Claire Shrader is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Pre-Occupational Therapy major at Mississippi College, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
In this week's post, Claire enters into her fourth month in Buenos Aires and reflects on creating roots and relationships in this city.
I had to laugh today because I saw a group of backpackers, dreadlocks pulled back with thick fabric headbands, hiking pants obviously going on a few uses and, unsurprisingly, all with Nalgene water bottles almost exactly the same as mine.
Visiting Teatro Colon!
My water bottle is a novelty here. Sometimes I’m called, “Claire with the bottle” because people are so just not used to seeing water bottles, and especially not Nalgenes, which are massive. I guess I look a little something like those adventurous vagabonds wandering through the city with wonder in my eyes and a walk that obviously isn’t exactly sure where I’m going. And my water bottle, of course.
Every time I see backpackers I’m struck with admiration, and often resist the urge to just go start a conversation. Because, honestly, I think it’s impressive. I admire them, because I don’t think I could do it. Not necessarily because of the living out of a backpack part; I’ve hopped around so much this semester that I’ve almost done that already. But the traveling so much and never actually planting roots in a place, that I find unthinkable.
I’ve been in the lovely country of Argentina for three months now, and am entering into my fourth. I’ve spent every day trying so very hard to create roots and to delve into friendships, and sort of try to fast-forward the relationship process. So this has worked to some extent, because I have dear friends here and I have HAD dear friends here, but other friendships are just now starting to take shape. And other opportunities I’m just now starting to take advantage of.
The lovely country of Argentina.
In case you didn’t read that well the first time: I am literally entering my FOURTH month in Argentina and to some extent am just now feeling like I have roots or can, for example, navigate a lot of colectivos without my maps app. Being somewhere and really, actually BEING there takes time.
That’s why I don’t think I could ever be a backpacker. I need to be able to find my people and my favorite spots and places to volunteer. That’s what makes me love a place, not the museums and restaurants and hotels. Although I’ve loved getting to visit Buenos Aires’s incredible museums, they haven’t been my favorite part of my time here.
The truth is, there have been a lot of favorite parts for me. I have loved my internship and the opportunities it has given me to get to know so many incredible children, families, dedicated volunteers, amazing professionals, and my coworkers who have become dear friends. I have loved getting to know people from my church and to build relationships there. I have loved getting to volunteer in a tango class for people with Parkinson’s Disease, and that opportunity to get to know some really brave and patient abuelitos who have taught me to tango. I loved getting to go to FLENI hospital, a rehab hospital for kids and adults, and getting to learn to make ham and cheese medialunas with the patients in a cooking therapy class. I have loved getting to befriend the porteros in both my apartment building and the building where I work, and love chatting with them at the beginning and end of my days. I have loved talking to random people on the bus and train and subte. I have loved finding kindred spirits at Austral and getting to know them better.
Spending the May 25th Celebration with closed ones.
Honestly, the most wonderful, life-giving parts of this semester for me have been the really normal moments just spent in companionship with people. I’ve learned that about myself this semester, that although I love sightseeing and playing the tourist, the most important thing to me is to have roots, to have people.
I am thankful that at the end of this semester, I won’t just say I’ve been to Argentina, that I’ve seen the sights and eaten in the best restaurants. I can say I’ve lived here. How incredible.
Claire's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.