14 May 2007

Buenos Aires – Latin Lovin’ Like No Other

After two solid days of traveling or attempting to travel, it felt good to finally step foot in Argentina. After passing through the most efficient customs I’ve ever experienced and being forced into a maze of Duty Free insanity, I grabbed my bag and hit the ATM. Well, I tried to hit the ATM. The first one I tried (HSBC) was out of money. I kept asking for lower amounts and lower amounts until finally I got to about $4 and figured that wouldn’t do me much good anyway. After a good five minutes of wandering I found a second ATM. Sadly, the “enter” button on this machine was broken, so there was no way to tell it to move on and go to the next screen. The woman at the info booth could not have been more helpful and guided me to my third (and this time successful) ATM attempt.

Then it was to the cab stand. I turned down every guy on the way, really wanting to get a “legit” taxi. The man at the official Taxi booth directed me to a guy standing a few feet away puffing a cigarette. “He’ll take you,” he said. This guy stolled up very “I own this country” and told me he was parked “over there,” waving his hand erratically. Heeding the advice of a friend, it actually felt alright so I went with it. Good decision. He set a land speed record and got me downtown in about twenty minutes. “Cars are made to be driven,” he said, while zooming around our fellow freeway travelers, cigarette in hand, radio blasting Mika’s ‘Love Today.’ “I love this song, he kept telling me, tapping his hand on the dash.

We arrived at my “crash pad” ( a coworker’s place) and I quickly showered before hitting the town on my only day off with another coworker – Carolyn. She and I really did it up right. We saw (in order, with pictures:

Casa Rosada (The President’s House)

San Telmo (Where are the foreigners hang out. These two were posing all afternoon)

Caminito (The old port part of town, where people painted their homes with the leftovers from the boat)

Tumba de Evita (Evita’s Tomb)

& Recoleta (a beautiful market/music park right downtown)

Buenos Aires is incredibly international, striking the perfect balance between South American charm and European sensibility. American brands are slim – only Levi’s, McDonalds & Burger King are all over the place (BK’s signs reading “Los Angeles”) and there are absolutely no Starbucks, a far cry from Shanghai. There are police officers EVERYWHERE enforcing laws that aren’t really publicized (like parking on the left side of the street. Oops!), the cabs and buses run on natural gas (so clean) and everyone is friendly and helpful, particularly with driving directions. Oh, and they play host to the most incredible ice cream I’ve ever tasted, not to mention enormous sandwiches that literally consist of a slab of beef and some tomatoes on a big baguette. Tango is HUGE too! I was exhausted by the end of the day and crashed before 10pm – a record for me. Got up at 6:30 this morning to take a short run (only got slightly lost) and now heading out to visit a team. So far so good!

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