Well what can I say, another month, another continent! Time to leave Europe and North Africa and head to South America! The 14 hour flight from hell on Alitalia was well worth it!
First things first, being in a city where I can understand basic conversation is a huge win! In the last few months in Morocco, Serbia and Bulgaria I became really good at looking at people with a smile and a subtle shake of the head trying to communicate “I have no idea what you are saying but I promise I am a nice guy”. My Arabic, French, Serbian and Bulgarian are non-existent so being in Argentina, this was a nice change!
As for Buenos Aires itself…what can I say?
One of the first things that come to mind is MEAT! Choripan (chorizo on a roll, but it is so much more than that!) and the mind blowing asado for me ARE Argentina. I became a regular frequenter of the local choripan place near our workspace and ate more than my fair share of steak.
A culinary surprise for me were definitely the mollejas/sweetbreads/gizzards. Yep you read that right. One of the best things I have ever eaten were the sweetbreads from La Carneceria next door to our apartment building. Sweetbreads cooked on the barbecue with a sweet glaze on sweet corn bread, duuuuddeeee, sweeeeeeet!
But what would Argentina be without a little football? I managed to get to three Argentinian Primera División matches involving Banfield, Boca Juniors and River Plate. At each match we were supporting the home team for a few reasons but the main one being that no away team supporters are allowed in the stadiums. The violent reason behind why this is a rule sucks but I have to say I kinda loved one sided support! The stadium is truly a fortress!
Unfortunately it seems like we were bringing some bad luck with us around the stadiums. We went to Banfield with my friend Gerladine’s family (who are awesome!) and in an uninspiring game they drew 0-0 with last placed Temperley. We paid 12 times the face value of the Boca Juniors ticket, had the time of our lives with some of the most intense, awesome fans I have ever seen and they lost 2-1 to Racing Club. We sat high up in the stands watching River Plate and saw them lose 3-1 to Newels Old Boys. I have to give credit to the fans though, they all kept chanting non-stop, especially Boca Juniors. I have never seen a team concede a goal, go behind in the match and after literally 2 seconds of a pause to digest the goal, chant like their lives depended on it. Absolutely brilliant!
Like many of the cities we have been in it has been so good to meet new people, whether they be our Remote Year city team (much love to Juli and Santi), people from the workspace that we worked out of, random people we met along the way or friends of friends. I couldn’t have asked for them to be more welcoming and open. Spending time with these locals really defined my experience in Buenos Aires. Thank you guys!
As awesome as meeting new people can be, there are also times where reunions are exactly what you need. Huge shoutout to my friend Gwen’s boyfriend Craig who brought my drone to Buenos Aires with him. Drones are illegal in Morocco so I needed to see how I could get it to Buenos Aires cheaply and safely. In my last couple of days in Belgrade I shipped the drone to Craig in London. He trafficked it across the globe for me without us ever having met. Hands down one of the best guys you will meet! (He also didn’t know about the drugs I had stashed in there)
Ironically one of the best events of our first month in South America was actually a North American celebration! Thanksgiving lunch with everyone was a great experience! This was my first thanksgiving and my American brothers and sisters really did pull out all the stops. The turkey was succulent, the stuffing to die for and we ended up with some sufficiently drunk people in the afternoon due to the all you can drink deal that we struck with the bar who hosted us.
It was awesome to see everybody share their culture with guys like me who have never experienced this holiday. The mood was just perfect and it was great to see the differences and similarities in how people celebrated the day. The key commonality though, seemed to be, just eat and drink as much as you can. Dare I say, after the day was done, I may have felt a little American myself…but let’s not get too carried away!
The reflective stuff
It became clearly apparent to me that we all need to know our limits. I mean this a couple of contexts.
Similarly to Belgrade, Buenos Aires every now and then did a number on us! Being in the pitch black of bars with music blaring, to then walking out into the silent sunlight of the street was something that I never got used to and don’t plan to. It really was off-putting. Also, going to the rooftop of our building at midnight to have a few pre-drinks before entering a club at 3:00am was a battle. Let’s be serious for a second, 3:00am to start your night out is pretty outrageous. I love you Argentina but still don’t understand exactly why this is the case? I know I sound like a grandfather and don’t get me wrong, could do it every now and then but sometimes you need to have an evening where you eat 8 empanadas and watch Netflix (that did happen).
Remember how I said it was great to feel that I could understand the basics of Spanish conversations in the street? Well this basic understanding does not extend to knowledge of the geography of any Spanish speaking city or the ability to communicate detailed directions.
I was hailed over by a middle aged couple in their car and asked for directions. Instead of saying “I’m sorry, I don’t know the city very well” I walked over armed with my basic Spanish and good intentions. I thought I could find the street on google maps and show them how to get there. That plan fell through pretty quickly when I struggled to understand which street they were after and my google search came up with results in another city over 3 hours away. All I could do was revert back to my “I have no idea what you are saying but I promise I am a nice guy” face.
Does this mean I won’t continue to try to help people out? No. Did it provide me with enough motivation to enrol into an intensive Spanish language course! Yes! More on that in my next post!
As always, take what you will from this post and see you next time.