Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Argentine Cold Remedy

I'm sick again with another cold, this being the second cold in two weeks. So obviously I'm not too happy about it, but it's just something you have to deal with. I haven't got any real cold medicine in the house. The only pills I have are Argentine allergy pills that I mistakenly bought two weeks ago and some Advil. So at the office today the guys told me to go to the pharmacy and buy a certain type of medicine. But when they told me how much it cost I said no thanks. Even if I wanted to pay that much, I didn't have enough on me.

So I asked the pharmacist for the next best thing and she pointed to the counter, and I picked out the cheapest thing I could find. Back at the office the guys were laughing as they told me that they misunderstood what I was saying and had recommended an allergy pill, as if that was what I needed more of. Then they told me the old trustworthy remedy. Get a good steam going in the shower and drink two glasses of whiskey. That will solve everything. It's that kind of advice that takes me back to my Ecuador days, when a random cure would be recommended, and occasionally work, even if only temporarily.

Then they continued joking by saying that what I really needed was a woman to cook and clean for me. That would make it all better. I think these guys are on to something.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Victory Gloating

I'm one of the only guys in my office that likes the Boca Juniors, even though they're one of the most popular soccer teams in Argentina. But before I go any deeper into this, let me just clarify that I have to like one team, so I like the Boca Juniors because my mom got me their jersey when she was here a few years ago. I didn't even know who they were when she gave me the shirt, and it sat in my closet for a few years. So I'm not exactly a real fan.

On Sunday night a big rivalry game between Boca and San Lorenzo was played. San Lorenzo is another popular team, and this was a big game. A couple of my coworkers are San Lorenzo fans, and one of them is always talking about San Lorenzo. They never cease to bust my chops about liking Boca, but I don't mind and if anything, it makes me feel like I fit in a little better. I watched the entire game because I knew I'd have to talk about it today. Boca won 2-0, and of course when both goals were scored I was looking away from the TV.

Sure enough, first thing in the morning when my coworker comes into the office and says hello, I can see the little embarrassed-don't say anything face. A huge grin breaks across my face and he starts to laugh, saying "What are you smiling at?" "How'd the game go last night?" I ask. And for the rest of the day we bust his chops, and we're all laughing about it. I feel like one of the guys today, and it reminds me of back home with a group of buddies making fun of someone else for liking a different team or player. It reminds me of just being a normal guy instead of the foreigner.

Despite the fact that Boca is having a lousy year, San Lorenzo is probably better this season, and a Boca loss later in the week will get me just as much mocking, for today I'm able to strut around and gloat about the big win on Sunday. And I don't even know anything about this sport.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Upside-down Weather

I know I've written about the weather being different here before. First it was winter when it should have been summer, then it was spring instead of fall, then summer instead of winter. And now we're nearly full circle. It's late April and I'm cold, it's gray and ugly outside, and I keep seeing messages from friends back home about how beautiful the weather is and how they're getting ready for the good season to come. Yeah, I'm jealous.

No matter what, I'm too Northern Hemispherian to accept what my eyes are telling me. I see the calendar and I just can't accept that it's cold like this. Granted, Boston is no city to guarantee warm weather in April, but at least you keep that grain of salt in mind, knowing that it will in fact get better. But here, it's only going to get worse for the foreseeable future. The other thing that makes it so difficult for me is the school system.

While I'm no longer a student or teacher, I've always been programed to see the fall as the beginning of a school year and the spring as the end. But a cycle has just started for students here in March, and instead of ending in July or so when it's hot out, it will be the middle of winter. It just kind of confuses my body. It gets to the point where I look at the calendar and it means nothing to me. It's just another date and I'm only looking until the end of the week or the end of the month. But the general concept that June, July, and August will mean barbecues, beaches, and outdoor parties, is now totally gone. And honestly, I don't know if I can ever get that concept back because in the back of my mind I'll always keep in mind that it's cold somewhere else.

But at least today they are turning the heat on in my building, so depending on how they do things here, it might feel like summer in my apartment pretty soon anyway. Judging off of my Argentinian grandparents apartment, which has always been far too hot, I'm hoping that's a trend kept up here. A long shot, I know.

An Air of Change o Nuevos Rumbos

Maybe I'm just being overly optimistic, but even with the change of the weather and the onset of the cold, it feels like new life is being breathed into my life here in Buenos Aires. I've passed by the 8 month mark on my time in this country, and just like I knew it would be from my experience in Ecuador, those first months were very difficult. It takes time to get adjusted to a new culture, make friends, and know enough about the place that you're living in to at least try to hold a relevant conversation with a local about politics, humor, or sports.

