Hello everyone! Greetings, well wishes etc from a land far far away....
I have finally capitulated and decided to write a travel blog to keep you all informed of my movements/ prove I am still alive!!! This has not been an easy task - I have wifi in the flat but no computer, just my blackberry (you try writing a blog using a keyboard made for midgets), and I managed to create a blog site last week and then mysteriously delete the e-mail with all the details on it. Imagine how technologically incompetent I was in London, and then combine this with travelling induced laziness and you´ll understand the delay!
SO. Last Friday 3rd March, I was driven to Heathrow by my slightly terrified parents for my flight to Buenos Aires. As we sat in the airport drinking coffee and watching some japanese business men striding backwards and forwards, I had the first overwhelming sensation of AAAAAAH WHAT AM I DOING. Taking out my flight details to distract myself, this was unfortunately the moment that I realised the reason the STA flight was so cheap was because they had given me 10 minutes between landing in paris, and boarding the connecting flight. Charles de Gaulle airport being about as user friendly as a keyboard in urdu I descended momentairily into blind panic. No matter, I tried to reassure myself - I can run, I run all the time in London, it will be FINE.....
.....fastforward a few hours and the air france plane still hasn´t taken off and is now half an hour delayed. When we eventually took off the french air hostesses performed the fastest trolley service I have ever seen, I tried to distract myself by listening to the bloke next to me talk about the karate tournament he was going to referree in paris (¿!!¿!), they announced that all passengers with connecting flights would be escorted to their plane in paris, and next thing I knew I was running through charles de gaulles airport barefoot (mandatory de shoeing at security) and finally flung myself at the boarding gate just as the last passenger was going through. Only I could start my career break in such a disasterous fashion.
Luckily the flight was pretty uneventful (although the cabin crew did helpfully announce that they spoke a multitude of languages including english, french, spanish, german and innuit. yes innuit - I even listened to the english and spanish translations to be sure), and I woke up an hour before we landed watching the slightly surreal flight plan with the mini plane taking me a looooong way away from London!
The spanish school I´m with here fortuitously includes a free airport transfer on arrival in BA, and I was taken to my homestay in Recoletta, one of the nicest ´barrios´in BA. If I was riding a wave of luck in managing to not miss my flights here, I have definitely used up my allowance for the next decade with my homestay. The couple who own the (beautiful traditional) appartment are called Raquel and Juan Carlos, and are quite possibly the NICEST people I have EVER met. They have 3 grown up daughters, the youngest of which (joaqina) is 27 and lives round the corner. They have literally gone out of their way to make me feel welcome (more of that later) and I´ve spoken more spanish in 1 week here than I spoke french in a month in paris. There´s an american girl in my homestay too called Melanie, who is v cool and 25 so v similar to me in age.
I had a couple of days before I started classes, so I decided to explore my area by going for a couple of walks and reading in the park. Having settled myself down near a strange man drinking beer and rubbing his leg a lot, I lay down on a plastic bag (how wise, I thought, this way I wont get grass stains on my white top), and whiled away an hour or so. Sitting up to go back for dinner, rubby leg man started gesticulating wildly and pointing at my back. Having decided this was an appropriate time to hurry away, I ambled home and, looking in the mirror, realised he was actually trying to be helpful, as the pattern on the plastic bag had transferred itself to my back in the heat and I now had a carrefour shaped tatoo. Day one fail.
I started classes last Monday, which are going well, the teachers are all really nice. Rather than learning the past tense, which would have been helpful, I have managed to learn argentinian ´vos´ rather than ´tu´form, and ´sch´sounds for words with ´ll´. So I now sound like some sort of special local who has spent several years living in a cupboard (this would also explain why I am about 500 times whiter than everyone here).
Joaqina, in addition to being the most friendly, beautiful person ever, also casually happens to have been in physical theatre/dancing for several years. The group she used to perform with pre injury were performing in BA on Friday, and she invited us all along. I can´t even begin to descibe how UNBELIEVABLE it was. IF I said there were people shooting water out of their sleeves and riding giant dragons this would make it sound like a cross between an LSD trip and an episode of playdays, so I´ve included the youtube trailer below - they come to europe sometimes so if you ever get the change to see el hombre vertiente´GO GO GO!!!!
