A Whole New Hemisphere

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End May 15, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Monday, November 29, 2010

    It's time for the next segment of the trip. For this segment, Mara and I will not have the comfort of the home base that was her parents house in Seoul. Rather, we will be finding or own accommodation each and every night as we travel throughout the Southern half of the South American continent. Our starting point, and arrival destination was Buenos Aires, Argentina. To get there we made a 32 hour journey which included a car ride from Tampa to Miami, then a flight to Sau Paulo Brazil with an interesting layover before the flight to BA (Buenos Aires), and then a 3am taxi ride into the city and then finally into our hostel. Needless to say we were both a little tired, so we spent the first day taking it easy. We walked around the neighborhood near our hostel which is on the border of two neighborhoods, San Telmo and Congresso. The hostel itself is a 120 year old colonial building that has been remodeled to become a hostel. It has a nice central courtyard and a six story old fashioned elevator leading to a rooftop terrace. This area is known for its colonial architecture and old time feel. San Telmo is also home to the Tango, and you can see performers doing this exotic dance in the streets or in cafes for a few pesos. We had a nice lunch of pizza on an outdoor patio looking onto the courtyard of the National Congress building. Our Spanish is not so good as of now so the food orders will be fairly safe until we learn some more words.
    After a nice afternoon siesta (nap) we were ready to have our first night out BA style. If we were to do it exactly as the portenos (BA people) do it then we would have had a some dinner at around 10:30pm then off for some midnight desert, then maybe to a 2am bar, and finally to the clubs until the sun came up. Since we were still pretty tired, our first night out did not go this late, but we still managed to find a great party at a local place. We heard from someone in our hostel that there was a great show that takes place in a warehouse every Monday. Here, there is a drumming group that puts on a show while the huge crowd dances around them. This sounded like a great time to us so we followed the group going to this party, paid the 25 pesos ($7) to enter, grabbed a beer and a brownie from the bake sale, and danced the night away to the beats of La Bamba De Tiempo. (Ask me privately for more details about the bake sale). After the drumming group finished, the crowd stayed around the warehouse for a while until it eventually dispersed and signaled our cue to head home and get some rest.
    Day two got off to a late start, by our standards, which was alright because the sleep was so so good. Now that we had our bearings in the city a little bit we felt comfortable enough to chose a place in the guide book and venture to a new neighborhood via subway. Today we went to the city center, microcentro and plaza de mayo. This area is the business district, so there where tons of people with their suits on, walking the crowded streets. We basically just walked around and saw the amazing architecture that is around every corner. There was a huge outdoor art fair that apparently happens in this spot everyday. The city really feels alive here as it does in many of the other places we ventured to. The afternoon was spent studying Spanish with a guy we met on craigslist, under Spanish teachers in BA. His name is Tomas, and he had us over to his house for the lesson. We learned a lot in the three hour lesson and had a nice time, as he introduced us to his pet turtles, gave us pastries and our first taste of the Argentinian tea called mate. (more about mate in future posts) For dinner we decided it was time for some world famous Argentinian beef. We chose a parilla (steak restaurant) in San Telmo at a place that was supposed to be very popular with locals. Mara and split a butterflied T-bone that easily fed the two of us, and then washed it down with some local Malbec wine. mmmmmmmmmm! 
    The next day we ventured to an area that looked interesting, based on its location within the city. This was the Reserva Ecologica. It sits on the east side of the city on the Rio Del Plata and is a huge wildlife refuge with walking paths and bike rentals. The walk over to this area took us through the up and coming neighborhood of Peurto Madero. This area is being build up with expensive real estate and fancy restaurants. It was nice but not exactly our cup of tea. The walk around the Reserva Ecologica was short as it was about 95 degrees outside and the sweat was puddling underneath us. After another afternoon Spanish (Castilliano in Argentina) lesson we went to another neighborhood, called Reterio. Our reasoning for going there was to see the public menorah lighting at the famous plaza San Martin. Argentina has the fourth largest Jewish population in the world with about a quarter million members, most of whom live in BA. However none of them were at Plaza San Martin on this particular night and I guess the menorah lighting for the first night of Hanukkah was at another location. So we decided to walk around the area. We went to Florida Ave. which is like the Magnificent mile in Chicago or Rodeo Drive in LA. Swanky shops and restaurants lined the street, which comes alive with live music after the sun goes down. We walked a little further to find an affordable place to grab some pasta and desert, and then called it a night. We had to come back to the hostel and study Spanish. Tomas would be so proud.
    That is it for the first few days here in Buenos Aires. We are here for another 5 days, until we take the boat across the Rio De La Plata, and enter South American country number two. Uruguay!!

Some Random Observations About Buenos Aires:
* Crazy Subway - The subway cars are old and rickety and require you to manually open them during the 5 second stop at each platform. Because of this, people open them a few seconds before the train stops and jump out as its still moving. We haven't quite mastered this move yet.
* Huge Trees - Aside from the amazing architecture everywhere there are countless plazas all over the city, many of which have 100 year old trees that have huge above ground roots and thick branches that seem to stretch outward and upward forever.
* Trash Picking - At night we saw groups of people and families drifting through the huge piles of bagged garbage in the streets looking for anything valuable such as recyclables. Very sad to see.
* Smoking - Everyone is smoking something. Mostly cigarettes, but other stuff as well, and it is a constant, as we smell like smoke when we return home and we don't even smoke.
* There are palzas everywhere, most of which are loaded with graffiti. Graffiti is everywhere in this city, and its not pretty graffiti. It looks like a 5 year old drew it.

P.S. The airport in Sao Paulo is crazy. Small and packed with people running around. Hard to explain the vibe there, but it was an interesting experience.

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