Buenos Aires

laurieSay hi to Laurie, currently traveling through Latin America on her own for a long adventure. Some of us travel to find home; others leave to go find the world. She’ll share her adventures and photos here. 

“I believe that everything in this world is projection; the way we make sense of the world is always tainted by our own subjective experience and perspective. Using the city as a metaphor, I want this blog to describe my journey and the way I relate to the things I see and encounter.” — Laurie 

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Majestic. That’s the best way to describe Buenos Aires upon the first gaze. I spent my first days wandering around the city and its many barrios with nothing but awe. Buenos Aires feels overwhelming and exciting. Dynamic and inspiring. A city that sucks you in, and won’t let go. It felt like my city. And I loved everything about it.

I left Amsterdam with a strong desire to escape the bubble I found myself in. After 6 years, the first city that had felt like home, felt small, repetitive, and comfortable. Too comfortable. It made me restless. I longed for stillness and adventure, a desire that only grew as the months passed by. The result of 18+ years of “elite” education? Intellectual arrogance, diminished creative capability, and a deep sense of emotional disconnect. I felt trapped.

“What would happen if I stripped away all sense of security?”, I wondered. “What would remain of me?”

It felt like a clean break, at first. I quit my job, moved out, and said my goodbyes to become my generation’s cliché – I would travel, and “figure things out”. It was only when I found myself on a mattress in my otherwise empty apartment, that the gravity of all the changes dawned on me, mentally and physically. I started having panic attacks, and was struck by dizziness upon waking and walking. I never had any trouble leaving behind anything before. What was happening to me?

3 flights, a wedding in Texas, and some 100 “what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-with-my-life”-s later, enter Buenos Aires. Grander, younger, but equally diverse and entrepreneurial as Amsterdam. Beautiful boulevards and avenues, connected by thousands of streets with French cafés, pizzerias, speak-easy bars, scruffy Chinese supermarkets, Peruvian tranvestites, ferias americanas, by-the-hour hotels, and its famous milongas, where locals gather to drink and dance tango. A city designed to entertain you at all hours of the day. I danced, drank Malbec wine, and mingled endlessly. Making friends is easy in a city like Buenos Aires. More than anything, I wandered around the city. I walked, and walked, and walked some more.

Yet, my sense of awe vanished as quickly as it had emerged. I don’t know if it was the cheap wine, sleep deprivation, or my non-so-sustainable diet of coffee, bananas, and eggs, but I was exhausted. I had allowed myself to be completely sucked in by this city, at the expense of my sanity. All-in, that appears to be my go-to approach to life. Where I felt that I had outgrown Amsterdam, I now felt small and lost.

I soon found myself walking in circles, unable to find the stores and shops that had become part of my daily routine. The city’s grid lay-out was remodeled in the 1850s to resemble European metropoles like Paris and Berlin. A city built to geometric perfection, in which all roads lead to the Obelisque once gifted by the French. How the hell do you get lost in a city like this? My sense of direction is on point, always. But here, my intuition appeared to have abandoned me.

Now, all I could see were the barricades at Plaza de Mayo, the gates, fences, walls, invisible frontiers separating Buenos Aires’ Upper East Side’s mansions and palaces in Recoleta, from its surrounding neighborhoods. Block, after block, after block of intimidatingly high buildings, and concrete mass. This did not feel right. Suddenly, the architecture felt fake, empty. Shallow shells that hid, even destroyed, all sense of spontaneity and life. This city felt like a hollow sharade, and with it, so did I. What happened to the scruffy alleys, hidden bookstores, and the grand sense of diversity that Buenos Aires prides itself with? Parks left abandoned. Cafés and restaurant, too. Plants and grass were cut to sheer perfection; even treeroots abided to freaking pavement blocks.

And it wasn’t just that. This city was also getting to me, personally. Taking up space I wasn’t ready to give. Doing away with my curiosity and joy. I needed to keep moving to prevent it from completely sucking me in. Faster and faster. Even the air was weighing me down, suffocating me. 14 million people, 136 different nationalities, cramped into a place too small to fit all. “Just leave this city, Lau”, I remember thinking. “Go-go-go now.” The nausea and dizzyness returned. Finally, I lost all sense of self. I no longer know who I was or why I had felt the surge to come here in the first place. Little girl vs. the big city: 0-1. All the plans and dreams I had about this place, and about what my life here would look like – Poof! Out the window.

I practically ran into the MALBA museum, hoping the art and silence would help me regain my calmness, but even here, I felt alone and at loss. Photographs and paintings spun around my head, again full of the geometric forms that felt so forced, so fake. All the straight lines, uncompromising forms, and rigid structures of the paintings and sculptures were getting to me. I wanted to scream. I needed to get out. Rigidity, vastgeroeste patterns, all-encompassing boundaries and hokjesdenken – among humanity’s most terrifying creations.

Who was I kidding? There are no clean breaks. Everything that I was running away from, was right here with me. Around me. In me. Ofcourse I anticipated having this realization at some point. But I did not expect it to hit me so soon. Suddenly, I found myself longing to be home. “Home”, I didn’t even know what it meant. I almost booked a ticket to Rio de Janeiro. The irony: as if fleeing to the other side of the world hadn’t been enough.

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Paradise Around the Corner

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