We have been living in Buenos Aires for just over two weeks now, so we thought it was high-time you got an update! As well as seeing the beautiful city and enjoying all it has to offer, we are here to learn Spanish and are taking classes at Ibero, a school on Uruguay Street here in BA. We are both really enjoying it! I am in the beginner class as my knowledge of Spanish was absolute zero when we arrived; Ania is in the intermediate class, having studied the language up to A-Level.
We asked Ibero to arrange a home-stay for us here in BA, as we wanted to practice the language outside of school. So we are living with the lovely Susana, who has a beautiful apartment with the highest ceilings I've ever seen, in a fashionable and lively area of BA called San Telmo. We have our own room and share the kitchen and bathroom with Susana. It's been so nice to unpack and not live out of a backpack for a bit. Here's the view from our room:
San Telmo really comes alive every Sunday, when it has a busy market with stalls selling everything from jewellery to mate cups (pronounced 'MA-TAY', it's a kind of South American tea that's really popular here and in Uruguay) to antiques to delicious street food. The market takes over a whole cobbled street called Defensa. At one end of the road is the square, the Plaza Derrego, where on our first weekend we stood fascinated while dozens of people danced the tango with a live band at night:
Same market, different day. A shot of Defensa during the day one weekend.
Of course we have done the tourist thing here in BA, but the thing that occupies us the most is studying! We have class 9am - 1pm, Monday to Friday, I mean 'Lunes a Viernes'; and we get lots of 'tareas' (homework!). Thankfully we have a big desk in our room at Susana's. It's times like this I'm glad I'm not staying in a hostel:
Our class sizes vary, but most people do the beginner classes, so Ania's group has been smaller than mine. In my first two weeks we had nine people, so it was slow going at times, but I have learnt a lot. It's really satisfying to be able to talk to people in shops now, or ask for directions. Before we did our classes, we were completely reliant on Ania's Spanish ability, so I'm pleased to be able to contribute now, even if it's only in a small way!
People from BA, or 'porteños' as they are called, live life late! Dinner is at 9 or 10pm and the nightclubs have special deals, letting the early birds in for free before 3am! We haven't been clubbing here actually (we prefer the pubs), but they open until 6 or 7am. I'm getting too old for that! Earlier I mentioned how San Telmo comes alive on a Sunday. Well the setting of the sun or the closing of the market doesn't mean the fun stops there! At dusk people remain on the streets, sharing enormous, litre bottles of beer (ok, I'm dressing it up, it's called 'street drinking'!). Here's me and my friend Jonee from my Spanish class, who interestingly enough is Jonee Duggan!
'But Stu,' I hear you ask, 'You're in Buenos Aires, you're street drinking, what more could you possibly want?!' Well, how about a live percussion band?! Every Sunday there are a few of these groups banging around in the street, but this one is our favourite. They seem to be the biggest and therefore the loudest. If you watch the video below you can see their 'conductor', a crazy character in the middle who controls the tempo and the rhythm with a whistle!
We can see BA's enormous obelisk as we walk to school every morning. Here's Ania standing in front of the landmark.
The unique cemetery in the neighbourhood of Recoleta. We went here last Thursday. All of the tombs or graves are above the ground; and you can see the coffins inside. It was quite spooky! As you can see below, the statues and carvings are extremely ornate and the 'streets' of the cemetery go on for ages!
The grave of Eva Perón. She was the wife of Argentina's President in the 1940s and 50s and Madonna played her in the film Evita.
A scary statue in the cemetery. This reminded me of the Resident Evil computer games series! You can see a cat in the bottom right hand corner. There are loads of cats in the cemetery that appear to be strays. It reinforces the Egyptian idea of cats as the guardians of the underworld. Please don't lock me in here at night!
Tango dancing is hugely popular here and it seems to be going on everywhere. I took the following video one Sunday in San Telmo. We were in the market when it started to rain, so Ania, Jonee and myself took shelter in this cafe. A couple of tango pros were dancing with a great duet playing live music (guitar and some kind of Argentinian squeezebox/accordion thing). It was one of those wonderful, spontaneous moments that you just can't plan:
For once I haven't mentioned food in my blog post, but don't worry, let me rectify this grievous error! Argentinian food generally is ok and we've had to learn that the supermarkets generally are a bit crap. It's more like it used to be in Britain, where you go to town to do your shopping and visit the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, etc. You know, before Tesco bought everything. The food here mainly consists of bread, meat and potatoes with little spice available (which surprised me). They do really like pasta though so Ania has managed to find veggie food, and of course like any other big city, BA does have a variety of restaurants. But if you're eating out here what you really want to go for is the steak. The beef here puts the stuff we have in Europe and the stuff we tried in Oz or NZ to shame! It's simply in a different class! Last week we went out for a meal with some of our classmates, to a restaurant called Desnivel, handily just around the corner from our house in San Telmo. Desnivel is a 'parilla': an indoor barbecue restaurant specialising in steak. I got the Bife de Lomo (tenderloin or filet mignon) with roast potatoes and we had a nice bottle of Argentinian red wine. Honestly one of the best meals I've ever had.