Category Archives: Argentina

My thoughts on Argentina and my time there

Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me

We are now regulars at Nuevo chique again, and we know the crowd well, so when the lights all went out a six we were all in it together. We sat it out until about half past, Dany was making an attempt to get power from upstairs, but everyone was leaving. We could, of course have sat it out, but with few people left, what would be the point. So we headed out.

We had Maria and Fito in tow and stopped at our usual bar. I asked for black beer and they had non so we moved on to congress and found another bar that had it. We sat for a while telling stories as best we could. Maria speaks Spanish and I speak no Swedish so as the conversation carried on I had to relate it all to Viv. It may be good for me, but I found it hard work. That said we managed a few laughs.

When we came out onto the square, there was already a queue for the colectivo. I was going to miss the 151 and take the 90 so that Maria would get nearer her stop. We waited half an hour long, it was obvious that something was again amiss, so we set off along Uruguay to get the subte. At Corrientes the gate was locked. We tried the other gates, they too were shut.

Never have we failed on both the subte and the colectivo. So I suggested we head to Lavalle there we managed after a wait to get a number 28.

We left the bus at Mario Bravo and told Maria to get off at the next stop.

It was time for more beer, so I got my deposit bottle and crossed the road getting almost flattened by a number 90. I suppose the highlight of all this was explaining to the girl in the chino why “no estoy buen”. It must have started running again not long after we left. I think that they actually do have it in for me.

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Some people are just too helpful

Off to Gricel today.

The subte is awash with beggars, but now they have expensive karaoke machines or fantastic keyboards. I just don’t feel in a giving mood somehow. As usual we come the wrong way out of the underground and head in the wrong direction. I just don’t know this end of the H line, but it takes me less time now to realize which way to go.

It is nice when you know the organizers, we were welcomed by Juan Carlos La Falce and by Mario Orlando (The DJ).There are not many people there when we arrive and we have to dance together for a couple of dances. Soon a few old friends arrive here and Viv is doing well. She seems to enjoy dancing with all the old men, she says that they have musicality. We stay through to the last hour, but I struggled for women, I try to make it a rule to dance with a different woman each tanda, but I had to dance twice with most women. Maybe that is why Viv enjoyed it so much. Still it was generally a good afternoon. The first milonga Viv was up with a local, so I had to find a woman to dance with. What a surprise, I could not faze her, it was one of my best, if not the best. A couple of locals sitting watching applauded us as we left the floor.

We stopped at the pizzeria on the corner of San Juan for a coffee. Viv was not for stopping for pizza, but we will have a cervesa negra when we get home.

When we got down into the subte I realize we are on the A line and I am confused for a short while. A couple who have just passed through are determined to help. I point out that I need the H line and the lady of the couple is trying to send me to the machine to get tickets, I kept telling her that we have Sube cards and do not need the machine, but she was just not listening. The guy fortunately had more nous and told use we could go through the platform onto the H line. He then dragged her off, I guess she just wanted to practice her English, but needs to practice her listening more. I remember last year having problems at this end of the line. If we do this each week, I should soon get used to it.

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A great wrong has been righted.

Not everything has doubled in price, the subte has, but the milongas only seem to have gone up by a half. That makes them cheaper to us.

On my shopping trips out, most groceries are still dirt cheap. I had a bag of fruit and veg this morning for $8ar, which by any measure is less than two pounds. My torch batteries are dead, new ones cost me again less than two pounds. The guy in the fereteria said “how many” I said “three” Viv did not think they would split the packet. I said “This is Argentina” and he did.

Our return to El Beso was greeted with muchos besos, but we still find it difficult here. We have now given them a Welsh Flag to go with all the other international flags on the bar, so a great wrong has now been righted.

A lot of my old favourites were missing, so I struggled sometimes for dances. Still it was only our second milonga, we will soon get known again. Viv got fed up though after jiggy jiggy. She left to go to the Coffee Store, so after another tanda, I left also, to join her.

It’s in a lovely spot on a wide junction of Corrientes and the pedestrian Discepolo. It catches the sun here and seems to hold little of the traffic pollution. You can never please Viv though, she says the new seats are too squishy and it feels like you are falling through. I thought that for outside seats they were very comfortable.

We walked back, hoping to find some things that we wanted. What makes life difficult here is that they put things in all the wrong shops. This can be made worse when you cannot ask for what you want. Last year we searched for days for those dental floss things with a tooth pick, I don’t even know what they are called in English, so I had no chance in Spanish, until I saw them hanging up in a Chinese gift shop.

