Buenos Aires. One last city I had to tick off the list. I don’t know if there was anything in particular that brought me there but everyone I’ve met who has been there has told me not to miss it.
After flying in from Sao Paulo, I proceeded to take a bus all the way downtown. I struck up a conversation with a girl next to me who happened to speak fluent English, having worked in the tourism industry for a while. I ended up missing my stop and had to find out how to take a taxi. After flagging a few and being waved away every time, I finally figured out why; I had to find a taxi with the words “Libre” on display in bright LED colors, indicating availability. If the display isn’t lit up, it means the taxi is occupied or the driver is off-duty.
Spent a lot of time at the hostel, watching the World Cup, which is no surprise. I did make it down the Plaza San Martin to watch Argentina take on Bosnia. It was a raucous crowd and the atmosphere was fantastic, particularly when the drums were being played, songs being sung, and a massive Argentina flag being waved.
I did find time in between games to visit places like Cemetario Recoleta, which is a beautiful “city” of mausoleums. I’ve always been a fan of walking in cemeteries because I find beauty in walking among those who once walked this earth as well. Evita Peron is buried in Recoleta so I stopped by her grave, as did many others. I don’t know much about her other than recalling Madonna playing her in the movie. While walking around, I also wondered if spirits of the dead visited each other, like how we walk around and visit our neighbors.
Food-wise, I ate a lot of juicy beef, I ate many delicious empanadas, and I ate a lot of pizza. In fact, pizza is one thing people who visit Buenos Aires should not miss. Italians who had emigrated to Argentina many decades ago brought their pizza skills over. I recommend Pizzeria Guerrin, a place that’s been around since the 1930s. Their special, the “muzzarella” is a delicious dough smothered with chewy, salty mozarella on top. Many locals eat their pizza with some “faina” on top, a kind of flatbread. Besides their delicious pizza, another thing I enjoyed about eating at Pizzeria Guerrin was that everyone stood up on bar counters and ate their pizza, usually with forks and knives. It made for a wonderful, casual atmosphere. I am not a fan of sitting down and eating pizza. Also, don’t forget to have some “chopp”, or beer.
One night, I signed up to watch a tango show. The show included a basic tango lesson so I, with about 15 others, attempted to tango. We felt pretty good about our progress (and even got a cheesy certificate), that is, until the real show with real pros started. While eating dinner, we were wowed with a fantastic graceful but passionate display of tango from the early 1900s to the 2000s. What a fantastic night that was.
On a sidenote, I met a wheelchair-bound Japanese guy named Masahar at my hostel who was staying about a month. He spoke a little English so I tried to converse with him via broken Spanish with basic English sprinkled in. He is a big soccer fan, judging by how many World Cup games he watched, although that could be due to his inability to do much else, like go outside and walk around and enjoy Buenos Aires. Or maybe he just enjoyed watching people run when he couldn’t. Initially, I wondered how or why he was there at a hostel. I don’t mean to say “Handicapped people can’t do everything an able person can” but let’s be real. Shouldn’t he be at a special-needs facility where he can access a nice compound outside to get some fresh air?
I later found out he was there in BA studying Spanish but also to get away from Japan, after having a fight with his parents. He was initially living in his own apartment but his lease had ended and he needed a place to stay.
One morning, I had an awkward encounter with Masahar. I took the elevator to the common room downstairs and when the elevator doors open, right in front of me, the handicapped bathroom stall door was wide open, and I made eye contact with Masahar as he was taking a dump. I tried to look away and pretend like it didn’t happen but I could tell he was embarrassed. I later heard him laugh hard in the toilet, and my guess was, he couldn’t figure out how to clean up after himself due to accidentally making a mess of some kind. I yelled out “Is everything ok?” and “Do you need any help?” I just felt bad for the guy. In the end, all I did was close his toilet door so the next person coming down in the elevators wouldn’t have to have the same awkward moment. Or was it to preserve Masahar’s dignity?