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Buenos Aires:: Love at first Sight

March 1, 2007

I knew I loved Buenos Aires at the airport. After dealing with the drama of the Caracas airport I decided that you can tell a lot about a country from how they treat you at the airport. I followed the directions that the school gave me and the car service was waiting for me just like it was supposed to and even though they didn´t speak English everyone was extremely friendly, cheery, and very polite. One of the things I´ve noticed about the people of BA is that even after it’s understood that you don´t speak Spanish, and they don’t speak English this does not deter them at all from trying to have rather in depth conversations with you. Usually in other countries if there is a language barrier then communication is kept to a minimum. Not here. The people of BA will continue to cheerily have a conversation with you even if you have no clue what the hell they are saying. I like it, its pretty funny actually and I´m sure it will help with my Spanish.

Driving into Buenos Aires from the airport it looks like any city in America. All the lush greenery reminds me of driving on the highways in the South actually. So you are driving along and everything is green, fresh, and pleasant, and then the closer into the city you get you are alarmed by what looks like skyscraper project housing tenements. My heart sank at the sight of row after row of these old decrepit looking buildings. I stopped counting somewhere around 60. Think Good Times or driving along the highways in Chicago in the 80s before they started tearing all the projects down. Where is my quaint charming South American city? Did I mess up and pick a city similar to Naples (the crapiest hellhole I ever spent good money to get to)? At this point I´m thinking Paris of South America? — what a crock! Only if you count the hood part that me and my traveling partner dubbed “Little Africa” near the Sacre Coeur Basillica because Paris seems real white until you get off at this stop and suddenly you are thrust into the midst of hair weave shops and KFC and ahoy Black folks!  All the white toursist who got off the subway with us were suddenly so confused and a bit frightened. For us it was mancha because we could restock on hair care products. Sadly it´s a situation worldwide that where Blacks are the living conditions are pretty awful. I know why the Black youth of Paris were setting the city on fire two weeks later…. where was I? Rather telling that Blacks are concentrated in ghettos all over the world…..I digress.

… As we turned into the city and I was dropped off at my hostel, suddenly the view improved, and it did look Parishish I would say.

Previous to arriving here I´ve read that Buenos Aires is the kind of place that you fall in love with little by little. For me it was love at first sight despite that there are many places that look as if they are crumbling to the ground…. a lot of those same places exist in any old European city as well.   BA is not the kind of place that is beautiful from above, you have to walk the streets the appreciate the beauty.  That first night after I finally got some sleep I was walking around looking for somewhere to get something to eat and my heart skipped a beat. That’s how I knew it was love. I can´t even really explain why. This city has a European flavor, but with less of the snotty attitude and everyone is brown (kinda) which makes me feel more comfortable because I stick out just a teeny tiny bit less.  It´s a city that everyone seems to fall in love with, yet noone seems sure why. It´s a major metropolitan city with millions of people squashed ontop of one another so you have typical big city problems, trash, noisy, there are a lot of things that are old and falling apart, the constant sound of bus breaks squealing and taxis honking, yet there is a certain charm about this place that grabs ahold of your heart and holds on for dear life. They might have to kick me out of the city kicking and screaming.

I attend Spanish classes with a program called ECELA in the Recoleta district and I live in Palermo. If Buenos Aires can be compared to Paris then they must be referring to about 6 square blocks in Recoleta where the architecture reminds you of Paris. Recoleta is the she-she-fa-fa part of town with all the high end European designer stores in it. The rest of the city looks more like the different boroughs of New York. Palermo is the largest barrio (neighborhood) of BA and from what I have seen so far it seems to vary in style from old and crumbling to very modern Sohoish. Buenos Aires seems to be obsessed with contemporary/modern design. I live in what from the outside looks like a very decrepit tenement building surrounded by quaint modern townhouses and smaller apartment buildings. The outside of my building is quite deceiving seeing how the inside is pretty luxurious from a traveling student standpoint.  We have cable, broadband (yet no computer), and a washer and dryer. I was worried about my living conditions but I am more than content.

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