And in the last couple of weeks I feel like a corner has really been turned. Aside from simply getting better at the language and being here long enough to understand the politics better (though it's hardly ever understood), my social and work life is improving as well. While at first it was hard to meet people and it seemed like Argentinians just downright didn't want to get to know me, that slowly, albeit very slowly, changed. And now, it seems that doors are opening, if not blowing off. There is something to be said about a person wanting to get to know someone who has been in their country for a few months as opposed to a few weeks. There's stability in that.

The high season for tourism is over, and as we enter winter, the business chaos of office life will ease up a bit, and though there will still be work to do, it will be a more relaxed environment. I think with the relaxed season it has allowed other coworkers to ease up a bit too. As a result, we're joking around more and having a more communicable relationship which we didn't have for many months. It could also be that I've finally eased up a bit too, however. I won't deny that I've been a bit timid at work, but I think that's understandable if not acceptable.

With the colder weather I find less of a desire to go out and explore the city on the weekends, pushing me into a more "local" lifestyle--that is, I'm not acting like a tourist at every available chance. Will just hanging out at home on a day off be better in the long run? Who knows? But at the very least it gives more of a natural feel to the life here. So the next little hill to get over will be the issue with my DNI, which I'm still in pursuit of, and finding a balance with my overpriced apartment and constant penny pinching. On the plus side, I just learned how to make a relatively cheap Korean dish that uses rice, cheap meat, and vegetables. So maybe rice will be entering my typical diet of pizza, pasta, and sandwiches.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Read This Before Driving Through Patagonia!

My latest article has been published on Argentina's Travel Guide. This article is an advice column on driving through Patagonia, which I did with my parents back in January, which seems like years ago by now. You can find the article here. Spread the word to anyone you know who might be driving through Patagonia soon--it just might help them out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wine Tasting with Anuva Wines

On Saturday night I was invited to a private wine tasting in Las Cañitas by Daniel Karlin, founder and owner of Anuva Wines. Anuva is a wine distribution company which sends high quality boutique Argentine wines to 32 states in the U.S. and also hosts small wine tastings here in Buenos Aires. My goal was to experience the wine tasting and write a review for Argentina's Travel Guide. Like I always manage to do, I showed up too early, so I took a quick stroll around the block and saw how lovely and quiet the area was. This was definitely the right atmosphere for a refined wine tasting.

We went upstairs with the couple from Dallas who was there for the wine tasting, and began with the presentation. Already on the table were the five glasses waiting to be filled and a plate delicately prepared with the pairings of food. I've been to wine tastings before in Sicily and in Mendoza, but this was different. Rather than being rushed through a distillery with a guide who doesn't fully reach fluent status, we were in Karlin's home, and we were quickly made to feel like old pals. Karlin is actually an American expat, so aside from his perfect English, he had a different perspective to give us for restaurants, politics, and culture. This isn't a lesson that should be taken for granted, and to be honest I think it's one of the best and most distinguishing qualities of this experience.

We tried our five wines and ate our five foods. My favorite was definitely the San Gimignano Malbec Roble, which to me just had this buttery taste that made me feel warm and content. I easily could have had an entire bottle of it, and with any luck one day soon I'll get a bottle for myself. Of course, the other bottles were also excellent, with two whites and two additional reds.

My only regret is that I wasn't aware of this wine tasting when I first arrived to Argentina. It really was helpful and insightful for those who aren't wine experts, let alone those who've got extensive knowledge of boutique wineries in Argentina. Even after living here eight months and learning so much about the wine here, I didn't feel like anything discussed was old news. The history of the labels, the production, and the explanation of why this country produces such excellent wine went with the tasting just as much as the delicious food did.

Now, while the tasting costs U$40, I won't say it's overpriced. Let me explain. To me, U$40 is a hefty price for most things, but that's because I live here making an Argentine salary and getting charged for things in US Dollars. I live as cheaply as possible. But if you're traveling through the country and really want to try good wine but don't know where to start, I wholeheartedly recommend this activity. Do the right thing and don't just settle on the most expensive bottle at the restaurant. For 40 bucks you get a hell of a value, not to mention personalized service and recommendations for later on as well.

