Lorna Haslam, voiceover artistSaturday, January 18, 2014
Back on two feet
For The Herald
From: London, UK
Lives in: Palermo
Profession: Freelance scriptwriter and voiceover artist
Education: I left school at 16
Reading: Are You There Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea
Last film seen: Silver Linings Playbook
Gadget: Electric toothbrush
Following two life-changing decisions — divorce and redundancy — in the UK, voiceover artist Lorna Haslam acted on the advice of some friends, cashing in her chips to head to Argentina. Two years on, her feet are back on the ground and she says she couldn’t be happier living in Buenos Aires.
Given that British voiceover artist Lorna Haslam went through divorce and redundancy in the space of a year, she decided it was time to take a well-earned break. On a round-the-world ticket, it’s been two and half years since she decided to stay — although the first few months weren’t as simple as she might have liked.
Lorna says: “The first time I came to Argentina, I arrived with an ex-boyfriend — not a good idea — and spent a couple of months living in San Telmo. I hated living there, mainly because I was in a flat without any windows, had nothing comfortable to sit on and, of course, the ex.
“I’d never been to Argentina before but I’d had a few changes in my life in England and decided to go and travel. I knew I wanted to go to Australia and Thailand but I didn’t know where in Latin America I wanted to go with my round-the-world ticket. Some friends had lived in Buenos Aires in 2005 and, knowing me and knowing the city, they said I’d really love it. So I packed my bags, turned up — and here I am!
“But what led me to make this change was a divorce and being made redundant from my job. It was a crazy year, and a change is as good as a rest, and I needed to make my life amazing, and not sit and wallow. I’d never been to Latin America before except to Mexico, and I didn’t speak any Spanish. I took a university course when I got here, but I found it pretty intimidating; besides, learning the language wasn’t the reason I decided to come to Argentina — I was trying to figure out where I was going in my life and take a break. Was I going to stay? Could I find work? That was all quite a slow process as I moved here with an ex-boyfriend and it became financially quite difficult. But after he left, I was able to pick up where I wanted to.”
With an original plan of kicking off in Argentina before spending three months each in Australia and Thailand, Lorna found out quickly that Buenos Aires wasn’t as cheap as she’d expected. That threw a spanner in the travelling works, and although she did visit those destinations, it was only for a week respectively at each.
And of course it sounds both idyllic and simplistic — packing up and starting over — but Lorna says the reality wasn’t like that at all.
“It was a mistake to move here with that boyfriend. I’d already taken the decision to be here, and we had met a few months before that. I guess part of me thought it would be easier to be with someone and less scary and daunting so we came together. But I had to support us both, which slowed down the process of starting over. I wasn’t in a great head space at that point. But as soon as I was on my own here, I met some amazing friends — some of the best ever — and that’s when things started to change. That was about six months in. And without a doubt, moving here was the best decision I have ever made.
“In fact, my friends are what have kept me here. One in particular got me to go and have some therapy, which is very common here and it doesn’t have the stigma it does in the UK. With friends here, as everyone in the expat community knows, it’s very transient. Our group has changed a lot but there are some hardcore ‘stayers’ and it feels like family, it really does.”
Undertaking some therapy, that most Argentine of activities, has proved beneficial, she says. “I’m quite an open person but therapy definitely helped. My mum passed away a few years ago and that was at the root of some bad decisions that I took afterwards, such as getting married to an idiot… so it has changed my behaviour and put me in a lighter, happier place. It’s something I would go back and do again — I’m sure there are hundreds of things I haven’t addressed yet! — but when I’m ready, I’ll go back and do some work.
“Although when you feel a bit anxious about going to therapy, because you know it’s going to raise some issues and you don’t know how you’ll feel after, waiting 90 minutes because the therapist would be running late… well, I think that’s the Argentine way, isn’t it? That was a bit frustrating!”
After getting some work doing private English tuition, it was crunch time for Lorna, who needed to take another decision. “I had to decide whether to stay or go. But I decided to take a TEFL course in order to have some back-up work and then I changed my tickets and stayed. I think my friends are the biggest reason besides loving the place — and I am aware that Palermo is a bit of a bubble. But after a year, I was already in a very different space and going back to England didn’t feel like an option. And I still don’t feel like it is. If I went back to Europe, it would be to Spain or somewhere else, but not the UK.
“My family are very open and laid-back so I don’t think they really remember I am here! My dad told me to go for it and my sister is married with two children and very busy. We keep in touch, obviously, but not that much. My dad will be coming to visit for the first time in March, which will be lovely. They are more happy that I am happy, because honestly, I’m the happiest I can ever remember being. Single, free, enjoying my work, loving where I live.”
LESSONS IN LOVE
Now that she is clearly back on her feet, she goes out on dates and has one particular lesson to share. “There’s a lot of dating to be done! Whether or not they are dates is another question, but it’s a lot of fun. Argentine men have given me my confidence back and I am more than aware that I am not the only woman in the lives of the ones I’ve met! But they are very romantic and sweet when you’re with them, so if you’re aware that once the door shuts that you won’t hear from them again, then that’s alright. I’ve met a couple of guys dating, who’ve become really good friends. I do like hearing que linda, que hermosa and everything else when I’m walking down the street, mainly because I don’t understand what they are saying. Compared to the UK, where people look straight through you, people are alive here. It’s the same with shops; after two weeks they know your name and are friendly. In England I had the same supermarket with the same people working there for 15 years and never once would they say ‘hi Lorna’. There’s a very different warmth to this city and I really love it — it’s put me back in the saddle 100 percent and made me feel like a strong person again, and also happy. You always end up with a smile at the beginning of the day as you’ll see someone like that.”
After two and a half years in Buenos Aires, Lorna admits to having adapted two rather different Argentina characteristics. “I do a lot of hand gestures now. And I also eat a lot of ice-cream and feeling like that’s part of my day. I also like empanadas — they make life very simple a lot of the time because if you’re on the hop and need to grab something on the hop, have an empanada. Lots of things make life very complicated here, but there are also lots of things that make it more simple.”
And following a rocky start in San Telmo, which she recalls looking like Beirut that first morning she arrived, Lorna loves living in Palermo. “I’m very cheta now, as I have a swimming-pool in my building, but I also feel very safe in my apartment block. I have amazing neighbours — it’s a bit like the TV show Friends — but everyone is very sweet and helpful. Although it’s a bit touristy, it doesn’t bother me. I love the shops, the cafés, the vibe, the way they paint streets and cover trees in cardigans. And my friends live very close by so we can walk to each other’s houses. That feels a world away from London.”