I'll be leaving Buenos Aires in a few days. Although in some ways sad, it feels like it's time to move on.
I've had a very good time here this past year. It's been great to have such an immersion in a country, as the only other place where I've had such an opportunity is France.
My job was great, as, although the salary and hours weren't wonderful, working as an English teacher got me out in the community, and had me in constant contact with the local people. I've also been lucky in that, with very few exceptions, all of my students were friendly, interesting, and motivated. It's been a great experience.
I've also enjoyed the dance classes that I've taken, especially tango. It was a pity that I was never able to find a permanent partner, as there aren't many girls, or people in general for that matter, interested in dancing more than a few times a month.
Dancing 'rock' has also been fun. The closest comparison to this that I can think of would be that of an American high school dance from the 1950's. It's funny that it's so popular with the local twenty-somethings. In contrast, the crowds in tango classes are usually aged 40 plus. It's been a great way to meet locals my own age.
Yet despite feeling in many ways comfortable here, I have the feeling that if I were to stay next year, not much would change, and I'd be in the same situation that I am now. Even for local people, opportunities here are hard to come by. It's accepted (and expected) that you need contacts to get ahead, and I don't have any strong connections. Plus, I'd like to take advantage of the freedom that teaching English gives me, and see more of the country and continent. Also, the size of Buenos Aires is a bit much, particularly in the downtown core, which swells to more than 5 million people during the day. My girlfriend, Maria, and I having broken up means that I don't feel much tying me to the city.
At this point, my plans don't really extend past the summer. I'm going to spend the summer (January and February here in the Southern Hemisphere) exploring the south of the country, which is one of the most sparsely populated regions of the continent. Afterwards, I'll pass through the vineyards in the west. Unless I decide to stay there for the coming school year, I'll keep heading north afterwards, to Peru, Ecuador, and into central America.
Something that will come up quite often in the coming posts are hospitality networks such as Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club. For those not familiar with them, they're organisations based through the internet. The members offer to show you around the city they live in, and may even invite you to stay with them while you're in town. To many this sounds crazy, but I've found it be an invaluable tool when travelling. It's amazing how much deeper experiences can be. For instance, travelling around the Balkans in Eastern Europe was a fascinating experience, but only because I had local people to show me around, explaining the various parts of the culture and history of the area. Staying in hotels and going to the few museums of the region would have been a bit boring. Meeting and staying with families that had been on both sides of a war just a few years earlier was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.
I used this site recently in Misiones and Paraguay, and I'll keep doing so in the coming months in the Patagonia (southern Argentina).
So for anyone wondering about what this was, this is the idea in a nutshell.
A few words about the blog in general... I'd like to keep posting regularly, but I doubt that I'll be able to. In the end, it's a bit boring to write this unless I have some interesting stories to tell, which is when I'm travelling. Otherwise, I just end up ranting about politics, either here or in Canada. Writing about daily routines is a bit tedious.
I think it would be realistic to post once or twice a month, but not necessarily at regular times. I won't always have access to the internet, as I'll be spending quite a bit of time in national parks and villages. So to follow what I'm up to, just check back every couple of weeks.
When I do update this, I'll probably announce it through my status on facebook. For anyone whom I'm not connected to via a friend link on that page, just search for Ian Barrett in the Argentina network. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one!
Also, I recently bought a digital camera, and will be posting a few pictures from my trip. I'll post a link here as soon as I get them up on the internet.
Someone anonymously posted a comment a few entries ago, telling me that I'm a bit of a snob when I write, and that I criticise Argentina too much. I hope this isn't how things have come across, as I've been quite happy here. When I first arrived, there was definitely a bit of culture shock, mostly due to the amount of poverty and the sheer size of the city. Still, I think that in general I've criticised the government of Canada more than anything else over the years, since it's frustrating to see things going so much worse than they were, or than they need to be. I could rant about Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister, for quite some time.
Finally, I feel badly about not responding to many of the comments that were left in the last year. I do read them, and will try to be better with that in the future. If anyone does have any comments or criticisms, I'd very much appreciate hearing them, as of course I'm looking for ways to improve my writing style or in selecting what I choose to write about.