Colors of Buenos Aires

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This blog entry about the events of Monday, March 01, 2004 was originally posted on March 02, 2004.

DAY 135:  Outside the window, the sky was grey with a light rain coming down from rain clouds above.  A look up the skylight in the atrium of the hostel, I saw raindrops on the glass.  The weather sort of put a damper on the plan I had for the day:  to go on a bike tour of Palermo, the middle-class neighborhood northwest of the city, full of scenic parks.

I was telling Pepo, the industrious French accountant that I met the night before about my need for a change of plans.  He replied with a saying he had heard from others about the temperamental weather:  “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”

Five minutes later, the sun was out, the sky turned from the color of gray to the color of blue.  I hopped on the subway bound for the Plaza San Martin, where the bike tours started from.  The tour of the afternoon didn’t go to Palermo like I had hoped, so I ditched the two-wheelers to go explore other areas on town on foot.  I took the subway to the architecturally-impressive Constitution train station and walked the streets of new, but soon-to-be familiar neighborhoods.


THE FIRST OF THESE NEIGHBORHOODS was La Boca, a working-class area of town where Italian immigrants made their home away from home back in Buenos Aires’ historical past.  La Boca is now more known for its famous soccer team, the Boca Juniors, and there was no questioning their presence when I saw their big stadium and their fanatic paraphernalia stores covered in the team colors, gold and blue.

The other big draw to La Boca was even more colorful:  the old-fashioned, outdoor pedestrian mall known as Caminito, with its old buildings sided with wood and corrugated metal painted in bright primary colors (picture above) — it was like being on the set of 1990’s Dick Tracy.  In addition to the colorful, yet crude architecture, kitschy cartoon statues were placed around, on balconies and at store fronts to accentuate the area’s laid back — and touristy — atmosphere.

Inside one of these brightly-painted stores with the kitschy figures outside, I befriended an Argentine girl and was quite impressed with myself that I could sustain a conversation with her in Spanish with about an 80% fluency.  Spanish had finally returned to my brain.


ON MY WAY TO THE OLD PORT, another woman in an apron stopped me on a street corner to give me a flyer for the cafe she worked for.

“Hola.”

“Hola,” I replied.

“De donde eres?”

“Soy de Nueva York,” I answered as the Spanish 101 conversation continued.

“Oh, so you speak English?”

“Yes.”

“Que parte de Nueva York?  Brooklyn, Manhattan…”

“Acutally, Nueva Jersey.  Jersey City cerca de Manhattan.”

“Ah, Nueva Jersey.  Bon Jovi!”

“Yes, Bon Jovi.”

Before I could go into my karaoke rendition of “Living On A Prayer,” she led me to her sidewalk cafe nearby, overlooking the old port at the mouth of the Rio Riachuelo.


IN CELEBRATION OF THE 2004 TANGO FESTIVAL, a small stage was set up nearby where a man and woman entertained the crowd with the seductive dance of two.  With the sexy dancing and the enticing sounds of the violin and accordion, the setting couldn’t have been more romantic.  Unfortunately for me, the only companion I had at the time was my long-lasting travel partner “Blog,” my journal personified as my imaginary friend.  The mood struck me to caress the pages of my notebook delicately, like a loser — at least I didn’t have sex with a warm apple pie.

The romantic mood was spoiled when I paid my bill with a ten peso note, only to have the waiter tell me it was fake — I hadn’t had this problem since I crossed the border from Ecuador into Peru.  He pointed out the flaws of the counterfeit to me, and under scrutinization, the fake was an obvious printout from an Epson or HP color printer on double-sided matte paper, with its speckled dithering patterns of colored ink.  The waiter was cool about it as long as I have him a real bill.

On my way out of the Caminito, a fireman in uniform stopped me and asked me for a donation in his department’s drive for a new ambulance.  I was iffy on giving any money, but then he played the Nine Eleven, Firemen Are Heroes Card and I decided to give him ten pesos — a different note from the one that had been deemed false.

“Es falso,” he told me, pointing out its lack of authenticity.  “[This is dangerous to have.  You’ll be put in jail,” he said, using the hand gesture of being handcuffed.  He questioned me about the bill and where I got it from — I told him it might have come from the sushi restaurant near the Cemetario de la Recoleta the day before.

Without knowing the Spanish vocabulary of such a situation, I had about a 5% Spanish fluency this time and ended up playing the Dumb Tourist Card — which was advantageous when another fireman brought into the conversation called over a nearby police officer.

The armed cop, decked in a bulletproof vest, interrogated me about the fake ten peso note.  Continuing to play the Dumb Tourist Card, I pleaded my ignorance and explained that I might have gotten it from that sushi restaurant.  In my confusion, he believed me and let me go.  Along with the two firemen, he took a look at the other peso notes in my wallet, only to find that I had 35 pesos (about twelve US dollars) in counterfeit bills.

“[What can I do?]” I asked, hoping they could help me with some retribution.

“[Nothing.  Rip them up, they are dangerous to have,]” the fireman said as he did the international hand gesture of ripping.


