Thursday, November 12, 2009


Having finally achieved a decent night´s sleep, I think I am now more able to share some cultural experiences and observations - rather than just moan about the difficulties of travel.

First lesson: Quisiera vino tinto, por favor.

The wine served on the plane with dinner was better than most $20+ bottles I have had in the states. The hostel only has two selections, but both are stellar and can be purchased for $25 pesos - the equivalent of about $7 US. At that price it is very managable to have a decent bottle of wine with your dinner, considering we bought all the fresh materials for veggie pasta w/ marinara for $5 (US).
So, the length of our money is one area in which we did not overestimate. Beyond food, we have heard that lengthy busrides in a cama-bus (sleeper with food service) are more than affordable. This will factor massively when we start looking towards Mendoza (to really taste some wine) and Bariloche when we start working south.

Wine aside.. the people, barring the taxi (who according to some fellow hostel residents is the exception rather than the rule), are generally friendly and willing to help - even if you struggle with their language. Kaitlin remarked yesterday that the service at the cafe in the Plaza de Congreso was very friendly - whereas in Spain the wait staff would just stare at her if she asked questions about the food. The staff at the hostel has also been very nice (especially to me, since it is obvious I am learning the language). People on the street seem very busy and purposeful, but it is a good balance of what you would expect in any major metropolitan area. Though I´m sure the next few weeks will bring some lasting impressions regarding the locals - I think our best experiences with the people will probably come outside of the urban setting.

A moment:
Kaitlin and I were soaking up some sun on the roof of the hostel after our midday meal (I guess it was a siesta) when we started hearing drums and a bullhorn in the distance. Sure enough, we look over the roof wall and there is a massive demonstration clogging the Ave. de 9 Julio (the widest street in Argentina, named after their independence day - mix Times Square and Chicago´s Michigan Ave). There is a massive transit strike going on here right now - our assumption (I haven´t seen today´s paper) is that this march is related to the recent breakdown in negotiations between the Gobierno and the socialist bloc of workers. There is grafitti everywhere here championing the socialist agenda or lamenting the Falklands War in 1982 (there was also a veterans demonstration next to the house of congress).
The march, while rather massive (easily thousands of people - taking nearly two hours to clear a block and a half) - was very pedestrian. We laughed that they were not over zealous - more like they were on their way to a football match than to the steps of Congress. Still, it made an impression on me, to see people actively participating in something. Whether it was the drumming and singing of the marchers or the honking and gesitculating of the stranded motorists - I took it as a good omen for eventful and safe travels.

Lastly, we have already met some charming characters here. In addition to the staff we shared the kitchen with a gentleman from northwest England - were bestowed with a helpfully modified city map and some bread by another Brit (he from the northeast) - but we had our best interaction with a couple from Holland whom we spoke with on the roof last night for some time - each couple with their own bottle of vino tinto. They have already come through Santiago and Mendoza, so they had some helpful tips for us, but mostly it was nice to share first impressions of Buenos Aires (as well as other destinations we had in common).
Today we plan to make our way north to the massive park (I forget the name). Friday, I´m not sure what we´re doing, but Saturday and Sunday are about futbol! Argentina is playing Spain on Saturday and word is every hotel lobby, bar, and cafe will have the game available. Sunday River Plate play Tucuman, but I´m not sure if we´ll be able to make it up there (River´s stadium is about an hour northwest).
I still haven´t decided who - if anyone - I will follow or at least attempt to see play. All accounts so far are that the terraces at a Boca or River match are filled with bonafide hooligans and extremists (and that´s coming from Brits!). From what I saw of the game on TV last night between Estudiantes and Rosario - the entire stadium is a hazard, but that´s the point, right?

Oh well, today is a new day. I feel fairly rested, though I could have slept much later (someone hit me with a towel this morning because they mistook me for one of the people snoring below and beside me. Needless to say, I couldn´t get back to sleep because of the snoring.

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