I think that some of you know that in August, I
started doing some writing and editing for the local
English language paper, the Buenos Aires Herald. After
I graduated from college two years ago, I was also
thinking of pursuing a career in journalism, but per
the advice of a business columnist, I went into
international business. I have always loved languages
and playing with words and phrases and the last few
months of intense reading and writing has definitely
showed me that I can use my observation skills and
linguistic and semantic talents for my professional
Since I have been doing freelance work, I have been
very lucky to pick articles and topics which interest
me. In the next few days, I have to put my photography
skills in full force to make a photo essay about the
peaceful coexistence of two ethnic communities in one
street. About 3 years ago, I took a photojournalism
class in college and now I am reaping the benefits. In
high school, I took a journalism class because my
friends were taking it, not because I had any personal
interest in the subject. Never did I think that eight
years later, I would actually remember my instructor
and how she taught us to write.
BECOMING A STRONGER PERSON
Though being here has been rough at times and painful
emotionally, I have grown a great deal. Unfortunately,
growth is not always a painless easy process. When
babies teethe, they cry and scream because their newly
incoming teeth hurt as they break through the tender
gums. Having spent so much time by myself, has made me
rethink many things about my life and way of living.
Perhaps, I was fiercely independent before coming to
Argentina, but now my self dependence and self
assurance is even greater. Maybe the process has also
hardened me since I was stood up and blown off so many
times by the Buenos Aires residents (porteños), but
that is a fact of life. After a while, I just stopped
believing in people when they promised to call or
organize something. I accepted it out of obligation,
not because I, internally, agreed with that way of
being. I sincerely hope that if I come back to
California with this porteño trademark, that someone
will give me a slap on the face and tell me to be
sincere. (Please don’t slap too hard. I may
argentinize myself and get a face lift, so slapping my
face would really hurt. JUST KIDDING )
I feel as though I have lived several lives in Buenos
Aires. When I think about the time when I worked at
the embassy, I can’t believe that I was there just six
months ago. Yesterday, I was packing my suitcase and
was looking at my photos from my trip with Eefje to
Iguazu. How different I felt and looked then! Had I
stayed in California instead of coming down here, I
would not have grown as much as I have in the past 9
months. Metaphorically speaking, my nine months in
Buenos Aires, was like having a baby. I grew a a lot, but now
I am ready to deliver and leave.
Having worked at the US embassy and witnessed the
reality in unbalanced diplomatic relations has also
made me much more aware of the underdog status of
Latin America vis à vis Uncle Sam. Of course, I knew
about US military involvement and political and
economic support of various Latin American
dictatorships and tyrants, but it wasn’t until I came
here that it struck a cord within me.
Call me new age or whatever you wish, but I have a
deep confession to make. Don’t worry, I won’t come
knocking on your door singing “Hari Krishna”. A client
of mine gave me two books by Paulo Coelho (The
Alchemist and The Pilgrimage), as gifts before I left
in February. In October, I finally opened them and
understood why Coelho has become an international
bestseller. The Alchemist was the first book I read
and I was truly inspired. For a long time, I have been
suppressing my desires to follow a more common career
path. Now, I realize that I need to do what fascinates
me in life: writing and taking photos. Without going
into to much detail as to ruin the experience of the
books, I will just say that his fables may be simple,
but they highlight and elucidate many common errors
made by people in their daily and long term decisions
in life. Now, I look at people and connect in a much
more profound and healthier way than before.
After my last email, my life here got better. In
September and October, I even thought of coming back
here next year. The city is beautiful and has a great
cultural and night life. But, I can’t take any more
lonely nights staring at the TV and watching the new
Ricky Martin and Shakira videos and interviews. In
August, I ordered cable TV. My sister was here when I
first got cable and she witnessed how ecstatic I was
playing with the remote control. Believe it or not, I
have become an MTV junkie. (There are four channels
with music videos.) I think I have watched more MTV in
the past few months than I have in my whole lifetime.
On Sundays, people generally go to their family’s home
and eat an asado (Argentine BBQ) or pasta lunch. I
think that’s a great tradition, but it truly alienates
those of us without a family to go to. Today is a
Sunday (Dec. 5) and as I walked from my apartment to
the newspaper office, I barely saw a soul on the
street. It is totally depressing to walk along
deserted streets with closed shops. In the parts of
town where there are people on the street on Sundays,
you can see people in bars or kiosks watching a soccer
game or hear families talking as they eat their Sunday
feast. Some of my friends wondered how it is that I
know which supermarkets in the city have certain types
of products. I have spent many Sunday afternoons in
supermarkets doing my shopping and wandering around
looking at the different foods and products. It is
interesting to see what people eat in various
Though I love walking around looking at the beautiful
buildings in BA, they do not make me happy.
