Wednesday, February 4, 2009

first impressions

I've been in Buenos Aires for four full days now, so I suppose some reflection is in order. 

I think 'overwhelmed' best suits my current state. That, and sweaty. And tired. 

With no plans, no places I had to be, and no one to answer to, I have spent the past several days exploring the city. Mostly I just walk around the different neighbourhoods. Sometimes I pause, have my cafe', recharge, and then walk some more. I've been walking a lot. Mostly because the weather has been very pleasant - apart from today, it's been around 80 degrees, perhaps a bit hotter, sunny, and breezy. Coming from an unusually cold winter in Baltimore (though mild compared to the two Canadian winters I survived), I could not be enjoying this weather and free schedule more. I figure I'll be sitting inside for most of the next month, so I might as well as see as much of the city as I can on foot before class starts on Monday. 

Well, maybe I should backtrack a bit. I'm staying with a woman, Beatriz, and her daughter, Delfina, in their apartment in Congreso, a centrally located neighbourhood. While I had initially hoped to rent an apartment with my fellow students, this became too difficult to coordinate, and so I decided a homestay would be an easier option, with the added benefit of speaking Spanish. I found this place on Craigslist, so it obviously was a crapshoot. Luckily, Beatriz and Delfina have been nothing but kind, generous, and patient. Last night, for example, they took me on a "grocery shopping tour," showing me where the nearest supermarket was, and where I could get good, inexpensive fruits and vegetables (at Antonio's, just around the corner.) While we spoke in English the first two days, yesterday we began speaking more Spanish, and they were extremely patient with my broken, almost pathetic attempts. The apartment itself is very nice; it's in an old building, but it's been recently remodeled. My room, however, is a glorified closet. I suspected this by judging from the pictures Delfina had sent me. There is a bed, a couple shelves, and a window. This doesn't bother me, as I really just sleep there, and have the rest of the apartment to hang out in when I'm home - right now I'm in a smaller living room, complete with TV and loft, that's right outside my room. My bathroom is also microscopic: it would be just big enough for a toilet and sink, but instead there is a toilet, sink, and shower. I've seen and used set-ups like this before in Europe, and in fact it's not unbearable, but I have a feeling that it will get old after about a week. I mean I have to hold on to the sink when I shave so I don't lose my balance. But maybe that's just because I'm a clutz. But all in all, if a small bathroom is my biggest complaint, then I really should just shut up.

As for the city itself, it's a lot to take in. Granted, it's a huge city (there are a little over 3 million people, and 13 million in the greater metropolitan area) and I'm used to smaller cities: Bologna has under 400,000 people, and you could walk from one end of the city to the other in about 40 minutes. But besides the size, I think the heat, the omnipresent construction (at least in some neighbourhoods), and my health have compounded my sense of overwhelmed-ness (and apparent loss of proper English.) And well, I think I would be more concerned were I not overwhelmed - this is a big pretty change, after all. I like to think of myself as a mature, independent, thrive-in-the-city modern woman, but really I'm still just a kid, and sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball, close my eyes, and make everything go away. I don't know if I'll ever grow out of that, but then again I'm not sure any of us ever do.

But despite this feeling, there are several things that I can connect with, that bring me back, and strangely enough, make me feel more comfortable: the torn up sidewalks filled with dog shit, greasy mullets, lack of personal space, general loudness - I'm starting to think it's a good thing Italy didn't get on the colonizing bandwagon.

That being said, I do like most of what I have seen. On my first day I went to Recoleta, a more wealthy neighbourhood which is about 20 minutes away on foot. Delfina told me to check out the 'feria', or fair, that takes place every Sunday in the park. There were tons of vendors selling jewelry, leather goods, and other crafts, along with people sunbathing in the park and a live band. I can't think of a better first image, or memory, to have of the city. 

I find that it takes me quite some time to write a post, so that by the time I'm halfway through what I had intended to write, I'm tired or find I can no longer construct a sentence. I don't think I'm going to explore as much tomorrow - I think I need a break and I may possibly go to the doctor - so maybe I'll just take my laptop to Cafe de los Angelitos and continue this allí Or should I say, ashí? 

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