Month 7 makes the half way mark of my Remote Year journey and the beginning of the South American leg. South America along with Cape Town were my main reasons for choosing the Ohana itinerary. I had traveled in Europe a good amount but only had limited experience in South America, having only been to Buenos Aires and Brazil, both times for work. South America to me is a huge and fascinating continent I still knew very little about. I knew from the week that I was in Buenos Aires 6 years ago that I really liked it, so I was very excited to spend 6 months there.
My excitement didn’t quite come out the first few days I was in Buenos Aires. Six months on the road must’ve taken a toll on my body and spirit that I kept sleeping for so long with no desire to get out of the apartment. The cold and cloudy weather and having an apartment all to myself with black-out curtains certainly contributed to it. I think most of us felt it was really timely that we got our own apartments after 5 months living with roommates.
One thing I was super grateful for within the first week was the visit of my friend Scott who I had met in Warsaw the month I was in Split. We spent an afternoon and evening in Buenos Aires, caught up and had some lovely food.
Next morning we headed off on a ferry to Montevideo, Uruguay for two days. Montevideo is a nice city with lovely people, amazing food, and a quaint city center. The drive along the coast from our hotel to the city even reminded me of Lakeshore Drive in Chicago with water on one side and buildings on another. The chill and wind added to the resemblance of the Windy City.
The highlight of the trip was a tour of the national theater, Teatro Solis, and watching a concert there at night. The concert was songs from famous movies, with a big screen showing scenes from the movies accompanied by lovely performance of a band consisting of piano, violin, cello, and base. I was moved throughout the performance from the scenes and the powerful music that I teared up so many times, especially during Forest Gump.
I also discovered an amazing red wine, Tannat, that my friend Matt had been raving about. It’s now become one of my favorites, with its intensity, full-bodiedness, and lots of black fruits. Even though the Tannat grape originated in France, Uruguay put the grape variety on the world map and made it its national wine.
Food in Montevideo was so good, maybe even better than Argentina. We had some amazing steak, lamb, grilled cheese, and octopus. All so delicious!
Coming off the ferry from Uruguay, we went straight to a scavenger hunt with the Ohana group in the famous Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, where a lot of famous people were buried, including Eva Peron, or Evita.
The next day, we did some more sightseeing in Buenos Aires, revisiting some of the places I had been to when I was here 6 years ago.
The colorful houses in La Boca
Plaza de Mayo, the oldest public square in Buenos Aires
Another view of the plaza
After the first week of recuperating and being the host, I didn’t take any more side trips the rest of the month and finally got into what Buenos Aires was all about – food (which the Argentines are so good at), meeting new friends and spending time with old, and networking and doing personal development. The month proved to be a turning point in my journey as I wrote about in my last post.
First the food: Something I have noticed about Argentina or maybe it is just in Buenos Aires, there are so many grocery stores. There is at least one in every other street corner. We’ve decided that people must not like to go hungry here 🙂 which made our lives very convenient. There were also many food fairs during the short 5 weeks we were there. Going to these fairs, we noticed another phenomenon, Argentinian people don’t mind standing in lines! I used to think Asians are good at standing in lines – there was a joke in Singapore that people will line up for things without knowing what they are lining up for – but I think the Argentinians beat the Singaporeans out of the water. The first food fair we went to, Feria Masticar, the line for those who didn’t buy a ticket online was over 2 hours long, if we hadn’t bought online tickets we definitely would’ve left, but the Argentinians all seemed very happy to wait with no complaints whatsoever. We even saw this at a Samsung store in Palermo, the neighborhood we were living in. The line was a few blocks long and we had no idea what they were lining up for.
Feria Masticar was probably the biggest and best food fair I had ever been to. The food and wine were amazing and we had so much fun spending the whole afternoon and evening there.
The other food fair we went to was a French Food Festival, also great food, but it was so crowded and had huge lines that we couldn’t stay for very long. After that we went to San Telmo, a part of town with cool street markets and food stalls. As we were leaving at the end of the night we bumped into some African street performers playing drums and we all tried our hands in it. That was the night before I thought I was going to opt out of the program, but I guess I my body and heart knew how I was feeling, which was pure joy. I only realized it later when I was watching the video, that THAT moment was the best summary of this month and maybe even this whole year. It represented everything that this trip is for me – bringing out my true authentic self – being playful, carefree, and filled with love and joy. For that, I am so grateful for everyone that has made this year possible for me and for everyone who has been part of my journey. I’m also grateful to myself for the courage to make this very difficult decision at the time but now has proven to be one of the best and most important decisions of my life.
