The wife’s out playing with my youngest son. Spike, our English Bull Terrier, jumps around them like a big-headed white grass hopper. My oldest son came home yesterday with his report card with excellent grades, which is outstanding for a boy that knew English as a second language up until a few months ago.
Life is just perfect, it’s the happiest we’ve ever been, and here I am, looking back to how life has changed for us and trying to capture some of those thoughts and feelings.
When I think about the entire process I remember well that all the preparation for moving, all the stress of worrying of something going wrong at the last minute. That was the worst part. Though close friends and family knew we were leaving, we didn’t tell neighbors and other people about it. Its this kind of mistake that got people hurt before. You mention you’re moving to the girl in the grocery store, she mentions it to someone else, and all of a sudden you get kidnapped for the money you’ve obviously been putting aside to move abroad.
Selling stuff, getting rid of it, giving it away to friends, charity, when you pick your home clean that way its both a stroll down memory lane and a painful experience because we tend t get attached to things. Some are less dear than others but here is where quantity makes the difference. Most normal people can get rid of a few boxes of material possessions without a second thought, but when instead its just a couple boxes that you get to keep and the rest must go, that’s pretty different. Experts say moving like this is the most stressful experience a person can go through, with stress levels in the organism comparable to losing a close family member. While it may be the case physiologically I wouldn’t trade it for losing a loved one, but I know for a fact that it is very hard on you.
Landing in the Antrim International Airport was the beginning of our new life. We might as well have landed in Mars, it was that foreign to us. Its impossible to explain what it feels to live surrounded by poverty, dirty streets, crime and every day general violence, to all of a sudden find yourself surrounded by perfectly clean streets, painted buildings that aren’t falling apart and people that don’t shout with every word.
Its one thing to travel and see these things, its another to make it your own and know you’ll be living there. Its not that different from American or European tourists traveling to South America or poor Asian country. Oh, its lovely, so Grunge Chic. … Right. The difference is that the guy you see over there, he didn’t pay 400 dollars for a used jean in a Beverly hills boutique, he really did pick it out of the trash! For a tourist, poverty in a country he’s visiting doesn’t affect him, but make him live there for a few years under those conditions and see how he likes it.
One of the things that comes to mind when thinking about those first days was how surprised we where by the variety of products found in supermarkets. As time goes by there’s less and less products in Argentine stores and its getting worse with the importation problems. When you walk into a supermarket in Argentina you have maybe three or four types and brands per product, and that’s it. You don’t have like ten different brands for each product and each brand offering maybe five variations or more. It was so overwhelming that it made me feel dizzy and disoriented. I told my wife and she said it was making her feel sick too. For the first few weeks we just got in an out quickly, just hurrying to buy what we needed, not being able to handle the overwhelming visual variety. Sounds strange, but that’s what happened.
Other than that it was just pure bliss to finally live safe. We went from not being able to walk in dirty streets or go for a stroll in run down parks that hadn’t been kept in decades to being free to safely walk in some of the most beautifully landscaped gardens and parks in Europe. The contrast in life quality is just staggering.
It´s when we take into account this second part of our lives that we’re able to put into perspective thanks to the contrast of both and truly see how we had been living, what had become life as a given for us. You don’t see that around here. People often forget to closer their doors and many consider it an inconvenience. It sounds incredible to someone like me but then you walk around the streets and you get it. You don’t see those faces, faces of people that would shot you where you stand for whatever is in your pocket or the clothes you´re wearing. In Argentina you see those faces every single day. They don’t do anything because they are not “working” that day, or because you don’t look like a potential victim, but you see them. Not here. Even small time criminals or little punks, there’s just so few of them. The threat they represent in just small compared to toughened criminals that have killed several people before they hit eighteen and are still walking free as if nothing.
Having lived in such a society all our lives means there’s things we just don’t do, like leave our doors unlocked no matter what, keep an eye on our surroundings, things that have become second nature to us. But we just know and now see it clearer than even, that’s no way of living.
It has become a bit of a joke between my wife and I, I ask her where she’s from and she says she lived here her entire life. “Sure? You never lived in Buenos Aires, had a business in Dock Sud?”. She says “No, not me. I lived here all my life”. While its 90% joking around, its also %10 not wanting to accept how we were once forced to live like. Always worrying, always alert.
When my oldest son said he was already forgetting what things were like in Argentina she said “Good, the less you remember the better”. I’m proud of where I come from and so is my wife, but she would have preferred that he never saw all that poverty, general decay and learning about people getting murdered every single day.
As for me, while I’m very happy as I’ve said many times, there’s also this feeling of well, I cant explain it very well. Its not boring, its not lack of sense but maybe a bit of both. A way in which I could explain it could be the following: You know those fish that live in the deep sea, used to the darkness and high pressure. If you take them to the surface they just die. I’m not saying I’ll die, but maybe that I´m already too much used to living under 2000 psi. Guess I got used to living with that tension. Don’t get me wrong, I like living in a safe place and as much as I like shooting I never want my family or even myself to live with that constant risk, but I admit I got used to it and its hard to be “normal” again. Heck, that was “normal” for me, even though I knew it´s not by other people standards, and its when you experience life in better places like we are doing now that you realize how insane it is to believe for a second that its ok to spend your life like that, just because millions of other people do so as well.
Take care folks,