Borders and Borders

In Buenos Aires, Art of Travel Spring 2016, Borders by Marsha2 Comments

The first border was fear. I remember my host mom being the first person to try and hold a conversation with me in Spanish, all those days ago in August of last year. She asked me about my  family and if I had any siblings and I could barely get out the words to say, “yes, I have two sisters. One lives in Italy and the other lives in Australia.” I knew all the words, I was just too terrified to say them and believe I was correct. Spanish was just one of the things I was afraid of. For that first week, my friend and I split a cab to school every morning because public transportation just seemed like way too much to handle. We walked the streets with our backpacks slung in front of us, clutching them for dear life and convinced that anyone walking toward us had ill intentions. I don’t have any pictures of my first two or three weeks in Buenos Aires because I was too afraid to take my iPhone out; I had been told how treasured they are here.

Now, I am brave. I chat with my host family about the recent scandal Cristina Kirchner is embroiled in about money laundering, I take the bus everywhere, my backpack now rests on my back as I navigate my city and my photo collection is nearing 1,300 or so. My confidence was under construction for about two weeks or so before all the blueprints were thrown to the wind and I decided that what I had/knew/could do was going to have to suffice. It worked. Crossing the border of fear was difficult but by far the most fulfilling.

The next border was discomfort. Kissing people on the cheek felt far too intimate for someone I had just met, I always forgot to do it. I wasn’t used to eating at 10pm, I was always starving by 7pm. The catcalls which were directed at me had never been so driven by my ethnicity before, it was doubly disconcerting. It disorientated me how argentine men were so forward, so willing to fall and fast, so desperate for you to fall with them; I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t me. All these things made me so uncomfortable and I don’t think I can say that I’ve let this border behind me because I think travel, in essence, is always a little uncomfortable. But these days, I forget the kisses less, I don’t notice my hunger until 8.30pm and random people yelling things at me on the street barely cause me to miss a step. Perhaps I’ve grown accustomed to my discomfort or perhaps I’ve just grown; I don’t know. All I know is that it used to be weird and now it’s less so.

This border that’s coming up next is the tallest one yet. It’s one that I’ve known I had to face since I arrived here, but now that I’m up close, it looks far more intimidating than it did from August. This border is coming up in May and already I’m panicking. It looms over me and so far all I’ve been doing is standing in its shadow, waiting for some easy way out. I know I can cross this one, I’ve done it before, but somehow I think leaving Buenos Aires is going to be more painful than the previous borders I’ve had to cross.


  1. I loved your post and the way you described the progression of borders you’ve approached. I’m so glad you got over your initial fears, and the way you’ve handled the second load of borders has been so inspiring as well. I agree that travel will never be 100% comfortable – kudos to you for recognizing that and accepting it. And as for the last border, I’m right there with you. I’m very afraid to cross that as well. But seeing how far we’ve come, I think we’ll be able to hop over it much stronger and much smarter than we could have even imagined in the beginning.

  2. Marsha,

    I should probably be reading other people’s posts more but I like yours so much. The one border that worries me about Argentina and Latin America in general is perceptions of homosexuality and masculinity. I had similar fears when I came to China, but China is almost neutral about the subject especially if you are foreign. But everything that I know about Argentina and cultural expectations of men make me wonder how I’ll fare when/if I end up in Buenos Aires.


Leave a Comment