Monday, December 01, 2008

La primera semana

Lots of great food, a football match and a trip to the hospital (via ambulance, no less)...what an exciting first week in Buenos Aires. I hope you´ll forgive me for the delay in my first post from this amazing city, but I have been a busy guy.

Buenos Aires is a great city. It feels very European--lots of wide boulevards and plazas and cafes. It has dozens of distinct barrios, or neighborhoods. Each has a unique character. I´m staying in the microcentro, the center of the city. This has positioned me well for lots of exploring on foot.

Not far from where I´m staying is the Plaza de Mayo. Adjacent to the plaza is the Casa Rosada, the office of the president. It´s also where Madonna sang ¨Don´t cry for me Argentina.¨

From Argentina

One thing I enjoy about the city is its numerous parks, perfect places for an afternoon siesta after a big lunch.

From Argentina

And, as I mentioned before, the city has a number of sprawling boulevards, including, apparently, the widest street in the world--as wide as one city block. Avenida Calle de Julio is the main north-south artery in the city. In the center is one of Buenos Aires´ more well-known landmarks, an obelisk dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the city´s founding.

From Argentina

One of the city´s most famous barrios is La Boca. It´s a very colorful neighborhood, with a small tourist area loaded with cafes and tango clubs. Many of the cafes have small stages outside where couples dance the tango. (In case you didn´t know, the tango is from Argentina).

From Argentina

The neighborhood is known for being a bit rough. This was more than evident during last night´s Boca Juniors game. The Boca Juniors are one of the world´s most famous football clubs. Diego Maradona, who was recently named the coach of the national team, played for them a couple decades ago.

The police had cordoned off an area around the stadium. To get within one block, you had to go through a police checkpoint and get frisked.

From Argentina

And to enter the stadium, you had to be frisked once more. Inside, the field itself is surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire. The general seating section (where I sat) also is circled with a tall fence. As you might guess, futbol games in Argentina have gotten out of hand now and then. But last night´s game was without incident. It was, however, exciting as hell--one of the funnest things I´ve done during all of my travels so far. The crowd sang and chanted constantly. They had a different song for every part of the game--welcoming the team, yellow cards, goals. They even had one to sing at the police while we waited to be released from the stadium (they do it in sections, so that the crowd is better dispersed.)

The crowd welcomes the team onto the field:

From Argentina

And now, in a first for this trip, some videos. Here are two from the match, the first is the crowd welcoming the team onto the field, and the second is the fans celebrating the Boca victory.

A few other highlights:

--The city has a pretty extensive subway network, the Subte. The oldest line is like no other subway I´ve been on. The line, built in the 19-teens, features wooden cars with doors that are manually opened. It´s really cool.

From Argentina

--The Recoleta neighborhood has lots of beautiful buildings and feels quite Paris-like. It also features a cool cemetery, which includes the mausoleum of Eva Peron. The cemetery is entirely above-ground tombs.

From Argentina

--Lastly, I´m sure I got your attention when I mentioned a hospital visit. I found a bar to watch the Nebraska game on Friday night. Among the people I met there were two locals who had recently spend two months living in Omaha, during training with First Data. Small world, eh? Anyway, at the end of the game, a glass fell from the bar and sliced open the top of my foot. There was a lot of blood.

The bar´s security guy told me that he called an ambulance to take me to the hospital. Not only did I think this was a bit much (though it was clear I did need stitches), but I told him that I didn´t have much money on me and no identification. Doesn´t matter, he said, it´s free. Free? Yes, don´t worry. Wow. I tried to insist upon taking a taxi instead--surely the ambulance could be put to better use somewhere else. No, it´s fine, the ambulance will be here soon. Long story short, I got an ambulance ride and three stitches for nothing. I didn´t even sign have to sign a consent to treatment form. Apparently, outpatient services at the public hospitals are free in Argentina, regardless of your nationality.

Anyway, what happens from here? I don´t know. I have no plan. I will be in BsAs at least through Thursday. I´m quite happy to stay in the city for a little while, as there´s a lot to see and its a lot of fun. The locals are very nice, and happy to have a conversation with foreigners. I´m actually amazed at how much Spanish I remember, having had my last class more than three years ago. I guess eight years of learning kinda seals it into your memory. The locals can be a bit hard to understand, but if I explain that I´m a foreigner, they speak slowly. And really, I´ve been speaking Spanish more than half the time. I´ve been hanging out with people from around the world who speak Spanish. It´s great.

More later this week. I´m very happy with my decision to come here.


Anonymous said...

well, aside from the whole slicing your foot open thing, very cool. and i'm pretty sure i have some videos very similar to yours from my first football match in england. loved it!

bkwriter2007 said...

Like the previous blogger, I remember futbol matches from England... Never went to one in person, but saw them at the pubs. Heck of a fun time.