Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random Observations

Buenos Aires is unlike any city I have ever been to. Not that I have traveled extensively, I have not, a situation I hope to remedy soon....

However, I am constantly aware that I am in another section of the world. Every day there are a myriad of things or events that enforce this. For example, I buy my eggs, fruit and vegetables from some Peruvians who do business from a hole in the wall. Literally. There is a hole in the wall of a building and they have set up shop there. The prices are three times less than the market, and the quality is a hundred times better. Although everything is straight from the farm, unwashed, so I have to wash everything very well when I get home. They speak no English, and apparently my accent is too thick for them to decipher, so we have a game of charades every couple of days. It was very funny the first few times when I would point at some vegetable and say "Como se dice?" They would rapid fire say it, I would ask them to write it down, I would repeat it, they would laugh and bag it up for me. I also always give them whatever centavos the amount comes to. If it is 5 pesos, 50 centavos, I give them the coinage. And since I have been doing that, they give me better veggies. I also bring my own egg cartons to them, and they give me bigger eggs. It is a reciprocal society here.

Some things that have struck me about this city, be they good or bad or indifferent.

Dog poop. Let's just start with my one biggest complaint about this city. About 75% of the populace seem to own a dog. Of that, I would say 90% own a BIG dog. And there are BIG piles of poop everywhere. I walk every day around the different streets of Palermo, and I have come to master the looking down while looking up technique. I want to take in the buildings and the sights of my barrio, but I have to keep one eye on the ground so that I don't put one foot in a slippy pile of poop. Despite trash recepticles on every corner, no one picks up the poop. Yuck.

Perhaps because of the above, everyone washes their sidewalk in the mornings. It is lovely. I see all these folks out when I manage to get myself out before 11am, washing down their sidewalks, chatting with each other and making the front of their house look clean and neat. I love it.

Driving. I think that when I get back to the States, Sorin's driving will not give me one moment of concern in the passenger seat ever again. Being in a car here is an experience. The only speed limit is the limitations of your car. Those lovely straight lines that they paint in the streets? Decoration apparently. Headlights and blinkers come standard with every car but are optional for the user. You're in the right lane and realize you need to take a left? Now? 5 lanes over? No problem, take it! And pedestrians? You better be aware and fast. Pedestrians do not have any rights. In fact, I think that drivers consider them as much of a nuisance as those pesky traffic lights.

Weather - It is winter right now. And I am loving every single day of it. Sunny most of the time, in almost three weeks we have had 2 days of overcast weather. Most days it has been 60-ish degrees during the day and at night the coldest it has been was around 45 degrees. This is a winter I can handle. Although I have to laugh every time someone tells me "Manana sera el frio." I have to say "Not to me, to me it is lovely."

Time is a fluid thing. Oh so very true. Nothing ever starts on time. Nothing. Every class I have gone to has started between 15 and 30 minutes late. And it is no issue, that is just the way it is. Almost 3 weeks in and I still show up on time, worried that the one time I come late, they will have started on time. This, I think, will never happen. And restaurants? Dinner service starts around 8:30 at the earliest. Three of us went to a really good Argentinean BBQ restaurant at 7:30 starving, hoping for dinner before a class. The waiter looked aggravated with us, and told us we were very early, but we could order wine and drink until the kitchen was ready to serve. True to form, one hour later we got our dinners. It is just the way it is here. In the States the expectation is that the kitchen makes it self ready for the patrons, here, the patrons wait for the kitchen to make itself ready. A few shops that I have gone into when I ask what time they open in the morning the response invariably is "Mas o menos 11 o 11:30." There is no exact time, there is Mas o Menos.

Speaking Spanish. Or, more precisely, Castellano. You really really really do need to have a basic grasp on Spanish when you come here. I brushed up before coming with a computer program, which was helpful, but since I was not using it every day, I was still rusty. After almost three weeks here, I am comfortable with basic conversation skills. I can hear the language better, and I have stopped saying "Mas despacio, por favor" to all but the really machine gun talkers. The woman at the bakery across the street complimented me this morning on the fact that I ordered and answered her questions perfectly. She said that I had been coming in for weeks now, and today I did not look confused or slightly lost when talking. Whoo hoo! I even answered a woman on the street where Calle Costa Rica was. She did not believe me. And asked someone else, who told her the same thing as me. ha!
But really, if you come here, learn Spanish. It makes things so much easier. Especially when dancing. The younger generation speak some English, but the older generations do not. And standing there in silence in between songs can be painful. Whereas if you can hold a basic conversation, with or without charades, it makes it much more enjoyable.

The tango. What can I say. It is amazing here. Not that everyone here is amazing, that is far from the case. There are the exact same characters here that you know from your local scene. It is just that there are thousands of them here instead of dozens or hundreds. The main thing is that whatever you prefer, whatever style you like, you have options every night of where to go. Very quickly I realized that I much prefer the more traditional milongas. And Sorin prefers the younger generation's milongas. So, we go where we are happy, and then we confer at 3am and hear how the other's night went. Folks are amazed at this. I have been asked multiple times when dancing "Donde es su novio?" I'll reply that he is at Villa Malcolm or La Viruta and they ask how it is that he allows me to go out without him. My answer "Well, actually, it is I that allows him to go out without me." That always gets a huge laugh.

My name is apparently difficult to hear and say here. Especially for the older generation. It is not a name most if not all of the people I meet have ever heard, and they can not pronounce it. I have given up introducing myself as Debbi, and I try Deborah. That sometimes works. But not usually. One gentleman at a milonga decided my name was too difficult, and called me RedHead. He even introduced me as The RedHead to his friends when we stopped in between songs at his table. So at this milonga, I am known as The RedHead. Which I find hilarious. And I am told by a friend who lives here that it is a compliment when the milongueros give you a nickname, and it is very common that they chose a physical feature to name you by. Be it your height, weight, nationality, or, apparently, hair color. I had one octagenarian tell me that he prefers blondes, but redheads are his second favorite. What could I do but laugh at that?! :o)

Speaking of which. Hair. I have never had such great hair days in my entire life. Seriously. This may sound shallow, but I am amazed that my hair is behaving so incredibly well. I don't know if it is the air, the water or the Argentine shampoo and conditioner I bought, but really and truly, my hair is curling perfectly and behaving gorgeously every. single. day. It is unreal. It may be a reason to move here.


Syarzhuk said...

You gotta bring some of that Argentinian shampoo here! I've been having a lot of bad hair days lately


La Tanguerita said...

Lovely. Lots of things that remind me of home - poop, driving, time being fluid.. but also beauty everywhere. Makes me want to go to BA even more.

sighmon said...

strangely enough my hair is also behaving well - but I id buy some good proucts whilst here - we can compaer curl when we meet
Simon (Nel's friend)

Sarah said...

SO funny! I was in BA 3 years ago (pre-tango, so naturally it barely counts) and one of the things I remember most is how beautifully silky my hair was every day! It's definitely the water. (Which I think also made me ill drinking it....)