OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEncuentro. It is a word and an idea rich with meaning here in Argentina. To ‘meet’ another, to feel his or her presence, is a beautiful, mysterious thing in any place, any culture. But something all of us have noticed since our arrival here is how seriously (though also playfully) Argentines take their encuentros. Especially the first moments. Whether it is a chance greeting of a friend on the street, or arriving at someone’s home, or meeting someone for the first time,  you feel the extraordinary care and attention that is given to such moments. And not only to the first moment, but to the entire encounter (we often marvel as we walk or drive down the street how much time Argentines seem to spend in cafes, sitting and talking with their friends). 

You feel it first on your cheek, as you kiss and are kissed by the other. And if it is a meeting involving several persons, as often happens with our students, everyone kisses everyone. No exceptions. No matter how many you are. When you arrive and when you part from one another. A social nicety you say? Yes, in part. And, no, it is not always easy to judge how sincere those besos are (an Argentine friend reminded us once–with a smile in her eye as she said it: “just because we kiss you doesn’t mean we like you.” Ok, we have been warned.

Still, the feeling you have most often in such moments is of the simple warmth of the gesture. As you bend forward to give and receive those kisses, time slows down a little. There is no rushing through it. It takes as long as it takes. And, often, you find yourself smiling in the midst of the exchange. It is playful. Sweet. Intimate.

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