Having randomly overlapped with Simon for a week in BA, he came along to the theatre and then we went for dinner at ´la cabrera´, one of the most unbelievable steak restaurants in the world. Ever. FACT. (Tarts - this is where we went last time where Em ate a whole cow). Despite the slightly intense new york social scene style queing and bustling, we managed to sit down about 11 (perfectly normal for argentinian dining), and proceeded to eat a steak the size of my face. No jokes. When I eventually manage to get photos on here (baby steps), I will demonstrate. It. Was. Unbelievable. We also managed to consume a bottle of wine along the way, and I got to bed at 2am.
Unfortunately, my alarm went of at 7am, and after a few hours of restless malbec induced sleep where I dreamt I was a giant dragon, I hauled myself out of bed and across town for our 8.30 meeting time for our polo lesson. We met a v nice norwegian duo, clambered into a jeep with a man named only ´fernando´ and drove out of town to an estancia for the day. Having fessed up to never having ridden a horse before, or even watched a game of polo (I sat on a horse once when I was 12, apparently this doesn´t count), I started to get a bit nervous about just how crap I was about to be. Luckily, I ended up somewhere between ´not very good´and ´verging on bad´, rather than the ´royally shit´category I had anticipated. Sadly my horse seemed more interested in eating grass-trees anything in sight than playing polo - it resisted all my attempt to convince it to trot (never mind gallop), only submitting once all the other horses were doing it (definitely a sheep rather than shepherd). I also had the minor issue of my arms, like the rest of my body, being rather short, and thus had to lean down to hit the ball, which unfortunately the horse interpreted as the sign for ´turn right´, resulting in some objectively hilarious do-se-doing of the ball.
Having managed to wangle a different horse (hasta luego fatty), I improved substantially for the game in the afternoon and even managed to score a goal - HURRAH. All in all, polo was unbelievably fun, despite being the slowest reaction sport ever for beginners (picture the ball scooting in one direction and 4 frustrated people attempting to coerce their horses towards it without hitting their heads/each other). I also now have a new ´white man´s problem´to add to my list - I have ´polo arm´.
The next day Raquel and Juan Carlos invited us to their summer house (it is ridiculously hot here) for an asado (argentinian bbq), and a swim in the pool. Numerous cuts of meat and glasses of red wine later, I was slumped in the hammock, clutching my book, and managed to slur ´I´m just too relaxed to even read´. I then proceeded to teach the argentinians and americans present the phrase ´happy as larry´- "but who is larry?" they responded, "nobody knows guys, nobody knows?" I responded whilst starring into the distance with a pensive look on my face.
Having embraced spontaneity (you´d be so proud mark), I went along with some of my friends of all of a day to ´bomba del tiempo´() in the cultural centre in BA - which was a percussion concert complete with reggae trumpet and guest rap star. Possibly one of the coolest (if sweatiest) gigs I have ever been too. I bloody love Buenos Aires.
Ive rambled on for long enough so will stop there (plus the guy next to me is currently watching ´girl scateboard falling fail´which is starting to freak me out). Will finish off with some random observations from the past week and a half;
- I have terrible mental arithmetic (managed to divide 700 pesos by 6.9 and get 10 pounds. Ten. Woops.
- People in BA are ridiculously friendly and helpful (the other day I was in a cafe by myself reading my book and a lady at the next table insisted I come sit with her, and proceded to offer to take me around the neighborhood on her lunch break)
- It is nigh on impossible to buy stamps here. Expect to get your postcards in about November.
- No one will belive I am 26.
- I have thus far managed no less than 4 conversations about the falkland islands (you try answering the question ´what do your parents do´with ´they work for the english government´and wangle your way out of THAT one). WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? This is the inspiration for this blog title (don´t mention the war....coupled with the fact that on my first day I announced ´I learn spanish from a book...)
- I do not want to leave.
Right, that´s it, I´m off to learn tango, hasta luego amigos (special chocolate button prize for anyone who has managed to read this far!)
Following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals and between civilian and military factions. After World War II, a long period of Peronist authoritarian rule an...more info