I arrived in the city three weeks ago, and I could not have wished for a better start. I was blessed with an airplane seat with no one in front of me (lots of legroom) and no one to my left (lots of room to spread my stuff).
I worried about clearing customs. Argentina is notorious for having rabid dogs staff their customs offices. Their latest stunt, which was just now overruled, was to confiscate every book brought into the country, forcing people to reclaim them (by paying out) because the ink could contain lead and thus were potentially poisonous. (Lying thieving mad rabid dogs.)
On board the plane, I got a customs form to sign stating that what I was bringing into Argentina didn’t cost more than $300. Anything above that would be charged by 50% again! I lied and wrote down my cameras, tablet, laptop, mobile phone and other belongings to add up to just under $300, an obvious underestimation to anyone, but I thought that if they could play the crazy game, then so could I. I walked through customs dressed in my most calm face and forcing myself to walk casually. No one even asked for the customs form, so I had been worrying for nothing.
I blagged myself a free shuttle ride from the airport to the city. (It’s not my fault if they thought I belonged to a certain hostel.) My new home lay only a few blocks from where I was dropped off. As I walked there, I got a first glimpse of Buenos Aires. The sun was shining, people were smiling, quaint restaurants and cafes lined the streets and the buildings had that old worn charm of Europe. I felt amazing!
My new home
I knew I had struck gold as soon as I stepped into my new home. The place is divided into two separate places, the main apartment and, across a sun-blessed courtyard, a cosy one-bedroom house with its own kitchen and toilet. That is where I am staying, with all the privacy of a ‘real home’ and plenty of space. The main apartment is a great looking shared space with exposed brick walls and a balcony overlooking the bustling streets below.
Beatrice and Kragen, the people I rent from, are as cool as their flat. Both are chilled out and easy to get along with. She is a photographer and he is a programmer. They organize both board-game evenings and programming days, my two favourite things! They have also taken me out to dinners, bars and even a storytelling evening! (My third favourite thing!)
The location is wonderful. I’m in the middle of San Telmo, the old poor area of town that has lately become trendy and arty. It is also famous for their drums. Every weekend, the sound of heavy drumming echoes throughout the streets of San Telmo, like the quickened heartbeat of the city. You might think that going to sleep with that noise would be annoying, but for some inexplicable reason, I love it!
The only thing bringing the location down is the freak thunder-and-hail storms. Egg-sized hails broke our skylight in what was the most humbling hail storms I’ve ever experienced. [Update: I wrote this post in the middle of a thunderstorm that I now, the next day, found out killed at least 14 people and featured wind speeds up to 100 kph (62 mph).]
What I’ve been up to
I had let my online life slip while skiing in Switzerland, seeing friends in London and cavorting in the US, so much of my first three weeks in Buenos Aires was a mad scramble to get myself back on track. I worked on a couple of website projects, wrote a few articles and did some programming on the blog. (More on this in the next post.)
One of my deliverables (you can take the nomad out of the bank but not the bank out of the nomad) for my time in Buenos Aires was to start working out and get fit. It has been a partial success. The success part is that I have sorted out my diet. There is a fresh produce market outside my door every Saturday where I buy a week’s worth of healthy food for about 220ARS (~$50/£30). I now cook all my own food, something of a miracle to those who know me. (My previous attempts at cooking began with the removing of a film lid and ended in a ping.) I now eat mainly chicken, eggs, ham, turkey and vegetables. The failure bit is that I have not started the actual workouts yet. Maybe tomorrow. (If anyone has a thumb-remover, please send it over.)
I also wanted to learn Tango, and I’ve begun taking some lessons. My best bet, however, is to meet some handsome tango-dancing Argentinian man who doesn’t speak English. That way, I’m forced to learn both tango and Spanish! (If you have one of those, send him over as well!)