Buenos Aires Diary 2003

TOP del.icio.us

Victoria, August 20/03
1. Returning to Buenos Aires

Living your life trying to find the path life has prepared for you is a different kind of existance than forging your own path in life.

The sign on my wall ecos the voice of Carlos Gardel in the familiar song – Mi Buenos Aires querida cuando yo te vuelva a ver – my lovely Buenos Aires when will I see you again. This question has appeared every morning since my return to Canada about 2 1/2 years ago.

Yesterday I went into my travel agency to ask about various options and walked out with my next ticket to Buenos Aires confirmed. On each leg of the journey one seat remained at a special price – I simply had to make the decision and step into it. The return not quite so simple, my intended 2 weeks turning into almost 4.

So here I go again – organizing, packing, preparing – one day’s notice, simply following my intuition and trusting life to lead my every step while at the same time keeping focus on my purpose.

A beautiful, sunny day – the angle of the sun foretelling the fall season to come. I had to move the spiderwebs this morning to get out onto my balcony and the birds are back to feed on my little birdseed bell. It is still winter in Buenos Aires but it has been sunny there too. A sunny trip after the greyness of winter – a new beginning. Moving towards spring.

2. The Journey

The journey takes me from one reality to another. My life in Victoria is comfortable, it is quiet. One day leads into the next, focused on work yet closly connected to nature. Beacon Hill Park, gentle and very civilized, the ocean, always powerful and the Village nearby. I can be alone, as is need when I am writing and developing thoughts and concepts, or I can be surrounded by people when I feel the need to connect with friends and family.

Getting ready to leave shows me where I am in this life, whatever I am not able to complete will wait for my return. There are no shortcuts in life – only myriads of opportunities to learn.

Once I close the door I turn my attention on the journey. Travel has changed the last couple of years- the world has changed. I cannot rely totally on previous travelling experiences, already I need to be open to change. Because of a tight connection between flights I travel light and bring only cabin luggage. I am glad to spend some time with friends before leaving the westcoast but need to be up early the next morning. Various modes of transportation brings me step by step towards the longer journey. The mechanics have changed – self service check in, constant security checks. Tweezers and nailclippers are considered potential weapons and need to be discarded. The reality of time needs to be considered. I spend much of mine in the world of creativity where linear time does not exist but the journey requires attention to minutes and numbers.

In the air time passes quickly and uneventfully. It is possible to see the smoke from the great forest fires in the interior B.C. I am travelling this route for the first time. From Vancouver to Toronto connecting to Sao Paulo via Air Canada and continuing to Buenos Aires on Varig.

I have less than one hour to change terminals and flight in Toronto but there are quite a few of us continuing so they will hold the plane if necessary. A young Brasilian woman joins me and together we find our gate. SARS is still an issue and everybody needs to confirm their health, no fever, no cough – I am glad I do not have a cold.

The flights are full, every seat taken. We still get food although there is no choice of what to eat by the time the attendants reach the back of the plane. The knives are plastic, the forks still metal – I wonder about the logic of it all. What makes a metal knife more of a potential weapon than a metal fork? I used to take the opportunity to get to know my travelling companions but now I am content to simply rest.

It is a long journey-I start by picking up my first Canadian passport. I continue across Canada and continue south to Brasil.

Touching down the first time in a new country is exciting although I wait rather sleep deprived to complete my journey to Buenos Aires. It is wintertime still – I arrive in sandals and forgot my jacket but I am happy as I wonder how the time here will change me.

3. The Arrival

I am touching down in a new reality. Bienvenido a Buenos Aires, Welcome to Buenos Aires. A different country, a different language, a new experience. I am returning after almost 2 and a half years. I am arriving into winter for the first time. I speak the language now – with inadequate use of grammar – but I will understand and be able to communicate with people in a different way than before.

The formalities to enter pass quickly and I feel welcome. I walk quickly into my new life. Eduardo is meeting me. I see him waiting for me in among other people waving their signs.

It is wonderful to meet again and give him a hug in person. We can laugh together again as we see what this experience will bring.

