After being left at the airport by my parents, I began the 20-hour haul from Manchester to Buenos Aires. Being my first flight outside of Europe, I was excited for inflight movies and a meal. Needless to say, both were a slight disappointment- I watched Sleepless in Seattle on a loop, and I’ll never be sure what the brown substance pretending to be my dinner really was.
But, eventually, (after the longest line at passport control, and a confusing moment where I thought I had to itemize my suitcase seeing as everything in it had been purchased outside of Argentina and therefore was goods to declare) I was out in the airport, feeling the furthest from home I have ever been.
Luckily, I had a pre-arranged taxi, although this didn’t stop us from getting lost and my already rusty Spanish was tested to the limit by my taxi drivers frustrated hand gestures, and strong Argentinian accent where everything he said just sounded like “chchch”. After about half an hour of driving around a Shell garage, we found my new home for the next two months. I have to say I was immediately calmed from my taxi ordeal by how homey and relaxed the house felt. Mercedes and Sergio (my host parents) run a clothes business from home, so the house is constantly full of beautiful dresses and bags imported from India, and so far they have managed to provide me with some amazing dinners despite my vegetarian status in one of the biggest meat eating countries in South America. Their daughter, Juana, is very sweet, and I’m further convinced that chatting to kids is one of the quickest ways to improve your spoken language skills.
The rest of the week has been a crazily busy blur- here’s a few snippets:
I make no secret of the fact that I love a good tourist bus. Say what you will, it’s a great way to see a new city for the first time, mark off places you want to go back to, and learn a bit about a place’s history. Alone on my first day here, I realized I didn’t even know what sights Buenos Aires had to offer- after 4 hours atop a freezing open top bus, I sure as hell do now.
On Saturday a group of us headed to nearby Tigre- a small(ish) town bordering a huge river and its estuaries. We took a boat trip to see the community of houses who live up and down the river, and then wandered around the absolutely huge market. I was introduced to the beautiful phenomenon of chocolate-covered churros, stuffed with dulce de leche. There’s so many good things going on there, I don’t even know how it’s allowed.
I was so sad to leave behind the Parisian bakeries I’ve relied on so much in the past year, but these glorified pasties are making the transition ever so slightly easier. They are everywhere, they are cheap, and they are delicious. Best one to date has to be tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
4th of July
There are a lot of Americans in Buenos Aires. My flatmate, being one of them, invited me out to celebrate the 4th of July. Ignoring the fact that this was an occasion for her country to celebrate its independence from my own, I went along to see what all the fuss is about. Aside from being boo-ed by about 30 Americans for treading on their pizza, I think I managed to keep my English head down and remain fairly in-cognito…
Work so far has been interesting… Volunteering your time for the communications and marketing department of an NGO means that everyone is too nice to you, and seems almost afraid to give you actual jobs to do, because your time is unpaid. I think this will definitely be one of those experiences where you get out of it what you put in, so I’m throwing myself in helping to organize a tango-themed fundraiser…with no venue, no dancers, and no budget. Watch this space!
Dulce de Leche
This stuff really needs its own section, because it’s on everything here. Not that I’m complaining, and whoever invented Dulce de Leche ice cream needs a medal. Literally translated as “milk jam”, this stuff can be bought by the jar and is spread on everything from medialunas to toast.
For a mere 30 pesos, we treated ourselves to an evening at the ballet. The Teatro colon is a beautiful building, (we got to admire the ceiling very closely being, as they say, up with the gods) and the second half of the ballet was really very pretty. The first half involved too much tartan for my liking, and the storyline was somewhat muddled in fairly repetitive dancing. But, the music was fantastic and for the equivalent of less than about £5 who can grumble!
As for my first impressions of the city, I can honestly say I’ve never been anywhere quite like it before. Having been told that Buenos Aires is the “Paris of South America”, I was excited to come thinking it would be a bit of a home away from home. Well, yes, Buenos Aires is like Paris- if Paris was abandoned for 20 years or so, corrugated iron and skyscrapers replaced half the buildings, and the streets were then attacked by some angry but talented youths with spray-paint cans. The sporadic examples of French architecture aside, I don’t think the two cities could be more different. A different blood runs through the veins of Buenos Aires, and it has none of the melancholy or self-righteousness of Paris.
It’s a scary and exciting city to try and make your own, so with only 7 weeks left I’d better get cracking!