Nothing reminds me more that I am a pile of meat hurtling through space than to visit a foreign country, especially for a vacation. If I travel for a job, which is often, there are familiar touchstones to what has aided in building the invention of my existence. A dance studio and what happens in it is “this” even though we don’t speak the same language. With the exception of language, I could go through the familiar motions and experience something similar to what I experience in the United States.
To be a tourist is to have no one else invested in my outcome. The focus has shifted to a perpetually alien culture and I am confronted with the knowledge that everything I consider grounding as a reality…everything I consider to be “this” is only “this” because of a series of agreements over time that made it so. It all essentially means nothing beyond the meaning I assign to and invest in it. Here I am with a whole new system of meaning…in interaction, in language, in traffic signs, in politeness.
This time of year in Argentina is oppressively humid. The heat is squeezing the remnants of my New York winter cough from me like a tube of toothpaste. I am enjoying 3 consecutive days of 70 degree temperatures and trying to devour the city before it returns us to the surface of the sun. The cooler days feel like a divine gift from a god with fingers playfully on the thermostat.
I feel grounded in this trip in a very unique way, due in no small part to my new “friend” and tour guide, Miles, who is infinitely patient with my barely Spanish and possesses a genius level knowledge of the history and culture of Buenos Aires. None of my questions are left up to my own assumptions and limited lens; they are instead filled in with exquisite detail and and guide me through the agreements of this part of the world that make this place what it is.
Our walk down a main boulevard yesterday was like spinning through a sophisticated kaleidoscope. The tall thoroughfare of Avenida de Mayo led up to a spectacular Capitol building. It is a woven quilt of thoughtful yet individual perspectives. Cupolas of such diverse beauty and creativity present from the tops of buildings, proudly, like pies at a county fair.
One of the most Argentinian experiences of community is the pride that comes from an expertly executed Asado, a marathon barbecue that is made over a particular and epic grill. Cut after cut of meat is served over the hours with a nearly degreed knowledge of how each portion should be prepared. Miles went into some version of a depression after the grill that came with our AirBnB couldn’t produce something more than mere poetry.
The delight of these details further affirms my belief that life is specifically about this: as we strive for a greater connection to our spirit, we are in fact here to experience the one thing that is particular to humanity alone: physical pleasure. I can smell with my human nose the way that these flowers perfume; I can chew with my brain tissue the fine points of how a community decides their own moral battle over abortion; I can be delighted with my physical eyes by the miracle of a architecture; I can channel with my pumping heart the feelings of love that prove to be deeper than I ever thought. I don’t have to solve or seek some finality in my understanding of the world; I only need to enjoy what is utterly unique in the bounded physical channel of the infinite.