30 Aug 2011

Volver

"Because it is far away" is not a valid excuse. But for one reason or another, I had not been back to Buenos Aires ever since I'd left it five years ago after two months of language immersion. It had turned out to be much more than just a few Spanish lessons, for I had very much embraced this exuberant, lively, pulsating city of 13 million. Its charm, crumbling beauty and exquisite cuisine put a spell on me. And that meant that sooner or later, I had to return.

This moment finally arrived last weekend. Finding myself living "just" a 90 minute flight away, it was impossible to resist a friend's invitation to join him for a weekend on River Plate, and so I found myself checking into a hotelroom around midnight on Friday. Perfect timing, the friendly receptionist suggested, to start on a bit of carrete. Maybe it was her suggestion of starting to go out after midnight, maybe it was just the utterly charming castellano argentino she spoke (or maybe just the fact that she was as pretty as only porteñas can be), but it helped unlock a wealth of recollections of the marvellous time I had had in this city before.

As I started walking down the streets the next morning (so much for carrete), it was as if a Google Earth 3D map slowly started loading again in my head. Turn after turn, block after block memories started coming back. Wasn't this where we we used to go for fresh empanadas? Ah, in this park I drank my first mate. And here's the bar in which we danced the nights away...

Although it may not be quite as bueno as it claims, there is something in the air in BsAs, an intense energy that lets me taste the city's passions and glamour. Tucking into gargantuan pieces of beef at noon on Sunday, or licking delicious ice cream amidst the teenies beleaguering Freddo's on a sunny afternoon, I keenly eavesdrop on this charming mix of vanity and self-depreciation so typical of Argentines. Fortunately, they are also a gregarious bunch, and so it does not take them much to strike up a conversation and to express their unrequested sympathy for this gringo's predicament of living in Chile. Encouraged, I proceed to buy my first collection of short stories in Spanish, el intenso argentino, which will undoubtedly hold more insights of supremacy.

Even now, back from the "right side of the Andes", I am not quite sure what it is in Buenos Aires that gets me so much. Perhaps it is the fact that the city is everything that my native Switzerland is not: Loud, diverse, unpredictable, unreliable, exuberant, passionate, charismatic, seductive. Or maybe it's just that it in my mind, it will forever be associated with a last furtive escape between graduation and the beginning of work life. Either way, one thing is certain: It will not be another five years.

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