Meeting new friends and spending time with old: Buenos Aires was a great city for meeting people from all over the world. Internations, an organization that brings international people and expats together, is very active there. I went to two events the second week I was there and met quite a few people that I continued to hang out with the rest of my time there. The most significant friendship I made was Keira. She is a curriculum writer from New York and was in Buenos Aires exactly during the time I was there, working and traveling on her own. We ended up meeting up many more times, having having deep discussions over coffee and meals, including the work we are both passionate about which is bringing more consciousness and emotional intelligence to the world, for Keira it’s with children and for me it’s with adults, at least for now.
One of the things we talked about was how I’ve always lamented over the fact that we don’t have formal education for children about life, about how to “be”, how to manage emotions, and have healthy relationships. We completely rely on parents and sometimes churches for this kind of education, but parents can only do their best and most of the time they only know what their parents have taught them. I came to this epiphany when I was at my 10-day vipassana meditation retreat in Jaipur, India 4 years ago, where I received, what felt like for the first time, real teachings about how to be loving and compassionate towards self and others and how to have non-attachment. I was sitting there wondering why I was receiving this lesson for the first time at the age of 33 and not 9. I think in most technologically advanced societies many of us live in we are so focused on do, do, do, on achieving, that we forgot how to be and what it means to live a meaningful and joyful life. That’s why I believe there is more and more demand for coaching, counseling, and therapy, and coaches like Tony Robbins can have events with 5,000 even 13,000 people who sacrifice their weekends, holidays and dollars to learn important life lessons that they probably didn’t get a chance to learn as children. That’s the reason I am passionate about what I do, I want to empower people and show them the possibility of living a joyful and meaningful life. I don’t know if I can personally fulfill my desire to bring these lessons to children but that’s why I’m so supportive of what Keira does, writing curriculum for teaching children about emotional intelligence through play. I have another client now who is starting her business in educating children on emotional intelligence and I feel great being able to support them in their mission.
I also introduced Keira to my Ohana friends, invited her to my friend’s open-mic night, we went out for drinks, and even unexpectedly went on a date together followed by a swanky Argentinian house party. Keira’s love and enthusiasm for the city was so contagious that I grew to appreciate the city more myself.
Besides the new friends, I also spent some very quality time with old friends. Other than the two food fairs I went to with Susanna and Jill, we also had other meals that were phenomenal. One was a dinner at a bistro just across the street from our apartment. The Ossobuco I had there was to die for. I didn’t eat meat for almost two years, I think my two months in Argentina more than made up for it 🙂
Jill also hosted a Chinese Mid-Autumn festival in her apartment, it was such an awesome experience that brought many of us closer together. It was also a great opportunity for me to appreciate my Chinese roots.
Ohana also participated in a charity run that the Remote Year Nation hosted which was another great bonding experience with the group.
I hadn’t run for a while until then, so doing it with a group definitely motivated me to get back into it again.
The last week in Buenos Aires I went out with my Spanish class and the teacher for some awesome Vino y La Picada (wine and cheese & cold cut board).
Oh yea, I started learning Spanish in Argentina. It’s not much, just two hours a week with the Remote Year group. I’m still nowhere close to being able to speak the language, but at least know some basics that I can kind of get by in public places.
Networking and personal development: Once I got out of my apartment after the initial few days and into the work space, Area Tres, I met so many interesting people there, especially through the many events that the work space jointly hosted with Remote Year. One was a networking event where I got introduced to a young lady who is studying to become a coach. I had a great meeting with her about my personal journey of becoming a coach and gave her a sample coaching session. I love meeting people in all these cities especially when I can do something that adds value to their lives. Through Area Tres I also found out about a workshop called Fearless, run by an amazing coach from Los Angeles, Kat Hargreaves.
It turned out to a pivotal event for me. For one, it inspired me to have my own workshop; two, hearing that Kat did Ayahuasca in Peru and how amazing it was planted a seed for me to do it myself when I was there. Attending Kat’s workshops and having my profound experience in the Amazon jungle with plant medicines such as Ayahuasca and San Pedro and animal medicine such as Kambo were the reasons that I am piloting my own transformation program in January with the kick-off retreat in Peru. This is one of the amazing things about Remote Year, among many others, the incredible opportunity to meet people and have experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
The month in Buenos Aires proved to be amazing. It was a big turning point for me, not only in terms of geography but also in terms of my own mindset. I got more in touch with my authentic self, became less concerned about being liked, accepted, or living up to an image, and more about fully embracing who I am and showing all parts of myself to all people. That journey still continues to unfold and it feels wonderful and liberating.