Dear readers! Dear me! It’s been almost a month since I posted. My life has gone topsy-turvy since moving to Buenos Aires. I’ve been here almost a month now and I finally feel ground below me, enough to post again.
To make sense of it I will make a list of all the things I’ve been getting used to in this new version of life, so far south on the globe:1) A new apartment: It is the tendency of Americans to plan ahead. Everyone in San Francisco asked me, “Do you know where you are staying?” And I said, “No. I will look when I get there.” As a veteran traveler I know that planning sometimes is not the best way and the best thing to do is just show up. My theory worked. i wound up choosing the first place I saw, two days after I arrived, a gorgeous little one-bedroom owned by a tango teacher that actually feels a lot like home, exquisite aesthetic, a balcony overlooking a tree and a very beautiful street.)
2) A new schedule: When someone asks me to have a drink, he wants to get together at 11 pm. The milongas–events where we go out to dance tango–often get going at midnight and go until 4 am. I often went to bed in San Francisco between 11 pm and midnight. It’s taken me a full month to adjust and not feel terminally groggy during the day.
3) A new climate: Hot! Humid! It’s only primavera (spring) but it’s already in the 90s. What will it be like by January? The humidity however is great for my skin.
4) A new bus system: Now that I know the web page to navigate Buenos Aires’ bus system, I no longer fear it and have the utmost respect for it. (I’m eagerly waiting for Google Maps to integrate transit info.) The “collectivo” (as they call buses “collectivos”) system is the best and cheapest I have ever used. Go “big government”–this is what you get when government invests in infrastructure. The buses run through the night; are safe, civilized, extensive and frequent (as compared to San Francisco, where they buses are full of quite uncivilized behavior); they only cost 25 cents a ride; and you can purchase a card to pay for bus and subway rides. Buenissimo! (Great!)
5) A new language: I already knew Spanish but Argentine Spanish always takes some time to switch from pronouncing “calle” “cayay” to “caizhay” and so on.6) A new way of eating gluten-free: I have celiac disease so eating strictly gluten-free is a must for me; Buenos Aires is really pretty great as far as gluten-free goes. Labeling is extensive and there are many dieteticas with gluten-free empanadas, pastas, and other products. Buenos Aires is ice-cream obsessed. There are gelaterias on every third block and often people buy KILOs of ice cream. I don’t know how they are so skinny and eat so much ice cream. The best part for me is Freddo, an ice cream chain with policies to ensure that celiac customers are served uncomtaminated ice cream. There are no gluten-free products in Argentina without dairy and eggs so I have been forced to let go of those restrictions; I’m no longer following a Paleo diet because that was impossible here and I’m happy to say that’s going A-OK.
7) New politics. Wow, Argentine politics are fascinating. I’ve been surprised to learn that the left-leaning Kirschner government has imposed new policies this year that have dramatically curbed importation of needed products (even things like shoelaces, medicines, and routers, because they want to encourage Argentines to buy Argentine goods) and restricted the sale of dollars to Argentines who want to travel, making it difficult for Argentines to travel outside the country. These policies are supposed to be for the stability of the overall country bu it’s hard to see how they could work in the long run. We live in a global world. (Obvio, as an Argentine would say–obviously.) I arrived in Buenos Aires at a time of protest and change. There will be a hotly debated anti-government protest 8-N (the eighth of November) tomorrow.
8) A new style of dancing tango. In fact, everything I remembered about how Argentines dance tango–more in the moment, more in the music, more in their bodies–is true. Dancing tango here is something else entirely. The level of dance in San Francisco is very high but it lacks the same feeling. The feeling is here. And there are MANY amazing dancers.9) A new cell phone. I love the fact that I am using the kind of brick phone that I first used in San Francisco without Internet. I’m cultivating my ability to be in solitude again when I walk on these beautiful city streets–free of my phone addiction.
10) A new recognition that I am possibly the only one on the streets of Buenos Aires eating and drinking. I have noticed a key American part of me and that is my tendency to eat on the go. NO ONE ELSE DOES THAT HERE! I am the only one! I love to buy a Choco-Arroz, which is a gluten-free rice cake covered with chocolate and with dulce de leche, and an agua con gas, a seltzer water, and eat them while I am waiting for the bus or walking around. I have noticed that I have never seen another human being doing this here. I mentioned it to my friend Roberto and he said, “You are right.” Everyone else buys their choco-arroz or their alfajore and takes them to work to eat at their desk but I resist social pressure and eat on the street. 🙂
11) The men: I don’t know what to say about them yet. Except for, there are a lot of good-looking ones and I see them on the bus! That’s why this is eleven and not part of the ten. Stay tuned.