I love most, grow old with those people, find lasting love, and umm.... be financially stable!!! Yes, this other self is quite sick of stressing about money.

They are in total conflict. For example, I simply cannot live in a different country every year while simultaneously creating a lasting community.

So last week, my close friend Megan left, and I was devastated. It was a little reminder that the friends one meets while traveling are a whole separate category. There's no promises made, no longevity expected. We'll always be friends, of course, but I most likely won't be seeing her for the next couple of years.

Then last night, at an amazing concert by a group called Onda Vaga (Highly recommended! Listen to them here.), my close, close, close friend Paul announced that he is leaving in 2 weeks to live in Brazil with his dad. Abandoning me!!! Then I lamented this fact later on with my friend Kieran, and that is when Kieran told me that he would also be leaving Buenos Aires in less than a month.

Anyone else want to kick me while I'm down???

This kind of thing is exactly what I should expect, but yet I can't get used to it! It is starting to feel like everyone I meet is going to leave me, and is making me feel like I need to conduct some sort of extensive interview with people when I meet them, to find out how long they plan to stay, then judge accordingly how worthwhile it is to get to know them. For example,

"Hi, Person X. How long do you plan on sticking around Buenos Aires?"

a) 1-3 months --> Sorry, let's not be friends. You'll only break my heart.
b) 3-6 months --> Cool, let's hang out, but I will try not to get too attached.
c) 6-12 months --> Alright awesome, let's be friends! I will deal with emotions later.
d) 1 year or more --> Let's be BFF!!! We can say good bye to everyone else together.

A big part of the problem, of course, is that all of my friends are also from other countries, who are traveling or living here for reasons similar to mine. So of course, there is an inherit level of transience that just comes with the territory. The solution, then, is to make local friends right??


This brings me to my next topic of discussion/ lamentation. "The flakiest people in the world." AKA Argentinians!!!!

Hey, Argentina-- you're flaky!!! And I'm SO NOT INTO IT!!!

Argentinians seem to operate on a "yes to all questions" principle, which basically means that nothing an Argentinian says ever means anything. Seriously. Ask anyone who's spent any significant time here, and I can almost guarantee they'll agree.

For example, you're at a bar, and you meet a group of Argentinians. You start to hang out, and the next thing you know, an hour as gone by, and you've been chatting it up and hitting it off. You're thinking, cool, new friends! They give you a hug good bye, maybe you even exchange numbers, and then they say, "let's go out sometime!" or "see you later!"

Uh oh. That's bad. "Let's go out sometime" = "See you never."

Seriously, unless you make a specific plan right there on the spot, you will most likely never see the person again. They just like being friendly, and for them saying something like, "let's go out sometime" is equal to saying "good bye." It's just something you say as you walk out a door, but it doesn't actually mean anything.

Another example: You invite an Argentinians out to a party. They respond and say yes, they'll be there. They never show up. TYPICAL! Why? Because there's no such thing as the word "no" in Argentina. So if they can come they say "yes," and if they can't come they say "yes." Seriously. So yes means both yes and no, which means it basically means nothing at all.

The reason that most people seem to cite for this is that people here have generally had the same group of friends their entire life, literally since they were kids, and it's near impossible to find people who are willing to go through the trouble of opening up their posse to a new person. The task of initiation is just too much, I suppose.

Anyway, this makes making friends super difficult, because I keep meeting these awesome people (ahem, "awesome" being a purely subjective term in this case) and thinking we'll hang out, and I never hear from them again. There was a group of girls a while back, for example, who I met through a friend. They were all gung-ho about hanging out and insisted on exchanging email addresses, and then I sent them all an invite to go out last weekend, and not one single one responded! When I mentioned this to my friend who'd introduced us, she was like, "ummmm, Erica, are you surprised?! Don't be! That's just Argentina."

"That's Just Argentina." The slogan of my life. Where no rules apply.

Yes means no.


Chocolate Teapot said...

I love your blog! I feel much the same way about my life. I have been finding it hard (I would say impossible but I think I just made a Japanese friend this weekend) to make friends here. Embracing transience is not easy, but remember that everything changes, even if you stay in the same place!

The Didden Family said...

My sweet, sweet Vlattie... Don't let this get you down! Believe it or not, I think most people DO relate to you because you are such a kind-hearted and joyful person. It may seem like you're saying a lot of goodbyes right now, but remember that your real friends are with you for the long haul, no matter where you are :)
I love you!