First Week in BsAs.
2/17/06 27 °C
It is my seventh day in Buenos Aires and I´m already starting to lose track of days of the week. I arrived on Friday I think after a very chaotic adventure with United Airlines. I had a layover in Washington DC and the outbound Newark flight got in an hour late. With seven of us on board trying to get to Buenos Aires, the stewardess pledged that we could make the BA flight, as long as we ¨ran like mad¨. So the plane lands and we start running through Dulles like lunatics, I get body slammed a few times by oncoming traffic but, bygone it, I´m going to make this flight. So we arrive at the gate and find a morose looking flight attendant shaking his head at us. The plane is boarded. The door just closed. My partners in crime start begging this guy to let us on -- they talk about missed weddings and hundreds of dollars lost--and finally, this poor guy breaks down and walkie talkies the pilot and gives us the go ahead to get on the plane. We open the door and start sprinting down the jetway when all of a sudden, this ear piercing alarm starts going off and a little lady with yellow hair jumps in front of us and starts yelling, at which point, the nice guy comes out and they start yelling at each other. It seemed that the jetway had already started pulling away from the plane and that if we had continued, we would have ran right off onto the pavement! So we turn around and walk to the customer service desk where two women in the group start yelling about bringing United back into bankruptcy and organizing a missed-flights-revolucion while I just sit there quietly, hoping I can get a free meal out of the whole thing. Two hours later, one in the morning, we are shuttled to a hotel that is booked and then shuttled to another hotel that is not, where I sleep until 2 in the afternoon, go visit the Air and Space Museum, and catch the next flight that evening. Woowee.
When I finally got settled on the flight, I got sat next to another solo traveller, Paul, 27 (we quickly changed his name to Paulo. I am Seeban) from San Francisco, who was doing a 2 week tour of the region. It was very lucky to find someone else in my situation and we immediately became travelling buddies for the next week. For the last week, I have been staying in Portal del Sur, a gorgeous hostel on Hipolito Yrigoyen in Microcentre, the financial district of BsAs. BsAs is absolutely beautiful. The architecture is breathtaking, beautiful renaissance style buildings splattered all throughout every block, hundreds of small cafes, churches, parks. It´s like Europe but with more spice. BsAs doesn´t have any one or two particular must see´s, though in my opinion the whole city is a must see, but it does have dozens of neighborhoods, each one with its own distinct personality. To name a few, I have visited Palermo (the rich artisty area), San Telmo (touristy antique and student area), Puerto Madero (gorgeous harbor) and so on and so forth. We visited the Cementerio del Norte on Wednesday, a huge maze of old mausoleums and imposing sculptures, where Eva Peron and other notables are buried.
The days are very hot and very humid, reportedly the hottest summer in many years. So because it´s so hot, it´s hard to pack a lot in in one day. Okay, this also could be because the nightlife does not start until 2 am, so by the time you recover from the night, the whole day is shot. On Tuesday, we went to a disco where we met a lot of local portenos, but we didn´t get home until 5. That goes for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday too (we were good on Monday). So my days, like most other young travellers here, are spent strolling around cobblestone streets, taking in a café doble at a restaurant, trying to muster up conversations with locals who are very patient with me, and taking sunny naps in brilliantly green parks while parents chase their kids around. You can definitely get used to this kind of lifestyle. If you can believe it, I had an awesome steak dinner this week. I haven´t eaten red meat in years but the parillas (steak restaurants) here are among the best in the world. So we headed over to Disnivel, a famous parilla in San Telmo, where I had a 14 oz flank steak with french fries, huge mixed salad, bottle of wine, and yummy crusty french bread, all for $10 US. We were there for 4 hours. I can´t figure out which is more amazing: the price or the fact that I ate a steak the size of me.
Paul (oh sorry..Paulo) and I are getting along very well- we are good travelling partners. We´ve only had one fight so far, when I got us on the wrong bus headed 10 miles north of the city and refused to admit it, so we got abandoned at some dark park at night and, while waiting for the right bus, Paul dropped his water bottle on the ground, and I kicked it across the sidewalk. He then pretended I was invisible for the next 15 minutes, which is the absolute worst thing you can ever do to a youngest child. So you can tell we´re on the same maturity level..hehe...I blame it on the heat. I´ve also met tons of people in my hostels, a mix of Brits, Aussies, Germans, and Americans. The other day, the Americans and Germans dared to play futbol against the locals, and they came back very quietly with scratches and blood all over their legs and faces. The end lesson is to NEVER take futbol lightly…. No conclusions yet about solo women travellers...they´re not very common definitely, but then again, you´re constantly meeting people, so it´s difficult to figure out who came alone. But I feel absolutely safe at all times.
My spanish is improving very slowly. I´m pretty competent at getting across what I need (ordering food, directions, schedules) but real conversations are hard. I´ll chatter away and then the person replies and I have no idea what they´re saying. That´s when you resort to sign language and/or nodding your head a lot AS IF you understand, which most people catch on to after they ask you “which do you like better, window or aisle?” and you reply “yes!”. Yesterday, we went to visit Jonah, a friend from college who has been living in BsAs for the last year teaching English and playing in a band that has quite the following down here. He and his roommate took us to a book reading by a local named Chris Brush who just wrote a book about alcohol and punk rock and who has a band named Chris Brush and The Broken Wines. The band used to be called The Broken Hearts but then one fated day, Chris was drunk onstage and made a dive for the bar, that was wet, and crashed into all the bottles of wines, breaking them, and then having to pay for them. It was really awesome to see Jonah, who seems to be completely proficient in Spanish, and I plan on going to his band´s show tonight, though it may be sold out. I am also taking a tango lesson today, so I´m pumped to look like an idiot. But seriously I´m very excited.
I hope to meet up with my Norwegian travelling friend sometime this week so I can get to know her better before heading down south to The End of the World, the tip of South America. We keep missing each other…it´s very strange not having a cell phone, but it´s ultimately a good thing. You don´t realize how much of a slave you are to your cell phone, until you no longer have to check your messages every 5 minutes or worry about it ringing in museums, cemeteries, etc.
My readers have requested an itinerary of my trip. Since I listen to my audience (despite my demanding schedule, mind you), here goes. First off, yes, BsAs is in Argentina...good job! The plan is to leave BsAs on Sunday (20th) to go to Iguazu Falls, one of the great wonders of the world, return back south, hit up Cordoba, Bariloche, go to the very tip of the continent to see glaciers and then cross over to Chile, which is on the western coast of the continent. That means BEACHES for the next few weeks until I get to Peru, where I continue north to Ecuador, where the plan is to do some volunteer work for a month or so? It´s all very vague. That´s another aspect of travelling alone, staying flexible, so you can latch on to other people´s itineraries. That´s right...I´m a big LEECH.
Oh yes, and I´m proud to report that my backpack is the lightest I´ve seen around. That´s right, suckas!
Thanks for all the support...looking forward to your comments. Hasta luego.