Friday, October 10, 2008

Insects, internet, and introspection


The other day I stepped on the fringes of a dying cockroach in my bare feet. After a full minute of high-pitched girly squealing from atop a chair as I watched the little beast squirm, I reached down to grab my cell phone and frantically called Marcos. This cockroach was easily two inches long. That's good, he assured me: the big ones are mothers looking for a place that doesn't already have cockroaches so they can start their own family. If she's dead, I'm in the clear. This calmed me somewhat until he cracked a joke about feeling cockroach pus between my toes, which got me screaming and him laughing. When I related the story to Paula she too laughed at me, saying once she felt one on her face while sleeping. Cockroaches are just a normal part of life here, and when I saw another one yesterday afternoon - this time half the size - I calmly handed Marcos a shoe and asked him to kill it, and only squealed a little bit at the crunching noise. I've always had issues with smashing larger insects because of the crunch-and-ooze, but I know the next time I see one I'll have to kill it myself since I am alone 95% of the time. (To all you insectatarians who would urge me to let it live, Paula's story has made such a scenario all but impossible.) Interestingly enough, by law every building has to be fumigated monthly, though my building has decided to skip October... the one month I would welcome pesticide in my house is the one month it won't be provided.


After a mere week with internet access, my connection inexplicably gave out. The modem said it was working and network diagnostics gave me the helpful hint that perhaps I had typed the web address wrong. I finally got a techie to help me today, and there was an administrative block on my account. Translation: the landlady found out I had added internet, was not pleased, and blocked it without telling me. In an equally passive aggressive move, I was able to get said techie to change me to the administrator. Now I am once again connected and plan to work through the long weekend (Monday is Día de la Raza here, formerly Columbus day).


Perhaps it's the changing of the season, the myriad public transportations I use, or the bad air quality that is supressing my otherwise effective immune system, but I am once again sick with cold #2. A friend of mine speculated that perhaps it's due to my relative inactivity here in Buenos Aires. For the first time since I was 15, I've had basically nothing to do: I work for Apex a few hours a day, but otherwise I'm on my own to fill my time as I please. I have varying reactions to this freedom. Sometimes I think of it as a well-deserved extended vacation that I should take full advantage of while I am able; on these days, I'm thrilled to wander the streets aimlessly, sitting in cafés and parks reading or writing postcards. Other times I'm bored and submit to hours of television watching, which I justify by reading the subtitles on English programs and calling it "enhancing my Spanish," usually followed by excessively long naps. I wouldn't say that on these days I'm depressed; rather, I'm lacking a specific direction or purpose that has always been present before.

This week, possibly because I've been unable to work, I've felt this lack of purpose strongly. In Seattle and Philadelphia, I always kept busy at work, in the kitchen, and volunteering with one organization or another. Here, I barely work, barely cook (oh how I miss Trader Joe's and farmer's markets and ovens that heat from the top), and don't volunteer. Someone pointed out to me that not every day has to have meaning, or that perhaps I'm missing the larger or more elusive meanings to my life abroad. It's true I've been very introspective and been able to reflect a lot on myself as a person, where I'd like to go in life and who I'd like to become. I've been able to work on a few character flaws, I think, but until I get back into my "normal" life I won't be sure how much I've really changed.

Some days I fantasize about life in Seattle; other days I'm near tears thinking about having to leave Buenos Aires. I never got very emotional when coming and going between Seattle and Philly, because I always knew I'd soon be back to whichever place I was leaving. The same is not true with my life here, and every friend I make I know I will leave; every restaurant I discover I know I will only enjoy a few more times; every new local word or phrase I learn will only serve me for so long. Although I will be thrilled to trade the cockroaches of Argentina for the spiders of Washington, there are other, less tangible elements that are difficult to pinpoint but will make it hard to leave nonetheless.


Momma Archer said...

Don't worry. I'll start capturing all the spiders in a jar just for you. And, (it being October), there are a lot of them right now!
Do enjoy your down time in B.A. Soon enough you'll be back in the rat race.

Sara said...

The cockraoch on the face thing grossed me out. I've seen some big ones, but never that close to me, thank you!
Do they have those in Chile? If so, it's possible I saw one on the ceiling of a hotel this weekend. Can they climb on ceilings? Wait... I don't think I want to know the answer to that.