The remise – a hired car with driver – is waiting. This time Eduardo has arranged everything and we can focus on catching up and enjoy each others company as we make our way into the city. The day is cloudy but I remember the route so clearly. We talk and I forget to look around but then I remember – I am in Buenos Aires and I feel instantly at home.

We drive past the turn off to Caballito, my old neighbourhood and continue downtown. We are preparing our tour, we will stay in different barrios, neighbourhoods and get to know the city even more.

I am not in the rythm of the traffic yet and glad to hold on to Eduardo´s arm crossing the immense boulevards. Here the car rules and people drive quickly. You need to pay attention crossing the streets, step into the rythm of the city but I am still feeling the length of the journey.

We want to provide a comfortable and safe experience for the people who come with us to dance and experience this great place. It is a big city and where you stay is an important part of the experience. We start to explore the centre. Yes, there is still a cafe or confeteria at just about every corner. I order the first of many cafe doubles. It is early afternoon and we have a bite to eat. I have arrived. I am happy.

4. El Centro

Living in el centro is very different from living in the barrios – neighbourhoods. It is convenient when staying for a short time and it is pretty with the lights. It is easier to walk and explore and has more activity and people on the streets at night.

Buenos Aires is quiter in the winter. Less people are out the weather is chilly. When it rains it is hard to be outside. The sidewalk tiles get slippery and hard to navigate. It is easier to wait out eh rain in one of the cafes.

I can feel the tough economic times and I can see the tiredness in the faces of the people. I also feel and hear the beginning of spring, of better times ahead. I am glad to be here. The perfume of the city – the diesel exhaust of the buses -yes, I breathe it in with a wrinkled nose but a smile on my face.

The rythm of the city is quick and never stops but some of the frenzieness of the hot summer days is missing and one quiet Sunday morning a car stops to let us cross the street and I cannot believe it is happening in Buenos Aires. It is the same with some of the taxi rides – a rather strange experience to be in a taxi with a driver who does not fight for the brass ring but is content to bring us to our destination. In Buenos Aires? I say questioning, but it is true.

There are more radio taxis, still the line of black and yellow cabs cruising down the right hand side of the streets, always ready to take you where you want, but some cruise by. Better cars, more security, promociones …..and simply changing times.

We walk and walk, I get a coat and boots on Florida Street. The prices are very good. Amber, sienna, browns and greens and red in many different shades. The shop windows are still displaying winter fashion.

I walk up Florida Street looking for an money exchange place. It is not very crowded but it is late in the day and the light is disappearing. I take a side trip to the Cathedral at Plaza de Mayo, one of my favourite places to pray.

Heliga Birgitta from Sweden has her picture on one of the columns. I walk down to greet Saint Cayetano. Raised in a social democratic country automatically born into the lutheran church did not give me much detailed knowledge of the Catholic religion but I like architecture and have come to appreciate Cathedrals.

My previous experience of Buenos Aires is from Cabellito, the geographic centre albeit not the centre of the city. Getting to know the centre – we are walking, we are going by taxi, we are taking the subte, the subway to look at many different places to stay. We keep a hectic pace and our experiences are intense and rich in learning for both of us as usual.

5. Dancing in the Afternoons

When I was in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago I bought 3 pairs of shoes. Now I am looking forward to shopping for new ones but I am still dancing in my old ones.

I went to meet my friend Maria Teresa at El Arranque, one of the traditional afternoon Milongas. Maria Teresa´s place is a tangohouse and this day she brought a woman from Seattle and another one from New York on their first visit to dance in Buenos Aires. I was content to once again be sitting at her table. I did not specifically come to dance, more to meet Maria Teresa but I did dance a Pugliese tanda.

A couple of days later I met Maria Teresa again in Club Espanol. It is a most beautiful building, very ornate inside. I remember it from CITA a couple of years back when we went to one of their Milongas there. The elevator has a bench in it and it was so much fun to laugh and remember all the fun times we had and to joke around a little.

I danced in my new boots – it is great to be back in this environment. I really like the tanda system, I like the music and I like knowing a little about tango and the codes in the Milongas. This afternoon there was yet another announcement about the death of a milonguero. Everybody showed their respect with a silent minute and then danced a tanda to honour his memory.

