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Title: An Unplanned Sojourn to BA Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
I was not planning to go to Buenos Aires before I left for South America, but a friend of mine, Diana, begged me to visit a friend of hers that she had met on her South America adventure just a couple of months ago. Her friend, Mark, worked in the hostel in Buenos Aires and she was sure we would be great friends.
9:30 am Sat. morning, I arrived exhausted after an all night bus ride from Bahia Blanca. I walked up all the stairs of the Victorian building with my mochilas (backpacks) and threw all my things below the reception desk. A few youngsters were hanging out by the stairs drinking mate and I casually took a seat on the stairs. The guy at the desk said to me, "Para que estas buscando (What are you looking for)?" With a smile I answered, "Mark". He put out his hands to each side with a strange look on his face and I knew I had found who I was looking for. I told him who I was and what Diana had told me. We shared the customary greeting of a kiss on the cheek and he passed the mate to me..
After talking and laughing with the group for a bit, I decided to move into my room. To my surprise the room was full of sleeping bodies. The room reeked of cerveza and I suddenly realized I was in the city and not in the mountains anymore. People weren´t up early to watch the sunrise on the mountains here, in fact they were probably still up partying at sunrise. I quietly put all my stuff beside my tiny bunk and went back out to the stairs to hear stories from the night before. I also ran upstairs to study Spanish on the computer since I knew early mornings would be a good time to get an open spot.
Sunday is the best day to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina. The next morning, Sunday, I was able to encourage a few girls to check out the market in San Telmo before we were off to a futból (soccer) game in the afternoon. The small cobble stone streets of San Telmo oozed with history, art and character. The market ended up being full of amazing, beautiful antiques- everything from chandeliers to sparkling jewelry to antique accordions. I romanticized about getting a tiny apartment in this part of town someday, filling it with antique decorations and learning to play the accordion.
Later that afternoon, we were off to the futból game with a friend of a friend who was Argentine and a huge River Plate (an Argentine soccer team) fan. There are two types of seats at the stadium, the nose bleeds and the tranquilos. Our friend unfortunately had the benign tranquilo seats, but we were happy to have a local show us how it was done. The fans in the nose bleed seats were by far the most incredible part of the game, shouting, singing, jumping, chanting, and taunting the other team as much as possible. Police circled the field with Rotwielers ready to attack any over zealous fan who tried to run onto the field. Huge barbed-wire fences surrounded the opposing team and a line of police guarded the fences. At the end of the game, they forced them to exit before the home team fans could leave the stadium to avoid any unfortunate, but all too common fights or even worse deaths. I felt like a fly on the wall sitting in the benign seats watching all this craziness happen. Our team lost, but no riots broke out. We were able to exit the stadium with no problems and headed back to the hostel. Leo was a great tour guide for the four touristas.
That night we were able to score seats at the haughty taughty Café Tortuni for a locals tango show. Wow!!! What a delicious dance. It was part theater with a whole lot of incredible dancing. Again I romanticized about staying in Buenos Aires and learning to dance the Tango.
I spent my last day in Argentina shopping with the girls in downtown Buenos Aires and found an antique sequined hat from the 1920s. The prices were so cheap and the quality was so good I wish I had more room in my backpack to bring so many wonderful items back.
Overall Argentina was much more comfortable and similar to the States than I had ever imagined. I learned Spanish quickly in the immersion classes and I was able to easily communicate with people at the market and restaurants. The quality was great, the prices cheap, and I could actually relate to the people. It was nice to not feel like a tourist.