Don't just take my word for it though. Anuva's reviews on TripAdvisor speak for themselves. Check out this wine tasting in Buenos Aires and let me know what your thoughts are.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lighting Up the Night Sky

It was supposed to rain all day but instead we had a beautiful and warm autumn day. But as dusk fell the sky opened up without warning. It started slowly with an electrical burst of lightning coming in from the river. Then came the thunder and the heavy rains. Next was the hail. Here's the only good shot that came out, with the night sky lit up.

UPDATE: This picture was posted on Clarin's Web site tonight. That's hail.

You Know You've Been in BA a Long Time When...

Last night was sort of an early night, and by early night I mean we were leaving the club at 3:30 am. It's kind of a rare thing to be leaving the place just as tons of people are showing up and the line is forming. The music was good, we were talking to some girls, but me and the guys had decided that we'd seen enough. It wasn't a full night out anyway.

But thinking back on these kinds of nights always amazes me. How on earth did I get to the point where I look at the clock and think how early it is, when in fact it's very early morning? The night started with a wine tasting with Anuva Wines, which I'll write about in depth in another piece. The tasting was at 6 pm and by the time I left at 8:30 pm, five wines later and with a bit of a buzz going, I went home and what did I do? Well, if this was the United States, I could have either met up with friends right then and began the night or gone to a bar right off.

We live in Argentina, so things are a little different. I went home and took a little nap. Then I wrote a review about the wine tasting. Later, I made some mate to wake myself up and ate a few snacks. I started talking to some friends online, and by 11:30 pm I was getting ready to meet up with a couple of the guys I know here. Over time you can adjust to anything, and I've definitely reached the point at which a porteño lives by--that is to say, awake for almost the entire day. They just don't like to waste time sleeping.

On the rare occasion in college that I was awake around 3 am my body was destroyed the next day. I'd probably sleep until 1 pm and then be useless the next day. And keep in mind that hangovers get worse with age. I went to bed around 4 am last night after all was told. This morning I woke up around 10:30 am and stayed in bed until 11, but feel fine. The main difference is also in the way we drink here. Last night, apart from the wine tasting earlier on, I only had three beers. This is partly because of money, but also because in order to last the whole night you can't be wasted in one hour. On the contrary, back home the idea is to drink as much as possible, so if you reach 3 am it means you've probably had 10-12 beers by that point just to keep pace.

At least that's the way it was anyway. This kind of lifestyle can't sustain itself, obviously. If you go out like this too frequently you'll just waste your body, but doing so once in a while is normal for the youth in Buenos Aires. I stayed in Friday night taking care of the last day of a cold, and on Saturday I went out with the guys. But this is by no means a five day a week excursion for me. The main difference that I can see is that in the United States you might head out at 7 or 8 pm and be home by 1 or 2 am. Here, you follow a similar time line but later, so you leave around midnight or 1 am and get home at 5 or 6 am. The early night nap is essential, as well as a late dinner.

I fear the day when I go home to a Puritan Boston, where people are wasted by 11 pm and bars stop serving at 1 am. It's like seeing Paris and then returning home to the farm. Again, I'll eventually get used to it again, but I feel like a bitter part of me will always be complaining that just as we are getting home people are finishing dinner and heading out in Buenos Aires, and they aren't even hours behind. One day, anyway.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I found my old Ecuadorian cell phone number today, which is kind of ironic because just a couple of days ago it made me sad to realize that I could no longer remember it. The way I found it was kind of random actually, because I was at work. I had written in to the office while still living in Cuenca and there I found my information with the old address, phone number, and even the email I'd written. Now after even more immersion, I could see where I'd made mistakes with my Spanish and it made me blush to myself.

There was all of the old information, which was new information last year. I lived on Mariano Cueva y Juan Jaramillo. And the cell phone number, which survived the hijacking even though the original phone didn't, was still there. (I actually still have the second phone I bought in Ecuador and use it to this day). In my head I said the number as I said it a hundred times to friends in that country. Cero nueve cinco-cuatro ocho seis-uno uno cuatro. On the rarer occasion that I was giving it to an English speaker, it would simply be 095-486-114.

I guess what made it sadder to lose the memory of the number wasn't so much that I'd forgotten something special about that place, but it was like losing a part of myself. That number was almost like an identity--a part of the life that I had there. And though the phone itself didn't get nearly as much use as my phone back in the United States, it was a part of my way into the culture. Not just any gringo has a cell phone in Ecuador. It showed that I was there to stay for a while, and people were more open to that idea.