Generations change and it is a good time to come to Buenos Aires to dance. Some of the Milongueros who are dancing now have danced for the last 40-50 years. Without them the Milongas will be different, this is simply a natural part of life and I feel fortunate to be here again.

Many people like to dance in the afternoon Milongas – Is there still a lot of smoking – oh yes, absolutely but there are some non smoking areas in some confiterias and we have found a non smoking internet place. Quite amazing.

6. Tangoing the Nights in Buenos Aires

I am looking at Buenos Aires through slightly different eyes. I am here to dance, of course. Dancing in the Milongas is always a profound experience for me and dancing with Eduardo is always an experience from the heart.

But we are also here to prepare for our tango tour. I want to be more familar with the place and I want to know what else is happening in Buenos Aires.

We have worked a lot on the phone and email since he left Canada but in order to integrate it all we wanted and needed to put it all together here in the heart of it.

We are going to see the tangoshows, we go to the tango bars, we are dancing in the Milongas so we have a good all around program.

One of the dinner/tangoshows is in one of the oldest and most historical buildings in the area, the food is good, the dancers are very good and the music is excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

We went to one of the tangobars early in the week. It is small and cozy yet has room to dance. Here is where we first danced together again. Unexpected but lovely. The show is more intimate, more interactive, the singers and musicians enjoy talking to the visitors.

We are tasting tango in Buenos Aires in many different ways. Dancing in the afternoon is different from dancing at night. Sharing a meal then watch a tangoshow on stage with live music is one thing, listening to tango singers and watch a couple dance is a completely different experience. Seeing a tango show in a theatre is yet another experience.

Taking part in a group class teaches you one thing, having a class with a Master teacher another.

The Milongas at night, a late dinner then dancing – You can do it, people are still dancing until 4.00am or so. I like this about the city, to have the choice.

So here we are walking and dancing our way through Buenos Aires. The time goes quickly and each moment is filled and complete.

7. Dining in Buenos Aires

To eat in Buenos Aires is easy. There is a cafe, a confiteria or a restaurant on every corner.

Breakfast is usually light, coffee and medialunas (sweet croissants) or other pastries. There is continental breakfast of toast with butter and jam. There is American breakfast with eggs included. The hotels generally include breakfast in their rates and it is usually served until 10am or 10.30am very rarely until 11am.

The confiterias are open all day and late into the nights. Here you can eat light food, like pizza, empanadas, sallads as well as meals like chicken, fish and meat. Each place often offers a daily special. You can drop in for just a cup of coffee. The atmosphere is casual. If you sit at a table with a tablecloth and want to have a cup of coffe, the tablecloth quickly gets removed and if you sit at a table without a tablecloth and want to eat one quickly appears.

You can feel the time and history in the traditional cafes. I think most of us know La Confiteria Ideal from the movie the Tangolesson and most people who have been to Buenos Aires know Cafe Tortoni.

Cafe Las Violetas in Almagro is another beatiful traditional cafe. The large vitrios are impressive. Part cafe and part dining area, it is also a bakery.

Cafe Giralda on Corrientes and Uruguay has a very different feel. Many writers and composers have read the paper over a cup of coffee and it is told that the ownership of La Cumparcita changed hands in this place….

There are other traditional cafes that are receiving some protection and support from the government to be restored and maintained. It is a real pleasure to search for and discover each one.

There are many different restaurants to choose from. You can find vegetarian, chinese, middle eastern, french, meditarenean, italian etc. etc. Some are easier to find than others, some are more common than others but all can be found.

We chose the places to eat with much care and with much attention to a wide variety of culinary experiences.

A traditional Argentinean parilla (b-b-q) generally includes chicken and sausages as well as beef. The meat is tender and delicious and nutricious. A tenedor libre is a dining experience that lasts for hours. An stand up empanada place a good place for a quick snack.

Puerto Madero has many new restaurants with a lovely view over the canal and gives an international yet familiar eating experience.

The traditional bar is another experience. Here is easy to have a beer and a tostada, a toasted sandwich, or simply call a friend to come and have a whiskey for a social interlude. Argentinean people are social and very open to spontaneously get together to enjoy each others company.

