August 27, 2007

Buenos Aires

I spent the next few hours on Sunday (Aug 26) remembering what makes travel so amazing, the people. I went out to eat with a bunch of people with very diverse backgrounds (for example, one girl had come to Argentina to clean oil off migrating penguins but has since quit because the penguins were too aggressive). The meal was typical of Argentina, excellent steak and wine for very little money. After dinner, I had some drinks and played pool with a guy from Australia and a girl from Germany. It is so great to have conversations with such different perspectives and backgrounds.

At midnight I retired, declining to go out clubbing (I’m happy I didn’t because they ended up staying out until 8 AM). In the morning, I went out with two of my roommates (Alex from Sao Paolo and Carlos from Madrid). Our objective was to go to the Parana River delta outside of town in the nearby community of Tigre.

First we took the subway and I have never been so packed into anywhere. It was like everyone on a Minneapolis light rail trail packed into half a car. I was happy to transfer out and to get onto the commuter train and the city’s main train station, Retiro. The train ride was about 1 hour to arrive at the last stop, Tigre. During the entire ride I kept thinking that Buenos Aires looked much nicer than the night before; the rain and cold had really screwed with my perceptions.

Tigre is a city in the midst of the river delta of two major rivers. The delta creates 100s of large islands and people live on these islands. In the delta, there are no bridges or cars, just boats. I was happy to be with Carlos because he used his native Spanish language skills to talk with some locals and to find out that the boat colectivos were the best and cheapest way to experience the canals. We paid $3 for unlimited rides on the public boats (tourist boats were about $20-$30 and only traversed near the city and didn’t go into the heart of the delta).

The concept was so foreign to me. We crowded in a big boat and from time to time, the boat would pull up to shore and someone would jump off. The delta was a complete maze, but after an hour we decided to get off and walk around an island. The island was large but sparse and swampy. We walked around and I practiced my Spanish with Carlos. Eventually we made our way back to where we were dropped off, and sooner or later, a boat came and picked us up and took us back to the city.

I was exhausted and fell asleep on the train back into Buenos Aires. When I woke, the train was again at capacity. Once back downtown, we again wandered around the city, gradually making our way to our hostel which was about 4 miles away.

The city and the night were perfect. It is amazing how much everything transformed from yesterday. Yesterday it was cold, rainy, and quiet. The only people outside were the poor cartoneros, scrounging for recyclable materials. I have studied the phenomenon of “cartoneros” and was so moved by actually seeing them. I wanted a photo and to talk to them, but it felt inappropriate.

Anyways, tonight was fantastic. The city was bustling with millions of people (literally), and everything seemed so grand. On one pedestrian street—Avenida Florida—I even witnessed Tango breaking out in the street. The dance captivated me. I watched this one couple dance for probably 20 minutes. I never thought a dance could be so seductive. Wow, I still can’t believe I saw real Tango on the streets of Buenos Aires…it doesn’t get much better than that. Amazing.

I loved the night but needed to leave to find something to whet my appetite. The night is still young, but it will always be a great day. I’m excited what’ll happen tonight.

1. Me in front of a subway station
2. Carlos, Alex, and I at the city of Tigre
3. Full colectivo
4. Old boat abandoned in river delta
5. Orange tree on island
6. View from Colectivo stop of our boat leaving
7. Cartonero hauling material down street
8. Movie of tango I saw on street

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