Monthly Archives: January 2010

Latin Passion Falling From the Sky

I play a self-invented game here in Buenos Aires, it’s called, “Is it raining or is that just an air conditioner unit dripping on my head?” It happens frequently not only because most of the city’s ACs that don’t have condensation drip pans but also because of the city’s fickle, extreme weather patterns. One minute it’s humid and blistering hot, then the next minute dark clouds roll in and the sky splits open pouring down gallons of water in seconds, letting thunder shake the earth and lightening touch down in waves. Then, 45 minutes pass and its over. Some weeks ago, we had such a storm that it uprooted hundreds of trees, which laid in the streets for days until someone finally came to pick them up. (They’re not too swift here … they didn’t even take down their Christmas decorations until near the end of January) The city even closed the Botanical Gardens in Palermo because it was unsafe.

This morning, I was sitting on my bed enjoying my manzanilla (camomile) tea when I saw drops falling on my balcony. I assumed that my neighbor probably just had the cold air blasting. But as I approached the banaster, I looked out upon Santa Fe Avenue to find soaked side walks and a sea of multi-colored umbrellas. 

The rain today is no comparison to the lightening storm we received on saturday at around 4 a.m. The winds were so strong, I thought my glass doors were going to implode, and the electric strikes were breaking overhead every second and the street gutters were running like rivers. Then there was silence and a still, sticky, stagnant heat. Because I have neither air conditioning nor a fan in my room, I some nights have resorted to sleeping with ice packs. And yes, that is embarrassingly true. So, I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a couple from the freezer, put one on my neck and one at my feet, and began counting sheep.

On wednesday and thursday, the heat was almost intolerable. I resorted to making sense of the complicated bus system to get around town as the subte was making me claustrophobic. One afternoon, I arrived at my volunteer gig flustered and combing back my moist hair trying to make it look decent.  “HACE CALORRRRRRRRR!!!!!!” or “IT’S HOTTTTTT!!!!!!” Mariano, the non-profit director, shouted when he opened the door. “Si,” I gasped in agreement, dabbing my forehead.

“But there’s a storm coming, eh” he said. In Buenos Aires, it is popular to throw an Italian-sounding “Eh” on the end of  sentences to add emphasis. It always make me want to shout Mama Mia!

“Every time it gets this hot, the rains come and cool it back down. I expect that this storm is going to be huge!” And he was right, in some sense. I checked the forecast, and we are suppose to have thunderstorms all weeklong … the temperature, however, is expected to stay in the 90s and high 80s. 

But this is characteristically Buenos Aires. Here, there is a series of movements from one extreme to the other, a coming together and pulling apart of people, things, and conditions, which perhaps is embodied best by the tango and the heat that surrenders to the rain and the rain that  yields to the heat, and the air that falls in between that does not move unless provoked by the prevailing winds. And there are couples passionately kissing in the parks as if today were their last day in love and there are couples in the streets furiously shouting at each other as if finally the end of their love had arrived. Until again sweep each other into an everlasting, passionate embrace. And there are women with breast implants wearing high-heels passing by children and old men who are sleeping on the sidewalk in their underwear. And there are car collisions that could have been easily avoided. And amongst it all, there’s me trying to make sense of these paradoxes, even though I don’t even have an umbrella.

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OFF! to an Interesting Start During the Buenos Aires Summertime

The following events are based on a true story, which was inspired by the prolific mosquito population currently infiltrating Buenos Aires ….

“Get OFF!,” I insistently shouted at her. I was not, as it may seem, instructing my friend Stephanie to leave me alone, but rather, insisting that she buy bug repellent. She was once again scratching away at the mountain-sized mosquito bites between her fingers and toes, behind her knees, under her chin, and in every other spot possible.

Late one night, amongst the stagnant, moist summer air in Buenos Aires, she and I were sitting on her bed debating the pros and cons of OFF!.  “As offal as my bug bites itch, I just find the smell of repellent offensive,” she said, and therefore, she refused to use it. I, however, wasn’t sure what was worse, the pungent preventative measures or the uncomfortable consequences. In any case, I knew she wouldn’t get OFF! easily, despite my remonstrances, especially since she already was having an OFF! day.

We all have OFF! days here in Buenos Aires, times when we leave our apartments and discover 10 minutes too late that we should have used the spray (it also is available in lotion form, may I just add). Perhaps OFF! body odor works the same as garlic breath. If you stink, and I stink, then we all stink together. 

For as badly as I itched in that moment, I wanted to OFF! myself completely, in both senses of the term. So, I grabbed the can and started spraying. I made sure to coat my whole body in deet simply because I didn’t want to get OFF! on the wrong foot. Stephanie gave in finally and did the same.

Afterward, we felt pretty well OFF!, even though Stephanie still itched like crazy and some new red bumps were starting to reveal themselves on my arms. At least, after all the repellent I had applied, I knew for sure that those Argentinean mosquitos would recognize that my blood was OFF! limits. That was, until, I saw a tiny black creature buzzing toward me in preparation to land on my knee. There is nothing quite worse than the shrill sound of a mosquito in flight.

“Hey!” I cried. “Bug OFF!” And I raised the can in the air, armed and ready to defend myself. As everyone — including me — should know, DEET cannot actually be used to kill mosquitos. In the moment, I figured it would serve as a good distraction. But, for this exact reason, the mosquito only smirked at me, tied a small napkin around his neck, and then pulled a miniature knife and fork out of wings.  All bets were OFF!. No vicious little vermin was going to get a break from my adherent defenses, especially a hungry mosquito. I leaped to my feet almost as fast as Chuck Norris, and filled the room with a cloud of deet, wishing that in fact Chuck Norris had been there to give me a hand. Stephanie and I coughed, but he would have survived the toxic air because Chuck Norris doesn’t breathe, he holds air hostage.