WITH STILL ABOUT A HUNDRED REAL PESOS IN MY WALLET, I walked over to San Telmo, the quaint artists’ quarter of Buenos Aires — however, like Soho in New York City, the area seemed to be overtaken by yuppies and tourists instead of struggling artisans.  I walked along its cobblestone streets lined with sidewalk cafes and settled down for a rest after my long day of walking at an outdoor cafe in the Plaza Dorrego.  I drank glasses of vitamin-C-enriched orange juice to combat my mild cough, and ate a delicious Argentine steak sandwich while listening to the musical stylings of a nearby guitarist serenading all the patrons.  I sat and dined with “Blog” as I watched a couple smooch at a nearby table — the woman seemed a lot less interested than the man because she had her eyes wide open the whole time.


THAT NIGHT AT THE HOSTEL, Sebastian the German from Stuttgart invited me to go out clubbing with him and a couple of Brazilian guys.  He told me they were going out around midnight and I told him I was interested since it was my last night in BA.  Around nine I put my head down to take a short nap, but didn’t wake up until the next morning.  Later I learned they just went to a drum and bass club — not characteristic of Buenos Aires at all — and wasn’t that bothered that I missed out.  I saved the money I would have spent anyway, which was good because I was down 35 pesos in colorful fake bills.






Next entry: Last Meals Before Africa

Previous entry: It Takes Two to Tango, But Hundreds to Start A Revolution




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Comments for “Colors of Buenos Aires”

  • murtinho nobre…sorry had to do it

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  06:11 PM


  • although you think blog is just your paper…blog is really over 2000 unique IP address worldwide….BHs rock, and SBRs are only ok…HAHAHA

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  06:17 PM


  • HEY GANG:  Whew!  I’m finally all caught up from being behind since moving into Rio.  Everything is up to date, minus the events of today (March 3rd), which isn’t over yet and is to be posted tomorrow according to my regular routine.

    I’m writing this at the Buenos Aires international airport now, waiting for my plane to my next destination.  If you don’t know where that is, you might be able to guess using the “Interactive Itinerary” choice on the CONTENTS pull-down menu on the upper-left of this page.

    That’s all for now… I’ll write you all from another continent when we begin… (drumroll)... THE GLOBAL TRIP 2004 PART II:  AFRICA.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  06:32 PM


  • ERIK: As in the famous words from markyt… “Africa”...replying to Greg Lee’s question….

    Hopefully, you can catch Carmen Sandiego for me in Africa!!!  Damn her, I underestimated her sneakiness.  Robocrook….in jail….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  06:36 PM


  • Yo Erik, Moman here—I know some peeps in Zambia and Kenya, I’ll drop ‘em a line and see what they’re up to! Maybe they’ll be able to show you around…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  08:47 PM


  • My Guess is you are on:
    Malaysia Airlines
    flight: 202
    Boeing 747-400
    dep: Buenos Aires 8:45pm
    arr: Cape Town 9:30am
    Distance traveled: 6890km 4281miles
    Duration: 7h 45min

    Hows that for being a geek?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  12:19 AM


  • Looking forward to having you on the continent!! Enjoy the Cape, one of the most beautiful places on earth!

    Been lurking since day 1 and have really enjoyed following your trip.

    If you’re planning to be up near the Copperbelt in Zambia/DRCongo let me know!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  08:52 AM


  • To AFriCa !!! ... BH"S “4” LIFE !!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  10:48 AM


  • they sure have a lot of counterfeit bills there in south america. maybe they should try to redesign their money. and i can’t wait til you are in africa. WOW!!! that is gonna be really exciting. i am eager to see your first post from there…. =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  11:02 AM


  • AFREEKACHIK:  Hey, glad you’ve broken your silence… welcome to the Fellowship of the Blog.

    I am in Capetown right now…  in my itinerary I’ll have a day or two in Zambia I think… perhaps we can meet up then.

    Follow the blog and you’ll see when I am approaching—perhaps in four weeks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  12:09 PM


  • TD0T:  You’ve set a new standard in geekdom with your flight stats.

    (Congratulations!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  12:19 PM


  • out of south america already! those 5 (?) months flew…

    HELLO CAPETOWN:) check out http://www.activeafrica.com/ for some fun (adventure) tours & tell chris i say hi.

    hope you don’t get any counterfeit rands!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  11:14 PM


  • OOOPS!! mistake! i forgot the dash:

    http://www.active-africa.com/

    they are based in capetown.

    (still JEALOUS)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  11:35 PM


  • Is that really william hung from american idol?  if that’s you “she bangs” congratulations on your fame.
    i would suggest continue with your engineering studies. there’s more security in it… but I am happy for your fame..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/04  at  11:08 PM


  • hahahah!  your mom is funny.  i like this line from this entry: “international hand gesture of ripping.”

    Posted by hanalei  on  03/07  at  01:54 PM


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Next entry:
Last Meals Before Africa

Previous entry:
It Takes Two to Tango, But Hundreds to Start A Revolution




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

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SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

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The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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