Buenos Aires-part 1...delayed but here now

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Our little terrace
Sorry for the delay in writing, but there are just so many distractions. Today I arrived at 9 de Julio, a small town named after the Argentina’s Independence Day. Unlike Buenos Aires the pace is slow and I knew that I would be able to focus here at the Monastery Carmelo with the Hermanas Descalzadas (shoeless) Carmelitas. My mother’s aunt on my grandfathers side is a nun here and I will be staying with her for the next four days doing I have no idea what…I guess writing this blog and relaxing.

I was quite nervous about staying here for four days. What clothes would I bring? What customs do I need to learn? What if I cannot understand a word they say? What would I do? I was relieved though today at the singing service because the sisters were all wearing their get-ups with flip flops or teva style shoes.
Jam packed: The Subte at Carlos Gardel, B line
Actually, it was quite entertaining, watching them all and how they postured with each other. Some of them had instruments, the typical organ and guitar, also a recorder, and a mini handheld keyboard, which was played by the tinniest old lady María Carmen, who rocks and founded the convent. The guitar player was the authority on the music. You should have seen the face she made when the head nun, Prioria María (there are a lot of Marías), started a song off key. I almost laughed out loud. So I had nothing to fear, they are just human, a bunch of loveable little ladies.

It will take some adjusting to get used to their schedule of getting up at 5:30 in the morning, siesta, and going to bed early after I have become accustomed to staying out until they get up and waking up when siesta would be starting here.
Fernan Fiero Tango Group
I think I will be adjusted right before I head to Chilecito on Monday where the stay out ‘til the sun comes up starts again.

Once you get out of the city the landscape turns rural, much like the States, except here there aren’t any cities popping up along the freeway. There are small ones on the interior and that is about it. In between and all around there are free roaming cows grazing on the flat grassy pastures, fields of wheat, corn, and soy. There are a lot of signs for genetically engineered seeds and pesticides, but for some reason all the people in Buenos Aires (BsAs) think that the produce is organic. I guess many haven’t really left the city.

And actually not leaving the city is pretty easy.
Carlos Capello School of Dance
While it is not the largest city in terms of square miles there are a lot of people in extremely dense buildings. There is so much creativity and so much to do and I still have so much to see. To get away most people go to Tigre, which is a spread of small islands. A lot of wealthy people have homes are their including the sister of my landlords who is married a very famous futbolista. But I missed my chance to go this time because my friend from the States was coming into town and only for a short time. The other place is Mar de Plata, which is the beach about 5 hours away that everyone goes to for a couple of days (the waters bordering the city are filthy).

I landed in BsAs on the 14th November bright and early and well rested.
Historic tango district in Abasto
I slept nearly the whole way on my 12 hour flight. My soon to be landlords arranged to have Pablo the family cab man pick me up from the airport and take me to my new place in barrio Abasto. My landlords were anxiously awaiting my arrival, very cheery and nice like we were long lost family. My roommates, one from France and the other from Holland, later told me that it was because they wanted to me to stay there. It is the slow season, it is relatively expensive, and there are problems with the place, but I will save the negativity. Here is a link with a well done video of the place.

The house was only a few blocks from the B subway line, subte, which takes passengers into the center of the city. In fact, all but one line takes everyone into and out of the center of the city, which makes vertical travel difficult.
Trang and me
If I want to take the subte I would have to take it all the in to take in out on another radial, but some times this is actually faster than taking one of the 300 possible bus lines, or colectivos, that are always victim to traffic. Not to mention that these buses, especially the old ones and most of them were old, had the worst air pollution ever! They would release a curtain of black smoke that just hung in the air. I was always sick with allergies because of this, the pollution from the other cars, and it is spring.

One could also take a taxi, of which there are 38,000 in the city. According to one driver, that is more than any major city in the world. Pretty impressive huh. And fortunately for all of us they have to meet emission standards. Now if only the city to get its own buses on the standard and then everyone else. All of the taxis generally look the same black with yellow tops. The main company is Radio Taxi and most say that you should take one of them, but there are others that I am sure are fine. I used all modes, but mostly walked and took the subte.

My neighborhood used to be the main area to get anything you needed to make cheese and is home to one of the most historic tango districts in the city. In fact, my subte station is named after one of the most famous tango singers in Argentine history Carlos Gardel and his face is everywhere. I mean all over. The first night I got there I went with one of my roommates to a tango club, warehouse conversion. I had my first two classes here and saw an amazing tango band made up of young folks called Fernan Fiero, which is also the name of the club. The show is very popular and powerful, so much emotion in the music. I felt like I had watched the best love, horror, adventure, and drama movies when I left there. Definitely inspiring.

Not too long ago tango was the dance and the music of the old timers, but about 20 years ago there was a resurgence in the youth. Toursits came wanting to know the dance and it was reborn due to a lot of job opportunities that now presented themselves. But the elders still got it the best. At one very very popular dance lounge called La Viruta in barrio Palermo, the young women and very happy to dance with them because they really know what they are doing and can teach them a few these.

I went to Fernan Fiero the next Wednesday, but realized that if I wanted to learn then one Wednesday a week, when I only had four was not going to cut it. So the women referred me to a dance studio called Carlos Capello, who is one of the most famous tango dancers in Argentina. Of course he is in New York now working, but the school was very good and satisfactory. My two teachers were Juan P and Rocío, 20 and 23 years of age respectively. One day we had a substitute female and she was only 15. Crazy. I went to class nearly everyday that they had it, which was everyday except Thursdays.

They teach salon tango, which is the slow do not take your feet off the ground very much style. There is also Milonga, which is danced in a circle, quickly, and you can take your foot off the ground. Both of which are great. I did alright and in the end they were very proud of me. But I was there so much that they started to really get on me… “bend your knee….that is too much…chest first…knees together…relax”….ahhhh so many details. I felt like I understood less in the end then when I started, but it is more likely that they just didn’t tell me at first. A lot of tourists came to their classes and while she spoke some broken english I became the official interpreter. When I get back in March I hope to officially exchange tango lessons for english lessons. Maybe I can add in a little salsa to sweeten the deal.

I also explored the world of salsa dancing in BsAs and was pleasantly surprised to find it all over. It is very popular and fortunately there is a large Cuban presence there. I did not take any classes, but will likely when I get back. I went to one Cuban restaurant and was fortunate to see one guy dance with the waitress and they were the best I have ever seen in person. They must have been from Cuba. She followed like it was nothing, almost starring off like she was bored by it all…Soon that will be me, but with a smile.
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Our little terrace
Our little terrace
Jam packed: The Subte at Carlos Ga…
Jam packed: The Subte at Carlos G…
Fernan Fiero Tango Group
Fernan Fiero Tango Group
Carlos Capello School of Dance
Carlos Capello School of Dance
Historic tango district in Abasto
Historic tango district in Abasto
Trang and me
Trang and me