Wandering Around Montserrat

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I have a knack for wandering around cities, losing my way for a few hours, but always finding my way to where I am headed. I think most travelers have this innate characteristic, but somehow I always forget to bring a map with me. It’s not intentional, I am just slightly spaced out. With so much to remember — keys, passport, cell phone, cash, books, papers, pens, etc. — it would be robotic to not forget something when running out the door.

So it was, a few months ago, I left my apartment in Buenos Aires and walked towards “the general direction” of San Telmo, the neighborhood (barrio) notorious for old buildings and bohemian artisans. I walked along the street, Montevideo, passed the Congreso barrio — where gorgeous ancient colonial architecture marks the political city of the past (as the Centro barrio is the polito-economic center of the present) — and entered a not-so-pristine part of town. The buildings are a little crumblier, a couple more dog bombs than usual and lots of crooked trees.

Many travelers also get a little homesick and remedy the queasiness using various methods. My prescription is to find neighborhoods within cities that remind me of home. My informative years were spent on a farm and romping around a small town. While living in Toronto, my home was in the neighborhood called Little Portugal. There, small family-run general stores and run-down bars filled with avid soccer watchers made me feel at ease. It was my Seltzer.

I remember visiting Mr. Matt Stabile in the summer and staying at the New York Loft Hostel, just on the cusp of Williamsburg and Bushwick. It had the same ambiance of “community,” which allowed me to not focus on the fact that the hostel’s shower did not have hot water. (Totally over it now. I was just being a princess.)

So it was, when I walked into this Buenos Aires’ neighborhood called Montserrat, it was like a breath of home air. Good air. Buen aire. (Minus the dog bomb smell.) It finally felt like I had found my home-away-from-home.

I believe that most people who live abroad start feeling homesick because of a sensory overload: new sights, new sounds, new smells, new languages. We can get dizzy with despair. We begin to crave the comforts of home — whether it is peanut butter, wool socks (in the middle of summer), our favorite programs that we live-stream from the internet, downloading music and/or face-creeping friends — just to get a fix.

Sometimes, we become a little lost in our discomforts and we forget to discover something even newer. The last time I was in Buenos Aires, I embraced the “old” Argentine ways (tango, traditional maté, horseback riding) and did not see how this city, just like most cities, is evolving. Nowadays, the kids are sipping maté (South American tea) with juice or milk and throwing in high kicks for Tango Nuevo. Last year, I was getting sick of accordians so I put on my headphones and listened my nostalgic North American big bands (ignoring the new Argentine rock — like Divididos or Cerati).

I forgot to keep trying new things.

Still, once in a while, when you feel like you are losing yourself in a culture or custom, you just need to find a little vintage store or coffee shop to remind you that you can find your comforts anywhere. You relax, choke up a little, and then head out again to try something new.

And sometimes, it just takes a little wondering, a little time and a little wandering to find some comfort in your home-away-from-home.

By Brit Weaver


About the Author

Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog, TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.

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