Friday, December 31, 2010

Buenos Aires

It took me a long time to get used to Buenos Aires coming from Colombia. Part of the reason was I was staying with a friend whom I had met 3 years ago in Egypt. He lives outside of Buenos Aires close to the Airport in a place called Luis Guillon. I had to take the train into the Capital to do my sightseeing. After a long flight and a rest in my friend’s house I couldn’t wait until the day that I could see the famous Buenos Aires.

My first trip in I took a bus which was more expensive than the train but my friend suggested it and wanted me to get used to the city before taking the train. Right before arriving in the centre an old man got out of the bus and as he shut the sliding door it came right off which forced me to change buses. I was a bit disorientated but I got off when everyone else did right in the middle of tall buildings and on a street that had 17 lanes of traffic from one side to the other. This was the centre? I didn’t really know where to go and I didn’t want to walk around like a tourist with a map in front of my face so I just started walking. I was in crowds of hundreds of people walking the streets and crossing the intersections. I felt claustrophobic like I was getting squished by the mob and the buildings around me were falling in on me. Buenos Aires is a massive city, I have been to the capitals of other Latin American Countries but they are nothing like Buenos Aires. They are big in space but Buenos Aires is a world of its own huge with millions of people, massive buildings, and an incredible amount of traffic, seventeen lanes of cars zipping all around you in the city centre. I walked and walked and walked remembering some girls I had met in Colombia telling me they stayed in San Telmo so I aimed for there it must be a nice place. Eventually the tall buildings resided and gave way to old historic buildings with antique shops. This is a place my father would love. San Telmo was nice but when I thought of an old town images of Cartagena come to my head. I had to shake these thoughts of Colombia. I had to stop comparing. I arrived to plaza Dorrego which is lined with bars and cafes all with offers of a free tango show. I wanted to watch but I still wanted used to the prices in Argentina and figured this is where they were going to rip you off. I walked around the outside where all the hippy artisans were selling they’re goods. The first person to talk to me in Buenos Aires was a Colombian hippy who made me a wire flower and chatted me up to entice me to buy some of his jewellery. Of all the people in Buenos Aires I end up chatting with a Colombian. It was nice though, a familiar accent. After San Telmo I decided to find the tourist mecca in La Boca but I didn’t know the name of the street with all the brightly coloured buildings I just thought I would run into it somehow. I found the football stadium but no touristic tango shows and souvenir shops. I tried following a double Decker tour bus but that didn’t work out so well for me. Eventually I gave up and returned to Monte Grande. After riding the train I emerged to calm, peace and quiet, it was like I could finally exhale. I never was a huge fan of big cities but this was the first time I really felt like a country girl, out of place. Most other places I have traveled to in Latin America have been small beach or mountain villages or slightly bigger cities but full of character and charm. There was always a beach to escape to if I was in a large city like Lima or Cartagena or beautiful little colonial bohemian centers like in Bogota or Quito. Buenos Aires is large, intimidating, modern, westernized. BA is a strange mix of Italian culture, Spanish language, and sprinkles of everything else.It seems anything goes in Buenos Aires as far as fashion and culture. People don't really claim to be Argentinean they claim their European roots no matter how far back. They don't seem to want to be South American but at the same time they are clearly not European. Portenos are definitely very different from the rest of Argentina. This was my first impression of the city I had still yet to learn tango, drink fantstic wines and eat some Argentinean beef.

My English friends whom I traveled with last year told me out of South America they liked Bolivia and Brazil the best. My one English girlfriend told me she actually didn't like Argentina at all. However my future traveling partner Tracy from Australia lived here for over a year and loves it. I was determined to find out for myself. I know it all depends on the experiences you have in a place and who you meet so you never know.

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