Why I let my 1 Year Anniversary of Moving to Puerto Rico Pass Without Celebration
I moved to Puerto Rico in October 2014, so I have now been living here for over a year. When I lived in Argentina, I reflected on my first year abroad and ultimately decided to stay. So why didn’t I do anything to celebrate my first year in Puerto Rico? Let’s get real. Let’s get personal.
It has not been a great year and Puerto Rico has not been great for me
I came to Puerto Rico with such high hopes. Yes, I chose this location mainly because my boyfriend, Pedro, wanted to return to school and get his PhD, but I was also very much looking forward to getting back into Latin American culture. I knew it wouldn’t be like Argentina, but I longed to speak Spanish every day, become a regular at a fruit stand, and lounge on the beach.
I naively believed that because I would not technically be an expat and thus wouldn’t need to deal with getting any visas that moving to Puerto Rico would be much simpler. Wrong. Two months after my arrival I wrote about the struggles of getting started here. My Argentine accent and stateside ID caused me problems everywhere I went.
Nothing seems to get easier
Beginnings are rough, and even in my 2 month reflection, I was hopeful that things would get better, but they simply have not. I got my Puerto Rico driver license (which was quite an adventure), but it has only helped a little, because when I say my last name is Kirchner, people seriously freak out. (This was a problem in Argentina too but for totally different reasons) Driving is the worst here, people are maniacs and the rules of the road seem like mere suggestions. In fact, I did an entire State of Puerto Rico According to Rease Vlog about this insanity.
Making friends as an adult is difficult for anyone and I knew this would be tough for me here because I work from home, but I never anticipated it would be this difficult. After a year of living in Puerto Rico I have a few friends, but all of them are through Pedro and none of them have ever hung out with just me, one on one. I’m a very independent person, so feeling like “Pedro’s girlfriend” instead of my own person has been a real struggle. I’ve been all over meetup.com, couchsurfing, and even Twitter and Instagram trying to find ways to connect with locals, but I haven’t had much luck. I even started volunteering with sea turtles hoping that would lead to friendships, but everyone there was 10-30 years outside of my age range, making it pretty difficult to find common ground. I’ve always been a solo traveler and I still take most of my trips alone and love them, but I moved here with Pedro and I feel like, as much as we love each other, it’s been hard for me to be a part of a unit instead of calling all my own shots.
I can’t seem to fit in
Culture shock is to be expected. Even within the United States, regional differences can cause a bit of cultural confusion, but I feel like Puerto Rican culture and I just don’t seem to vibe. In Argentina, I definitely had my issues and days when I would long for home, but overall, I really loved being in Buenos Aires. Sure, getting mail in Argentina was a pain in the ass, but the public transportation was excellent. I didn’t love the food in Argentina, but the ice cream was out of this world. In Buenos Aires, the frustration:happiness ratio pretty much always came out in my favor.
Here I feel like a puzzle piece being forced into a spot where it doesn’t belong. I’m losing my Argentine accent and feeling heartbroken when I hear the slightest hint of a Puerto Rican accent because it makes me feel like I am speaking with someone else’s voice. I reject Spanglish words here, and isolate myself by not wanting to use them. Things like the complete lack of rule-following here drive me insane. It is perfectly acceptable for old people to pretend like they don’t see you and butt in line at any store. Huge NO PARKING signs are completely ignored as people idle in front of them, blocking traffic. Running 2 errands could easily take half a day or more. I mean, Puerto Rican beaches are gorgeous and their bread is definitely the best I’ve ever tasted, but those things don’t counteract all the headaches I deal with every day. I’m always frustrated, constantly bitter, and rarely happy.
I don’t like the person Puerto Rico seems to force me to be.
I don’t love Puerto Rico.
I wanted to love it here so badly. I wanted to fall head over heels for this place and want to live here long past when Pedro finishes his PhD. I wanted to proudly wave a Puerto Rican flag and feel the orgullo, the Boricua Pride. But I don’t. I do not love my home.
When you call a place home, it’s supposed to have a special place in your heart. For all the problems I have with my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, I still love it and feel a connection towards a place I called home for much of my life. When I was abroad and the St. Louis Cardinals won their 11th World Series in 2011, I watched a sport I have never cared about and teared up, imagining the collective swell of pride my city would feel. I only lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 2 years, but I still consider it home. I literally cry over Argentine fútbol games and when I see that beautiful white and celeste flag, I feel a distinctive tug at my heart. Anytime someone tells me I sound Argentine, I feel a deep and overwhelming sense of pride.
The sight of a Puerto Rican flag does nothing for me. I do not get excited over any Puerto Rican athletic accomplishments. When people tell me my Spanish sounds Puerto Rican, I actually feel like I have been punched in the gut.
What this means, moving forward
I’m trying to work on this lack of love. In the coming year, I will be working on exploring more of the island and continuing with my never-ending quest to find true friendships here. I want to tell you that my instagram posts of wine on the beach and gorgeous mountains are the norm here, but the truth is, they are bandaids on a wound that needs much more care. I’m willing to work on this love, but I’m also willing to consider the possibility that Puerto Rico and I aren’t meant for each other. Not every place can be paradise for every person, not even the isla del encanto.