South American summer has been a welcome change from 4 months in Asia. Ubiquitous beef has been an appreciated perk and during the month of February I’ve managed to average over one steak a day. My favorite cut is the bief de chorizo aka sirloin. An under appreciated cut in my opinion overshadowed by the more celebrated tenderloin, filet mignon or ribeye. Cheaper, with more fat and flavor (even if less tender) — a cheaper to boot. What’s not to love? Along with the beef I did my best to savor Malbec at every opportunity and did a 4 day trip to Mendoza to find it at its most authentic, local origin (and also McDonald’s).
I spent most of the month of February living in Palermo, Buenos Aires, a posh neighborhood with restaurants, cafes and gringo tourists. There is a lot of graffiti and ‘street art’ and it’s not always entirely clear which is which. I started learning Spanish for the first time in my life. Five friends and I were together in a class with our sexy Argentinian teacher, Mariela, with classes twice a week. Surprisingly I love learning Spanish and hope to continue my learning during the next four months here in south america.
Palermo reminds me a lot of my neighborhood back in Denver — cool, artsy, sort of dirty and stinky. Dog crap on the sidewalks (everywhere!). Even the climate in Buenos Aires is Denveresque – dry, sunny, hot. I felt more at home here than any other destination during the past nine months. Ironically this made me a little uncomfortable — a sensation like travelling elsewhere to find that you were the same place you departed from. Coincidentally, I ran across a quote today from a Latin scholar I translate in middle school that seems fitting : Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt “they change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.” — powerful in itself, but what happens when the sky doesn’t even change? What am I doing? This exploration of the great beyond is a hamster wheel!
So yes, nine months in to my world wandering existentialism rears it’s head right as I’m building myself a really wonderful, pre-midlife crisis. Not really though. I have a job and am travelling. No crisis there. I wrote a friend of mine in relation to a Ted Talk he sent me. While I enjoyed the video I thought the speaker was incredibly brash in marketing himself and his designs (instead of actually teaching anything) but I didn’t tell Greg that, I wrote:
It really underlines the belief I have that we could all be so productive in those aspects of our lives we don’t ordinarily get afforded the chance if all of these unfortunate distractions were removed. I’m spending this week in Mendoza where there are few yet my curiosity is still eager to verify what is around the next bend, what untold story is somewhere to discover, etc. Nevertheless a reminder that *if* I was able to focus elsewhere — I might be better for it 🙂
Greg retorted with a grievous philosophical left hook
So you view as a distraction the desire to learn about the world and discover new people and things?Focus is difficult… it requires sacrifice, by definition. Calling something a “distraction” seems to me to prejudice your thinking – or perhaps to reveal it – the thing you want to focus on is good, the other, the “distraction” is therefore bad and should be sacrificed for what you should be focusing on.But … perhaps that’s not the way to think about it. Perhaps the so-called distractions are things you need to focus on as well, and the trick is finding the balance in your life to look at the right “distraction” at the right time, or at least, in the right proportions. Focusing on the balance instead of a specific task…
What am I focusing on? I’m not sure yet. I belabor the notion because all of a sudden it’s becoming time to decide what I focus on after this year of wandering. I want to keep exploring.