Hello friends, family and potentially foe (if you voted for Trump), jk that’s not the kind of rhetoric we need right now. But let’s be real, this election was pretty nuts and I know it’s been a while since I have written, but I’m just going to jump on in and begin to talk about what this election was like being here in Argentina. Of course, other things have occurred in the past two months that I will get to too, but hold your horses (or should I say elephants and donkeys) because the Trump v. Hillary election is what has really overwhelmed my experience over the past 9 months.
So here we are, flashback to Emily Kennedy circa March 2016. I had just arrived to the land of tango, medialunas (croissants), dulce de leche, alfajores (sandwich cookies with dulce de leche) and as I found out later, lines. I am excited. I am nervous. And I am American. As many of you may know, Argentina has a particularly prickly history and therefore, relationship with the United States — as do most Latin American countries, due to how we treated our Southern neighbors in the 1970’s onward. This treatment, which resulted in the support of horrible dictatorships and disappearing people, came from our fear of communism and our worship of neoliberal policies. But I digress. This has been written about time and time again. But the point is, many people highly dislike North Americans.
Flash a few short days forward after my arrival, and Obama is here to visit Argentina. What followed was a shock and a wake up call for me. Graffiti plastered the streets with phrases saying, “Fuera Obama” (go away Obama), “Obama go home”, “NObama”, “Asesino” (Assassinator), and the most eloquent: “Obama, Apologize to Argentina for US complicity in Terrorism, 30,000 disappeared or murdered!” The list really continues.
Granted, the graffiti writers and their supporters represent the left and do not represent the general opinion of everyone here. The new president, Macri, one year into his term has been trying to open up trade with the U.S. and is trying to mend relations. (Well, flash again forward to November 2016 and we’ll see how that goes with president elect, Donald Trump… but getting ahead of myself.) So this was the situation I entered into.
From this moment forward, after realizing I am an estadounidense (from the United States), every conversation I had with an Argentine revolved around, what I think about Donald J. Trump. And every time I told them, “I think he’s a boludo (an idiot). I think he’s a fascist. And I don’t think he’s going to win.” Most people agreed with me, or at least tried to think I was right. Others were hesitant and warned me that now they have a right-wing, family money, business man with no experience in politics as their president. (The trend is real.) I listened with a partially muted ear, refusing to even compare Macri, a sometimes out-of-the-loop, a slip-of-the-tongue speech giver with Trump, who I considered an absolutely inconsiderate, immoral, potentially insane, narcissist.
But needless to say, as much as those graffiti writers hated Obama and what he represented, none of Argentina was ignorant of the fact that the United States is a vital organ of the world that many countries rely on, whether they like it or not. And sadly, Argentina is one of them.
That was the saddest thing to realize. No, who am I kidding. The saddest thing was to realize Trump was the president of MY country — a country that prides itself on its immigrant history, it’s religious freedom, it’s opening arms towards those persecuted by war, violence or nature.
But it seriously also was sad to realize that because of our dominant role within the world, our election has an immense effect on countries that have absolutely no say in our election process. They will be affected by our policies with them and without them. They will be affected by whether we decide to do something about climate change or not. They will be affected by who we choose to accept into our country and who we choose to wall off. They will be affected by everything we do or choose not to do.
The day of the election I went to a bar to watch the results come in. It was mostly Americans, Ex-Pats. The bar was loud and everyone was eating pizza and drinking beer. It felt like we were watching a futból game or something. It was weird. I went home when Hillary still had a shot but it wasn’t looking good. I stayed up until 3am watching it (which would have been 1am East Coast time), so it wasn’t very late. I woke up at 7am (5am EST) and I knew. I tossed and turned in bed until I woke up at 10am.
So that was that. If you’re wondering if and how I voted, don’t worry I definitely did and I did it at the U.S. Embassy and again using an absentee ballot. Don’t worry, I didn’t vote twice either. I’ll tell you the story.
I went to an event at the Embassy in September where I voted. The event was horribly managed. I was shocked again. I’ll make this long story short, but basically we waited in line where we were told we could not bring in our cell phones. Luckily, I knew this rule but the embassy did not do a good job of publicly explaining this in our invitation to the event so basically everyone had a cell phone, as they should. It’s like asking us to come to the embassy without wearing underwear. Everyone has a phone… An old man asked one of the embassy officials where he could put his phone and the guy suggested to the man and the crowd, that he put it in his car or have a friend hold it. Excuse meeeeee, as if Ex-pats have cars here. The majority of Argentines in Buenos Aires don’t even have them! He clearly lives in a different world.
We got inside and we were shepherded to one room. The lines in the room were unbelievable and when I say line, I mean blob of whatever was going on in there. My friend, Brinley and I asked what one blob-like formation was for and the guy condescendingly said to us, “I don’t’ know, you tell me.” I was irate. We finally got our ballots and looked for where to go. People were using their legs as tables, the walls, whatever they could find. Brinley and I were lucky enough to find a table where we shared a chair. The ballot was a write in ballot, which was not specified before. This means you have to write in the names of the candidates and that’s it. It’s called an emergency ballot, meaning you write in the names and then once you get your absentee ballot, this ballot is canceled. If you don’t get an absentee ballot, the emergency ballot counts. So, of course, I couldn’t possibly remember all of the Florida candidates to vote for so I was forced to only vote for President. Bottom line, I was not impressed nor did I trust that my vote would arrive due to how chaotic the event was. I am very grateful that my friend, Michaela was visiting in October and was the lucky messenger for my absentee ballot. What a shame the event was for such an important election. So upsetting.
Other than all of the election drama, these past few months have been filled with lots of fun things. I went to Peru with my study abroad friend, Sara. We hadn’t seen each other since we were last in Buenos Aires together two years ago. It was so great to be together again and traveling. It was as if time hadn’t passed. We stayed 5 days in Lima exploring then we headed off to Cusco where we hiked the Salkantey Trail. The trail was 5 days and 4 nights. We hiked 75 km. It was harder than I thought — all uphill and downhill. But the views were amazing. And Machu Picchu is just as anyone would tell you — priceless.
It was Nico’s birthday, then my birthday. We celebrated them both at recreos, which are little picnic areas by the river.
I had a lot of visitors. My friend, Michaela came in October too, also for my birthday. We explored Buenos Aires, of course went on a graffiti tour. We ate lots of meat. We drank lots of wine. It was a blast and it made me miss my college friends. Hannah and Aris, my cousin and her husband, made a quick visit after their long trek through Patagonia. It was so fun to show them around and to catch up. Then a few days after Hannah’s visit, my friend Galen, visited with her friend Brittany. We also ate and drank a lot. Stayed up late hanging out and had our fair share of subte (subway) and colectivo (bus) rides throughout the city.
In November, I went to Bariloche with Nico. We were there for 6 days. We went hiking and biking through the Parque Nacional de los Arrayanes in Villa La Angostura; we saw amazingly beautiful lakes in Puerto Blest; we ate a lot of amazing chocolate and drank a lot of delicious craft beer. It was such a beautiful escape from the city and it even snowed a little, despite being spring!
Now I have two weeks left and it is hard to believe. I have decided to come back here after Christmas to work for another year. I have been looking for jobs and if things work out, I will have one before I leave. If not, I am coming back in February to continue the search and start working. I am beyond excited to see my family and I am grateful for so much every day. It’s been a amazing and crazy year and I can’t wait to ring in the new year with the Kennedy/Klas clan.
I hope everyone has a very happy and beautiful holiday season! I will see all of you North Americans soon!
Emily “wow, Fulbright is coming to an end quicker than I thought” Kennedy