As the year went on and friends of mine started to leave the country, I began to take their numbers out of the phone book one by one until it was a slim list. And eventually I took them all out when I went home, and I have to imagine my number was taken out of the phones of those who stayed behind. But I wish I'd left those numbers now that I think about it. At the very least it would have been another little memory of my life there. Proof that I was able to rack up however many friends and mix into the life there. But in any case, the number is now back, and now that it's on the Internet, it will always be there for me to look back at.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Cup of Tea on a Rainy Day

Today was a rainy and cold one, with the thermometer reaching 15ºC (59ºF). It’s a raw cold and a shock to the system, with the first of its kind this season. But we’ll get used to it eventually, whether we want to or not. I was sipping some tea and the warm scent drifted up quickly into my nostrils. Holding the mug with the quick burn on the fingers and a slight adjustment so that my sweater sleeve grabbed the handle, my mind went elsewhere.

How many years ago was it now? Three or four? The year was…2007. We were in Dublin and had stopped into a café with the promise of getting out of the cold February rain. Who the hell goes to Dublin in February anyway? But we had a few extra days off from classes in Spain and took the advantage to visit another country. Back when doing that sort of thing was so easy to do and the cost of a flight for €20 looked like a bargain.

I guess it was towards the end of our stay there and we had seen most of the things we wanted to, so we were just walking around and killing time when Dorothy saw this cozy little hole with muffins in the window, comfortable-looking chairs and bright lights—a complete contrast to the gray and drab of an Irish February day. We ordered our teas and muffins and sat down. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about, though it was a slow paced and say-something-when-you-want-to kind of conversation.

Dorothy grabbed her mug by both hands and held it tightly, saying she loved to have a tea or coffee on cold days and just grab the mug. The heat from the drink instantly went into her hands and through her body, warming her up. I tried but quickly stopped as the convection hurt me too much. This method wasn’t for me, and I’d just as soon stick to warmer clothing and heating, I thought.

We sat in the café for maybe an hour and then went back out into the cold and rain to finish off our trip. I don’t know how many times, or if I’ve ever though about that moment since it happened, but today it came back to me with the whiff of camomile tea. Three years and I still can’t hold the mug tight. But for a couple of minutes I had a firm grasp on that vivid memory until like the heat from a porcelain mug, it slowly faded away.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

First Cold of the Season

Ugh, I'm sick and just want to stay in bed for days. This is the first time I've gotten sick in this upcoming cold weather season. This doesn't count my bad cold while traveling through Patagonia in January. That was the summer, after all. But this cold started out of no where on Friday night as I took it easy with a movie at home. It continued and is a sneezy, runny nose mess.

It's not even that cold yet, and though today was nasty and rainy, the weather has been pretty fair. Still, as I've written before, Buenos Aires won't be getting as cold or miserable as Boston does in the winter. So I'm hopeful that this will mean I won't get as sick as I used to get in New England. Of course, it doesn't really matter where you are in the world when a string of colds or flues go around. But anyway, for now it just means taking it easy at home and trying to get better. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Difference in Falls

It's nearly mid-April now, and we're well into the fall. It's weird for me to this of it like this, of course, because for the majority of my life this time of year was the spring. Or, being from Boston, it was later winter. I think with things being flipped, it would be something similar to mid-October back home. This means that the days are shorter, it's chillier, and the leaves have begun changing into luminous shades of red, gold, and orange.

But it's not exactly going quite like that. In other parts of Argentina you'll definitely see foliage, and I think even Mendoza gets a fair share of foliage that compares to New England. But on the other hand, I believe that Buenos Aires is about equidistant from the equator as Washington D.C. is. Thus, that dramatic change in colors and temperature is not quite as prevalent.

I miss that kind of fall. It always sets you up for football games and hot chocolate, or failing that, primes you for the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays which breath life back in after the summer time outings have ended. This week was a bit warmer than the last, and today was another beauty. People are taking advantage of the sunshine while they can, filling up parks for one last hoorrah before it's too cold to go out. As for me, I've put the running shoes on the shelf for the time being and have accepted that I'm now going to hibernate until the spring. It's unfortunate too, as I had been getting faster and stronger recently.

