I can’t believe a fast month has gone by since I touched down at Ezeiza International Airport in early February. I remember taxi’s and people in stores asking me how long I had been here and it really feels like yesterday when I was able to say, “3 days, a week, a little more than a week”…and now my answer is more along the lines of, “I only have two more months left!”
So much has happened since my awful foot infection entry—and all for the better! Javier had invited me for an extra long weekend to Posadas, right near the famous Iguazú falls that I have yet to see, for his grandmothers 90th birthday party. This past Monday AND Tuesday were holidays for “Carnaval” even though it’s really all in Brazil. I had just landed my bike guiding job and was ready to get started and not delay the training any longer, so I decided not to go away and stayed for the long weekend. This city swallows Boston with its 14 million people. This weekend broke a record for the amount of Porteños who left the city for the beaches and other destinations, thus experiencing what it’s like when an international city is literally abandoned for 5 days and one does not have to fight for space on the bus or subway or train. Walking around my neighborhood, I felt like I could’ve been transplanted to Newmarket, NH over night.
Friday I started training, against doctor’s orders, and after attending the BBQ (Asado) at Jenn’s apartment, I met Carina, a 27 year old fabulous chica, and we automatically found ourselves swapping numbers and planning to hang out over the long weekend. This resulted in meeting up with some of her friends on Saturday night and then on Tuesday night hearing about an amazing event on the 21st floor roof top of a chic hotel in the city, with free drinks and music all evening to watch the sun go down.
I arrived late, but it was a fabulous party that kept me up until 2:30 in the morning, with an 8 hour bike shift to work the next day, followed by soccer at 10:30 at night. Today—Friday is my first day off in a while and with my body aching everywhere, I am completely taking advantage of my day off! (Plus the guys at the café I always use for internet saw me walking home yesterday and were wondering what happened to me since I practically lived there for the first 2 weeks of my stay here—I’ll have to go pay a visit today!)
I continued to train on Saturday and learn more of our 3 tours we offer, one to the north of the city (rich/exclusive neighborhoods), one to the south of the city (tango district, working class), and one 5.5 hour tour (it really is more like 7) to the rich suburbs of the city with a combo of the commuter rail and bike. It’s a lot of information and a bit of hustle to remember each turn, but since this long weekend, I have worked two double shifts, two days in a row, at about 4 hours per tour each, in about 90 degree humidity.
I now have our South tour completely memorized, but remain overwhelmed at the amount of information that comes along with a 4 hour tour—especially being a North American, trying to explain all the history about Argentina! Normally the tours are in English, but my first tour alone was a woman from Chile and her friend from California and a young grad student from D.C who really didn’t speak any Spanish. The Chile woman asked for the tour in Spanish and so for 4 hours I would explain everything I could in Spanish and then make sure the young grad student understood everything and then I got a little lost but found my way around the Tango district–La Boca (the ghetto at night), and finally we finished, and my first solo tour was finally behind me!
Saturday and Sunday welcomed me with two very exciting Skype dates: 1 with my parents and sister, for the first time since I left Boston, and another from Andres, my buddy in Boston who I first met by staying in his place in Madrid in 2009 (through my friend Travis—I’ll leave it at that, it’s a connection to long to explain!). Since January Andres has been going through the rigorous Backroads application process that I got to know very well last year. He had his hiring event in California on Thursday and by Saturday night over Skype he was able to call me and tell me that we were going to be co-workers starting in May! I am beyond ecstatic for him, as he speaks fluent Spanish and Italian and will train in France with Backroads and I assume be sent straight to Sicily, where he lived for some time. It was thrilling to be able to help him through the process and re-live what I went through last year. I told him he should tell Backroads that he can only lead in Europe if his partner in crime (that’s me!) can come with him. =)
I thought after living in the city for a month, save for some weekend side trips, that it’d be appropriate to point out “lo bueno y lo malo” of Argentine life and it’s idiosyncrasies that I have observed thus far.
