Any city has its quirks. Its own culture, subcultures, trends, idiosyncrasies. Buenos Aires has not let me down.
I went for a long run in a nearby park yesterday, thinking about these as I sweat it out with the other people on the track. The park has a lane for bicycles, skaters and runners. Like a miniature street, you stay to the right side to avoid collisions. I stick to my right side of the track, deviating only to pass someone slower (BECAUSE I’M SO FAST.) But I realized with a chuckle yesterday that nobody follows these lines. People run in the oncoming traffic lanes, on the sidewalk beside the track, or generally wherever they feel like running. I laughed because that sort of foot traffic directly reflects the car traffic here, where road signs and traffic lanes are mere suggestions, largely ignored except by cautious foreigners.
And then I thought about how maybe that wasn’t a Buenos Aires quirk. Maybe our over-attentive driving behaviour is an American quirk. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.
Yes, the quirks in BA have brought to light my own ingrained quirks and the inevitable imprint my North American culture has left upon me.
Riding the subway in rush hour traffic has destroyed my notion of personal space. Like popping a bubble with a bullet.
Being forced to use my clumsy Spanish has shaken the grammar stickler in me. I’ve had to risk sounding dumb. Which is harder than you’d think. With the research we’re doing, I’ve had to approach strangers in the street and ask them to take a moment for a survey. On those days, I have to leave my comfort zone at home.
In general however, people have been surprisingly encouraging and complementary about my Spanish. In the States, we scoff at broken English; we roll our eyes at thick accents. But my blundering attempts here are usually met with a smile and with patience.
Amongst all the little quirks, I feel my rigidity waning. Perhaps the most important lesson in all of this is the importance of flexibility. The ability to roll with the punches. It’s as if the Lord is poking me and whispering, with a giggle, “Kelsey. Loosen up a little.”
Ha. Sometimes the best response in these moments is to simply stop and laugh at myself. Sometimes I talk like a cave man. I’m learning to be okay with that!