With the shorter days and colder weather, things will change for sure. As with other colder climates, people tend to stay in doors and not go out much in the winter. It's just too cold or gray or rainy. This will limit the amount of things I do in the city for sure, but will also set me up to have many things to do when the spring rolls around months from now. And it's not all totally over anyway. Each season brings its own difference and distinction. I have yet to experience the majority of the Buenos Aires winter, as I arrived at the end of it in August. Who knows, maybe we'll even get a snow day, and I can show these greenhorns how we deal with it in the north.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Transportation Woes in Buenos Aires

Man on man, today was a mess for public transportation. For me anyway. I had the news on this morning like I do every day, keeping an eye out for any word about serious traffic problems. There was nothing eye grabbing, so I went down to the Subte as usual. Once there, however, I discovered that service was "interrupted." It doesn't mean that it's stopped altogether, but you'll definitely get to work late.

Subte by Armando Maynez.It's important to always have a Plan B for transportation here, but I'd already swiped my card and didn't want to waste the $1.10. The train finally moved, but at each stop spend 5 minutes idling. Four stops in at Pueyrredon, everyone got off as word got down that the subway would no longer move. I followed the mass of people slowly trudging upstairs and saw a police officer handing out pieces of paper.

I thought it would be a complimentary ride on the subway, but instead found that it was a permission slip for work. It had to be a joke. This cop, who was more of a hall monitor keeping people moving while they yelled in disgust, was giving an excuse to our bosses for our late arrivals. Were we the children or were they?

Now, I understand that buses and trains break down from time to time. It happens, and I myself have been on a handful of trains in Boston that have broken down. But when they did, the T service always had buses ready to take us to the next stop and make up for it. And that was over the course of my life in Boston. Here, they provided no alternative transportation. In the 7 months I've been living here (and really just 3 months since I frequently use the Subte) the train breaking down is more of a weekly or daily thing, and it's expected that you will generally arrive somewhere late as a result. I've written previously about how you can't help but show up somewhere late at least once a week, but you never know when it will be.

The problem here isn't that there are issues with the Subte. The problem itself is the Subte. It just doesn't function well and I have to say after traveling around the world that it's the worst subway system I've had the privilege to know. Having it there keeps you from bothering with the buses when traffic is at its peak in the morning and after work. It's deceivingly convenient. I'd be willing to pay another 10 cents or whatever it would be if they could just guarantee that you would show up on time and not be totally shocked. Isn't that normal?

So anyway, I got in line for a bus, then had to walk about 15 blocks to finally make it to work, luckily just a half hour late. As for the ride home, it turns out the D line was down all day. I had planned to go to an Anuva wine tasting to do some research for an article for Argentina's Travel Guide, but because of the mess with transportation, I wasn't able to make it. Even lining up for a bus meant getting behind about 100 other people.

So finally upon making it home, I had to pop open a bottle of red and just relax for a bit. Just another day in Latin America.

Above: Photo courtesy of Armando Maynez

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday is Sweater-vest Day in Buenos Aires

Today I decided to break out a new sweater-vest that I had gotten back in January, but had never used because it was obviously too hot. It's not the first time I've worn a sweater with a collared shirt underneath, though this is a different style and the first legit sweater-vest I've ever owned. In a way, it's sort of a step up and breaking away from my college style. It's more serious dressing even as my office is laid back and I could easily go in wearing a T-shirt and jeans, which I do occasionally.

But I don't know, I just feel that I should dress well when I step into an office. Even if it's a laid back environment, I feel like I need to act professional. So I kind of stick out in a way in the office, because some of the other guys dress very casually while I look overdressed. I was afraid that would happen today, but oh well, I had the sweater and I was going to use it.

To my surprise, it seemed like just about every guy on the subway had a sweater-vest on. We all had different colors and sizes, different brands and different patterns. But everyone seemed to feel comfortable wearing the office-fashionable clothing. Of course by the time I got to the office I was the only one left in the sweater-vest. No one gave me much guff for it, though eventually I was asked if I was hot and at the end of the day someone said, "How elegant."

Elegant? Well I don't know about that, but I'll take the compliment. If only they could see me now, sitting on the couch with my white under tee and sweatpants. Oh, the humanity!

Monday, April 5, 2010

American University, Fall 2011

After waiting to hear from the rest of the schools that I applied to (with the exception of Boston University, which I have to assume somehow never received my application), I've made a decision on which graduate school I'll be attending. My final call is to defer for one academic year and then attend American University's School of International Service in the Fall of 2011. I'll be pursuing a Masters in United States Foreign Policy.

