Voice messaging on WhatsApp as you’re walking down the street, all girls wearing the generic high platform boots, having dinner at 11pm, coming home at 6am after a night out on a Tuesday and being late everywhere are just a few of the many aspects which make up the city of Buenos Aires.
Leaving home was hard but exciting. I was beyond ready to be heading off into the unknown for a whole year and going beyond my comfort zone. South America?! YES PLEASE.
I have flashbacks about my first few days and weeks in Buenos Aires. I was ecstatic yet felt so confused. I was in South America but it certainly didn’t feel like it. Everything was so modern and quirky. People were dressed super fancy and the houses were huge. Food and cocktail prices were through the roof and I genuinely didn’t feel any different to being in Europe. Especially as I was living in a barrio called ‘Palermo Soho’ which, considering the name, I’m sure you can get a feel for the atmosphere. It wasn’t what I had expected but then again, I didn’t even know what i was expecting.
I guess my time here can easily be explained through a metaphor. A 12 month long rollercoaster.
You’ve been waiting in that queue for so long. Anxious, nervous, excited but tense. Now, finally, after all that waiting, it’s your turn. You sit down, get buckled in and feel the carriage move. You begin to leave the platform. Now you can feel butterflies in your stomach. A huge rush of adrenaline and excitement also kick in. You don’t know what’s coming next. It’s a new experience with an indescribable sensation.
Then, you make your way up. Hearing the carriage move slowly across the tracks. Higher and higher. As the carriage elevates up into the sky, so do your nerves. Even more adrenaline. Then, you’re up at the top, physically looking down at what awaits you through your journey. This was my arrival in Buenos Aires and Semester 1.
Everything’s going great. you’re thrilled. The ride is just beginning. Then, suddenly, you shoot down at full speed at the unexpected drop. You’re screaming. You feel like your heart is about to pump out of your mouth. You’re spinning and twisting and flying all over the place. You look fine despite the fact that your face is a blank as a canvas, but on the inside, you feel sick. You have so much emotion within you that you feel emotionless. You try to calm yourself down by telling yourself that everything will be okay. You try to take long deep breaths despite being thrown around all over the place. This was towards the end of semester 1; the loss of our housemate Youssef.
The huge dip is over. The rollercoaster is now slowing down. You’re close to the ground. You feel safe and have a moment to get yourself together. You reflect on what has just happened and you’re proud of yourself for making it through. You’re comfortable. So close to having your feet touch the soil below. So close that you want to hop off and say “that’s enough”. But you can’t. You have to repeat that journey just one more time before it’s time to jump out. This was my time back in London and Istanbul over Christmas.
Meanwhile, the carriage continues to move. Slowly up and and up it goes. The nerves kick in once again. The adrenaline is back. You’re off. Leaving the known for unknown territory. Up in the sky, so far you don’t recognise where you are. Are you safe? Was this a good idea? You once again reach the top, feet dangling. You take a huge breath of fresh air and know that everything is going to be alright. You already did it once. You can do it again. This was my solo travel month throughout Brazil.
Another round of loops, swishing and swerving through the sky. Up and down, side to side. Backwards, underground, up high, you name it. You don’t really know what to expect but you sort of do. You’ve been there, done that. How different can it be? You feel a little less nervous yet excited and filled with mixed emotions. You hate heights but love the thrill. It’s a challenge. You can see ahead that there’s not much track left. You realise the ride is coming to an end. But now you’re comfortable. Just as things started to pick up, you realise it’s soon going to be over, and faster than you think. Semester 2.
All that time waiting in the queue, jumping around in excitement, talking about the ride and sharing your emotions with your friends are over, forever. You were so scared and tense at the beginning but as you get off the platform and see the next group of people buckling in, you wish you could do it all over again. You wish you could turn back time and be at the front of the queue again. You think about the newbies sitting in the carriages and become envious that their ride is only just beginning. This is exactly how I feel now. 4 weeks to go.