“Knock it OFF! already,” Stephanie shouted at me as she hid behind her bedsheet. But I wasn’t about to call OFF! the fight just yet. Where did this mosquito think he could get OFF! threatening me in that manor, sizing up my skin as an afternoon snack? (And yes, I said afternoon, because 8:30 p.m. still is early in Argentina) While I continued to run around the room, I wasn’t quite sure anymore who was chasing whom. 

I could hear him behind me, but I jumped over Stephanie’s chair, knocking it over, and sped passed her armoire in order to cut him OFF! “You’re mine now,” I shouted, ready to take him down with my bare hands! But I was cornered, and he was coming right at me! I shut my eyes, and cowered behind my own arms, awaiting my fait when…..

“SMACK ….. BBZZZZZZZZZZ …….SPLAT!!!” Apparently our mosquito friend had bitten OFF! more than he could chew, and for that reason, payed with his life. Stephanie had snuck up behind him with a fly swatter. 

“Thanks,” I sighed with relief. 

“You’re welcome,” she smiled and nodded confidently. She extended a hand to help me up, and then we were OFF! and running to enjoy the nightlife.

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The Incredible Dancing Man Aboard Buenos Aires Subway

Mark Twain once said, “When you’re on  the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” This guy really took that statement to a new level. I’m supposing that one day he perhaps had a bad day at work and, as the rest of us dream of, fled with his suitcase and just started dancing. Not to mention that when he entered Buenos Aires’ subway line D, he also took his shoes off and rolled up his pants and socks. Maybe he was purely trying to demonstrate what would have become of Jerry Macguire had Renee Zellweger not said, “I’m coming too.”

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Getting Real … The Confessions of a Twenty Something in 2010

For me, 2009 was a year of tremendous personal growth. I would go as far as saying that I made the most quintessential realizations and changes in myself out of all of my 23-years of living. What happened? I got real (hence the name of the blog I suppose, only now I am taking on “the Real World” with my own set of convictions, some perhaps opposite of what is the social norm). What has getting real been for me?

After graduating from college in 2008, I was lost mostly because I was trying to “find myself” when really I was there all along. What I really wanted was to create a challenging, purpose-filled life, but I was not only letting a lot of things stand in my way but I was also putting them there. This includes, but is not limited to, fear of the unknown, disillusionment about the definition of success, the potential disappointment of others, and loss of my health. I was battling a few important contradictions.

I am a people pleaser. When someone asks me, “Hey, what do you want to do?” I say, “I don’t know, whatever you want” when really I might have something else in mind for myself. I also have a really hard time saying no to people. If I were walking down the street and my friend said, “Hey, I need to take a break, but I don’t see any chairs around, can you get on your hands and knees so I can sit on your back?”  My response would be, “Sure, no problem.” Okay, perhaps it’s not that severe, but point made. Anyway, I was letting this desire overtake my life to the point that I finally cracked and said, “Hey, what about little old me and what I want!!”

So, at that point I put myself to work, running myself through the grueling process of self discovery, forming the strong person I wanted to be, and making drastic changes. I wont elaborate on what exactly I changed, but I will share what I learned along the way. One thing I am sure I made obvious, but I am now pursuing my life-long dream of living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Anyway, a lot of these ideas came to me through mentors and simple trial and error. Others were inspired by a movie called The Secret, which taught me great things about self-ownership, and a book called The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, which inspired me to take the big leap and get my life in order. Check out his lifestyle design blog at http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/.

And now…..

My Ten Most Important Life Lessons of 2009

1. I am loved and will always be loved everywhere I go, and no matter what I do, as long as I love myself first. 

2. Giving to yourself first is not selfish. If I am fulfilled, then I will have much, much more to continually give to others without exhausting my resources.

3. Overcoming challenges is a way of being more creative. When someone closes a door, climb the neighboring tree and go through the upstairs window.

4. Staying positive will help you attract what you really want. Instead of pondering all of the things that could go wrong, recognize that these feelings arise from insecurity and visualize what you want as if it already had come to fruition.

5. Fear exists. Worrying happens. Now that we established that, let’s move on.

6.  People are going to doubt you. Period. Especially if you are doing something out of the usual. But who wants to be ordinary when there is the unique possibility of being extraordinary?

7. Commit to an action and hold on to it as hard as you can. When accomplishing a great goal, the route to getting there isn’t always fun or easy. Things will most likely get more difficult before they get better, but the end result is worth it all. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

8. A personal favorite from the words of my friend Sarah, “You write your own ticket.” Above all else, never fool yourself into thinking that someone else is deciding your future for you. You are in control of your life. Now, surround yourself with people who believe in your ideas and give you constant encouragement through the successes and failures.

9. Smile even when it hurts. This advice was actually given to me by former Assistant Secretary General to the United Nations Robert Muller who literally wrote the book on being happy (it’s called Most of All They Taught Me Happiness).

10. Appreciate everything that you already have. 

Cheers to an enriching 2010, and stay tuned as the story continues to unfold. Special thanks to everyone who has been there along the way.

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Filed under Connections, Getting Real, Life Lessons, Narratives, Uncategorized