August 26, 2007

Buenos Aires

Definitely has been the ideal start, unexpected. Both my flights were good. I befriended a guy during my lay-over who took me to the George Bush International's President Room. What a juxtaposition when compared to my journey thus far today.

I landed to heavy rain and cold in Buenos Aires. I quickly went through customs and then got accosted by half the taxi drivers in town who all wanted my business. The airport is about 50 km outside of town, only an $8 in a private car. However, I was curious to take the less direct route via public transit (colectivos). I don't think many people who use the international airport also use the local buses. After asking for directions multiple times, I found the bus stop far outside of the airport zone. It was probably the shittiest bust stop I had ever seen (until a few minutes later) but fortunately there was one other guy there, reassuring me that I was in the right place. His bus came, and I stood in the cold and rain by myself. There were no signs indicating what buses serviced the stop and when they come, so I really had no clue how long I'd be waiting. Eventually, a bus pulled up and I think the driver was surprised to see me standing there. I came off as a typical gring0--for the 100th time of the day--but eventually figured out how to pay and then sat down. I was instantly impressed with the flow of their buses. The buses only have 1 seat on each side of the aisle with an extra large aisle, allowing more people to get on. Additionally, the people were all so respectful of each other's time. When someone's stop came, they walked to the back door while the bus was two blocks before the stop. When the driver opened the door, most would then jump out while it was still moving. I love it. Anyways, the experience was new to me. We would follow a path resembling a clover leaf. Each exit we would take, loop around the barrio, and then come back to where we just were. Some places we must have passed 3 times. At first I thought I was crazy.

As for the neighborhoods (barrios) we went through, utter poverty. There was more trash on the ground than visible ground. As we got closer to downtown, the streets got cleaner and the buildings progressively nicer. However, the heart of downtown still isn't as nice as I expected. The downtown looks very much like any European city (narrow streets, grand avenues, apartments on top of each other...); however, there are two differences: the city is organized in a grid system which makes it very easy to get around, and the buildings (on the whole) are more run-down, less maintained. I still very much enjoy the city. It is very cold (I can see my breath) and raining hard, but I did walk around for awhile. I was impressed by La Casa Rosada (the Pink House), Argentina's equivalent to the While House. It is the center of town--the city stems from it like most Capitol buildings--and there isn't much security. There is a fence around the property, but from the sidewalk you could almost spit and hit the building. I saw a few officers--none with machine guns like in many countries--but they were all huddled together under an awning, protecting themselves from the cold. As I said, it is very cold, and I hope it warms up. Until then, I'm going to try to be social.

Photo Info:

1. Photo of Colectivo taken from Flikr
2. Me in front of Casa Rosada at night (photo from August 27, 2007)

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