A young foreign woman’s story of finding a new home in Argentina
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Over the past few decades, more and more people have been travelling the world finding a new home in far-flung corners of the planet.
Personally, I never imagined 20 years ago, that Argentina would one day be my home. Living in Australia at the time, I thought maybe I would make my permanent home there, or perhaps return someday to my birthplace, New Zealand, or maybe even try my luck somewhere in Europe. South America, and Argentina, were not on the list.
A trip to Peru in early 2000 set off a chain of events that eventually lead me to Buenos Aires. The warm welcome of strangers and my first Asado (BBQ), accompanied by a rich and smooth Malbec ( an Argentine Red Wine style ), sealed in me a determination to explore the city and see if I could find my way there in spite of having only a few words of Spanish!
About a year later, an Argentina friend asked, ‘Could this be your new home?’
I said ‘Maybe,’ at the time.
It got me thinking: What is home? Is it a house, a city, a country, a place with certain people or family connected to it? Is it a place where you feel loved and understood? I had never actively thought about it. Then the Spanish word hogar flashed at the edge of my consciousness, and my mind focused in on it.
Hogar in Spanish means ‘home’ as opposed to ‘house’, casa. It also means fireplace or hearth—the heart of a home. Something about fire and a hearth made me scratch back through my memory files from Anthropology classes. The first humans were mostly nomadic. The fireplace, the hearth, was the centre of their lives. When they packed up and moved from one place to another, the first task in the new location was to make a fresh flame. Sometimes they even carried burning coal with them, coaxing it back to life. This hearth and their kin sitting around it was home, wherever they were physically.
I wondered if it was a coincidence that I felt that sensation when staring into flickering flames and burning embers—their hot light warming me through, encouraging dreams. Was it something primal that lived at our core? Perhaps even the ‘something’ I had been searching for in my youth.
I realised at that moment that I felt home in Argentina. Well, more often than I ever had before, and I was over a thousand kilometres from my birthplace.
I have called Argentina home for eleven years now. It has become my place in the world, despite its complications.
Why do I feel more at home in Argentina?
It’s complex and comes in part because of some internal changes I made along the road to get here, but I think it also comes from feeling very connected now.
Argentines really cherish the things that fuel a sensation of connection and belonging. Family and friends are core elements to them, fire and food too—streaming meat over hot coals. Family is very important to Argentines and most weekends are still spent with the extended family and friends. Homemade pastas are prepared lovingly by sprightly grandmothers, or the men-folk undertake the slow grilling of the Asado for everyone. Getting together for an Asado with family or friends is one of the things they most look forward to. Argentines even have a national friend’s day, which causes havoc with traffic and overflows every single restaurant in the country.
They also touch, a lot. One of the things I have grown to love the most about Argentine life is the kissing. Argentines kiss every single hello and goodbye. Here I can guarantee I will be kissed and hugged more than twenty times a day, every day. It’s impossible not to feel connected here to something bigger and to a net of other humans. In part, it’s a cultural thing but I think, too, it’s a natural consequence of living in a complicated country. To navigate the waves and storms people have to pull closer together.
Now that I’m married to a lovely Argentine and have a little boy I realise even more the importance of having many, connected people around us. It is true: it does take a tribe to raise children, and keep parents sane in a world that can seem too fast and pressured.
I‘m home. It has become my place in the world, despite the fact that my Spanish is still pretty horrible!
If you are curious to read the whole story, the book is called Picaflor- finding a home in South America. Local Paperbacks can be found at KEL Ediciones bookstores in Buenos Aires or order below.
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Post available in: English