An American in Argentina


Posted Thu, Nov 17, 2011

An American in Sao Paulo: Maybe This Shouldn't Get A Sequel.

Twenty years old and he’d never been on a plane alone before. Chain-smoker, twice-spent resident in detox, and paying his own rent: For all vices and otherwise, Ryan Tabb fell under all qualifications of being an independent adult. But it was sitting there in that airplane lobby, waiting for his Mexico City flight that would transfer to São Paulo before finalizing in Buenos Aires, Argentina that it hit him. He was sort of alone.

“There were times there where I felt like I was the only American in the whole country,” said Ryan of his three-month stay in Argentina. “But luckily I was almost always with my girlfriend. That pretty much made every difference.”

Ryan was still 20 when he met Antonela Nervi while working his day-job as, as he puts it, “The Soup Man” of the Mezzaluna, a restaurant located at the Lions Square Lodge in Vail, Colo. He cooked, she served, and together they “made a mean overpriced breakfast.”

“I just saw her this one shift and I knew I had to talk to her – like, why not, you know? – and that was pretty much that,” Ryan said of meeting his soon-to-be girlfriend from Argentina. And after three months of solid dating – “I seriously don’t think there wasn’t ever a day I didn’t see her.” Ryan decided he wouldn’t let the end of the ski-season get in the way of love. He was putting all $2,400 of the year’s profits into a flight down to Antonela’s home outside Buenos Aires. “I could’ve saved a whole bunch of money if I had just done a one-way [ticket], but, you know, I kinda still live here and all,” said Ryan.

And so, only a month later, did Ryan sit waiting on his trans-continental flight, with little idea what to expect. He had been to Mexico, but admits to being almost exclusively around “just touristy stuff.” What he found upon arriving in Argentina surprised him in its contrast to American life – but he also found a whole lot was similar as well.

“Seriously, I ate Burger King there like…12 times,” said Ryan. “They’ve even got this burger with four patties that I don’t think they even offer up here, probably due to some sort of FDA law or something.” As to whether this was a meal Ryan often enjoyed, he pleads sanity. “No f##king way! I didn’t even order it once. I’m just saying they had it. That burger was almost more American than America.”

There were still a number of things still foreign to him, though. “Well, for one we didn’t even have dinner 10 o’clock,” said Ryan. “And then lunch was just whenever we woke up, and that sort of included breakfast in a way because we always slept in.

“And they had really, really good food too. Argentinians are huge carnivores. It pretty much sucks to be vegetarian down there. This one time we had this huge barbecue – I forget, it was like for my girlfriend’s friend’s birthday or something – but anyways, we pretty much ate every part of the cow.”

Surprisingly, said Ryan, he never got sick. “If the water was bad for you, it’s not like I drank any anyways. I should’ve gotten a sponsorship from Gatorade or something. That’s all I drank.”

Ryan claims to have done more things than just have simply ate, however. When his girlfriend had to go to class – she went to Universidade de São Paulo and majored in English – he’d take his skateboard out and explore parts of town. “There were all these ruins. OK, not ruins. But like buildings they just started building, and then stopped. And there was one in every town I ever went to with Anton. All the wiring would be exposed and sh#t and people would go up and put graffiti all over them.

“I did a lot of exploring other places too. Like, pretty much all the time because Anton would be gone for so long. There was this one time I snuck into this football stadium,” Ryan said before pausing and then smiling. “Oh, sorry –soccer stadium. Sock-hurr. But yeah, I went in there and it was totally empty and kind of creepy because it was sort of late in the afternoon. And all of a sudden this guy comes out from behind the seats and starts screaming at me. I didn’t know whether he was a bum or not or if he was just a security guard that lived there, because it seemed like he was just lying behind the seats sleeping before he saw me. But yeah, I ran out of there for my f##king life and almost left my board.”

There were other times Ryan felt on the brink of death as well. While never, as he claims, having any run-ins with drug cartels or every finding himself held at knife-point because he clearly looked like a tourist. “Argentinians pretty much look European. They’re all blonde and stuff. I fit right in.” Ryan said he did find intersections “f##king terrifying.”

“So what happens is that in a lot of towns there were no stop signs. I never drove – Anton drove a lot – so whenever she’d slow down I’d lose my breath,” Ryan said, miming his exact reaction. “Luckily though you don’t even really need a car down there. I wouldn’t want one. The subway is so good it comes like every time you blink.”

One would expect, then, that travelling either alone – or just travelling in general – would require some amount of fluency in Spanish, Argentina’s official language. To the dismay of high-school Spanish teachers worldwide, Ryan claims otherwise. “I tried to speak Spanish, but then whoever I’d be talking to would realize I’m not Argentinian and then would start speaking English to me. Like, perfect English. My girlfriend speaks perfect English, but I never expected, like, the entire nation to.”

“It was crazy,” Ryan said. “That and those burgers. It’s like, if I was just coming here for the hell of it and didn’t have my girlfriend to see… I should’ve just stayed in the U.S. Everyone talks to you about the Simpsons and everyone likes Oasis [a 90s English rock-band]. And everyone had Nikes on. Seriously, I don’t know whether it’s a good or bad thing. I’m just saying, that’s how it was.”

Despite it all, Ryan says he still wants to go back. “Oh hell yeah, I’m definitely going back…We talk on Skype like every day, so I totally expect to go down there again.” As he says this, he’s smiling in anticipation, stops, and swivels his chair in his Denver-home to turn around: Eyes set exactly upon the calendar.

4 Responses to “An American in Argentina”

  1. Caitlin Sievers Says:

    Interesting story, but some words are missing in places and some things are written pretty awkwardly. The lead is also kindof confusing.


  2. James Crussell Says:

    Great story, agree that it could use a little cleaning up, but otherwise good story!


  3. Kevin R. Says:

    Interesting story. Seemed a little wordy in parts though.


  4. Cherise Scrivner Says:

    This story was put together very well.Always nice hearing about foreign countries and peoples postive experiences in a foreign enviornment. Good story, would definately be the next
    knotch up with a tad bit more editing.It happens to us all!


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