Andrea Bossi studies Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology with a secondary in African American Studies at Harvard College in the class of 2021. Her heritage is partly Argentine, and among many other things, she is interested in broader Latin American culture, history and conflicts.
By Andrea Bossi ’21, SIP Argentina 2019
When I woke up my last day in Argentina, I was overcast, unlike the beaming sun that morning. My basically packed bags were splayed open in the middle of my room nearly-not-room anymore. I tucked the chairs into the desk with bookshelves, and it looked bare again though it was filled with remnants of my host mom’s daughters’ childhoods. The hangers looked all lonely, holding nothing. My nightstand might have felt the same, all empty inside. The room became a sort of sanitized bubble inside a home again while a farewell fog descended on the apartment. And it had been descending throughout my last few weeks with the Summer Internship Program (SIP) in Argentina.
This last day was a Saturday, so some of us planned to finally go to the market in Palermo, Feria de Artesanos. I was to walk the hour or so there with my friend who lived a couple blocks away. I walked to our meeting corner and stood watching reflections in shop windows. This time, however, it was not for vigilance, not to watch my surroundings unnoticed by strangers. Instead, I was watching to catch my friend who I knew would try to sneak up on me, and I did. The walk was marigold the whole way, from the leaves to the warm feeling. Autumn in Argentina is something beautiful.
At the fair, meeting another friend, I wandered off and found the jeweler I met weeks ago at Feria de San Telmo. He makes jewelry inspired by modern art with aluminum and his own designs. Vendors at street markets were some of my favorite people to talk to, especially past their sales pitches or their I-thought-you’re-Brazilian Portuguese. They sometimes told me stories about their lives, their distant family that moved to America, the inflation they’re living under, or their friends smoking from their pipes all the way in Rio. These terminal exchanges were some of the most open. It’s like sitting by the right stranger on a plane.
It’s hard to make the most out of seconds when you know each one is slipping from you fast. At the fair, I tried to walk with leisure yet had to track the time. I remembered the fair was not far from the nightclubs on Niceto and, accordingly, was not far from the Bellagamba Bodegón, where I previously went to meet some family for the first time. Craving, I convinced my friends we should go for their delicious 25-peso empanadas. I was trying to savor last moments at places that felt homey, to hold them just a little longer in memory. Forgetting is inevitable.
By day, I was at Junior Achievement Argentina, either diving into their personal finance curriculum and developing its revision or learning basic coding to supplement the video tutorials we were producing. I enjoyed my work lots. It gave me a view into the lives of my coworkers, of people living in Buenos Aires and outside. My internship was responsible for many other things too, including my improved Spanish from all the reports and reading I did or my appreciation for mate in the morning. Then, after work and by night, I was a friend of friends at a bar, a shadow moving through streets, or a happy host-daughter wandering in loops between the bedrooms to the living room to the hall and back again.
Luckily enough, us SIP participants were placed in some of the most comfy parts of the city. Cabildo was the craze. There was always some busy concoction of things going on between the daylight and city night lights, buses flying by and illegal Ubers slyly pulling up, and people brimming to curbs or piling into the median. O’Higgins—I always found it’s English-sounding name funny—and the labyrinth of littler streets alongside Cabildo were calmer. There you might hear air rustle through leaves or find hip bars thirsting for your pesos and hoping you thirst for their happy hour beers alike. I was nervous around the city at first—pickpocketing or mugging my nightmare—but after plenty of being fine and remembering I’m a (big) city girl, I adjusted and grew to love walking in Buenos Aires too, even when the was sun far away. I especially loved how the streets’ flavor would change between impulsive wandering walks alone, morning hustles to the train, or nights walking home with my friend. As much as I enjoyed my time, there were a few draining days, like when me and other Black friends weren’t offered services in eateries or when my friend was called racial slurs on the train. Argentina has a legacy of systematically killing its Black population and engaging in their erasure. Being light-skinned, I know I didn’t even experience the full effects of racism there.
Despite that, I must reiterate my experience was overwhelmingly beautiful. And because of the love and kindness from my host mom and María José Ferreyra, the coordinator of DRCLAS SIP Argentina, any of my sunken spirits were soothed with, ironically, (other) words, affection, or food that made my stomach’s happiness trickle up to my heart. And I’ll never forget nights with strangers, deciding to adventure on together, from chatting with a group of visiting Venezuelans in Chicken Bros on the fourth of July to hanging out with study-abroad students from Seattle after telling them Lolita with the pink sign just a block over had no cover. Despite the blink of time we were there, many of us became regulars some places.
On that last day, I was savoring everything. While trying to hold onto each moment filled with life, I was lamenting the moments I wasted scrolling on Instagram or the days I stayed in. I would miss the empanada place my friend had just showed me days before this last day. They had 20-peso, hot, delicious empanadas of all types, and when they roll out of the oven, they remind me of clones in Star Wars. I would miss all the joyful places, all the sweet people. I would miss the dangerous way motorists slide between lanes of traffic like autumn wind slipping between balding fall trees. And I would miss all the broken, booby trap, little see-saw sidewalk tiles.
On the way back from the fair, I knew it was my last walk in the city before I’d be hauled out with my now-heavier bags to Ezeiza and back home to Chicago. It is hard to know such a thing and even harder to feel it. My host mom made me lunch when I got back: a last milanesa with her special papas rusticas, one last espresso from the machine I grew to know so well, and the rest of the flan with some dulce de leche al lado. In our last hour, we sat on the couch not watching the talking TV, and that looming fog was thick. Soon, I found myself going down the elevator. On the first day before work, it got suck, and a part of me hoped it would say bye the same way.
On the sidewalk of Cabildo that once looked so foreign, sun was twinkling afternoon alive, and though too early, its amber felt like sunset. I stood there an outsider again, marked by my bags. Saying goodbye to my host mom—who I shared meals with, who taught me life things, who comforted me some days, who made me make my bed—I felt my eyes glaze. She is the sun in that apartment, and she was glowing a sunset amber too.
I wouldn’t trade this summer for anything else, from the weekends exploring the city to weekends going to nearby cities, like Montevideo, Uruguay. It is an immense privilege to be able to say that—financial aid awarded or not—because this program has a fee and the internship is unpaid. Finding virtual work and keeping track of expenses helped a lot. If you can, I encourage you to have your own adventure in Buenos Aires with SIP and explore a part of yourself you don’t yet know. It’s embedded somewhere in that city.