Monday, July 21, 2008

buenos aires top 10

TIME FLIES. I can't believe in three days, I'll be back in the California sun. I have absolutely loved my time here...exploring, getting to know the others on the program, or hanging out while eating awesome vegetarian food with my host family! 

Here is, in no particular order, my "Buenos Aires Top 10." 
  • Flea Markets. Every weekend (and holiday), there are huge flea/artisan outdoor markets in almost every neighborhood. The San Telmo market caters to an artier, more bohemian crowd. Recoleta is slighty pricier and has more crafts. San Isidro is crafty but cheaper! Tigre's market is just insane, with rows and rows of stores selling everything from mate gourds to wicker chairs to leather boots. I loved walking around them just for the people and dog watching!
  • Public Transport. Although they love to complain about the 'quirkiness' of the train of subway systems, I think Buenos Aires pretty much has it all figured out. There's an excellent train system (that costs 85 centavos or ~30 cents U.S.) that runs from the Province (greater Buenos Aires area) into the center of the city. There are 4 or 5 separate lines, and they come every 20 minutes. Within the city center, there is an excellent subway system with many different lines. The subways also cost less than 1 peso and come every 5-10 minutes. During rush hour, the subways are like human sardine cans. The busses, or Colectivos, are also EVERYWHERE! There are many different lines that also run in the Province, in the city center, or between the two. My one critique of the Colectivos is of their uncontrolled emissions and exhaust fumes. 
  • MALBA. This is one of the best collections of contemporary Latin American art I've seen and in a beautiful neighborhood/building as well!
  • Taxistas. The only cab driver I had that wasn't overwhelmingly friendly was an old man on the verge of falling asleep at the wheel. With that being said, the taxi drivers here are so wonderful and friendly to us foreigners! Every single one asks you "How do you like Buenos Aires? Is it a beautiful place?" The second most common question is "How are the men? Do you have a boyfriend?" One taxi driver even insisted that Marie and I call his daughter and practice speaking Spanish with her. We left the cab with thee different personal numbers!
  • Portenos. Before I left, I heard from several of my Mexican acquaintances that Poretenos are notoriously arrogant. There are even several Argentine jokes about it ("How do you get a Porteno to commit suicide? Have him/her jump from the top of his/her ego..."). Be that as it may, I think that the Poretnos are just the coolest. The culture is so warm and inviting here; within five minutes of meeting someone, you're practically family. All of the silly rules of formality are still there, of course, but mostly abandoned in favor of good conversation and some good laughs. My best conversations have been with random old men in the street.
  • Bars. Every bar here is insanely cool. (Everything here is insanely cool!) Of course there are probably many dingy hole-in-the-wall joints that we happily missed, but overall the bars were huge, with a wonderful selection of drinks and constant supply of 80's music. I've done my share of bar-hopping in Seattle, L.A., San Francisco, and New York and can confidently say that Buenos Aires definitely has the best bars! 
  • Cafes. Buenos Aires is famous for its beautiful, classic cafes. Most of them have tall ceilings, beautiful wood tables, and 50+ years of history. Unlike cafes in the states, these cafes serve coffee, wine, beer, pastries, and typically some assortment of sandwiches/empanadas. Another awesome place to people-watch and "matar tiempo."
  • PDA. People really, really like to make out in public: on the streets, on the trains, in line, or in stores. Perhaps it's because most people don't move out of their parents house until their mid-twenties? I really don't know, but they really, really like PDA.
  • Political banter. For many of us in the U.S., politics can be a pretty taboo issue (I said "many of us"--certainly not for me!). We were fortunate to be here during an extremely intense political event. The "conflict" between the Government and 'el Campo' culminated with the Vice President voting against President Kircher to reject the 45% taxes on food exports. The morning of the vote, over 200,000 people filled the streets in protest, effectively shutting the city down for an entire day. 
  • Dogs!!!! There are so many wonderful, beautiful, friendly dogs here. Everybody is always out walking their dogs, or, if you're a dog walker, about 9 of them! I've had countless love affairs with dogs of all shapes, sizes, and colors, which were definitely instrumental in my love affair with the rest of the city. 

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