A Travellerspoint blog

It takes two to Tango!

And some patience evidently

I’ve quickly learnt that throwing yourself into the Latin American life has its consequences. Apparently getting up at 7am in the morning attending school until 1, going sightseeing in the afternoon, doing more studying, having dinner and then going out till the wee small hours in the morning only surviving on a few hours sleep a day is not good for your health! After 10 days with a cough that didn’t look like it was going to budge I finally gave in and went to see a doctor. A chance for me to put my limited Spanish into practice! It was a struggle but I managed to explain what was wrong with me by using a few key words and some over exaggerated miming. He finally gave me some antibiotics, told me to ‘rest’ and sent me on my way. He also told me as I was leaving that I needed to ‘accelerate my learning’ – cheers Doc like I wasn’t already aware of that! So this week has mainly involved going to school, studying and sunbathing in the park. I’ve been here for two weeks now so today I decided it was time to try my hand at some Tango. Tango is the national dance of Argentina and most porteños are fanatical about it so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The class was hmmm well interesting. How one is supposed to keep the tension in your arms whilst relaxing your shoulders and keep your chest pushed forwards escapes me entirely. In addition to this you are not allowed to bend your knees or look at your feet and you have to keep your hips still whilst all the while looking sad. The looking sad part is a must, Tango music is very nostalgic so no smiling allowed! Oh and the class was conducted entirely in Spanish – as if it wasn’t difficult enough already! Then there is the fact that Tango is a very intimate dance so your face and chest are inches away from your partners. This might not be so bad if the men that danced Tango were tall, dark and handsome. Ladies if you are reading this and want to come to Argentina to dance Tango with tall dark handsome Argentinian men your hopes will be quickly dashed. Most of them are short, fat and balding. Despite all evidence to the contrary I actually enjoyed the class – but I think the next time I experience Tango I might do it as a spectator rather than a participant. The moral of the story: watching two pros wearing beautiful clothes and dancing gracefully around a candlelit room is far more glamorous than clumsily stumbling around a brightly lit hall with a balding middle aged man.

Posted by amanda_w24 19:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

The Argentinian Life

But when do they sleep I wonder??!!

Having now moved into a lovely apartment right in the centre of all the hustle and bustle I well and truely feel like I am embracing the Argentinian way of life! At the moment I am living in a fairly international house - we have representatives from Canada, Italy, Brasil and England. Our host Cecilia owns the place and is a porteño (native to Buenos Aires) - she is fantastic and makes us all speak in Spanish which is great as otherwise being lazy we would all just speak in English. This is great practice even if most of the time I don't know what is going on, mainly I just nod my head and say si si alot and sometimes throw a claro, bueno or vale in the mix - I hope i'm quite convincing!

Life in Buenos Aires is very relaxed - people have no sence of urgency over here so everything takes place at a much slower pace. This can be frustrating when you have to queue at the bank for over an hour to change your money because everyone is having a good old natter but it also has its advantages. 2-3 hour lunches are common and you don't have to worry about being on time anywhere - in fact I don't think the concept of having to be 'on time' really exists at all in Latin America. People don't eat dinner till well past 11 at night and then it is fairly typical to either go to a bar, nightclub or to dance Tango from 1 am onwards and then people usually go home maybe 4 am on a weekday but much later on a weekend. Just to note this doesn't just include young people - the Tango clubs are choc full of people from all ages somtimes well in thier 60's!!! However people still have to get up to go to work for 9 or 10 am (sometimes earlier) so I really do wonder when anyone sleeps??

I had my first experience of an Argentinian night club the other night, I went to a typical ´boliche´ (nightclub) which was a little cheesy for my liking but definitely an interesting cultural experience. Note if you want to see an Argentinian go crazy just whack on some Black Eyed Peas or Bon Jovi and see what happens - I would try to explain this effect but I feel like my words might not do it justice!! I also had my first mariage proposal (I'm told the norm is to expect at least one a week) which, tempting though it was coming from a man wearing something that resembeled a jesters hat, I politely declined. Like any good English girl I accepted the drink that was bought for me (and I carefully watched wasn´t spiked!), excused myself to go to the bathroom and spent the rest of the night hiding from my proposer. Hmmmm i´m sure I should really know better by now......