Well I got most of what I wanted, but I only got a small bottle of the aromatadazor, the rest was easy.

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Back again and inflation bites

The less said about our return flights the better.  I think it is all about cost cutting these days and I shall have to look to a different carrier next year. We are getting twice the amount of pesos to the pound as last year, what that will mean to prices is slowly coming clear.

The airport taxi was the first shock, it was three times the price. Still at a little over £20, I cannot complain, it would cost as much if not more at home.

We returned to Imaginario, again loaded up with money, having no idea what it would cost. We had an omelette each and a bowl of potatoes to share. These are a bit of a speciality here, I wanted the “papas imaginario” but Viv said we should have them with rosemary as there would be less of it. She was, of course, right, we could not finish them, despite being delicious. A bottle of cream stout helped it all go down. We still don’t eat like the locals, I think we were in there less than an hour, but left fully sated. The bill here was a surprise cost me less than $400ar, which if you are paying attention is less than a tenner. Not at all bad to feed and water two people.

Having not slept for nearly 32 hours we crawled off to bed, at the ridiculous time of 9:00 and slept the sleep of the innocent.

I have a pile of bills to pay, so the next morning I am out down to the pagofacil. All the bills are more than last year, but not fully in line with inflation. The city tax is going to be a problem though; there is no annual bill. So I will have to add “paying the city tax each month” to my conditions of rental.

I had a few more things to buy and “Nuevo Escocia” was next on my list. Nuevo Escocia has been my favourite almacen. I had regular banter with the Butcher, the cheese range awesome and the best sliced loaves in these parts. Today I only wanted bread, but all the shutters were down and there is a for sale sign on the building. Odd the way they do things here, because the blackboards are still outside with offers on them. I hold no hope although there is no afterlife for shops here.

My money was again safely delivered by Azimo. I had let myself get worried by stories I had heard, but the office was empty and no  one accosted us. I brought Viv along for security, although what she could do if I was attacked, I don’t know, but I think sometimes you look more vulnerable on your own. I may have been carrying twice as much money as last year, but in truth, it was worth no more. Anyway, as I said, I was worried unnecessarily. No one takes any notice of us here, we are just locals.

Our return to Nuevo Chique gave us some trepidation, again, I don’t know why. It must be something to do with getting older, you just worry more. Marcella welcomed us most warmly, Viv had her usual seat, and I was moved up higher in the pecking order. All afternoon people were hugging and kissing us. At home we started to think, maybe, this is not worth the effort, but when we get here, to this, it makes all the travel and worry, worthwhile. Again, apart from Pugliese, I never sat out a tanda. Never so for the ladies, but Viv had a great time. A slight lull in the middle but she had great dances all afternoon.

I never expected to stay long, it was our first milonga after all. It was 7:30 when we left, three and a half hours is a good start.

We stopped for a coffee on the corner of Alsina and Saenz Peña, nice coffee here but no medilunas and the facturas are a bit bland, still, again the price was good, so no room to complain. The streets were packed though with picateros, this did not look good. Although I sympathise with their complaints, I don’t agree with their methods. They block off the city and stop it functioning, they damage infrastructure and all this adds to the costs to the government that is already struggling to balance an impossible budget. And worse for me (yes I know, it is always about me) they stop the busses. So my personal taxi, the 151 colectivo, was not running. So we had to brave the crowds and walk the ten blocks back to Corrientes and get the Subte home.

So, in conclusion; although inflation has hit hard, for us, despite the money I already have being worthless, it is actually no more expensive. At first sight, it appears to be no more insecure. The people are lovely, but the system is broken. I can do nothing apart from spend my money here and help the odd beggar and hope the place just holds together.

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Ian and Linda

Up early this morning and off to town. We are meeting Ian and Linda who are here joining a cruise.  I met Ian on Wrexham walkabout and had mentioned I would be in Buenos Aires from January, as he was joining his ship here I said we should meet up. He failed to Join us at La Viruta, but I was not entirely surprised. His first day and not the easiest place to get to. We arranged to meet in the same place where we met Alex last year as I knew that was where the cruise ship busses dropped off.

Viv had never met Ian and neither of us had met Linda, combine that with my bad facial recognition and memory and there was some doubt we would ever meet.  There was a bit of mutual stalking before we tried “Ian?” “Bob?” well at least we managed to meet. Most people on one day here would not get to do the subte, but we took them along the “C” line to San Telmo where Ian wanted to do the Feria. I think he soon got bored with it though, if you are not in the market to buy antiques or rubbish, there is not a lot of point to it.

