Our trip from San Francisco to Buenos Aires was a lengthy one. It included two long layovers in El Salvador and Lima, Peru. When we arrived in Buenos Aires after 35 grueling hours, we experienced our first South American perception of “on time”, when our scheduled driver arrived an hour and half late to pick us up. Posey was so tired from our journey (or waiting for the driver) that she took a solid nap in her Sherpa. As we drove into the city we could immediately tell there was a celebration. There were happy Argentinians in buses being escorted by the local police. We saw about 15 buses driving down the freeway with people hanging out of the windows, waving Argentina flags and chanting. Later we found out that they were local futbol fans.
When we arrived to our apartment, we were greeted by a neighbor who showed us the logistics of the apartment and made us sandwiches. I don’t know if it was exhaustion or if they were made with love, but those sandwiches were so good! We skyped both of our parents and went to bed. Lying in bed on our first night in our apartment, I cried. Fear rushed over me and I couldn’t hold back my emotions. What had I gotten us into? Would the money we saved be enough? Would we actually be able to generate some income through blogging and virtual assisting to keep us a float? My tears made me even more tired and I drifted off to sleep.
Also on our first night it rained! When I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I realized that our power had gone out. Without power meant no internet, so we couldn’t reach our landlord for help. Luckily, I brought a headlamp and after 15 minutes I found the circuit breaker hidden behind a large poster in the kitchen and turned the power back on.
The next day our goals were to find a bank, set up our new cell phones with international Sim Cards, and get groceries. We found a small grocery store right away only to find out they only take cash. One of the clerks pointed us in the right direction of an ATM. When we found the bank, the door was locked and the security guard waved his finger “NO” at us. Frustrated and confused, we went across the street to a tour group office we just found. One nice guy from the office spoke English and gave us directions to a few other banks close by.
After getting money out, we passed by a small bodega that sold sim cards or “chips”. I had done research on Argentina sim cards to get a sense of what each company offered and decide what the best company was for our needs. There are three companies that offer cellphone and data service, Movistar, Claro, and Personal. We decided to go with Movistar and put $50 Argentine pesos on each of our phones. We later found out (the hard way) that $50 only lasts for 1 week.
Finally, we made it back to the grocery store. I love grocery shopping; however, it is a different experience in Argentina. Sometimes it feels like a game trying to figure out what some items are and at other times it can be stressful and annoying. In the States & especially California we are very fortunate to have beautiful produce year around. So far we’ve only found very small selection of produce. In the future we’ve decided to shop at specialty stores to find better quality and wider variety of items.
I had a pretty positive first impression of our neighborhood and of Buenos Aires. It feels like you are in an Italian or French city with the very neoclassical architecture and cobblestone streets, though the vibe is a little bit grittier and more colorful. It’s not the cleanest city and there are a few stray dogs running around. There is also a lot of graffiti and street art on all the buildings. The people have been very nice and are understanding of our very broken Spanish. Our neighborhood is filled with restaurants, bars, and bodegas. There is a mix of classical antique shops and funky stores selling interesting and vibrant clothes and trinkets. The city feels very much alive especially after dark. We’ve adjusted pretty well to having a late lunch, usually around 2 or 3 pm and going out to dinner around 9 pm.
The rest of our week was pretty low key. I was busy working on my blog post, His, Hers & the Dog's Packing List and the cold Fall temperatures discouraged us from doing too much. We also wanted to be cautious about spending too much money. We did enjoy a few nice meals out including a fantastic steak dinner at a nearby restaurant called Babieca Parrilla. Though it was a great meal, our waiter seemed to make several mistakes including bringing me a different entrée and charging us more for certain items. I wish my Spanish was stronger so that I felt confident to say something. Drew suggested in the future we keep a menu in Spanish with us so that we can order our food in Spanish and double check the bill.
On Friday, we woke up to loud drumming, motorcycles, and firecrackers, which lasted from about 10 am to 5 pm. We had no idea what was going on so we went to out rooftop deck to find out. Later in the day we walked around the neighborhood to learn that the "marcha" was happening on almost every block and there were different groups representing their own flags and colors. Some streets were so crowded that we couldn't cross. It seemed as if everyone in the city had the day off and took to the streets. At first we thought it might be a protest or something to do with football. Later we found out that it was a political march of the five unions in Buenos Aires. Poor Posey was so scared from the loud noises!
On Sunday we decided to check out the famous Feria de San Telmo, an outdoor street fair with hundreds of vendors selling beautiful antiques, unique souvenirs, and art. At the Plaza Dorrego, there were several people dancing the tango and other creative street performers including windblown living statues and reggae bands. Throughout the fair there were vendors selling tasty treats likes churros, burritos, roasted nuts, dulce de leche filled crepes, grilled sausage sandwiches and empanadas. I bought a packet of incenses & a geometric sports bra and Drew got a bracelet & a wallet. It was a fun way to explore our neighborhood and end our first week.
What's your favorite way to explore a new city?
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