You can always get back into the queue and get on that same ride again. But why? It may have been an incredible rollercoaster but you’re in a huge theme park. Imagine the things you might be missing. It’s filled with hundreds of different rides, all with different colours, heights, waiting times. Different experiences. Sitting next to different people. The emotional outcome will be different on each and every one. It would be sensible to make the most of your entry ticket and have a go on other rides too. Then, if you really didn’t enjoy it, head back to the one you did.
Buenos Aires has been a joy, but also a nightmare at times. You see, we have a very love-hate relationship.
I can’t deny that I have had an incredible year out here, but this doesn’t always have to mean in a positive way. It has been incredible, yes, but i’ve lived through and experienced so much, both positive and negative, and that is what has made it so ‘incredible’. Literally in-credible. I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by. It’s scary to say the least. Knowing that i’m out in South America, along with the help of social media, I have received a fair share of messages from friends and family telling me how jealous they are or how i’m living the dream. It’s true, but only to a certain extent. Everything may seem dill-dally but we can never truly know what each individual is going through. My Instagram photos and Facebook albums undeniably contain photos of the happy times and good memories. Just because images of me crying in bed or not leaving my room for 3 days straight aren’t up online doesn’t mean that these things didn’t happen.
When I first arrived, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Like many other things I choose to do in life. That’s the fun of it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t…and that’s what makes life great. You try, you love or you hate but in the end you learn. How will you know if you don’t try? It was very easy for me to study in Spain for the year. I would be spending less money, I could have seen my friends and family every weekend if I really wanted to (slightly overoptimistic) and would have been living in a country which was already very familiar to me. However, if I had done this I wouldn’t have been able to travel around Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile whilst studying at the same time, I wouldn’t have had a 3 month summer holiday over Christmas, I wouldn’t’ have pushed passed my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have made the friends that I have now, and most importantly, I wouldn’t have appreciated home as much as I am appreciating it now.
Hey Young London
Home is a confusing word for me as I was always been battling between London and Istanbul. My heart has always been split in two. Since venturing out to South America, I have decided that home, is London. I cannot explain how much gratitude I hold for this city and the UK as a whole. Spending a year abroad, far far away, has truly made me realise what a great country we live in. Despite the complaints about the cold and the NHS and the taxes and this and that, it really is better than the majority of countries in the world. It’s my first time leaving London, or Europe, for this long but it sure has made me realise how lucky I am to be a British Citizen (p.s no visas anywhere) and especially, to be a Londoner.
It’s the little things I miss. The little things which were so normal to me that I took for granted. Some may translate this as #firstworldproblems but that’s what we know. That’s how we were raised and that is what is the norm for us.
I miss punctuality. Arriving somewhere on time. Especially public transport. I miss having a bus and metro timetable and not having to wait for 45 minutes everyday not knowing when it’s going to arrive. I miss stupid things like my favourite health and cosmetics stores like Holland and Barrett, The Body Shop, Boots and many more, who always have promotions. I miss finding a restaurant’s address and opening hours and them actually being accurate. I miss researching for travel plans online and finding at least one website with information that has been updated since 2008. I miss people apologising politely and unnecessarily for walking into you or pushing in front of you in the queue. I miss self check-outs. I miss reading the Metro on a typical London commute. I miss being able to find soya or any non-dairy milk in any corner shop or petrol station. I miss HUMMUS. I miss functioning cash machines and travel card top-up stations. I miss functioning card machines. I miss functioning everything. I miss not having to carry my passport around every time I pay with card. I miss seeing multicultural people from different backgrounds, religions and races. I miss being able to travel from the north to the south of the country in under 4 hours by train. I miss the overground, a genuine train. I miss not having to cancel weekend trips away because I realise that it takes 13 hours by bus..one way. I miss being able to refund or exchange things without people looking at me in disgust and signing 324 different receipts. I miss pubs and pints without spending a fortune. I miss being able to fly around and out of the country for less than £200. I miss people promising things and actually doing them. I miss giving change to shopkeepers and them not getting annoyed. I miss how quickly you can get from A to B with a variety of options. I miss the underground not closing at 10pm. I miss being able to find something to eat at every hour of every day. I miss being so close to an airport at any given time and location throughout the city and country. I miss not having to spend excessive amounts on money on every single thing that I do and buy. I miss being able to find whatever I like for £1, instead of £100. I miss having free medical healthcare and the simplicity of booking a GP appointment. I miss not having to wait 25 minutes for a coffee and then being told it’s on it’s way 93 times. I miss taxi drivers not flirting with me because i’m foreign and security guards or policemen asking for my number. I miss restaurants opening before 8pm and not being closed on Mondays. I miss shopping. I miss complaining about gloomy, miserable London weather but secretly loving it. I miss watching TV. I miss not having to pay £5 for 20 bags of English Breakfast tea. I miss central London, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Camden. I miss the huge green parks, rooftops, events, pop-ups. I miss all the shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, everything. I miss the underground, driving, cinemas, student discounts. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I just miss home.