The idea to stay in Argentina for another year comes to the chagrin of most people I know, and I understand why. I've already been away from home for over a year and a half, and this solidifies that I'll be gone for about another year and a half. But I still have much to learn and I'm gaining invaluable experience every day at work and in my social interactions. I know from last year's experience that just as my time in Ecuador was ending I started to make more friends and hit a stride. I don't want that to happen again here, and I want to see it through to get the most out of the experience.

My Spanish, while already fluent and without being arrogant, is excellent, could always improve. Though the improvements now mostly focus on more obscure vocabulary, everyday is another lesson in something cultural. Everyday is another challenge that makes me a better person because of it, and I'd be cheating myself if I just picked up and left now. This isn't summer camp and I can't just go home out of the blue. I have a job and responsibility, and I'm willing to see it through.

So basically, I can now take a deep breath. Those first few months here were dominated by the GRE, applications, and waiting around for the results. Now I can rest assured that I have a secured spot for next year. For now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the NCAA Men's Championship Game and think about how one day in the future I'll be a college student again.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Seeing Off Friends

On Friday night my friends Dan and Valerie had a going away party. They've been in Buenos Aires longer than I have and are now starting to make their way home. They're leaving this afternoon on a bus from here to Lima, Peru, which will take three days. Then they'll continue the trip home. flying to Florida and then finally back to Utah.

I met the couple like I'd met many other people here, through contacts and friends of friends. We had some good times together and it's too bad that they're now leaving. We started off the night at their apartment in the Microcentro and then went to a bar they liked in San Telmo. The bar, which I think was simply known as "The Red Door," had a small upstairs area with dark lighting and a cool vibe. Good music was playing and there was a constant steady amount of people there.

I noticed that it was probably the last time I could get away with going out in just a T-shirt, as autumn chills have now officially set in. By the time I was heading home it was straight up cold and I was shivering. At the same time of saying goodbye to Dan and Valerie, a new friend named Brian came by. Brian is a friend of my buddy Lucho in Cuenca. They're both from the same town in Maine, and Brian is going to be here for a few months teaching English before making his way up to Guayaquil.

It seems like I'm still going to be bouncing around week to week meeting people, and there's just no way around that. The rest of the weekend has gone by pretty low key. I think I got in my last runs of the season this weekend, ending on high notes. On Friday and Saturday morning I ran about 4 kilometers each time, and today when I went out it was clear that the temperatures had dropped considerably. So much so that everyone was out in winter jackets.

Today is just a lazy day, maybe meeting up with some other people for dinner, but who knows. Then back to work tomorrow.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sunset, Good Friday

I know, it seems like I keep talking about the sunsets here, but they really are pretty great. Here are some shots from today's sunset, as seen from my balcony in my room.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ohh, Boston You're My Home

Today’s been kind of a tough day. I made my desktop background at work a picture of the Boston skyline, and though I barely have the chance to look at it, the picture has me thinking of home. I miss Boston, and though I don’t think about it too often to ease the effect of homesickness, it’s always there in the back of my mind. Even though I grew up outside of the city and was home for 3 weeks in August, I feel like it’s been years since I was there.

I scrolled through some pictures of Boston on Flickr and that didn’t make it any better. I thought of the harbor and downtown, all business. But quickly down the streets under constant repair (have they finally been fixed by now?) and you wind up by the Fleet Center. I don’t care if it’s the TD Banknorth Garden or whatever it is now, it will always be the Fleet Center to me.

The North End is just up around the bend, with excellent Italian food and tiny cobblestone streets. Colonial architecture and Quincy Market, where dozens of bars, restaurants, and designer stores make their home. Hardly anyone knows that Quincy Market is where slaves were once sold before it was outlawed in Massachusetts. But that was a long time ago.

I think about the dishes I miss—the New England clam chowder and lobster. The restaurants I’m familiar with from back home, the dishes I could count on having regularly which now are things to be cherished, like a Caesar salad, for example. On talking to my friends and hearing what they’re up to, where they’re moving to in and around the city, it makes me regretful that I’m missing out on time with them and the experiences they’re putting together. But like I’ve told myself before, it would be no different if I had been offered a job in Los Angeles and had to move there. I’d be just as far removed.

It makes it harder also to think that when I do go back to the United States eventually, I won’t be going back to Boston permanently. At least for the time being anyway, because it looks like I’ll be doing my grad school in the Washington D.C. Metro area. I miss the fall and the changing of the leaves in New England, and football on Sundays, and sitting in basements watching movies with people who I don’t need to tell my life story to because they already know it from being there, among other things. So today is kind of a tough day.