welcome to buenos aires

After only four days in Buenos Aires it already feels like life has settled into a comfy routine and I’m starting to get the hang of things. (Well it was a whole day before I figured out that North is at the bottom of all the maps, after that with my compass and my map I’ve avoided any major disasters but I’ve done an unbelievable amount of walking.) Actually I’m feeling particularly smug this evening as I’ve just managed to buy a phone for the princely cost of 120 pesos, about 25 pounds, half of which I get back in call credit over the next three months. Admittedly my dogdy spanish in the shop did propmt two customers to offer their servies in English but I’ll put that down to the helpfulness of portenos (locals) rather than my spanish!

I’m definitely falling for this city. The family I’m living with are in Palermo Viejo, a laid back, trendy but unpretenious part of town with tree lined cobbled roads and just south of a huge expanse of parks and botancial gardens. There is the mother, Lilliana who is lovely and patiently corrects my spanish, her daughter who pretty much hides in her room all evening and a house keeper Kelly who’s orginally from Peru. There’s also another student, Curtis, a 24 year old curly haired designer from New York, living there who is in my spanish class at school and my new partner in crime, well until he leaves next week at any rate! I’ve even managed to land my own ensuite bathroom and there’s a garden out back with a pool full of dodgy looking green water!

So, in the morning we get an extremely squahed bus half an hour into town to our spanish school which is small and friendly. There’s probably about 25 students there, scandinavians, germans, americans and brits. There are 4 of us in Principale 2 (not quite beginner beginners) with a lovely teacher called Caroline; Marie who’s French and only 15 bless and very sweet, Curtis, myself and another New Yorker, Nero. Classes so far have been great, it’s nearly all in Spanish and at just the right level for me at the moment. After four hours of class (which fly by) we all head around the corner for lunch, cheese and ham pies, steak sandwiches or tortillas. Then the afternoons we visit the museums, different barrios in Buenos Aires, hang out drinking beer in cafes or, like this afternoon, sort out laundry and buy mobile phones!

The centre of town is full of huge streets, traffic, old cathedrals, shops, noise and demonstrations. We went to check one out on Monday and there seemed to be about 8 different groups protesting including one slightly sinister bunch of young men sitting down with their faces covered with scarves.

cemetario.jpgIn the Recoleta Barrio there’s an amazing cementry, Cementario de la Recoleta, which is the most expensive real estate in Argentina. If you are famous, rich or notorious you are buried here. It’s like a city block with every street lined with everything from ostentacious black marble tombs, white marble edficies or ancient stone constructions with wrought iron gates allowing glimpses of dust covered elaborate coffins inside. Stone angels and madonnas, domes and crosses adorn the tops and everywhere sleepy eyed cats watch with disinterest as you loose yourself in the city of dead. Actually I think the reason for the cats in the cemetry is that the rest of Buenos Aires is definitely a dog’s city. Everyone seems to have a dog, an not small ones either, everything from moderate sized labradors to huge alsastians and in the mornings and evenings you see guys walking packs of 10 or more enormous dogs around Palermo.

Xul Solar
Yesterday a group of us from school headed down to Museo Nacional de Belles Artes for an afternoon of culture. The Museum started off with your fairly standard classical pantings, portraits and landscapes from the 16th to 19th century which is not so much my thing. Then we came across a huge white gallery showing an exhibiton of a very modern and very avant garde Argentian painter which was weird but fascinating and then upstairs was a maze of rooms with more modern art from argentian cubists of the 1930s (my favourite was a guy called Xul Solar, a kind of Paul Klee meets Miro) to some really bizarre avant garde and post impressionist sculptures and painting from the 1970s to the present day. There was everything from light installations with mini fountains in glass bowls to sets of dentures on pedastals and portraits of half faces, half skulls. After this bizarre art fest Nero, Rebecca and I went to drink beer and watch the sunset along the design terrace in Recoleta before heading home.

It’s wonderful to think I still have over three weeks in the city to explore and with the spanish school there’s a ready pool of people keen to hang out. Tonight, as thursday night is a big one in town although nothing happens before ten, we are possibly going to a tango show or just going out drinking and there’s a group of us that are heading out to Tigre, a river delta north of town, on Saturday. I just need to buy some industrial strength DEET as the only thing I’m not loving about this place is the mosquitos and they can’t seem to get enough of me, literally. Right now my stomach is rumbling so I’m off home for dinner via one of the many pastry shops in our barrio for a snack of something with Dulce de Leche! Buenos Noches!

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