Opposite Seasons, Skipping Autumn
Living south of the equator means a lot of things, I never paid enough attention to toilets flushing up north to tell you whether the water really does swirl in the opposite direction, but the one thing that is definitely opposite is the change of seasons. As my friends back home start preparing for winter, sipping pumpkin lattes, and applying for jobs at the local ski resorts, Argentina is entering spring.
Having spent the last three autumns in Britain I missed the classic New England fall and everything that comes with it: hot cocoa, breathtaking foliage, and homemade pumpkin bread. Another year is going by of me missing that magical time of year. Ah, yes, so sad missing out on all that lovely autumn weather and fresh apple cider, but instead of dwell on that nostalgia I’m getting excited to get a second spring this year.
The flowers are blooming and the intoxicating scent of springtime fills the air. The smell of the blossoming flowers cuts through the ‘city smell’ and keeps reminding me that I am in a place far from my North American home where the leaves are falling off the trees instead of budding. I’ve never been south of the equator until now and used to wonder what it would be like to experience the opposite seasons. My birthday is October 4th and I’ve always been an autumn girl, well aware that my birthday could either be a hot Indian Summer day or blistering cold if winter was rolling in early. Either way, the leaves would be turning and the nights getting shorter. This year I get a spring birthday! My birthday is just the start of many months of beautiful weather.
Argentina does not live up to the Latin American stereotype that many of my friends and family imagine. With most of the Americas considered “Latin America” there are many different cultures, foods, and dialects that coexist among the many countries. Here they speak a unique dialect of Spanish where “Yo” is pronounced “Sho” and “llamo” is pronounced “sha-mo” instead of “ya-mo.” I don’t think it is like Europe, even though many people do call it the Paris of the South. The people here are kind and genuine, there is little hassle as you walk down the street (in the right neighborhoods, of course), and the architecture is multifaceted with no one style defining the city streets. Their food is sweet, with the people preferring their mate sweet over the traditional bitter taste. True spicy food is hard to come by, unless you seek out a specialty restaurant or cook it yourself.
And chivalry is not dead here. I am most definitely a feminist thinker, I studied feminist archaeology and wrote my Master’s thesis on gender inequity in professional archaeology. I have passionate views about equality, but damn do I appreciate it when someone opens the door for me. I appreciate being given a chair to sit when I’m in a room full of guys, and I like to see mothers with small children being offered seats on the subway. I don’t have any defined job here, I am not expected to clean up after dinner anymore than my boyfriend is. I don’t need to have anyone carry my grocery bags or hold doors open for me but I do like it, it makes me feel included and appreciated, particularly in this foreign land where I still speak very little Spanish. It’s good manners and in turn keeps me aware of my own manners, reminding myself to always offer to make everyone tea when I make some for myself or to offer to help with the dishes or serving dinner. It brings people together to be aware of those around you, and Argentina is all about bringing people together. The people here are constantly getting together just to make dinner, or to grab a drink, or to simply watch some TV. Each meal and tea time includes everyone who is at home, and if you have guests over expect to offer them some snacks and tea or coffee.
It’s not crazy hot here (yet) and the streets are not filled with tango dancing Latinos dressed to the nines. It’s a place full of diverse people, who love to eat, and whose accents make them sound like they’re speaking in singsong, like the Italians. Expect a kiss on the cheek from everyone you meet, when you say hello and another one when you leave. Touch cheek to cheek, purse your lips away from their cheek, and make a kissy sound. Seriously, that’s how it’s done.
And what a way to turn 27! I’m officially entering my late 20s and instead of ushering in this new era knowing that winter is knocking on my door, I get to pull out my flowery sandal heels, smell the blossoming bushes, and open the window to let in the warm spring air…all while living in the Paris of the South.
September 26, 2013
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