One of the hardest goodbyes was to my laundry woman down the street. She has been a constant in this whirlwind of a semester: always calling me Kasi, making fun of me for forgetting my laundry receipt every week, and folding my clothes impeccably for a decent price. Hola Kasi! Chaú Kasi! OK Kasi! I figured it wasn’t worth it to explain to her what my name actually is, because she was just a person who I paid to do my laundry. I should have written my name down on a piece of paper to show her. Then again, I still don’t know her name.
I like to think she cared for me; she told me how to hold my bag on the street to avoid getting pick pocketed (though that didn’t stop the ladron that ripped my iPhone out of my hands and fled). Her smile greeted my presence and a bag of dirty laundry every week. Her children brought me my change a few times, and her dog always ran around me in circles.
I will admit at one point I was thrown off guard when I had to pay 10 pesos more than usual (less than 1 USD) – but that is a sacrifice you make as a loyal customer. As I am packing up my room to leave, I am throwing out laundry receipts labeled “Kasi” tucked away in every nook of my room. I can’t stop the tears from falling over the memory of a woman that I will probably forget in about a year.
These small occurrences formed the majority of my abroad experience. My cleaning lady was a 5-minute trip, but I met her every week. I bought an alpaca sweater from remote village in the north of Argentina, but I found the same sweater for sale in every Buenos Aires souvenir shop. I only knew one song by latino artist Nicky Jamz, but it played in the clubs every night. The lunch spot Banco Rojo had infinite, delicious options, but falafel was my fallback every time.
I have photos to remember the beautiful places and I have a 33-page paper in Spanish to remember the program, but the small memories might fade soon – that is a depressing truth. Those sum of those small moments formed my experience abroad. There will always be something from travelling that one can carry for the rest of their life – photos, a new language, etc. – but you can’t anticipate the small routines that emerge when you’re out of your element. Not only can I thank my cleaning lady for fresh scented socks, but also I can thank her for engaging with the foreign student who successfully struggled to navigate her language and city.