In Palermo you will find lots of parks where people like to go on the weekends to drink mate, the traditional Argentinean herbal tea. In Palermo Hollywood we found a wonderful restaurant with a very European feel and enjoyed sitting on the sidewalk under the trees.

The cost varies, naturally and there are always promociones, daily or weekly offers but empanadas are still inexpensive at about Can$1 ea, coffee double, which is more a regular cup of coffee between 4 and 5 AP, Can$2 to 2.50, espresso which is more a regular coffee here about half that.

A light lunch A$10-20, Can$5-10
A casual dinner can be had for A$20-40, Can$10-20 and a more formal dining experience from A$40-50, Can$20-25.

Well, it is time for me to go and explore some more places, to have yet another coffee double and yet more of my favourite radichetta (arugula) and tomato sallad.

Bon Apetite

8. The corner of Callao and Sarmiento

I am staying at a little hotel in the corner of Callao and Sarmiento. My room is facing Callao and the noise of the traffic is always present. It is an older building with much character, well maintained and newly renovated. It reminds me of a place I stayed in Vienna once. The couple who runs this place are competent and efficient and real characters. He speaks very fast and whisks me along, either to go outside or inside. She is thorough with eagle eyes and both are keeping a good eye on the security of the place.

I woke up in time to have breakfast. The tables are set with white tablecloths and I choose the one beside the window in full sunshine. Paulina looks after breakfast and brings coffee, facturas, croissants and toast with butter and jam and juice. Paulina comments on my Spanish – as do many people. Having learned the language by talking to Eduardo, I talk the way people do here and it surprizes many. I do not know the difference, simply chatter away. My grammar is still rather poor but I am glad to be able to communicate better than last time I was here.

A couple from Argentina comes down to have breakfast and it turns out they spent time in Stockholm last year and we talk about the different countries. It is amazing how there is always a connection to people you meet.

The windows in the room go from floor to ceiling and while I am sipping my coffee I look down at the sidewalk where the shoeshine man has the tools of his trade neatly lined up and ready for his customers. The newspaper stand is not yet open but the box of it covers half the sidewalk.

The light turns red and I count 13 black and yellow taxis lined up, three abreast waiting for the light to turn. The motorcycles weave in and out of the lanes and I am totally amazed at the courage to navigate in this traffic. People take the chance to cross the street as well, while the cars impatiently wait and many pedestrians jump to safety onto the sidewalk at the last minute.

The building across the street is beautiful, ornate with wrought iron balconies. Academia de baile says one large sign covering the whole balcony. Another business is advertised above it. In the corner of the street is a drugstore, beside it a bank, two doors down another bank.

A man is selling kitchen towels, offering them to everybody walking by. A woman is setting up shop beside him selling lottery tickets. Half a block brings enough visual impressions to fill a book with experiences.

I loose track of the time – as usual – and Paulina puts attention on it and so I finish my coffee and start my day.

9. Cafe Tortoni

There is something special about Cafe Tortoni. Today I have walked down Sarmiento St. Walking along looking at the buildings and the shop windows, I keep my eyes open for the entrance to Cafe Tortoni.

There are always people outside the doors looking at the noticeboard announcing the current shows and events or reading the plaque describing the cafe and its history and looking at the poster with the world’s traditional cafes with a photo of Cafe Tortoni on it.

I open the door, walk in and immediately get transported to another world. The place is full, it is early evening. The smoke from all the cigarettes hangs lazily in the air surrounding the music of people conversing. The mix of local people and tourists is amicable and I like the special relationship that exist between waiters and customers here in Buenos Aires.

Today I order a glass of Chandon and it comes with a plate of muni, peanuts and potato chips. I sip my champagne as I glance around the room, noticing all the wonderful stained glass lamps on top of the serving station. The walls are filled with art and the vitro ceiling panels are lovely with its yellow and amber tones. Somebody is playing pool in the back and now and again a yell can be heard over the murmer of conversation.

I let my thoughts meander over the experiences of the last three weeks, organizing what needs to be done and thinking of people to call and visit. Time is always so short and soon it will be time to leave. But for now I enjoy this moment and relax a little more with each sip of champagne.

10. Shopping

You can shop everywhere in Buenos Aires. It seems that wherever you look there is a store or window displaying something interesting to buy.

