In the City of Good Airs

During North American winter, Buenos Aires is two hours ahead of New York time. (It’s only one hour ahead the rest of the year because Argentina doesn’t observe daylight savings) Except for this eight-week blip, I’m living in New York time from the end of September ’21-mid-June ’22, so I decided to work 10:30am – 7pm while in Buenos Aires to be consistent. Plus, I really can’t start my day five whole hours before everyone I work with in Pacific time. That simply doesn’t leave enough overlapping hours for collaboration, and I have a ton of meetings in an average week.

Turns out, this schedule was right on target with the rest of Buenos Aires. No one starts work at 9am and working until 6:30 or 7pm is completely normal, at least among the people I hang out with, who are mostly in digital industries. Everything here happens late. Most museums are regularly open until 8pm, I’ve walked into some restaurants for dinner at 7pm and they still weren’t ready for dinner service, and everyone works out in the evening. Porteños are not morning people.

Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays, Buenos Aires

So, great! Right? I’d still wake up shortly after 7am like usual, get my exercise done in the morning, shower, go to a café, spend some time on creative writing when my concentration and willpower are at their highest, work eight hours, and finally enjoy a nice evening out at dinner or drinks.

Except it hasn’t worked out that way. Not at all. First of all, I hate working out in the morning. Hate. It. Secondly, for my entire adult life, I’ve needed a really long “winding down” period at the end of the night. When I taught for Princeton Review and my classes would end at 9pm, I frequently wouldn’t go to sleep until 1am. I cannot finish work and go to bed shortly after. It doesn’t matter how much time I had to myself earlier in the day; I need “me time” at night. So finishing work here at 7pm, and occasionally as late as 8pm (because sometimes things just come up that I’d rather not have waiting for me in the morning), has wreaked havoc on my sleep, especially when I don’t finish a run until 8 or 8:15pm and then still need to have dinner but don’t want to go out to eat because I’m drenched in stinky-ass, humidity sweat, which is very different from arid-climate sweat. Thirdly, I like my coffee as soon as I wake up. Since most coffee shops here don’t open until 8:30 or 9am, I don’t want to go out by the time they open. I’ve already eaten breakfast and I’m a max-two-cups-of-coffee-per-day kind of person. Also, while nowhere near as bad as Italy, Buenos Aires has a smoking problem, which inhibits a non-smokers enjoyment of the otherwise fabulous café culture.

Almost four weeks in, I did start to get out for some morning runs. I had to because my runs for seven days straight in Patagonia will be in the morning, so I want to get used to it. It sucks, but I’ve discovered one major benefit – I have the paths to myself. Porteños love to run. Everyone in this city runs, and they are fast. In the evenings, the routes around the parks have traffic jams of runners (and walkers and cyclists and inline skaters). But not at all in the mornings. The paths are empty and much more pleasant.

But still, I futz around the apartment for a solid one to two hours first trying to convince myself to get out the door, so after I finally run and shower, it’s time to start working. And without post-work exercise to reset my brain, I can never switch from technical writing mode to creative writing mode. So, I have basically done no creative writing whatsoever while I’ve been in Buenos Aires. Keeping up this blog, yes, but back in Cuenca, I was on a writing kick. Super productive: writing new pieces, revising short stories from last year, submitting to journals. Now, nothing for six weeks.

Day at the Races, Hipodromo Argentino de Palermo

The one wonderful thing about this off-hours schedule has been not needing to set an alarm. My body generally wakes itself up sometime between 6:45 and 7:15, but elsewhere, I always set my alarm just in case, especially if I have an 8:30am meeting. Here, I have not had a single meeting start before 12:30pm, so I haven’t used an alarm. If I oversleep some days, who cares? It has been a luxury to not have that obnoxious sound in my ear first thing in the morning. Ironically, I’ve only had to set my alarm on the weekends to get up and go do fun and touristy things.

Still, I’m relieved to only have eight working days left here. I’m excited to go back to my regular schedule where I have an hour to an hour and a half of creative writing time in the morning, then immediately to work, done at 5pm, workout to decompress, and still have a solid four hours of evening ahead of me to enjoy with plenty of time to shower and go out if I want. Not only am I going back to real New York time, I’m actually going to New York City! After a fabulous vacation in Patagonia that has been a year in the making, I’ll be heading to Manhattan. But don’t worry, there are still more posts on my stay in beautiful Argentina heading your way, and before I can blink, Manhattan will be memory too and I’ll be back in Latin America, next time in Panama, which is, thankfully, located in New York time.

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