So far I have spent the majority of my time in Buenos Aires. I didn’t have a plan when I arrived of how long I would like to stay in each place (or even what places I would go to), I certainly didn’t think l’d spend nearly half my time in BA. But I am a city girl at heart and BA is a truly wonderful city. I never felt ready to leave, there was always something more I wanted to see or do. I really didn’t do anything noteworthy or amazing, just living in the city: grocery shopping, looking for yoga classes, doing my laundry (which here they don’t have laundromats they wash and fold your clothes for you-fancy, huh), sipping espressos. I would wake up each morning and choose a direction to head from the hostel and meander about. My horrendous sense of direction was both an asset and a detriment to my meandering. I came across so many things and places that I hadn’t intended and then would have to figure out how to get back to the center of town. Good practice for navigating, but in a city that has a funny orientation and as someone who still has to say “Never Eat Soggy Waffles”to figure out North, East, South, West there were some frustrating moments.
I took two short days of class to refresh my Spanish and better understand the accent of Argentina. When I showed up thirty minutes late each day because I had made two different wrong turns on both days, I was certainly aggravated to have lost that practice time. Even more aggravating was when I would try and ask someone in a shop if I was heading in the right direction, (asking in Spanish) they would tell me to wait while they got someone that spoke English. And I fully understand they may think they are being helpful, but it felt more and more insulting. The days I took classes were the only exasperating days I have had so far. My courses were in a part of town equivalent to midtown/time square area as far as congestion goes, not as far as the number of tourists. In fact, I have a hard time picking out who is from the city because everyone is an immigrant here (like in NYC) so unless you look like a universal tourist, you could be anyone here. Unless of course you live here, and then they have a very easy time picking out who is who and from where. I will likely never master that.
What added to my frustration those two days was a combination of things beyond my lacking sense of direction. Here people do not smile, say hello, or make eye contact when passing one another on the street. Even if it is just one other person on the side walk. I asked someone about it, and they thought it was very strange that you would bother someone else walking by to say hello. I countered that it seemed rude to not at all acknowledge another person crossing your path. Furthermore, when walking on the street no rules apply to staying to the right. I understand you may criss cross and you try to get ahead of a large crowd. But again, with a few people on a street- it’s common to remain on the left and make the other person move to their left to get out of your way. I was starting to get up on my soap box after those two days. Even in the States I find myself defending NY/NJ; people are really much nicer than TV and movies may have you believe. But walking about BA those days I started thinking, how the hell is it that NY/NJ has such notoriety for being rude and aggressive. I was pleased to later on air my frustrations with people who were not born Porteños (the name given to those who live in Buenos Aires) but had been living here some time. They agreed that those from BA are certainly more self centered, which in turn can come across as very rude to other people. One person joked that to other people in the country Porteños require to see a passport. So while it’s more likely for someone to smile, say hello, or make eye contact walking about NYC, they both have a sense of there is us and everyone else. But I think that happens when you are the only major city in the region. Albany and Syracuse sit down.