There are several shopping areas where you can buy just about everything and other places which carry more specific merchandise.

Downtown is Lavalle street. When I came in my sandals and no jacket we walked along Lavalle street and I found my new boots. I found my black, wool coat on Lavalle st. It is of medium quality and very practical. Some of the places accept credit cards, some want only cash, some will give additional discount for cash payment.

Crossing Lavelle st is Florida street, the wellknown walking street. Here, too, you can find clothes, music, leathergoods, tango etc.

Subte line B takes you right into Once, the centre of the shopping district. Stop at Pasteur and start walking down the street and shop to your heart s content. The prices are very reasonable. You can walk all the way to Abasto, now a shopping centre – it used to be the place where Carlos Gardel recorded his songs. His statue stands outside always reminding of times past. Across the street is Susana Villaroel’s tango shoe store. Count on spending 2-3 hours here. The quality of the shoes here are mixed. Men’s shoes are available as well.

Leather goods are of excellent quality, so soft and inviting to wear and to touch. Cowhide and the softer goat hide are processed in various ways and available in many lovely colours and designs. Some stores participate in the taxfree program, some will give additional discount for cashpayments. The staff is generally very service oriented and helpful as well as knowledgable about their merchandize.

You can find huge shopping centre in the style of North America as well as browse the individual shops on Corrientes street, not to mention Santa Fe and Arroyo st where, if you are interested in haute couture, you can find most of the european and american fashion houses represented.

Shop to your heart’s content. At the moment with the value of the peso being what it is, it is certainly easier for the Canadian dollar than when the peso was tied to the American dollar.

11. Teatro Colon

Teatro Colon sits beside Av 9:e Julio. It is a beautiful building and I have admired it many times since I arrived. It was being renovated the first time I was in Buenos Aires and so I did not get a chance to see it inside. This time I wanted to take one of the guided tours.

I did not realize that the side I knew is the back of the theatre and the entrance for the performers. The main entrance is on the next street, the building covers the whole block. On this side it faces a park and is much quieter and lovelier to arrive to. While looking for the entrance I came across a group of people unloading food and other things for the nights performance I suppose. Walking around I also realized there is a little street going right through the building and here is the access to the ticket office and the guided tours.

I made my way to the entrance to buy my ticket and then waited for the tour to start. A lovely young woman was playing violin dressed in period costume. She even played a tango. The English and Spanish tours started at the same time, beside each other, so you can imagine the guides talking loud to orient their groups.

The building interior is made mostly of marble, white from Calabria, yellow from Sienna etc, it is somewhat eclectic in style from more than one architectural influence. It has a very comfortable feel to it and although grand it does not feel imposing. The floors are mostly italian marble mosaic. The stained glass in the ceiling is beautiful. The wood inviting.

We walked with the guide,who spoke excellent English and was very knowledgable about the building and its history, up the stairs, looked at the statues, the lovely galleries where there are free, chamber concerts every week. We went into the theatre and listened to the rehearsal for the next opera performance. Nice to have such a live tour. We passed quite a few school classes having their tours of the theatre.

There are three levels below the main floor where all production for the stage settings, clothes, wigs, etc is developed and created. Everything for a performance comes from within the theatre. This underground place, with practise space for the theatre ballet etc, extends out underneath the avenida 9:e de Julio!!!Amazing.

You can attend the dress rehearsal of a performance for 5 pesos about $2 so I promptly bought a ticket for the following night’s rehearsal of the spring equinox festival ballet performance.

I arrived directly to the performance the following evening after having walked all day. I was dressed rather casually and was glad to see that most other people looked the same. The theatre was more or less full and the audience was very appreciative of all the different parts of the performance. I looked around at the 7 levels of boxes from the barred “widows boxes” to the “chicken” boxes up high and the presidental box in between. The immense bronze chandelier holds 14 people and can be used when performances require sounds from above. The chairs are lovely and reasonably comfortable with enough space in between to let people pass by.

I had a wonderful time and look forward to returning dressed up to attend another performance.

12. Connections and Transportation

It is Friday night and here I am writing instead of dancing the night away…hmmm..have to think about this. Sitting at machine nr 15 of 40 some computers just steps away from my hotel is convenient. Here is a non smoking section which is very nice and every so often the air conditioning comes on to provide some extra cool and smoke free air.

