Thursday, November 11, 2010

Buenos Aires, Initial Impressions

Ok, I haven't been in BA for very long, just for a few days, and I've been tied up in the apartment with audio projects for a good part of that time. Because of this, I don't have a very comprehensive knowledge about Buenos Aires just yet. However, I do have a few initial impressions of this very interesting city.

Looking at the city centro from la Zona Norte

Incidentally, you can click on any of the photos in this post to see them in much higher resolution - I'm experimenting with a new camera.

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, and is probably the most European cities of South America. It has about thirteen million people at the moment, and it is fairly far south, as far as its position in South America stands. Go to Wikipedia if you want to learn more. A lot of people reading this blog/note are going to be Canadian or American. For North Americans or Europeans, Buenos Aires or São Paulo would be the obvious destination cities to start learning about South America.

Here are a few interesting things that I've "learned" about Buenos Aires so far, or which are rumours that I've been told. Rather than just talk about things that seem "interesting" to Canadians, I'll try to put them into context for a few different nationalities (Canadians, Americans, and Argentinians), since some things that seem strange to people from one country do not seem strange to people from other parts of the world (and I'll also have a lot of Argentinians reading this).

- Porteños ("people of the port") often do an afternoon sort of tea-time thingy like the British. Canadians and Americans look at this custom and shake our heads in curiousity. The yerba mate is pretty tasty, and doesn't make me feel all spastic like caffeine does.

- In Buenos Aires, any "real" restaurant doesn't open until at least 9pm. Dinner is usually around 10pm at the earliest. To find a restaurant that opens before 9pm, you have to find a fast food joint (they seem to love McDonalds) or go to a gringo restaurant. It is common for Porteños to stay out socializing until 6am or later. I was talking to someone about this and I think that this cultural phenomena is rooted in the desire to spend waking hours out of the heat. The same thing happens in the Middle East. Many Argentinians would be surprised to know that in Canada, we normally eat dinner between 5pm and 7pm, and many people (except for some "night owls" like myself) go to bed before 11pm.

- Many dance clubs don't open until after 3am. In my part of Canada, bars & clubs open their doors during the daytime and usually have to close at 2am. Maybe it is because Canadians get into such a party mood that the bartenders want to cut everybody off by 2am, so we're in bed before breakfast. Actually, with the trend in the past decade for Canadians to start coming out to clubs later and later (after midnight), I really wish that Canadian liquor laws would change and dance clubs would be allowed to stay open until about 4am or 5am if they felt it was financially advantageous. This could be the topic of another full blog post.

- "Going out until 7am" is considered completely normal. See above. If I'm still up at 6am in Canada, I'm usually the only one left standing. Or wobbling.

- After-hours clubs start at noon. Hah! That's awesome. We have very few after-hours clubs in Canada, and none of them are licensed to serve alcohol.

- Apparently Argentinians are not a big drinking society. I think that means that I'm in trouble, and need to find some ex-pats. I am impressed though, that I just bought a litre of vodka for the equivalent of $4 Canadian. In the United States, especially in tax havens like New Hampshire, this is probably normal. In Canada, that much vodka would cost $32 or more (about 130 peso).

- Driving in Argentina is definitiely not recommended for foreigners. Argentina has regular road stops everywhere, so you might have to pay La Mordida as a toll fee.

- In the area that I'm staying, it is apparently fairly safe to walk at night. I wouldn't count on it, but my American host feels very comfortable here. However, a lot of municipalities throughout the city hire their own security guards to stand on each block corner to augment the police of the city.

- The sun still travels from the east to the west. However, since you're looking northwards at it, the actual direction through the sky is right to left, which is very disconcerting for me (as someone who tells time by looking at the sun all summer). I haven't had a chance to see the night sky clearly yet, since I'm in a city, but I'm looking forward to the southern constellations once I'm on the ship in the Drake Sea in a couple weeks. FYI, the southern sky has far less bright stars in it than the northern sky does, just like the total land mass south of the equator is a lot less than the land mass north of the equator (not related, that's just a random comparison on my part).

- There are green parakeets everywhere! Very cool. In Canada, we have black crows. I'd be tempted to trade, except for the fact that I think most crows are smarter than the lower two quartiles of the human population.

- The temperature this weekend is supposed to be around 27 degree Celsius. I don't know what that is in Fahrenheit (for the enlightenment of the Americans reading this), but I'm guessing that it's "almost summertime hot for Canada." Around 80 Fahrenheit. Basically, South America's winter is North America's summer, and vice versa. So coming down here to visit in November is perfect timing to avoid Canada's snow. PS: If you're American, learn metric. Get with the program.

One of my boarding passes. The entire trip from Halifax to BA took me from 12:30pm Monday until 12:30pm Tuesday.

Hey y'all prepare yourself for the rubberband van. Sometimes I feel like a modern-day Gord Downie, and realize that less than 1% of readers will understand some of my inside jokes. Please, someone sample or Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo a good house remix, and when they ask why in an interview, tell them that DJ Bolivia suggested it. PS: This has nothing to do with the King of the South.

And why should a pizza be round? What is wrong with a 2:1 ratio rectangular pizza with rounded corners? Nothing. And you'd agree if you tasted this one. I don't know what kind of cheese they used on it, but this tasted amazing.

The Buenos Aires sky at night. Normally I wouldn't have included this photo since I was a tiny bit skewed when I took it, and the horizon is tilted, except that I liked the decent moon shot. Unfortunately, my camera only goes to 1600 ISO. I've got a 12800 coming in a few weeks, albeit too late for this trip.

Graf. Unfortunately, I had to take this one from the side because of trees beside the building.

El centro, at dusk.

This shot made me really happy once I saw how it came out.

I had to take about five photos of this guy before I got an action shot that I was happy with.

Why so blue? Probably from looking at the half-mast flagpoles. Adiós, Señor Presidente. Las gentes llora.

Those are my disjointed thoughts so far. I'll try to post more in a week or so. I'll have full photo galleries available on my website in early December.