ARG2020 Intro: "Locked Down in Argentina 2020"
We have finally arrived home in California. It was a long year, for reasons beyond the obvious. The political-economic-social crises triggered by the pandemic hit a lot more close-to-home for everyday living in South America but, while tough at times, sticking it out in Argentina was an ironic blessing of an experience for someone who has traveled the world craving unique experiences since he was 18 years old.
At first I thought I would write a book of memoirs about the year there. Inspired by not only the multidimensional Argentine culture that I was affected by, but the pandemic itself demonstrated a side of that place that I could never have imagined even if I tried. Add to that being brand new parents, without our parents to guide and support us, lacking all control over our environment, and maybe you have an engaging story.
But the concepts of “books,” especially writing them, are so twentieth century. I’ve nostalgically written a few of them—the first installment of the “Post-Bohemian Chronicles” is on Amazon, that one is about my year teaching English in Bangkok; but all the others are stuck in purgatory after having written about 70% through). Truth be told my creative energy is currently a bit too scattered to engineer this story in the format of a book. I’m another millennial digital boy trapped in an endless swirl of distractions atop the usual challenges of making a living doing what I love, raising a child, being in a relationship, etc.
So I thought hell, let’s just make it a blog/newsletter for now and see where it goes. If I’ve learned anything from my mother in this lifetime, it’s that the process itself is the whole point of “creating” anyway, not the expectations of a final result. The intention here is to share the story with you folks, so instead of forcing a novel upon you, I’ll go 2020 on you and fill your inbox weekly, leave the comments section open, and answer questions in succeeding posts. This first message is your opt-in or opt-out moment, an introduction to what is to come. If you’re on this list by mistake, please accept my apologies and click the unsubscribe link.
From here on out, I’ll focus my words on single subjects with anecdotes like what Argentina can be like and the struggles I encountered as a North American, a couple experiencing their first pregnancy during a lockdown, crossing town for family dinners while evading trouble in a pandemic police state, entrepreneurship from abroad and getting money into one of the most financially closed-off countries in the world, cross-country road trips with a six-month-old for visits to the U.S. embassy, and a whole lot more. As a therapeutic act of reflection for me, I’ll share with you our story. As a storyteller and artist, I’ll embellish the text with pictures and videos as best as I can. And as someone wishing to connect with you reading this, I’ll receive your questions, comments, or anything else with open arms.
How We Ended Up In Argentina For A Pandemic, Pregnant
Lau and I met in Buenos Aires in early 2019. After a decade of rambling (slash searching for purpose) and experimenting in relationships (seeking companionship) it arrived as an unaccepted surprise that we got along so well. It was so easy after so many years of struggling. Despite the longevity of my “search,” I fought it, and fought myself, until something clicked and I finally allowed myself to love and be loved by her.
Not long after, she was pregnant.
To be presented with the option of becoming parents in that particular era of our lives was a chance to make profound change in not simply the way we lived, but the environment in which we lived; a true make-or-break decision. She had been in transition in both her career and personal life, starting her own yin yoga school after leaving a 4-year relationship, wanting to travel for a while before attempting to escape the shit-show that Argentina has become. And I, well… I had never known anything but transition since becoming an adult, and it was beginning to affect my well-being. My back was having new issues every few months and my books and creative projects were getting left at 70% in order to fix my body or hop on a plane/train/automobile in order to travel to what would be my new home for the next few weeks.
Suffice to say, despite the extra energy and effort required to raise a human, we believed a child would help stabilize our material circumstances while developing a companionship that supported our own individual goals and objectives in this life.
That’s how I saw it, anyway.
Fast-forward to the end of 2019. By that time we had traveled together through exotic sights of the world on three different continents. We’d driven through Patagonia to shoot a pitch for a travel series, camped out in a moving van in the Scottish Highlands, traversed the Mediterranean from Venice to Aix via train, bus and automobile, and explored the Pacific beaches of Portugal. We went on sunset walks through suburban Los Angeles before seeking out plant medicines in the Andes and gluten-free pastries in Cordoba. All throughout, we considered our options for raising a child and starting a family in each place. Lau has Italian citizenship and this opens up our options considerably. For over a decade I’d been attached to the idea that I would never settle in suburban California—in fact for the past few years I’ve had my sights set on the Big Island of Hawaii—but just to be safe, we began the application process for Lau’s K-1 Fiance Visa to obtain her green card. It was a lot of paperwork and what I considered to be silly bureaucracy, but I enjoyed the organizational aspect of the task and some parts of it felt good to feel a part of “the system” again after so long.
All for the best, because we decided that California would be our best bet. The situation of my family’s home base had been fluctuating constantly since my three siblings and I came of age to spend our time between traveling, studying abroad, or staying at home to save money for a few months before moving to a new city to start a endeavor. But now things had calmed down and my parents, who were thrilled to become grandparents, would be excited in their close-to-retirement years to have us stay and raise the child a bit more traditionally—living together—for a time.
It was the most ideal of situations so we made it our plan. Beyond having the space for us to live comfortably, with built-in babysitting, I had been working on a “food forest” (a hillside of fruit trees) and a vegetable garden on the property for years but could never attain the results I wanted because I never stayed long enough to really tend to the plants. I would now finally have a chance to be permanent in so many regards.
The only bummer was that we would have to return to Argentina for her official interview with the U.S. Embassy; and that could take months more before the paperwork had processed. It was up in the air whether we would be able to return in time to have the baby or we would need to prepare for the birth down there. We did what preparations we could amidst the uncertainty.
On January 5, 2020, we had a big celebration. Partly to see my loved ones and bid them farewell for now, partly to welcome Lau to the family, partly to celebrate the upcoming baby boy. Loved ones from all over came to dance, sing, eat and be merry with our assortments of awkward, interactive ceremonies (I always thought weddings were too staged and weird).
[LOVING UNION VIDEO--MISSING?!]
It was a touching way to go out. We could not have felt more connected and loved by our tribe here in southern California. By late that night, after a night of CBD joints and champagne, synchronized dancing games under a waxing moon, an afternoon of friends and family eating rich Ethiopian, Jamaican, Mexican, Italian and Argentine dishes, ceremonially sharing brewed kava root and homemade lemonade with lemons straight from our garden, a ceremonial fire burning bright; after the guests had all gone away, an uneasy feeling swam through my stomach. Lau slept calmly, her breathing the soft rhythm of the high tide, as my body floated peacefully in the bliss rendered of such celebration with my people. Yet a strong intuition deep in my gut was paddling closer, making just enough of a splash amidst the ripples of such a heart-opening day, to urge me to close my eyes and listen… Something was telling me it would all be fine if we didn’t go back to Argentina for the birth.
I couldn’t rationalize it but the message was painfully clear: you don’t have to go. Life will go on, her visa will be fine. The baby will be born either way. The usual preoccupations with things like money won’t have a consequence.
It was a sneak peek at what the birth of Aquiles Ananda Urbanovich would and was to present itself as for all of 2020: the power of choice. The power to make a decision that has profound impact on what comes next. The awareness to choose to listen to one side of my self or the other, both making valid arguments, and step in the direction I choose.
Our flight left two days later. I didn’t heed my intuition. Little did we know it would be almost a year before seeing my family again, before returning and following our plan…