We took them then to El Federal, they enjoyed the olde world atmosphere of the place. After that we walked some more towards Plaza de Mayo, but when he said he had been I though there was not much point in going again. So we headed back to the subte. We debated Caminito, but decided that the subte was too far away and I had no colectivo information. The area around Boca is not a place to be wandering lost, so we decided on Gardel.

Here I failed, I’m afraid as a tour guide it was the “C” line we wanted and this was the “A”, I had to ask a policeman, then when we did get on the “C” line again I had to be rescued as I went the wrong way. A very nice policeman let us through the emergency exits onto the right side of the line. At least Ian was impressed that I could ask and understand the answers, and it gave him some entertainment. Now once on home turf, I switched easily to the “B” line and we were at Gardel in no time.

We stopped to admire all the tango statues and take some photos, then Linda wanted to stop for a drink. Too rich here, so we walked a little way down Jean Juares and found a bar with a group of locals outside. Well it seems just a beer was in order, so we went for Quilmes Cristal. A litre only $80, bargain, I do keep finding these cheap places.

Linda was getting nervous about the time so we took them back, showing them Harrods on the way. They had passed it and never noticed. I wanted to show them Galerias Pacificas, but Linda was worrying, I suppose she does not know the city like I do, but there was no sense in getting her upset. We arrived back at the pick up point with 20 minutes to spare. We said our goodbyes and set off again along the subte for home.

We have had a series of late nights and last night did not sleep well. Beer in the afternoon did not help, so by the time we had eaten, we were just too tired for the walk to Fulgor. We did not think we would dance much anyway, so a night off it is then. G&T anyone?

 

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Penultimate

I need just a bit more money before I go so a trip out is in order. Unusually for a Wednesday there was a queue, but I am in no hurry and am quite relaxed about it. The Argenpur office is one of the very few really efficient places here and the guy dealing with me was through the people in front in no time at all.

I stopped off at the Farmacia on the way back, as Viv wanted some baby oil. I took my number and stood by the counter to the right. The guy there said I should go to the end, then I was called back to the counter to the right. OK, no big deal. I asked for “aciete bebe” blank. I tried a slightly different pronunciation, still blank. “Entiendes aciete?” I tried “Si” she said “Bebe?” I tried, holding my arms in cradle fashion. She nodded, “Aciete bebe?” I tried again, Blank. Fortunately there was a guy who had served me before and directed her to the baby oil. I am sure he just said “aciete bebe” but what do I know. “Ochenta y sinco” she said  I took out $75 pesos, not enough so I offered $100. Then some woman behind me interfered and said that I had it grabbing my money and counting it. “solo Setenta y cinco” I said. I may not be able to pronounce like a local, but I can count. At least I now had what I came out for, but I was in a slightly less good mood than I had been.

Must be last week syndrome, but Viv did not do well in Milonga de Juan, I was having a great time. When he did the announcements he asked for any requests, there was a lot of shouting and I was not sure he heard me. After this there was a milonga and Viv had decided she had enough, she went for a coffee at Giucris. I danced the milonga with Mercedes and intended to follow, but straight after was Biagi. It seems that Juan had heard me and was doing my request, well I could not leave then so I did another tanda. I thanked Juan before I left and spent some time goodbyeing with the ladies.

After our coffee we took our things back to the apartment and headed out to HB. We had a salad and sandwich and mucho Cervesa. The Bill when it came was wrong but in my favour.  It left me room for a good tip but was still cheap. Viv seemed to think that it reduced the tip but I said it was $50 tip and $25 stupidity tax against the house. I gave the guy $600 and tried to ask him for $50 change he just said “I speak English”  Is it any wonder my Spanish gets no better?

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Ultima Fulgor

Our last Fulgor and suddenly the numbers are up. I think it is the Easter effect, but still, it is encouraging. There were people we have not seen in a long time and a few we have never seen before. It remains to be seen if we will see them again.  Bebe was missing, Marian said she was on holiday, strange that last week she said she would see us.

We stayed longer and danced harder tonight, it is always best to go out on a high. There was a tanda of old D’Arienzo and I just did not recognize it, I asked Roberto and he thought it was Donato, until he checked. I guess even locals do not have perfect Knowledge. It is a long way from the days when he announced every tanda.

Playing this, I am sure I would have recognized D’Arienzo. It was definitely Comm Il Faut, maybe even earlier?

Leaving was a long drawn out affair, we have to kiss all the locals, then explain again that we will not be back until January. Then it was just the long walk home again.

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