Published on: Jan 30, 2017, by Alex Cwalinski
After getting out of the Marine Corps, after four and a half years, the first thing I wanted to do was leave the country and travel. Having been to two wars makes you consider a lot of things you haven't done in life, and travel was one of those. I had never been south of the equator, so I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here's how it went:
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The Buenos Aires Obelisk is located in downtown Buenos Aires, the busiest part of the city. It was built in 1936 to commemorate the city's 400th year.
I flew out of New York the day after Christmas. When we have winters in New York, Buenos Aires is having their summer. That's the nice thing about going south of the equator in December.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires was that it was very hot and very humid. The ride from the airport to the city was about a 45 minute drive. I made the mistake of not haggling with my cab driver and got royally ripped off.
I booked an apartment for one-month in an area of the city called Palermo Soho. It used to just be called Palermo, and Palermo is about an eight the size of Brooklyn, but each little neighborhood had it's own vibe and so they started added words like, 'Soho,' and, 'Hollywood,' to make them distinct.
Palermo Soho was kind of like the up and coming neighborhood. Cheap enough to afford, somewhat safe, and close enough to the bars and restaurants.
Trees line every street in Buenos Aires.
The nice thing about a tree outside your window is the noise it makes in the wind. In South America the trees are obviously different, so the sounds they make are different too. Even the birds chirped to another rhythm.
Traveling is one of the most stimulating things you can do. The cars are unfamiliar, the sidewalks are foreign, and street signs are in another language. I can see how this might scare some people, but there's something truly exciting about it.
Even The Dogs Were Different.
Well, the dogs weren't that different, but they strut slower down the sidewalks and like to poop where you're most likely to step on it. I ran into a gang of street dogs once at around 3am. They weren't happy that I barked at one of them. Don't bark at a stray dog, 7 more might be hiding in the bushes to show you who's boss.
I signed up for Spanish speaking classes at the University of Buenos Aires, we called it, "La Uba," for short. It was an intensive one month program, five days a week, for two hours a day. At the end of the program they gave you an official certificate from the university, which was one of the reasons I signed up. Being the hot humid January that it was, I sweat my ass off in the classroom.
Taking that class did more harm to my Spanish speaking abilities than good. The reason is, I was in a class with other people who didn't speak Spanish as well as they wished. They were essentially on a long vacation like I was. I met an amazing group of people in this class, who I hung out with for months. A met people from the UK, Australia, the States, and Brazil.
My two close Brazilian friends. Many are crazy, and a lot of them vacation in Buenos Aires during the summer.
There are two types of Brazilians I met in Buenos Aires. The ones you want to stay away from because they're crazy, and the ones you want to hang out with because they're crazy.
These two girls were a blast. We went out until 7am one time and then couldn't find a cab that wasn't trying to gouge us to take us back home. The girls were tired of wearing heels, so they took them off before we ran across a six-lane highway during the morning rush hour.
A cop car stopped us and asked us what the hell we were doing. We told him we were trying to get home, so he waved down an Ambulance and told the driver to drop us off at home.
Notice the elevator in the background of the picture. It was an old wooden elevator from the 1930s with doors that your had to close yourself. One of my favorite things about Buenos Aires were the old buildings.
La Bomba Tiempo translates into, "The Time Bomb." This event at the Konex, an outdoor venue in Buenos Aires, is a must-do. Watch to video to get a taste of how Argentineans like to party. It's one of the few ways to party and dance during the day. I met a lot of Americans and Brits while standing in line to get in. I went multiple times and it's a great place to meet new friends, and score some weed if that's your thing.
My first night out in Buenos Aires, I invited a group from my Spanish class to the Roxy Bar in Palermo Hollywood. I told everyone I'd be there at 11pm. When I showed up it was just me and the bartender for an entire hour, before anyone started showing up. I thought the Roxy Bar was going to be lame, but by 1am, the bar was very crowded.
Notice the white foam at the bottom of the picture above. This picture was taken at club Amerika, where the foam rises to about chest height every Saturday night. I dropped my camera in the foam right before taking this picture. I almost lost it and spent several minutes searching for it beneath the foam. My friends all helped me find it, which required holding your breath and diving beneath the foam.
They kicked everyone out at 7am. They did this by opening a pair of two-story high doors that opened to the outside. The morning light sure was a surprise to all of us. We later got breakfast at a coffee shop nearby.
This is the standard breakfast in Argentina. Notice the tiny glass of sparkling water and the two small croissants. Those are called, media-lunas, which translates into, half-moons.
Adjusting to this breakfast diet wasn't easy. I didn't fully understand it until I started going out until 7am and eating Argentine steak for dinner every night.
The first time I ordered a coffee in Buenos Aires I made two mistakes. I thought saying the Spanish word for, 'order,' was how you ordered a coffee. I was wrong. Instead, it translated into me saying something like, "I order you to get me a coffee." So don't use the word, "orden," when asking for a coffee. Instead say, "Te pido," which translates roughly as, "I ask you."
I also asked for, "Un cafe," which means an espresso shot. Sometimes it means instant coffee, depending on where you go. Americano is your best bet if you're looking for a regular coffee.
I'm pretty sure a few of my cab drivers were a little tipsy or maybe even drunk, you could tell by how wide their smile was when they picked you up. You can typically get around the city using the subway system, but taxis were so convenient and relatively cheap, that I used them a lot.
If you don't know how to say, 'Stop,' in Spanish, it's, 'Pare'. Most cab drivers in Buenos Aires don't know that either. These red octagonal signs are simple suggestions for drivers to stop if they want to.
Cops use the same model cars the cab drivers use. Oftentimes they drive around the city with their blue lights blaring, even if there's no emergency. They also don't know what, 'Pare,' means.
Our next episode and post is going to explore the Asado and how they have the best steak in the world. We're also going to find out about Gaucho/Cowboy life on the Argentine Plains, where I spent some time herding cattle.