Dont’ Cry for Me Argentina
It’s been fun and adventurous. I’ve seen parts of the world which I never would have been able to experience in the same way which I have. I have met some incredible people throughout my time here, the majority who I know will be my friends for life. I have learnt so much about myself. Despite the cliché, I really have changed. I’ve grown to appreciate what I have back home. I’ve learnt about new cultures, languages and ways of life. I’ve realised that there is so much more out there for us to explore.
Apart from the never-ending list of things I cannot wait to get back to in London, Buenos Aires really hasn’t been as bad as it may sound.
I will miss how cheap public transport is. 30p for any journey. I will miss having a university on the waterfront. I will miss speaking Spanish and learning a new way of insulting someone each day. I will miss strolling into class 45 minutes late and finding that the teacher still isn’t there. I will miss the random days off, the holidays and strikes. I will miss people being so enthusiastic and interested when I say i’m Turkish and from England. I will miss the unlimited amounts of AVOCADO which is unbelievably cheaper than England. I will miss how calm and relaxed everyone is, how no one is ever in a rush. I will miss watching random Tango shows on the streets. I will miss everyone drinking mate every second of every day. I will miss my local verduleria where I can buy 3 bags filled with fresh fruit and vegetables for less than £15. I will miss the Über prices. I will miss the breathtaking architecture. I will miss the pharmacies which give you almost everything you need without a prescription. I will miss the nightlife, the bars and boliches, the cheesy reggaeton and cumbia music. I will miss being able to get my way by pretending I only speak English (they just can’t be bothered to argue). I will miss the chatty taxi drivers (some of them) who are always so engaged in politics and are genuinely interested in your life. I will miss the Sunday San Telmo market, the street fairs and cultural events. I will miss the cheap yet delicious wine. Malbec. Enough said. I will miss all of my friends, international students and Argentinians alike. I will miss everything which I love and equally hate about this city.
A few days ago, I finally booked that indefinite one-way ticket out of Buenos Aires. 29th June. The big day. It’s official. I’m leaving. Now that I have that date in my mind, i’m a mess. Should I be overwhelmed with joy or should I cry? Everything bad that i’ve ever said about this city is making me realise that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. All of these annoying things are what makes Buenos Aires the city that it is. What I am now accustomed to has to change back to what it was before. Back to Europe. Back to the same old routine. Back to university, the final of year of hard work. No more missing university to travel around, no more ferry rides to Uruguay and certainly no more free entries pretending not to speak the language.. (shh)..
As my time in this crazy country is coming to and end, I feel..weird. Now that I know I only have 27 days left, 27 days to be a tourist, 27 days to do everything I haven’t yet done, 27 days to spend with all my amigos, I don’t want to leave. Well I do, of course, but I don’t. I wonder if this is normal. I’m sure it must be. I’m sure i’m not the only one. I don’t know what i’m feeling. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I have so much to look forward to this summer. I fly out to Chile for a month, followed by Chicago before I touch down in Europe. I just know that as soon as that plane lands into London Heathrow Airport in August, it will be as if I never left.
Ah Buenos Aires, you’ve certainly been a hell of an experience.
But don’t cry for me Argentina, we all know i’ll be back one day.