Necochea, Argentina. The mere mention of this place usually produces a glazed-over expression, as the mind frantically searches through the vestiges of seventh grade geography that remain. "Where's that? Never heard of it," comes the inevitable response, nearly always uttered in a slightly disparaging tone. I understand the reaction because it matches almost exactly the one I had when I first met Daniel, my Argentine boyfriend.
Previously, in keeping with most of my fellow Americans, my sum total knowledge of Argentina consisted of buzzwords such as tango, gauchos and grass-fed beef. Yet, in spite of preconceived notions of what I would (or wouldn't) find in South America, after a few trips to Argentina—one of which included a four-month stay—I fell in love with both Daniel and his far-off country.
In comparison with the cosmopolitan air of Buenos Aires, Necochea is a rather humble little city. It sits unassumingly on the Atlantic coast, five hours due south of the Argentine capital in the province of Buenos Aires. During the late spring and summer months, Necochea draws thousands of Argentine families anxious to enjoy the area's expansive beaches, pine forest and low-key atmosphere, but when the visitors head home, the city returns to what can best be described as a state of suspended animation until the following tourist season. Nonetheless, the off-season holds its own particular charm. A quiet walk along the sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy beach yields inviting views of the water and the coastline, dotted with a lighthouse and a rusty, old shipwreck; sometimes I even come across a seashell or two worth pocketing.
The beaches of Necochea certainly attract their fair share of tourists, but the real bread and butter of this region is agriculture. Once outside the city, the landscape transforms into miles and miles of land preserved for cattle ranching and farming. The oceans of wheat, corn, soybeans and sunflowers farmed on the pampas seem endless—as vast as the nearby Atlantic itself. Daniel's family is connected to this farmland, from which they harvest the seed-laden heads of sunflowers and golden wheat.
I've decided that I'm ready to be more than a visitor. Argentina has called to me, and I feel compelled to answer. So, over the next year or so I will begin the process of wrapping up my life here in Philadelphia in preparation to move 5,500 miles away to Necochea, another country—another hemisphere even! Let's see where life takes me.