Ah I’m so happy I wrote my first post as soon as I got on the bus to my hostel. I’m even more glad that after a rocky first 24 hours, I was feeling much better both physically and emotionally. I quickly recognized my lack of vocabulary on the first day, and furthermore the accent here is very challenging. So for those who know Spanish the ‘ll’ is pronounced ‘ch’ and ‘y’ is pronounced ‘sh’. This was really difficult when I was asking directions on the first day because not only was I pronouncing the street names very wrong, but even the word for street- calle – people could not understand. It’s good that I have always been a pretty expressive talker with lots of expressions and hand motions.
The hostel is really wonderful, as most are. It costs me $10 a night to stay, and it’s very clean, and maybe only 35 beds- so it’s not too loud or a constant party. My first day I was so exhausted and the idea of trying to socialize in Spanish was a little more than I could handle. Thankfully now I know most of the people that have been staying here and am much more comfortable attempting to chat in Spanish. For those who have never stayed in a hostel the experience for me is kind of like summer camp. It’s shared rooms, usually with bunk beds, and lots of different travelers of all ages. Most hostels have individual rooms too, and usually I find people who are over 35 or so choose to stay in these rooms. But it’s so nice having so many different people, different ages, different places in one spot.
As the days go on here, my vocabulary is definitely growing. I do much better reading Spanish, which is great because as I walk around I am constantly learning and recognizing different words and building my vocabulary. But because I am struggling with the accent a bit, I have signed up for language classes this week. Today and tomorrow (Monday & Tuesday) are state holidays here for Carnival, so I start on Wednesday.
I really am loving this city so far. It reminds me of a combination of New York, SF, NOLA, and DC. It has each of my favorite things from those cities. Like NY is has a ton of culture and is a very chic city, but like SF it feels much more manageable than NY with fewer people and more open spaces, It has the beautiful architecture like NOLA and the history of mix cultures (Spanish, French, Italian, English), and BA is the capital so all the government building are in the Micro Center. And like in DC most of the buildings are not too tall so you can always see the sky/stars & moon.
My first two night I went out with a couple visiting from Brasil, so I spoke Spanglish, the boyfriend spoke a combination of Portugese and spanish, and luckily the girlfriend was from Czech and spoke very good English. He had grown up with a girl who lives in BA so we met up with her and her boyfriend and went to a local tango spot. Really so incredible! It was in a large warehouse with really awesome art installations all over the walls. The center of the room is open for the dance floor and there are long tables and seats all along the perimeter. We shared a few pitchers of beer and watched as people danced tango. I love that tango is really a part of the culture here and not simple some tourist thing. There are tango shows geared towards tourist, but are very expressive and much more theatrical. Where we were there were dancers of all levels. It’s so interesting to me that strangers join together to dance like this. It’s extremely intimate and personal and requires so much trust to follow your partner without know each person’s style of dance. You could see at the beginning of each song the pairs would wait a few beats feeling one another out. They describe this dance as making love with your clothes on, I can absolutely understand that. When done well, you can feel this outrageous sexual tension between the couple. And these were perfect strangers, it was so cool!
There is so much hospitality here, I have been offered so many free glasses of wine, cafe, desserts. Everyone is just so sweet and patient with my language, and many people will even respond in their broken English to my broken Spanish questions. It’s really nice feeling supported as I learn the language as well as helping another person interested in learning English.
Argentina is experiencing crazy inflation here, so the US dollar goes very far. Officially the rate is something like 8 pesos to 1 dollar, but when you exchange on what they call the blue market you get 12-13 pesos per dollar. Bottles of wine are about 3-10 dollars, most meals with drinks and cafe cost me 10-15. It’s crazy how cheap it is. My bus pass costs me about .40 per ride and the local buses are really plentiful and run on schedule.
Each day I have gone out and explored a new neighborhood, the architecture all over the city is stunning. I spent Sunday at the San Telmo markets. San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood with buildings dating back to the 1600s. It’s also one of the only areas that has the Spanish style buildings because all the other Spanish style buildings were torn down after Argentina won their independence from Spain. The market is incredible! It stretches practically the whole neighborhood, you just snake through street after street closed off to cars and lined with artists selling their goods. There are also a ton of antique stalls, so many pretty and interesting things to look at. I’ll definitely be stocking up on some beautiful pieces of art before I head back home. I grabbed lunch in a cafe surrounding the market and it had this incredible old school feel. There was an older man playing piano and a couple dancing tango. The man dancing tango reminded me so much in looks and personality of Zip! After a few dances with his partner, he approached me and asked me to dance. He spoke no English but his partner came over and urged me to at least try. So I danced tango in a cafe in front of a full room of strangers, they were even so kind to applaud my effort. I could definitely benefit from a class, dancing is certainly not my strong point haha! It’s definitely safe to say I am enjoying myself now, and am very happy I worked through all the butterflies I had about taking this trip. So to the many friends that urged me to just do it, thank you so much- I love you guys and am so lucky to know each of you!