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Published: November 13th 2013
So we just got back from a few days away visiting Lean's relatives in La Plata. His family is so big we have been spending a lot of time meeting up with everyone and catching up with people, and we still haven't seen everyone yet! La Plata is a really nice city, it's only about an our away from the city centre of Buenos Aires. It is of course much smaller than B.A itself, but it is still fairly big, comparing it to other places in Ireland. I really liked the place, it has a really nice atmosphere and I have to say that the city as a whole felt a lot more compact and safe than the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. There are many beautiful buildings and as the city is quite compact the architecture really is stunning. I felt a lot less foreign here too, with a lot more 'true' Argentinians living in this fairly wealthy city. Many people were lighter skinned, and I didn't feel as many people staring at me in the street. This area has a lot of posh schools and rugby too. In fact, we ran into a rugby player in the street
and Lean was a bit star struck - so much so that we forget to take a picture. His name is Carlos Nieto - played for Gloucester, Saracens and Italy.
The houses in La Plata are all pretty stunning, although for security, many houses have big iron doors and guard dogs, and even bars on the windows - it sounds a bit like Fort Knox but it's all very stylishly done. But this is the reality that many people here in Argentina to have to live with. It is very hard for me to get used to, as I have been so spoiled really living in Europe, in particular in Ireland where it really is so safe and we can walk around pretty carefree knowing that the chances of someone trying to steal your handbag or anything like that are pretty much slim to none. But here in Argentina you really have to pay more attention and be more careful when out and about - and this is also reflected in the security people invest in for their homes. It is hard to adapt, but I don't carry a bag unless entirely necessary and I have left my watch
and nice jewellery at home in Dublin. The key is not to be too flashy or attract too much attention.
Another thing to note about living here in general, and not just referring to La Plata, but also to Buenos Aires, is the use of 'remisses' or taxis. Taking a taxi is the street is a big no no, as generally taxi drivers can over-charge or go the long way round, and that's at best. Many people here avail of a remis service, whereby you call up a trusted company that you have a particular account for and a driver is sent to collect you and bring you where you want to go. These remisses are unmarked cars so as not to draw attention too. A fare is usually determined before the driver is sent. It is just a safer way of getting around, and once it is dark here, I have been told not to take a bus etc, so as to avoid any problems. The other day for example, myself, Lean and his Mum took a remis to go to the shopping centre to pick up some groceries - sounds a bit superfluous, but the supermarket is
beside a 'villa' which is basically the word they use to describe favellas here. Strange, as for us Europeans, the word villa has quite the opposite connotations. Most cars here also have blacked out windows, again so strangers cannot see into the car and who is there or what they have with them. Something that before I had linked more to boy racers than normal people, but that's how it is here.
While we were in La Plata we spent a lot of time with Lean's family, and I met even more cousins and aunties and uncles. It is a bit hard to keep up at times as to who is who but everyone is so lovely and friendly and really welcoming, that I feel part of it all even though at times the language factor can be pretty exhausting. All of Lean's little nieces seem to really like me and in particular the fact that I have 'nice hair' and am called Hannah, like Hannah Montana. It's really sweet. I also met Lean's father for the first time which was nice - also crazy to see old pictures of him and how alike the two are, it's like
looking into the future! In true Argentinian fashion, all of these family meet-ups were full of food food and more food, and last night I had my first asado (or barbeque) here in Argentina. I have never seen so much meat before!! Heaps of it was piled on to the grill, and it was tasty as!
Argentina seems to be a country of dog lovers - there are shops on every corner selling things for dogs and cats rarely feature in any advertisements for vets or pet shops. Most people own a dog and they are most definately the preferred pet. But for that again, there are countless numbers of stray dogs living in the streets, which is so sad. Most of these strays have their own general area they live in, but it breaks my heart sometimes - the other day in La Plata, we literally came across a dog that was dying on the street, and had clearly been hit by a car. Not one person in the busy street stopped except me - a clear indication of how often this must happen. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done to help the poor dog so
I just had to walk away. But it is heartbreaking that these dogs are thrown into the streets in the first place.
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