I met Erin Greene during my first week of "Julia and Josh's Trip to South America" in week one of TEFL course (an adventure consisting of getting ripped off). After my first day I confided in Josh that I was afraid I had forgotten how to make friends and that it was harder than I remembered. As the weeks progressed this worry became a forgotten memory and amazingly lots of people wanted to be friends with us. One of these people was Erin.
Our friendship began slowly as good friendships do, and for me it began with admiration. Erin was one of the three other girls born in my decade that had come here on their own without knowing a soul. I was amazed by her bravery and hoped I would have done the same knowing I might not have.
As friendships do, ours grew, and we saw each other often. In the good old days we would get coffee or drink white wine with sausages on the roof of our old apartment. As we got poorer we hung out even more but consumed less luxurious food and beverages while our conversations were richer than ever. I slowly learned more and more about my first close friend from Vermont. We talked about the past, the present and especially the future over cups of tea (for her a digestivo and for me a maté cocido and then lately over cups of ginger lemon tea) and medialunas. Finally I had found someone to "reflect" with after being rejected angrily by my sister many times while attempting to verbally wander around the things that had occurred in my short time on Earth. While the rest of our friends at home thought we were on perma-vacay, we discussed the trials and tribulations of our lives down here, because that's what we had discovered it had become. "I have a life down here now," we would say. We had worked hard to create social networks not realizing how hard a task it would prove to be, forever going to interviews and suffering the many disappointments and the few successes that come from working for institutes or the many other crappy options available for expats with less than amazing Spanish.
We bonded over our poverty and our inability to go out to eat, buy an article of clothing or go for a beer. And through it all, and despite our meager budgets, we cooked wonderful diners and on occasions even managed to drink too much cheap wine. Other times we went for one of our many walks and observed and discussed our observations made about this country that is so different from our own.
Standing in her kitchen we made note of the fact that being poor sucks, and that my previous intentions of never having too much money after reading Walden were quite silly. It wasn't that we wanted to own cars or expensive clothes. We just thought it would be cool to be able to buy a piece of art, or go to the theater every once in a while.
In her last two weekends here Erin became more than a friend. She became my business partner in our baked goods business and walked with me up and down calle Defensa shamlessley selling our baked goods in chef hats and guarding the cookies and our faces from the unwanted kisses of the unwashed and drunken vendors that had interest in things other than our baking. We loved the non guilty feeling of buying something something afterwards! How fun to see something you want and to buy it then and there.
Erin told me she was leaving about a week and a half ago, and I think I was in denial until I waved goodbye to her with my for once manicured hands (we treated outselves to this luxury on Friday while shopping in Palermo) through the tinted windows of her taxi. I went over to her place one last time today for empanandas and ice cream (dairy overload in the name of friendship). As all others who have left me here she left me with a bag of stuff like shampoo and the cotton balls I've been too lazy to buy for nine months. But Erin left me with so much more, and I will treasure these things long after the shampoo is gone and the books she left me have been read and passed on to someone else. She is an amazing friend, and as always when I meet someone like her I felt lucky that our feelings of amistad are mutual.
As her taxi pulled away I wiped a tear and headed to the 29 with a bag of her stuff and a head full of memories that will not be forgotten. Erin, we will all miss you, but I think I will miss you most! You have made my time here better even if we are incapable of speaking Spanish when out together. We have joked about people replacing you, but it won't happen. Selfishly, I wanted you to stay, but I know we will see you soon. Hopefully by then we can still bond over dinner about what we want to be when we grow up but hopefully with a little more cash in our pockets for champagne.