Argentine Ramblings (written 1/18)

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Apart from the mind rattling heat, I keep failing to believe I’m on the far end of the opposite hemisphere. Buenos Aires is perhaps the easiest new place I’ve ever tried to settle into, a sleepless but mellow (compared to New York) maze of low reaching buildings, a convergence of immigrants consumed by their own styles, families, quests. Greenery, bold street art, inefficient buses and trains and the expectation you’ll be later than you say.

A self-assured city, even amidst a mini-crisis of electricity and finance: some buildings have gone weeks with power outages this summer and the “illegal” (but unmonitored) black market to trade dollars for pesos is at a dramatic 11 pesos per dollar. When I bought my ferry ticket for Uruguay, the boat company wouldn’t even let me use pesos when they learned I was from the States. Foreigners had to use other currency since the peso is so unstable.

I’ve been keenly turned outward, yanking buckets of answers from the people I meet. The journalist, searching, searching for just what I can share about the place. Have written two brief articles (drafts really) about a group of sex workers fighting to legalize prostitution and about a transgender nurse who overcame odds (about 90 percent of transgender people in Argentina apparently enter prostitution), and am researching more about prostitution/sex trafficking/gender expectations here. I know these issues abound in the States too, but for some reason it’s taken coming here to become so fascinated in them.

And what else? I’ve visited a Biblical theme park where a fiber glass Jesus is “resurrected” every hour by popping out of a fake mountain, turning his mechanical head and shutting and reopening his eyes, and descending back to disappear (more on that in a future blog post or article).

I’ve ridden ignorantly on a borrowed bike with a flat tire around Buenos Aires and almost been hit by a car.

I’ve chatted with a 70-year-old poet with a milk-blonde bob and two pampered puppies named Gala for Dali’s wife and Theo for Van Gogh’s brother. I’ve been rejected from taking her picture since her first husband overly photographed her and so in a way stole her soul.

I’ve made a kind new friend who baked me a loaf of challah bread and calls me “patience” to remind me of the quality I supremely lack.

I’ve met a man who bathes in a mausoleum of the famous Cemetery of the Recoleta since he works repairing the graves and says he has nowhere else to go. I’ve been interrogated by his uncle, who runs the grave repair company and wanted to make sure I wasn’t a journalist…

I’ve spent a day with a 17-year-old girl I met randomly asking for directions and then learned she’d been without power for 2 1/2 weeks in a middle class neighborhood of the city.

And I’ve gotten eat by bugs on an island off Tigre (north of B.A.), where people use only boats to get around.

And more…

OK, now that I’ve written this less than poetic blog post from my journeys I expect and hope to be freed to write more. It’s always about breaking the ice…

Off to the majestic (so I’ve heard) Uruguayan beach of Cabo de Polonio.

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