Jennifer Salako heads home from Argentina

It has been a week since I stepped off the plane that took me away from a place I now call home. It seems surreal that I am now back in the Bay Area, back where I started. I spent these last four weeks adapting myself to this new culture and I feel like I have finally adjusted. Now it seems almost wrong for me to leave. I am, and will forever be, grateful to my exchange family as well as the many friends I made on this trip. My daily experiences and interactions have brought me closer to the heart of Argentinian culture and my own. I hope these same relationships and experiences follow me in the journeys ahead.

Last week I gave a presentation about Athenian to the entire secondary school and two grades in primary. Discussing and researching about my school allowed for me to reflect on more differences I had seen between Belgrano Day and Athenian. Additionally, I found a new sense of appreciation for where I come from and the community I’m involved in. It was quite interesting to see the multiple reactions I received after my presentation. I remember being told, “Your school is so beautiful!” and “You guys can choose your own classes?!” Hearing these responses made me realize what I had taken for granted and allowed me to be thankful for the opportunity I have to attend Athenian and go on exchange to the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.

Although I was still met with many stares even in my last few days, they became common greetings instead of hostile gestures. After writing my first blog post, I had the chance to discuss with my exchange family the meaning behind these long stares. I was told that staring is a way of acknowledging a person. Unlike how people tend to avoid staring at others in the U.S. because it is deemed rude, Argentinians use staring as an unspoken way of saying hello to someone they don’t know. After hearing this explanation, I felt a gradual change in my daily interactions. Each time I walked out of the house, I felt myself become less overwhelmed by racist perceptions. Even though I still carried that feeling of discomfort till the end, I have come to understand and respect it as a cultural difference.

Argentina has shown me its best and its worst, teaching me new lessons along the way. I am more than happy to be able to call Argentina my home. I look forward to welcoming May to San Francisco and showing her where I come from. Argentina, its culture, and its people will forever be in my heart.

Ciao Argentina! We will meet again!