Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Buenos Aires blues

I'm bored of Buenos Aires now, and desperate to head off, so this afternoon I'm on a bus to the Iguazu Falls, which are supposed to be amazing.

However, I saw my favourite typo ever in a hostel the other day, a sign in the dorm saying "Please do not turd on the lights while the others people are sleeping".

Speaking as an others person myself, I'd really rather you didn't turd on the lights while I was awake either. Just if it's all the same to you, old boy.

Anyway, being as I'm such an others person, I just made some new friends in my hostel. An English couple asked me over breakfast what I was planning to do that morning, and I made the mistake of telling them I was heading up to a famous street in La Boca.

"That's a good idea", the girl said, "We'll join you".

"Are you ready to go?" I asked.

"Yes, I just need to go and get changed".

This was, of course, that particular interpretation of the word 'ready' that some people have that means 'not ready at all'.

A few minutes later, when she toddled back, she told me her boyfriend was in the shower. I looked at my watch pointedly and she ambled off. Shortly afterwards she returned with a Brazilian guy, who she said wanted to join us.

"Good idea", I said, "let's make it a party".

After only a bit more pointless waiting around everyone was finally ready (according to my definition of the term) and I got my city map out.

"No need", said the girl. "I know where we're going, I asked for directions".

It took less time to get lost than I'd spent waiting in the hostel reception.

The problem hinged on the fact that we were supposed to take a turning after a local landmark called "The Yellow House". We were definitely on the right road, and we thought we were roughly in the right place, but where the yellow house should have been was a rather non-descript looking block of flats.

On the other side of the road, however, was a large, prominent building set on about an acre of land, painted (and this was the clincher for me) a bright and luminous yellow.

When I mentioned for about the third time that I believed this to be the place, I was firmly shot down.

"But Nathan", the girl said, "It's on the wrong side of the road"

"Yes, Emily", I replied with as much equanimity as I could muster, "Maybe the guy was wrong. Maybe you heard wrong. Or maybe you happened to ask some useless f*ckwit who doesn't know their left from their right".

I filled the silence that followed by saying "Well, I'm going this way" and strode across the road, but to my chagrin the others followed.

After we'd found the street, which was of course behind the yellow house, and took a few photos, we decided to take a spot of lunch in a charming little place called the Palace of the Fried Potato ("El Palacio de la Pata Frita").

I ordered a beer with mine, and when it came to the Brazilian guy's turn to order the waiter asked him what he wanted to drink.

"I'll share the beer" he answered.

This was news to me, and while I was trying to formulate an appropriately polite response in Spanish, something along the lines of 'if you so much as look at my beer in a funny way I shall rip off your testicles and beat you to death with your own scrotum' ('si usted tan mucho como ...'), English John chimed in with "Let's get two to share".

"No", I said, "I'll get a beer and you can get your own".

There was a brief moment, then the other guys decided to split a beer. Later, when John mentioned that he was out of beer, and then said a few seconds later that he was still thirsty, I suggested they order another one. This option wasn't even discussed.

When the Brazilian asked me flat out if he could have some of my beer, a lesser man might have weakened ('what is this, dinner at the tight-@rse cafe?'), but I stuck to my guns.

"No", I simply said.

Then conversation turned to our plans for the afternoon, but this time I was ready. First I asked everyone else what they were thinking of doing, then said I was going to do something else. On the other side of town. In a different space-time continuum.

I also think I made some friends in the street the other night. I was walking along, it was dark but not too late, and a couple of local lads were right behind me. There was something about them I didn't like, so I stopped, crossed the road and studied the goods on dislay in the nearest shop window.

They carried on walking, and just as I was starting to think I'd imagined it (besides, none of those dresses would have suited me), they stopped on the corner of the street to admire the elegant contours and sleek lines of a parked volvo.

I looked at them long enough that I'd remember their faces if I saw them again, then headed off back in the direction I'd just come. They were both tall but skinny, so I wasn't sure how much of a problem I'd be in if they followed me, but I felt I'd rather not chance it.

Thankfully they didn't turn after me, they continued down the road away from me, and everything was all right after all.


I've just come back from a visit to the stadium of Arsenal de Sarandi, a team from the province of Buenos Aires, but just outside the city itself. I'm trying to cure myself of my addiction to buying football shirts (honestly, I can handle it), but I had to get this one.

All the best

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