In front of me is a coffee machine – I can see 7 different choices but have not tried the coffee. It is almost 1 am but enough people here to make it feel like it is mid afternoon. Some people are on chatlines, some are using earphones and talking to friends playing games I presume.

The front desk has 2-3 people who are very service oriented and mindful of quick and efficient service. I come here often enough to be recognized and as frequently happens people are curious as to how I come to speak the language the way I do. One of the young men speaks some English and is very serious about speaking with me to practise it.

This is also a locotorio, a place with phone cabins where people come to use the phones. I have come to appreciate having a cabin available just about everywhere to pop in to phone for taxi or reach friends.

The computers are generally modern and workplaces comfortable, the highspeed internet connection makes for efficient use of time. The charge is 1 peso, 50c for each hour!!!!

Now international phonecards are available and it makes it so much easier to keep in touch with Canada. The time difference is 4-5 hours depending on the time of year as Argentina keeps the same time year round. For 5 pesos you can talk 13 minutes and there is no connection charge.

From the locutorio I often phone the radio taxi. Another adventure to give the phone number, remember the address and pronounce the numbers correctly. Some of the dispatchers have gotten to know me and know where I live and I am proud to say that I am actually able to explain most places where I am going to and where I am phoning from.

People here are most definitely city people and going from a to b, connecting from one place to another. Meandering is not usual and to explore without exact purpose not too well understood. Sometimes I simply need a break from all the noise and activity to orient myself and exploring an area by taxi is a good way.

The subte, subway, moves people quickly throughout the day until midevening. I am still looking for my oldfashion linia A Casablanca moviestyle cars. The more modern ones are taking over. There has been a work to rule campaign and so feeling squeezed like a can of sardines have extended beyond rushour but now the subte is back to normal.

The colectivos, the buses continue to race down the streets and spew out their diesel fume exhaust. There are fewer of them and some minibuses have been added for some routes but most local people still rely on buses. After work there are long lines for returning home on shuttle buses to the province.

Crossing the streets takes great confidence and focus. The car rules and even on green light the cars that turn usually race ahead. On the other hand there is no such thing as waiting for green light, one goes ahead and crosses when it is possible, jaywalking would not be understood. I am gradually finding my way into the rythm of it all again as I remember the feeling of belonging when I was here last.

13. A Day in the Neighbourhood

The noise of the traffic usually wakes me up in the morning. The shutters are closed and the curtains are thick and keep the light out. It is harder to keep the constant sound of the buses and cars and occasional siren away from consciousness. My room is quite large and comfortable, the bathroom newly renovated. The place is well maintained and clean, the staff friendly. It is very centrally situated and I simply keep on staying day after day. I switch on the TV to see the news headlines and to find out what current crisis is covered by the en vivo en directo-live and direct, then back to Solotango, the tango channel. This week they have been broadcasting a series of segments from the Buenos Aires Tango Festival in Paris. I have enjoyed watching it.

Sometimes I go down for breakfast in the little room where Paulina attends to each person in her cheerful manner. My mother was Italian and she spoke English she says proudly in English explaining how she can say a few words. Fortified with my cup of coffee and medialunas, I get organized to start my day. There is always more to do than I am able to and so I have learned to simply do what I can.

Next door to my hotel is a ladies wear store, the shop windows get changed every couple of days and new things are constantly added. Next to this store is a men’s wear store where everything is currently being sold at cost. Next doorway has a sign saying communist party meeting place. The bank comes is next to that. It conveniently has a cash machine and there is usually a security guard outside. The green and yellow sign saying LINK tells you it accepts client cards and dispenses money.

Continuing down the block I glance into the hardware store that has an amazing variety of wares, next comes a shoe store that has a sales. A gap in between buildings is being used as a parking lot with attendants and the empty building next door is being worked on and painted and I am curious to see what is going to appear in it. One day I stepped out on the street and felt transported into another reality as a new cornerstore had materialized over night. How could I not have noticed?

A homeless family has been living in the parking place and the young woman sits with her baby on the windowsill most days asking for change while she is taking care of the little one.

