Her optimistic, electric energy had me charmed the very first time I met her in June 2015. She had always been an enigma to me, and seemed far beyond my reach. Whatever I knew of her was pure romanticisation – as de Botton notes – based on what I saw online and on what friends of friends thought of her, if they had the grand fortune of ever being in her presence. They spoke mostly of her beauty, her hospitability, and some of her idiosyncrasies that were rooted in the identity crisis she seemed to be having. I knew she had to be seen to be believed. I needed to uncover this larger-than-life image I had created in my head and experience her for who she was. So, to prevent further “abstraction and ideology” as Iyer writes, I went to her. When I finally first saw Argentina for myself, I was afraid that all of my prior speculation was rapidly becoming the truth – I fell for her.
Much to my dismay, this summer love affair had to come to an end. After learning one new language, making it through two 30-hour journeys, living like a Porteña for six weeks, visiting tens of Latin American art museums, and consuming (probably) hundreds of empanadas and glasses of Malbec, I was sad to go – but felt fuelled to start my first year of college. During the first few months of school I fully immersed myself in the glamour and bustle of New York, but Argentina seemed to permanently be trapped in the labyrinth of my headspace. I was now regularly following Argentine politics, reading Borges and Cortázar, guarding my leftover alfajores as if they were made of gold, and teaching people the art of crafting perfect empanadas. I felt smug when someone commented on how Argentine my Spanish accent was, and even started studying Spanish as one of my majors. All of this to be able to reconnect with the memories and friends I had made in this place during my solo trip to a side of the world I knew almost nothing about.
Argentina felt like a part of my identity in ways I couldn’t explain. The untamable itch to listen to reggaeton club music or eat dulce de leche for breakfast again evolved into a study abroad application proclaiming my inexplicable love for Argentina and justifying my whim to go back with the Spanish major course requirements that I could fulfil at NYU Buenos Aires.
As you can tell by now, I did end up making it back to reconnect with this old lover of mine, and to understand why she never could get out of my head. This time, however, I don’t feel as unprepared as I did last year as Hash, the newbie 17-year-old girl who came here all the way from India and barely spoke Spanish. When I made my way back, I felt confident walking back into Argentina’s arms as Hash, now a food studies and Spanish/linguistics major at NYU with a good command over Spanish and a great hankering to know more about her lover than she ever did. During the 4 short months that I have to solve the mystery of my ever-growing love for Argentina, I look forward to studying her past, seizing every opportunity I’ll have to explore all her curves and nooks and crannies, understanding the nuance of her rioplatense Spanish, and embodying the passion she exudes in her every move. Hopefully, by the end of my time with her, I’ll have found a home in the Buenos Aires equivalent of Iyer’s gilded pavilion in Kyoto to take back with me to my Rockefeller Center.