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Post-Patagoniando

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My second first impression of North America was something between coastal Brazil and a dollhouse. CNN was the scary monster that ruled the Miami airport at about 6:30 in the morning, with its perplexing Midwestern accents and mindless chatter about the current round of the Palestine-Israel power struggle. The women also perplexed me: tall and blonde, with very visible makeup; they were an army of pink cheeks and eyes of every color. They reminded me not of humans but of a vague childhood memory of a Barbie doll. After approximately seven seconds, boarding started: I had expected time to be frozen, but North America had already engulfed me again. I clapped when the plane landed, and an army of Baltimore-bound strangers stared.

~

I was never an immigrant, but I was a rebel. The questions ate me alive like some sort of organ-eating river worm: why patriotism, why nationalism, why does this country exist like an island? I imagined the United States like a fence-enclosed place, into which entered no foreign culture. Of course, it entered, but only through the immigrants, so immediately taught to learn the language, to assimilate, to take US American names, to not let their native culture leave the safety of their homes. I always asked myself, where was the German music, the Colombian music, the Korean music? It was somewhere, but never on the popular radio stations.

I had always been easily bought, knocked over quickly by waves of extremism. I believed what I read until I learned to criticize, and it became my most overused skill. But still, new ideas swept me into a sea of passion and enthusiasm.

I asked the world for something, for anything, begged for a little piece of land. To share. To make it mine. I was always and artist, looking to make something out of something, but never a painter and never a writer: I was a performance art, life was my medium. From it, I could make anything, and my gift was a city; I was ready to start carving. After two months and five *asados, I was home. Patagonia adopted me, and made me its daughter; I complained of its faults but loved it as I would always love my father.

The best things always, but always, come with conditions. Love comes with a boy who already has a girlfriend, the newest cars are crashed and dented, and I had Patagonia for only a year.

~
There is a reason we are born where we are born, but we can always emancipate ourselves. We have seen it a million times before: immigrants flocked from all of the world to Israel, Indonesians to the Netherlands, the Spanish to South America, the generation of Indian-Americans that reversed the past and went back to their ancestral land. This was my two-thirty-five in the morning epiphany. I was reborn somewhere between the pink-gold graffitis of Rio de Janeiro and the wide-open streets of my Patagonian city, where the desert shined every day like a dream.

Like a baby, I observed my new US American world, pros and cons flashed in my head, trying to be the most unbiased I could. The transmission lines enamored me for the second time, little veins that shined pink in the early morning light, stretching across the green hills of Pennsylvania farmland. The views from tiny mountaintops took my breath away, like a photograph. The West Baltimore graffiti impressed me as much as the graffiti of *San Cayetano, illegible words that seemed to pop out of their walls.

But I saw, in the country where I was raised, a country full of strangers. Strangers, filling a town that served to me as no more than a relic of my past, where I barricaded myself at home with my family and marveled at the empty streets of a rural commuter town that had never been a truly united community.

I observed the houses with three televisions, where every family member had an iPhone. The girls that walked with five shopping bags and begged for more money to buy the 50th Victoria's Secret bra. The commercials that encouraged the American Dream Rat Race, the competition of who could have the most economically fruitful life, with the suit-demanding office job and the 2.2 children. A dream marked by the suburban house, with the car that meant freedom and independence.

~

My new city, my modern city, my flat city, my city of dreams. My love of it showed when I described it as my paradise, my Jerusalem, my promised land. Where I danced free and cried with thankfulness and love because I lived the life I had always, always wished for without ever knowing what I truly wanted.

Speaking English all day felt like the act of a traitor as I watched my so carefully-cultivated Spanish deteriorate. I cried for it like a lost childhood friend, and realized what I had always been in my promised land: a foreigner, an outsider. Only among my family and close friends had I been recognized as a competent citizen, with a knowledge of Argentina equal to somehow who had been born in the country. Outside of that, shopkeepers treated me as a two-year-old child, holding up fingers to explain prices, held under the belief that I was nothing more than a stupid tourist who had somehow crossed upon this industrial city.

Like the US Americans, the Argentinians asked me afterwards if I was happy to be 'home'. A home where I was and had always been, an outsider.

~
My mind lives somewhere between this country, this country where I was born and raised, and Patagonia, like a cell phone left off airplane mode, searching for signal: but I search for my home. Somewhere behind the horizon is a fantasy land, where I am held to the standards of a born citizen, where I learn perfectly to speak the language, not only the words but the ideology.

My backpack is still half-unpacked in a corner of my room, a memory of a journey that I never wanted to end. But now, I look at it and float to future journeys: I am a bird, young and unheld. The world is my oyster, my Garden of Eden.

One day, I will continue the journey that I started long ago. I will pick up the backpack and pack it with the bare essentials, the most important objects I own, but the heaviest thing carried will be the weight of my wandering thoughts. Like a compass, I will follow them, and wear my hands out through miles of unknown jungles, of trees and of concrete, under the assumption that one day, a piece of land will be waiting for me, and it will be my home.

*asado - a type of Argentinian barbecue
*San Cayetano - my Argentinian neighborhood



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