Lo bueno: Every time you order a coffee, or glass of wine, it is always accompanied by a little shot of soda water or orange juice, or both, and little crackers or a sweet treat. It’s like a little glamorous package that you never expect when you sit down and order a coffee.
Lo malo: There is very very little awareness of recycling here and even less awareness or rules over picking up your dog’s poop, thus having to always watch your step on every block of every side walk—it’s really a shame.
Lo bueno: Argentines are definitely known for being more on the liberal side compared to their conservative neighbors in Chile. This can be interpreted in many different degrees, as in it kind of justifies the amount of making out in public parks and spaces that you can observe at any hour, and any day.
Lo malo: The Argentines joke that they “give away babies here”—as in, there is noticeably low awareness around safe sex.
Lo bueno: Since I had the T.V remote control all to myself for 5 days, I discovered that Glee, Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men, and many other hilarious sitcoms are on the T.V here, as well as many movies channels.
Lo malo: I work for about $3 an hour, with no guarantee of tips. Time to start trying to teach English!
Lo bueno: Every single guide in the company is your ideal co-worker—funny, nice, patient, generous, hardworking, and outgoing, and with many being from Argentina, they are always teaching me so much about their history and the neat facts that only natives would know.
Lo bueno: Everywhere you go, whether it’s standing in line at the pharmacy (with my foot troubles, I had quite the experience in this), standing on the metro, or getting on a bus, if a pregnant woman is around, everyone allows her to go first and everyone is quick to give up their seat and join the crowd of sardines on public transportation.
Lo malo: The way in which expecting mothers are given the royal treatment, does not mean that women are definitely treated as equals in other aspects of Argentine life.
Lo bueno: Argentina’s president is a female, Cristina Kirshner.
Lo bueno: Busses, subway, and trains are about 30 cents to ride across the entire city—and there are hundreds of bus lines to get you anywhere you need to go.
Lo malo: Every morning I head to the center of the city, I literally arrive sweating and suffocated by the feeling that all 14 million inhabitants of the city were all shoved on my one subway car or bus. Yesterday I attempted to take the local commuter rail, thinking it would be much more comfortable arriving to work, actually feeling like I had showered, and instead the train was so full and late, I couldn’t get on, and had to pay for a taxi to bring me across my neighborhood to the other commuter rail line and then fight for space on that train. I have exhausted all options for commuting in to the city! I think I will have to try a bike route now that Roberta and I cleaned up her bikes and I have one to use for the next 2 months.
Lo bueno: Every day I talk to someone new, a door man, a taxi driver, a server in a café, that always asks where I’m from and then begins to have a conversation with me that lasts at least a half hour. The kindness amongst city dwellers here always makes me smile.
Lo malo: Some things are so backwards here, as in some of the ways in which business is done. I was talking to Ana—soccer pal and bike guide about things I would change within the bike company and her response was, “I know. Argentina is like the land of missed economic opportunity.”
Lo malo: There is a large lack of fiber in the Argentine diet here. You have to go out of your way to make sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs!
Lo gracioso (funny): I thought it was just my job that has a 20% bonus per month when we are paid for punctuality and attendance, until I went to dinner with my friend Luisina last night and she said it’s somewhat common and her work has it too. I suppose it makes sense when it’s typical to stay out on weeknights past midnight and have to be at work by 8 or 9 in the morning! Since when did full grown employees need incentives to show up to work on time? This makes me laugh.
Mi favorito: Playing soccer on Wednesdays nights (especially after taking a break with my foot infection) until 12:30 at night with Brazilians, Americans, and Argentines, shouting in English, Spanish, and Spanglish.
There are a lot of aspects of daily living here that I always forget to write down and remember to report on, but there’s a start. Above everything, I love what my daily experiences bring me every day here and look forward to 2 more months of adjusting to a different culture, in all its good, bad, strange, and inexplicable ways.