The locutorio/internet place is open until 4am and well attended at any hour of the day.

A religious bookstore comes next and on the sidewalk beside it is a magazine kiosk selling mostly adult magazines.

At the corner is an empanada/pizza place. Here I can have 3 empanadas, a sallad of arugula and tomatoes, half a bottle of decent wine and a cup of coffee for 14 pesos, $7 including tip. I can read the daily newspaper, Clarin and have a chat with the waiters. Como estas, niña they say, where are you from and how long are you staying.

Across the street is some sort of university classes and studies continue until late at night, a drugstore is in the corner and open late. You choose your items, bring them to the counter, the attendant tells you how much you owe and you pay at the cashier where you get your purchases.

This is only one little part of the neighbourhood. With the eclective mix of buildings and stores, it is indeed a rich sensory experience to simply look out your window and to walk to the end of the block. It is easy to understand how you can spend most of your time in your own neighbourhood as everything you need is available right where you are.

Walking another block brings me to Congreso, the Parliment buildings. It, like in Victoria, is beautiful and the cupola lit at night but the feel is different and at the moment it is a place of protest as well as of governing. Walking through Congreso brings me to Ave de Mayo, a few blocks crossing 9:e de Julio, a few more blocks and coffee at Cafe Tortoni. A couple of more blocks and Plaza de Mayo with Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral.

Walking the other direction brings me to Corrientes st where I can see what is on at the different theatres or shop for music, clothes or more things than I can mention.

After a very sunny and warm day it is raining outside as I take a break from writing and go next door for another coffee.

14. The Rythm of the City

Every place has its rythm. The cadence of this city fascinates me. Buenos Aires is big – moves at a quick pace. To meander here is to be noticed. Everybody moves from one place to the other with intention and focus.

Sometimes I wonder where everybody is going, what propels this pace. The rythm is vibrant, posed for action, ready to create. It makes you want to follow. I am going here, then I am going there. I meet you here, let us eat there. Encuentros everywhere. People like to socialize, are still open to connecting despite the feeling of insecurity from the economic crisis.

When I first came here I observed and watched in the milongas, in the cafes, in the subte, in the taxis. I was simply absorbing it all. Everything seemed familiar yet different.

After a few weeks I started to feel the rythm of the city and stepped into it. To step into the rythm of a place makes you belong in a different way.

Crossing the street sometimes feels like being part of a wave in the ocean. As the traffic flows by more and more people arrive to cross. The tension of waiting builds, somebody steps out into the street, others follow, the daring ones find the openings and cross between cars and buses. The rest fidget, moves back and forth until finding release just before the light changes to green and start to move across.

The same thing happens with the cars stopped at the red light, jockying for position as they come to a stop, nudging into and filling every little space getting ready for the change to speed off. If somebody honks their horn, somebody immediately answers somewhere. The music of the street, the line of dance of the city, the tango of Buenos Aires.

The streets are filled with cars and buses. Motorbikes, bicycles and even people on roller blades weave in and out. The taxis still cruise leisurely along looking for fares.

The sidewalks are filled with pedestrians but are also filled with other activities. Almost every block has a newspaper kiosk that sits like a big box close to the corner and gets locked up late at night. A shoe shine station is often close by and many people stop to get their shoes shined. The flower stands are still open although fewer at this time of year.

The street vendors are everywhere and offer their wares on the sidewalk or to the people in the cars at the red lights. The current trend is watching people juggling. The, mostly, young men are very skilled and quick, running into the street, juggling, asking for change and getting out of the way, all during a red light.

Some of the bigger avenues are two way streets but most are one way and I am still trying to remember which street goes in what direction to help me in my quest to navigate better.

On Sundays everybody is out walking in the parks or resting. The streets are empty, only the garbage from the night before is blowing in the wind. The street cleaners move up and down the streets each day with their brushes and containers. You can have the city to yourself if you are up early on Sunday morning.

Buenos Aires is eclectic in its style, contains and is accepting of much and in so doing gives much freedom. It is sophisticated and elegant in a somewhat old fashioned way. I am enchanted by its playfullness, enamoured by its language and as I am continuing to let it transform me, I somewhat curiously wonder what will it bring next!?