what april means to me

04/04/2010 § Leave a comment

I find myself relishing all that is Argentine nowadays, now that the countdown has begun. I have slightly abandoned my writing in order to take a stroll through the city, snap some photos, talk to people, just sit, reflect, tear up a little bit.

A very wise friend once told me, “be where your hands are”. He told me this at a very pinnacle stage of my journey, of my sojourn in Buenos Aires, where emotions were high and my want of physical activity, like leaving my room, was low. I had, for so long, my entire life, lived outside my body and used my mind to create fictitious scenarios that were always more romantic and better-off than they ever ended up being.

In Toronto, before I left, I had an idea of what life in Buenos Aires would be like. Suffice it to say, it was nothing like I had imagined, at least not the life I ended up living. I thought that taking tango-classes would be cheesey, that going out and dancing would be against ever fibre of my moral being, and I definitely didn’t consider riding horses or going to Patagonia.

In the end, the tango classes have opened a new group of friends who are laidback and enjoy good conversations. We went to a milonga and got to see an old-school tango band play beautifully. I remember thinking at that moment, “if I died tomorrow, I would be happy because I got to see something extraordinary” — one of my main goals in life, other than being the best person I can be, is to experience extraordinary things.

Going out and dancing here is different than back home. There is no bumping and grinding, perversions and girations. Instead, it is like dancing a contemporary classic, where they spin you, salsa with you. They just want to dance, even if it’s solo, with no hidden agendas of “picking-up” — although I am sure they wouldn’t protest to it seeing as Buenos Aires is the 9th most promiscuous city in the world.

Then, there was getting back into the saddle, a love of mine since I was a kid and dream I had since leaving it 6 years ago. Buenos Aires will forever be the place that brought me back to horses. The culture here is captivated with horses and gauchos. You can buy a gourd for mate with images of a horse, or a pancho — also the word they use for a “hotdog” — with a criollo horse woven into it. A painting done by a local artist of a horse’s head. Argentina made it easy to be around horses.

However, the topper of the list was reaching Patagonia. I didn’t think it was an option until I read Bruce Chatwin’s, In Patagonia, knowing that it was the perfect basis for a story I had formulating in my head. When I read that book, referred to as “travel literature“, I was going through a tough time in my head. As if it was a sign, a signal, the opening page indicated something to me: Chatwin was chasing Patagonia, in search of a piece of skin from a brontasaurus. Not only was the brontasaurus my favourite dinosaur as a kid, but I knew that I needed to go on asimilar  journey and, most importantly, to do it alone.

That I did, and it changed something inside me. Things aligned and my perspective became larger. I was able to look at the bigger picture, off into the horizon, instead of focusing all of my energy onto something that rested on the tip of my nose. Although I still have emotional spills, like any normal human being, I now believe in life’s greater purpose, something beyond the Divine, beyond the Conspiracy, something that radiates from within.

Patagonia meant a lot to me. That is why I have not extensively written about it. It wasn’t just about the people I met, or the sights that I saw, there was a comfort limit that I had pushed. At times, I thought my heart would jump from my ribcage and explode at my feet, or that I might get dizzy on a precipice and plunder to my death. For two weeks, my life was literally flashing before my eyes whilst awake and asleep. It was like a prolonged death, never knowing when it was going to end or if it would be painful. Seeing those images of the things I had lived through — the people I had loved and loved me back, the capacity of forgiveness, the inherent good in all those I had met — put me in a place of blissful contentment that I had never experienced before. I was buzzing. Sending off good-vibrations.

I learned to be where my hands are. To be happy at home. Home: Where my heart is, the heart that beats within my chest. Now I know that I am home wherever I am as long as my heart is still beating.

So, as the countdown reaches zero, and a slight sadness ripples through me like the waves of Lago Puelo in El Bolson or tears crash down like the glacial-ice at Perito Moreno, I know I am a stronger person. I am whole. I have filled the cracks and crevasses that permeated my mind and my soul with a cushioning glue, binding my self to my heart and my hands. I know who I am through becoming this person. I have come to terms with some flaws that I want to work on. I have also come to terms with some of my flaws that I want to keep. I have seen my beauty and ugliness in the reflection of bus-windows and crystal-blue lake water, in the windows of shops on the streets of Buenos Aires, the toothpaste-spattered mirror in my apartment, and I know that I can live with it, change from it.

Evolve.

So, when I go home, I will not pine for the days spent in Latin America. I will use what I have learned, keep what I want, — like mate and mantecol candy — discard that which I dislike, — like the anxiety of returning to Toronto, a different city for me now — and just be where my hands are.

This is what April means to me. May will be different, too, and I am ready for it.

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