….And I’m back!
As promised, I am posting much less frequently these days. Basically now that I’m in one place, my life isn’t too exciting. But in a lot of ways, it’s better! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Buenos Aires for over a month and a half. It has been one of the fastest in my life. And despite not having a full-time job, I feel incredibly busy. Not sure how I’ve managed that. I also managed to walk 16 blocks looking like this without getting heckled (hey, it was raining…I have limited resources):
A lot of my time and effort has gone into my new blog, Buenoseria. There are a ton of Buenos Aires blogs out there–I’m one of about two million expats who got sucked in the Bs As vortex–so to make mine stand out from the rest, I’ve decided to create neighborhood-wide guides. If you’re curious, you can check out my first stab, the guide to Palermo Soho: http://buenoseriauxiliar.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/all-thats-good-in-palermo-soho-intro/. It’s a cool neighborhood right next to mine. My favorite find is the unexplained Sponge Bob on a roof, facing away from the street, but I also came across a number of hole-in-the-wall places I would have never known about otherwise. To create the guide, I literally walked every block of the neighborhood. Like most projects I totally underestimated the amount of time it would take to complete, but I’m happy with the result and am picking out my next barrio to attack.
Aside from operating a travel writing sweatshop for one, I’ve been busy working on my Spanish. With just two private lessons a week I’ve made a huge improvement, though I’m nowhere near to fluent. I have also managed to meet a bunch of cool people in the city, mostly expats. They are all great, interesting folks! But if I thought Florida was transient, this is something else entirely: most people I meet are in the city for one to five or six months. For example, I met an awesome girl named Jeanette from Virginia, but she is returning home in a few weeks. Boooo….
As for settling into life as a Portena, things have been relatively smooth. There’s stuff that still baffles me–such as the disturbing pants trend illustrated below–but there are many things I love, such as free delivery of awesome food right to your door, awesome pastries, and wine that’s cheaper than water. A lot of locals warn me that the city is dangerous, but frankly it doesn’t feel any worse than Philadelphia. The main difference is that the sense of personal space here is different, so you have to be a little more vigilant about if people are just in your grill, or if they’re actually angling for your wallet.
In fact, I’ve only had one creepy experience so far, and it was an abornomal one according to my local people. One evening I took the subway back to my place around 6pm. It was busy with people going home from work. Generally I like to people watch on public transportation,but there was no one particularly notable on this train. I get off at my stop, and on a whim I go into a housewares store (read: girly!). I’m going through a bin of ugly napkins when I look up and see a man from the subway. I recognized him as the guy next to me, but there was really nothing out of place about him–just your normal middle-aged guy on his way home from an office job. It surprised me to see him there, and it immediately raised my red flags. I left the store immediately and turned down the next block. I looked back after a minute or so and sure enough, he was a half block behind me. This is when I started to get concerned. I picked up the pace, turned the corner, and scuttled quickly into a small grocery store with fruit crates stacked in front of its windows so you couldn’t see in. I waited in the back for a few minutes, confident I shook the weirdo. I turn the corner on an aisle about to head home and there he was, about six feet away. He didn’t say anything, he just stared at me. Super creepy! At this point I was flat-out scared so I turned around and went to the front of the store where a beefy employee was stacking vegetables. In broken Spanish I explained that the “man in yellow” was following me. The employee responded, “quieres papas?” (you want potatoes?).
Clearly, my Spanish hadn’t improved as much as I thought.
A woman working at the store could see my distress, so she came over to suss out the situation. I tried some different Spanish words and got it across that this guy was being a creepster. They understood me, and formed a human wall to block the guy from following me as I ran home to my place. So even though it was a sort of scary incident, the ending is cool: a store of people who had never seen me before rallied to save me from the creepy metro man. And I’ve never seen him since (whew).
The Forgotten Country
Ask an American to name all of the countries of South America, and they would probaly come up with Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile…and maybe Ecuador and Venezuela. The others definitely get a bit lost in the shadow of their larger, more famous neighbors. For the shallow goal of adding another country to my list, I decided to visit Uruguay for a week or so.
It’s literally only a one-hour boat ride from Buenos Aires. Somehow though, it required an epic effort to get here. Not in reality, but in my head. The past six weeks of not traveling have been great. I was so over being constantly on the road, and frankly I don’t know if I’ve recovered yet. But seeing as how I had to vacate “my” apartment today, I figured this was a good time to take a vacation. From my vacation. Yes, it’s a tough life. It’s pathetic to admit, but it was surprisingly difficult to battle the inertia of staying in place. I do wonder if Buenos Aires has some sort of weird gravitational pull that bends time and space. I’ll be honest: I had to make myself go. Even so, I barely made the boat departure; in the back of my mind I thought, see? I wasn’t meant to leave…
But now that I’m out of the city, I’m finding it to be a nice break from the craziness. Right now I’m in Colonia, a beautiful historic town from the 1700s with a lot of cool architecture and a relaxed shoreline. Apparently the place gets crazy in the summer and on weekends, but now that it’s the beginning of fall (but still warm!) and in the middle of the week, it’s quiet and relaxing.
Will post more later in the trip!