Day 5: Jewish sites, San Telmo feria

Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 26, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 5: Jewish sites, San Telmo feria, Buenos Aires
Art Suites, Sunday, December 7th

We sleep in after our night on the town last night!  We're dancing and grooving to the Buenos Aires beat and music, but now we are exhausted!  And I have blisters on my toes to show for it!  Today is our last day in Buenos Aires.  What to do?

After reviewing our BA possibilities list, we discuss some possibilities.  Harvey says that he wants to go to the Jewish area and then go over to the feria at San Telmo, which is supposed to have tango music and dancers.  In the Frommers and Fodors guides, there is the recommendation of a privately guided Jewish tour possibility, but no information for a self-guided tour.  From my prior reading, I know that there are two memorials for the bombing of the Israel embassy and the Jewish Community Center (JCC).  On our BA map, I find the Israel embassy memorial, but the JCC and the Ashkenazi and Sephardic synagogues are not shown.  I google these and find the BA JCC website with the address displayed, as well as someone's blog saying that the synagogues are in the same area (but no address is given).  I also see that there is a Jewish Museum that has limited hours, but isn't open on Sundays.  That's enough to give us direction for the day.  We'll do some recognizance on the ground walking and hopefully all will be revealed and we will find the JCC memorial and the synagogues, get a feel for the Jewish area - and who knows, maybe even find a delicatessen for lunch!

The JCC is not far from our apartment, so we start in that direction and within less than 15 minutes, we see black boards on a building with people's names and also a section with memorial candles.  This must be the JCC that was bombed, although there is no sign to indicate that.  I am standing across the street taking photos of the boards and the building and Harvey crosses the street to see if the doors to the building are open.  Someone comes out from another entrance and asks us to come over. He wants to know where we are from and if he could please see the photos I have taken.    He asks me to delete those that show the building, but allows me to keep the ones of the boards and names.   After I delete the requested photos, he asks to see each photo again, double-checking that I have in fact deleted the photos.  We step away from the building and wonder how he observed us; there must be cameras, but they are well disguised.  Clearly, the BA Jewish community is concerned about security. This not unlike Israel that we visited earlier this year.   However, here in BA, the Jewish community appears to not be drawing attention to itself as a form of security.  We understand that the BA Jewish community is quite large, and appears to be not clearly visible.  We understand now that one really needs to get a private guide to get a window into this community. 

We decide to try to find the synagogues.  We walk around several blocks that have closed stores and apartments above them.  We talk about the lower East side of New York and how similar it is from a living arrangement perspective.  We ask a few people where the synagogue is and they do not know.  Harvey sees an orthodox man in traditional dress, but by the time he gets to him he has opened a door and disappears.  Finally, we see one synagogue, with no name, the only distinguishing feature of an otherwise ordinary building, is the Jewish star over the door.  The door is a solid metal door painted yellow.  We decide not to take a photo or write down the address.   Where is the second one?

We finally find a policeman and when we ask him, where is the synagogue, he does not know.  We find this strange, but then a woman comes up to ask the policeman something and she joins in the conversation.  Oh, our Spanish!  We say "sin-a-gog" and when we say "sin-o-gog", they know immediately and direct us!  Just one syllable change!  We must be very difficult to understand, but portenos seem to have so much patience with us!  We walk around the block and we are talking about what looks like a security station but with no one inside and then we look back and see that we just passed the other synagogue!  It is another nondescript building, with no adornment whatsoever, just a granite front with a Jewish star over the door.  We are somewhat stunned.  Security is clearly an issue here as in Israel.  We wonder what it is like to have to live with such security.

We find a taxi and go to San Telmo feria.  On the way, we learn that the taxi driver has a daughter living in Denver.  We have met numerous portenos who have family in the U.S.  We are left off on Defensa Street where there is only pedestrians today.  The street is lined with vendors of all sorts - knives, wood products, jewelry, knit and wood goods, etc.  There are also individual and groups of musicians.  A silver pendant catches my eye.  I am surprised that it has a Jewish star...we look at variations of the design, and speak with the artist to find out the cost.  We do not have much cash with us, so we say we will think about it.  We are getting hungry and decide to see what we can find to eat on a side street.  A small very casual restaurant catches our attention and we find seats.  We choose a mini-pizza and "complete salad", which at this place comes with beets, potatoes, and lettuce.  The pizza has little cheese, but with an olive bruchetta type sauce that is yummy.  The windows are open to the street and we watch people pass by.  A young girl comes in to beg and the waitress so very sweetly asks her to leave. The girl is treated with respect and care, but firmly asked to leave.  Beautifully done. 

Over lunch, Harvey talks about a guest speaker he heard in graduate school who spoke about life and death buyers.  He said that death buyers are those who buy things to protect something, like protective heel taps on a shoe sole, and life buyers are those who buy products or activities for pleasure, like boats, cars, etc. The Argentine economy has had many twists and turns, causing Argentinians to not put their money in banks or seek credit; this is a cash based economy and combined with a history of inflation, people use cash and spend according to what they can afford. We talk about one of the takeways from Buenos Aires is the living for the now, because one is unsure of the future.  We decide to go back for the pendant that we saw earlier and also for a photo of Harvey dancing with two female tango dancers.  It's the time in our life to lighten up, get in the rhythm of things and relax - have fun, be more playful!

Harvey poses with the female tango dancers as I snap photos with our digital camera.  He looks great surrounded by two attractive women!  And for $3 we have fun and have a photo to show it!  We purchase the silver pendant that we saw earlier, with an extra silver necklace that I can use that for the Israeli pendant that we purchased 37 years ago in Israel.  Finally, we have a replacement for the silver necklace that broke years ago!   Both actions are affirmations for living for today!

We are now totally overwhelmed by the crowds and the number of people and decide to head back to the main street where we can find a taxi.  Along the way, we spot an opportunity for fresh squeezed orange juice!  The woman before us pays with a 20 peso bill and is told that it is fake.  We ask how they know, and they hold up the fake and a real bill to the sun and we can see in the real bill a watermark that is not on the fake.  Lesson learned.  And yes, the orange juice was really, really good!

We rest for a bit in the apartment and then decide to go for a very light and early dinner.  We return to Celetto where we have homemade pasta with a sauce that we request - a combination of different options on their menu, which they agree to 'no problem'.  That along with a caesar salad with chicken and we are very happy.

A pleasant way to end an interesting day!

Today's photos!
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