"My love is equal for everyone! I love you neither more or less than all the others. I don't know what is giving you these ideas..."
That was basically the translation of Marisa's words to me in a conversation that happened a few weeks after I landed. We did have a happy reunion but had never had any real space or moment to talk and get down to the nitty gritty in our relationship. It was a moment in seeing each other online that we finally got the chance to talk about things. And it appears that we were a house divided and things were becoming even more confusing. Her feelings for me were definitely plutonic and she has no clue of any change in her behavior. She had no idea what she was doing that would be any different than any other person in the church.
This was not exactly the conversation I had hoped for when I landed in BA for the second time. I had spent my first 10 days in a beautiful little hostel called "The Elefante Rosa Hostel" in a barrio called Boedo before moving on to my own apartment a few blocks away. Most tourist opt for Palermo, Recoleta, or San Telmo and are unaware of how precious Boedo truly is.
Boedo actually has a strong tango history behind it but somewhere in it's history, things kind of got lost along the way. But in recent years Boedo has started to make a comeback and there has been a revival of tango as Boedo attempts to get back to it's roots. Boedo is one of the few barrios where one can feel it in the air that the people here are proud to say that they are from Boedo.
One morning I heard a noise outside the my apartment.. When I stepped outside the building, across the street some local residents where holding a block party to repaint some of the walls where the paint was old and peeling. There were was Choripan and pop for sale as well as games for the kids. This is the spirit of the residents here, they love is barrio and are dedicated to it. There are tango events every single month in the Barrio as the barrio begins rebuilding. I can honestly say that living in the barrio of Boedo will forever be a very special part of my life.
But not only was Boedo a gem, the hostel I stayed in was a gem as well. One thing to keep in mind when visiting BA is that looks can be deceiving and you should never judge a book by it's cover. The idea in the western society is that if the exterior looks nice, then the food and quality must be good as well. All of us from western society know that in reality this isn't true and each one of us has a story of a bad restaurant experience where we were taken in by looks.
The front of the Elefante Rosa Hostel may look simple but there is nothing in the world that could prepare you for what happens when you walk inside. The inside of the building is like staying in an old brick art house with a mix of modern and antique furniture. The prices for a night are more than reasonable and great conversations flow through the house all day every day from the visitors and owners a like. It is one of those rare authentic places where true tango magic can be felt in the air.
Learning to tango requires commitment and patience. And I want to make it very clear that the Argentine tango is not a silly dance with someone fluttering around on the dance floor with a rose in their mouth. That would be the American tango and although the American tango has it's roots in the Argentine tango, the two are incomparable.
The basics of Argentine tango is learning to flow together. The man is the lead and the woman must go from moment and she never knows quite what is happening next., whether the man will go left, or right or perform an ocho or some type of move on the dance floor. Her body must be sensitive to the slightest change.
Typically it takes a woman about 6 months to learn the basic tango walk and for a man it takes two years because his job is much more difficult. He must ensure that he is leading correctly and guide their direction as to keep from bumping into others on the dance floor. He has to listen to the music and decide what moves he would like to accompany the current music that is playing. But like all beginners whether you are a man or woman you are bound to step on someone's toes and move in the wrong direction who are learning for the first time.
If the relationship between Marisa and I could be represented by a tango dance, it would be one where we were definitely stepping on each other's toes and crashing all over the dance floor.I want to take a pause her to say that cross-cultural relationships may seem love a nostalgic thing and the truth is that sometimes when you love someone so much, you cannot see in that moment the problems that you will have later on due to language and culture difference.
For she and I, this was anything but one of those high emotional moments where you have strong feelings for the other person. Just to make it clear that Marisa has absolutely no problem when it comes to any kind of love whether it would be between same sex or different sexes. That wasn't the issue, the fact is that the woman is 100% straight.
Except the problem is that alot of her actions towards me were ones that are only seen in flirtation. When you gaze into another person's eyes unbroken (which she seemed to have no clue that she had done anything of that sort), you only do that when you are in love. Something wasn't adding up.
One thing that I found to be of tremendous importance in dealing with someone from another culture is that their body language cues are different from yours. The way they manifest feelings and deal with them are set up differently. Remember earlier in the story when I had talked about how interrupting someone was actually a good thing in this culture. That was just the start of all the body language and behavior that I had to reinterpret when it came to dealing with her.
In situations like these, it was easy to get offended but I chose not to. I had to remember, she and I were from different planets in a cross cultural relationship for the very first time. This was her first relationship with a North American and I had to give her the benefit of the doubt and I cannot respond to some of her comments the way I would to someone in my own culture.
She would occasionally make comments that would irk me or felt strange and I realize then that no in my culture would say or think such a think We come from a different mentality and point of view. Marisa's heart is never to offend or intentionally hurt someone. And she never had any intention to confuse someone with strange behavior either!
It seems like our relationship had come to a dead end with no answers. She had one point of view and I had another and neither of us could see where the other was coming from. It wasn't an argument more than it was a disagreement. I hope in telling you this that I am going to burst the bubble on any nostalgic ideas on fairy tale endings when it comes to cross-cultural relationships.
In a disagreement, one person is right while the other person is wrong....isn't that the way it goes? Little did I know that a strange series of events would happen that would be the saving grace in our relationship. And neither of us could actually see that although our points of views were seemingly opposite, it would eventually come to light that in fact the both of us were right.
YOU ARE READING
A series of life circumstance forced me into the life of a wandering nomad trying to find my place in this world. My journey for identity takes me into the very birthplace of tango, Buenos Aires. A chance encounter happens between me and a mysteriou...