Bulletins from BA (Buenos Aires) #01
28 July 2012
¡Hola! there... Rodger French here.
Getting settled in the “Paris of South America” has proven reassuringly easy. We scored a nice 9th floor apartment in the posh barrio (neighborhood) of Palermo, a leisurely stroll from the U.S. Embassy. Our balcony overlooks Avenida del Libertador, which, at 10 lanes wide, is still not the largest street in town. (Being a pedestrian here requires keen spatial awareness and choreographic fearlessness.) We’ve scoped out nearby markets, established phone and intertoobz communications, and now await delivery of our worldly possessions by air and sea.
Embassy folk, officers and local staff alike, have been thoroughly supportive and seem somewhat not unimpressed by the fact that A.J. has an accordion-playing spouse. The accordion is, of course, my secret weapon and I intend to unleash its full mojo… just as soon as I resurrect my chops, since moving betwixt hemispheres has not been conducive to practicing, or regularity of any kind. But, all things in due course, as we make Buenos Aires our home for the next three years.
Would that I could regale you with tales of days lounging in the cafés as an International Man of Leisure and nights prowling the milongas as an ersatz gringo tanguero, but such, alas, is not the case. What I can relate so far is that Buenos Aires (BA) es muy grande (very big), muy ruidoso (very noisy), and teems with los coches (cars), los niños pequeños (small children), y los perros (dogs).
[Sidebar: Dogs are ubiquitous here and paseaperros (professional dog walkers), some with as many as 20 pooches on leash, are a quotidian feature of urban life. It is highly diverting to traipse through Plaza Seeber near the embassy, where large, well-ordered packs of wildly assorted canines congregate daily to sniff, woof, and generally enjoy la vida perro.]
Otras observaciones: BA has a bazillion restaurants, and beef hot off the parrilla (grill) is as excelente as advertised. Also, Argentina is awash in Italian ancestry, so delicious pasta and pizza abound. (Regrettably, Argentinians make little use of spices, notwithstanding salsa chimichurri, which is muy bueno.) Mealtimes take some getting use to. An early dinner might begin at 20h00, más o menos (more or less), although 22h00 (that’s right, 10 PM) is more typical. The innumerable milogas, where devotees of tango congregate, don’t get revved up until well after Midnight. Apparently, no porteño (resident of BA) ever sleeps more than three hours at a stretch.
I think I’m going to like it here.
Anne is also finding her groove and the months spent at FSI studying español are paying off. Her accent has been widely praised and she has been stellar in communicating with Señora Esme, our building’s invaluable encargada (person in charge). Inspired by her (Anne, naturalmente), I have enrolled in Spanish class at the embassy, the better to facilitate interaction with the doormen, shopkeepers, and boliviano street vendors encountered on a daily basis. There is much work to do, but by the time we depart post in 2015, my Spanglish should be off the hook. Like, totalmente.
I am also arranging appointments to “take a coffee” with an eclectic assortment of expats, musicians, and other like-minded characters, both for social reasons and the better to connect with people possibly interested in musical collaborations. And, for what it’s worth, my grande scheme includes finding a teacher with whom to study accordion and a tailor to fabricate a custom, tanguero-esque black suit. When opportunity beckons, I intend to be ready.
Finalmente, sí - thank you for asking - we do have guest accommodations: Room for two in actual beds and a third, if one doesn’t mind an actual sofá. (I’ve field tested it; es más aceptable.) We’re not in host mode just yet, but I’ll keep you posted.