In Rio, I met a college student from Washington state
who is originally from Bogota, Colombia. I spent a
couple of days with her and stayed in her apartment
when my family left. The following week, she came to
Buenos Aires and we spent some time together. Carolina
remarked that she found Argentine to be very beautiful
people. After she left, I was looking closely at the
people on the street. It is true what everyone told me
before arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentines are, in general,
very attractive. However, since I got turned off by
their egoism, superficiality and irresponsible
behaviour at such an early stage during my stay here,
there physical beauty didn´t impact me. As St. Exupery
wrote so prophetically in The Little Prince, our eyes
are blind to true beauty. It is in the heart, where
beauty is found.
Of course I will miss the warmth of the people and
many other things about my life here, but it is time
GOING TO THE END OF THE WORLD
In eight days, my Buenos Aires life will be behind me
as I board a flight to Ushuaia, the end of the world.
I told my dad that I was going to the end of the
universe and he was very confused. Too many Star Trek
episodes for me maybe…
That’s right, I am going to join my favorite
Paraguayan assassin and coup leader in Tierra del
Fuego (Land of Fire). Ushuaia is the southern most
city in the world. From there I will go through
Patagonia to see the glaciers, Chilean fjords, lakes,
and the Andes which make this region so famous. I am
guessing that sometime around New Years, I will make
it to the seven lakes around Bariloche (Argentina) and
Puerto Montt (Chile). From there, I will fly back to
Buenos Aires and then ascend the Uruguayan and
Brazilian coast by bus. My plane ticket expires on the
February 27 and I am booked to return to California on
the last possible flight on that day. My mom has
invented every possible excuse to get me to come back
earlier, but to no avail. One of her most convincing
arguments was that maybe the computers monitoring air
travel will not be working right due to the Y2K
problem. My answer: I´ll take a boat up the Atlantic
coast and dock in San Francisco. Sorry mom, I ain´t
coming home soon!
WHAT’S NEXT IN SUSAN’S LIFE???
Well, I am sure that I want to move back to the Bay
Area, preferably Berkeley. (If you know of any
apartments or rooms for rent in March 2000, please let me
My wanderlust has not faded, rather it has blossomed.
So, another trip is forthcoming for sure. Some people
don’t understand why I live the way I do. I could have
a successful office career and stable life, but then I
would be denying myself my dreams and the pleasures of
life. The following poem was incorrectly accredited to
the Argentine author, Jorge Luis Borges, but actually
it was written by someone in Spain. The version below
is in Spanish, followed by my translation in English.
I think that this will clarify and doubts you may
have. I don’t want to be like the person who wrote
this poem when I am about to die.
Please excuse my sporadic and infrequent emails until
March. As I will by en route, I won’t have frequent
access to email. But please don’t stop writing.
Thanks for reading my thoughts,
Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido,
de hecho tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos,
haría más viajes,
contemplaría más atardeceres,
subiría más montañas,
nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido,
comería más helados y menos habas,
tendría más problemas reales y menos imaginarios.
Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata
y prolíficamente cada minuto de su vida;
claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría
de tener solamente buenos momentos.
Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida,
sólo de momentos; no te pierdas el ahora.
Yo era uno de esos que nunca
iban a ninguna parte sin un termómetro,
una bolsa de agua caliente,
un paraguas y un paracaídas;
si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.
Si pudiera volver a vivir
comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera
y seguiría descalzo hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita,
contemplaría más amaneceres,
y jugaría con más niños,
si tuviera otra vez vida por delante.
Pero ya ven, tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.
If I could live my life again.
In the next one, I would try to make more mistakes.
I wouldn´t try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be sillier than I have been,
in fact I would take fewer things so seriously
I would be less hygienic.
I would take more risks,
I would make more trips,
I would ponder about more sunsets
I would climb more mountains,
I would swim in more rivers.
I would go to more places where I have never gone,
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans,
I would have more real problems and fewer imaginary
I was one of those people who lived sensibly and
productively every minute of his/her life;
of course I had moments of joy.
But if I could go back, I would try to have only good
So if you didn´t know, this is what life is made of,
just moments; don´t lose today.
I was one of those people who never went anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bag, an umbrella
and a parachute;
if I could live again, I would travel lighter.
If I could live again, I would start to walk barefoot
at the start of the spring
and I would continue to walk barefoot until the end of
I would take more turns on the merry go round,
I would ponder more sunsets
I would play with more children,
if I had another life in front of me.
But now you see that, I am 85 years old and I am