Buses, Beef, and La Boca

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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After several days of hording coins for the bus I had finally accumulated enough to take one today. Rather than go through the effort of figuring out which bus to take to a specific destination, I decided to let the bus be the destination. I went to the bus stop and hopped on the first bus that passed. To be honest I was being a little over-dramatic in my expectations for the bus ride. From the street the run down buses appear to be driven by wannabe car rally drivers. In reality the buses were clean, logical, and remarkably like riding the bus in Vancouver. The bus took me to La Boca and I decided to go to the Museo Bocanesque about the soccer team Boca Juniors. Included in the entry fee was a stadium tour. As I was the only Anglophone in the group I had a private tour with an English speaking guide while 30 people followed around the Spanish Guide. The stadium looked quite different from the Racings stadium and is too small for its fanbase but unable to expand because the houses of the neighbourhood come within 10 ft of the stadium. My guide explained that one reason that Boca is such a dominant team is that their soccer pitch is much smaller than a regulation soccer pitch and as a result many teams have difficulty adjusting when they play there.
After my tour I was feeling a bit peckish. I decided it was finally time for me to try some of the famed Argentine beef. I went into a restaurant and in halting Spanish order a Bife de Chorizo and a Coke (or as we say in Argentina Coca Coca). A piece of meat the length and breadth of my forearm arrived at my table accompanied by fries. The meat was perfect and tender. The whole meal including a generous tip cost 6$ Canadian which makes me wonder why (other than the health of my arteries) I haven´t been eating steak for dinner every night.

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Yesterday, I went for a long walk through some of the less touristy neighbourhoods of the city. I wanted to see the places where real Portenos (the people of Buenos Aires) do their laundry, buy their dog food, and take their children to play. The big plazas may be the political centres of the city but it is in the small parks and alleys that the real life exists. My route did not encounter many big tourist attractions but took me to places where I could watch old men sit and drink their yerba mate out of a traditional mate gourd, children chase geese and pigeons by a lake, and women hang their washing out on their balconies. It made me realise that although traditions and customs around the world vary greatly, you will always find the elderly contemplating their lives, children playing, and laundry being done. It makes me wonder why people always focus on the ways that they differ rather than on the ways that they are the same.

In the evening, I went to watch Racings play Newell in an Argentinian futbol match. I had originally wanted to see La Boca jrs (another Buenos Aires team) play but they do not play until Sunday night and I leave Buenos Aires Sunday morning. I was picked up from my hostel in a van containing a father and son from Venezuala, a couple from Japan, two hispanics from New York, and some guys from Brazil and Mexico. We had a guide who took us to our seats and answered all of our questions. The seats were good but I couldn´t help feeling that I wasn´t getting the true experience of watching a futbol game sitting in the stands when the real fervour and passion was occuring in the standing room only. In the standing room, people jumped, sang, waved flags, set off flares (I wouldn´t give these people fire), and cheered so loud the stadium shook. We sat and hunkered down in our layers of jackets trying to keep warm. The game was quite entertaining but I found myself watching the people and examining the stadium more than the play itself. The stadium is built like a prison. There is a moat surrounding the field complete with barbed wire. The fans of each team stand in separate areas protected by fences, a no man´s land, and police in full riot gear. At the end of the game, all of Newell´s fans were let out of the stadium before the Racings fans were released. There were no riots but you could tell that it wasn´t out of the possibility. I think to truely experience a game you have to brave the insanity of the standing room and wear your team colours proudly. As a woman travelling alone I didn´t think this was wise. I enjoyed my experience but next time I would wear more clothes and join the real fans.

Today is my last day in Buenos Aires. Tomorrow, I will take the ferry to Uruguay, where I will start my Spanish classes on Monday.