Hasta la Vista, BA! Part 1

Wow, it’s hard to believe I’ve been in Buenos Aires for four weeks and it’s already time to move on. (Mendoza, I’m ready for wine tasting!) I’ve had a good time living in this city, enjoying getting to know it at my own pace. It’s been quite a change from switching cities every few days. I’ve gotten used to seeing dog walkers and avoiding their charges’ detritus. (Almost nobody believes in the scooping here – when I see someone scoop the poop, I want to take a photo of the novelty!
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Going to class every afternoon gave me structure to my day. On Thursday we had our written test, which was pretty straight-forward, thank goodness! Friday was the oral exam – each of us had to give a short spiel about our city (or our daily routine), then we had to select a random photo and describe the people in it, and lastly we worked in pairs to run through one of the types of scenarios/dialogues we had in our books, like waiter-customer. I passed! Yay, I have a shiny certificate that lets everyone know that I passed the equivalent of Spanish 101.

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Election season has swung into full gear, with people handing out flyers and painting political graffiti (boring and in no way art!) It’s the congressional elections, with the presidential ones coming up in 2015. I have a feeling that there will be a change in president, given what I’ve been hearing from people, but who knows? A lot can happen in a year, and the caliber of the opponent makes a big difference, too.

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One thing I haven’t been able to describe yet is the Cartoneros, people who manually go through the bags of trash waiting to be picked up in order to separate out the cardboard, which gets recycled. Most of them have a cart that they wheel around, although in Uruguay and once or twice here I’ve seen the cart drawn by a donkey or mule. It’s a stark reminder of the poverty of many of the citizens here.

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In between all of my normal activities, I’ve found time to do some further exploration of the city! A week ago, I went with a couple of friends from school to go food shopping in Chinatown. We got off in Belgrano and walked around in circles before finally finding the few blocks that make it up, but that means we got to see some of Belgrano. (Definitely middle class with some upper middle class thrown in, more modern buildings than old-money Recoleta, and some plastic surgery centers that fit right in.) Small though it is, Chinatown has several markets that we spent a fair amount of time in searching for white corn meal for my friend. (No luck, but at least I bought some shrimp chips!)

I also got to experience a Buenos Aires boliche (disco or club). We went to a gay club, which was very interesting compared to the States. I’d have expected more women there, since in the northern hemisphere women often like to go to gay bars to avoid creepy guys. Not so here, apparently. Anyway, we stayed there till 4 or 5, still several hours before closing time in this city that takes its nightlife very seriously.

And I saw some of the other side of dancing, going to another milonga (this one called Maldita Milonga in San Telmo) to take a dance class and listen to the live tango musicians. I was really impressed with this one, as they tried to teach partnering before teaching the steps to one of the toughest of partner dances. The music was great too. We heard a guitarist and singer opening act and then an orchestra which included four accordions. I couldn’t look away from the accordionists! Especially one, who wore a hoodie and such an intense look of concentration! His whole body got into the music.

After a brief cold spell, the weather has gotten much warmer again, so I checked out the Jardín Japonés one afternoon (along with everyone with kids on spring break, it seems!). It’s a lovely, small Japanese garden that was a gift from Japan to the Argentines. It felt like I was in Tokyo for a brief moment! The next day I checked out plaza San Martín in Recoleta and felt like I had stepped into Paris!

It’s getting close to time for me to leave for the Retiro bus station, as you may have guessed from the rushed nature of this post, so I will make a part two to this post and share some pictures of Puerto Madero another time. Until then, enjoy these!

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