There is always a thrill, a nervous energy, a sense of adventure about moving to a new place. Particularly in a foreign country. Particularly when you don’t yet speak the language. This is why I moved to Argentina: to learn new skills, make new friends, and push beyond my comfort zone to truly engage in life here and come back a more complete man.
The first two weeks have been amazing, full of exploration: new barrios, new characters, new rhythms of life. The days revolve around the nights, which don’t begin until almost the next day. It is not unusual at all to see families out to dinner at midnight, and you don’t even think about going to the bar until 2am. It’s funny how quickly the adjustment happens: you begin to schedule your breakfasts for noon and learn to drape a shirt over your face so that the sun doesn’t wake you before. I get a kick out of hearing people refer to the time “8 in the afternoon”.
These late nights have introduced me to a fantastic array of people here in Buenos Aires: some friends of friends (expats and Argentines alike), some old friends here for one reason or another, many Couchsurfers, and some wacky randoms. Most have been fun, all have been interesting. Made friends by joining a group of young porteños doing coordinated dance in the park: I thought it was a community exercise thing, they were confused why a random American hopped in the middle of their dance school rehearsal for Carnival.
My days here are both leisurely and quite busy. While I set my own schedule, there is much to be done to settle in. The search for a suitable apartment has taken quite a lot of time, as has finding a good language school. When I get back from Brazil at the end of the month, next on the list is finding a tango instructor. I attended my first group lesson last week and was quite taken with the beauty of the dance. For inspiration, a few friends and I went to a legit non-touristy milonga and were intrigued by the complex social scene. There is a rigid hierarchy that becomes quickly apparent. No one will dance with a partner less skilled than they, lest others see the pairing and judge. One cannot ask for a dance with the mouth, only with the eyes. The men have all the power: beautiful and elegant women sit by themselves all around the room waiting to be invited. He who has moves is king: the most unattractive, beer-bellied, squinty, troll-like man there lorded the room because he glides like a butterfly wearing a silk kimono. It was a fascinating study, and I cannot wait to return with a few months of lessons under my belt.
A few other miscellaneous observations about Buenos Aires:
- Napkins are not made of paper. They are made of non-absorbant wax paper. Perfect for the dollop of sauce at the corner of your mouth that you’d like to smear all over your face.
- The peso-dollar exchange rate is AWESOME. While I’m told that I will grow stingy soon, I still feel like I’m getting away with larceny. The only challenge with money is that there is a coin shortage in Argentina, and monedas are necessary to ride the bus. Stores are reluctant to give change, and at the bank, $12 will only get you $10 worth of coins.
- There is dog poop everywhere. Even (especially) in the nicer neighborhoods.
- The steaks are amazing, and a nice one will set you back around ten bucks. I was eating them at a better than one-a-day clip at first, though now am moderating to only two days out of three.
- The mullet and rat-tail are quite popular among the Argentine men. The drullet (dreadlock mullet) is my favorite, though I appreciated the mullrat (mullet with the party in back separated into several braided rat tails) that I waited behind in line yesterday.
- I’m not as bad at Spanish as I thought, but still pretty bad: just coherent enough to make people smile when I try. Also, I tend to break into Mama’s Russian accent when I can’t remember a word.
Now I am off for my first adventure outside of Argentina. The plan is to spend a few days at Iguazu Falls, a few in São Paulo, fly up to meet my good friend Nate in Salvador, split Carnival between Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, and a few more days in Rio before coming home to BA at the end of the month.
Take care out there and stay warm!