Buenos Aires is not a normal city. Or at least it isn’t by any European standard of sanity. In the 72 hours I’ve been here, I’ve lost my luggage, seen a mass political protest, made a jailbreak from my hostel, almost been mugged, accidentally went to a waterpark, been elbowed in the face while moshing to improvised drumming, danced an Argentinian tango with a German stranger, attended a pingpong tournament, and of couse, gotten lost. More than once.
Where do I even start? I just got back from La Catedral, a tango club in the west of the city centre. Somehow – despite having barely ever even bobbed my head gently to a solid beat – I was persuaded to attend an Argentinian tango lesson with two people from my hostel. I was fairly convinced I would spend most of the time with my face on the floor, but instead it actually… went OK. I mean granted it was literally the simplest of simple routines, but trust me, when you’re paired up with a total stranger and you’re scared of crushing every metatarsal in their feet to dust with every faux-elegant lurch forward into dancefloor darkness, the famously gracious tango becomes more like trying to defuse a bomb with your hands tied behind your back. Also try climbing into your microwave and hitting the full baked potato reheat button and you’re still only about half as hot as it was in there.
OK so I should probably jump back to the beginning now. God it feels like a long time ago now, but my luggage was lost by the utterly incompetent fools at LAN – comfortably the worst airline I have ever flown on. Judging by the fact that they took 3 hours complete the seemingly very simple task of successfully getting people onto a plane at Santiago, I just knew some bullshit was afoot. I knew something was going to happen to my luggage. Lo and behold, 4 hours later I found myself standing at the baggage carousel like an evangelist waits for the Second Coming, eyeing up the slack-jawed bellend in the LAN uniform across the room that I knew I’d have to speak to in about 30 seconds to ask whether they’d predictably left my luggage in Santiago. Oh what a surprise; they had done.
So what next? I was forced to go to the hostel wearing the same clothes I had been for the previous eternity, and I arrived to a few surprises. First off, I had turned up at this hostel to work. And so had every other person in the hostel. This may seem like an exaggeration but I literally don’t think there was a single guest there. It was difficult to tell. Either way, I won’t go into too much detail but after one night I had pretty much comprehensively decided that this hostel was not for me. The next day, my baggage miraculously showed up, so I gathered my things, pretended I was changing rooms, and I bolted, never to return.One night in a hilarious padded-cell-style, bedsheetless one-star hotel later and I found myself at BA Stop Hostel, which is nothing short of excellent. The staff, atmosphere, guests and general feel of the place is fantastic – despite a fellow traveler going to get me Mexican food and failing because the restaurant was closed. I mean what do these people take me for?
Getting around in Buenos Aires is an ordeal. It doesn’t matter how you do it, you will be diving in at the deep end. Take yesterday for example; with my gigantic suitcase I was stopped in the street by a man with an M&M inexplicably glued to the side of his face. He said something in Spanish, at which point I attempted to respond, but instead he got out a pair of socks. I assumed he was trying to sell them to me, but instead placed them next to my head and measured the difference. A few confused words were exchanged in our respective languages:
- “What are you doing?”
- “Nada. Where you from?”
- “AH your name is?”
- “My name?”
- “Si, in Spanish is ‘mi nombre es'”
- “Ah, OK”
- “Your name is OK?”
- “No no my name is-“
- “Nice to meet you OK.”
Shortly after this, Pedro (I asked his name after I gave up trying to convince him my name wasn’t a term of understanding) and another one of his little homeless friends tried to sell me some more socks, at which point I walked away, with Pedro’s little mate in close tow. And I’m talking literally less than an inch. He was brushing up against me as I walked up. Either he was looking for some action or he was attempting to get in my pockets. Or both. Luckily Pedro’s little mate was no match for my buttoned-up pockets. Pedro’s little mate goes home empty-handed this time.
That night I went to Bomba del Tiempo, a strange improvised drumming concert that apparently happens every Monday, but seemingly the whole city came out for it. After a few beers, a few more Fernets (look that disgusting shit up) and a mosh pit, I ended up in an afterparty. The drumming ensemble reconvened in a room about the size of a small bathroom and continued to play. Loud is not the word. Then in the adjacent room, a ping pong tournament was taking place, and I’ll say no more other than Argentinians take 2am drunk drumming-afterparty ping pong tournaments very, very seriously.
Onwards and upwards. More to follow soon.