Yesterday, after having had a mere 3 hours sleep and going to school I went on a graffiti tour of the city which despite my tiredness was fantastic. Buenos Aires is a really popular place for graffiti artists as you are allowed to paint pretty much wherever you want though most artists get the permission of whoever owns the building and a lot of the work is actully comissioned. Most of the artists are friends and often club together to do pieces - it seems to be quite a social event. There is a very strict code of conduct not to draw or tag over other people's work which is a concept I find quite hard to grasp. One piece we saw had been there for over 2 years and still looked brand new - I mean can you imagine that ever happening in the UK??!! Buenos Aires is also apparently a very safe place to paint compared to other cities in Latin America so it's also very popular for that reason. The Argentinians are also very political - many of the pieces that I saw were painted either to make a statement or to give people something cheerful to look at. There were so many amazing pieces I took about a gazillion photos but I have just put up a few of my personal favourites - enjoy!
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Posted by amanda_w24 12:36 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Back to school

Pero no entiendo nada - but I don't understand anything!!

sunny 25 °C

So after a challenging first weekend in Latin America things are looking up! I started school yesterday and am moving to a new apartment tomorrow - to a more central location. The whole point of living in a flat share is that you live with a local Argentinian so you can practice your Spanish. Needless to say an apartment with a room that resembled a prison cell and with hosts who haven't spoken to me since I arrived has not been ideal but anyways now i'm moving at least I can laugh about it!

It's fun going back to school again the teachers are all super chilled and its a fun relaxed atmosphere at the school. I however have a new found respect for anyone that can speak more than one language - its really really difficult my brain hurts constantly!! I just generally walk around in a daze most of the time feeling confused. I'm not sure why everything feels so foreign here - having previously visited places like China and Thailand etc but I think its because I wasn't trying to understand anything - you know ignorance is bliss an everything!!

Have done a bit of exploring with some of the other students - Buenos Aires is an amazingly cool city I love it. Beautiful buildings, lots of greenery, 'collectivos' or 'buses' that define the word vintage, cafes and bars everywhere and its hot!! My friend the sun - we haven't seen a lot of each other lately but i'm glad to say we've been reunited and are very happy to see each other again!! So far I have signed up for a graffiti tour of the city and some Tango classes which will be conducted entirely in Spanish so should be an interesting experience as it is quite a technical type of dance - Ayuda por favour - help me please!!

Posted by amanda_w24 12:13 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

1st day in BA

Is my Spanish really that bad?!

sunny

So I arrive in Buenos Aires after 15 hours or so and get a phone call from the coordinator at the school saying there has been some drama with the apartment I was meant to be sharing with 3 other students. She reassures me however that everything is ok and the taxi driver is taking me somewhere else - to stay in a flat with a youngish Argentinian couple. A little more than overwhelmed and too tired to argue I let the taxi driver take me to my new home. It's a very basic room in an 8th floor apartment in one of the fairly trendy areas of BA - Palmero which on the outset seems quite exciting. Except I don't get the warmest welcome - the couple (I don't even know their names!) simply give me a key, show me where I am on a map and leave to go shopping for the afternoon!! Spending a weekend by myslelf trying to orientate myself around a strange city was not really what I had in mind - needless to say the school will be recieving a very angry email from me!!

So I am now sitting in a local cafe using their wifi and practicing my (very basic) Spanish. I just ordered a coffee with milk 'un cafe con leche por favour'. I practiced this sentence many a time before leaving the UK - a very very important phrase in my opinion but I am now left bewildered as the waitor has just brought me a tea. So this leads me to think that either coffee with milk is something completely different in Argentina, or I prounounced it so badly and look so typically English he assumed (as all English people do?!) I wanted tea? Dam bloody English cliches!! I'm inclined to go with the later anyways. Well I just ordered a pizza with cheese and tomato as it was the only thing on the menu I recognised - i'll be interested to see what comes out.......

Posted by amanda_w24 18:22 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

2 days to go!!

Excitement, nerves, excitement more nerves, ok nerves have gone now i'm just excited!!!

Ok so not long to go now...........tomorrow is my last day at work for 4 months, big smiles all around!!

Late Friday evening I will be fly to my first destination Buenos Aires!! I'm packing a fair amount of travelling into the 4 months so I have had to be pretty organised and decide where I want to go and what I want to see. So this is the general plan of what I will be doing (so far anyways):

27th November - Fly to Buenos Aires - go to Spanish school for a month. During this month I will be living in a shared appartment in the city with 3 other international students. I'm planning on eating lots of steak, doing lots of tango classes, going to the best Argentine nightclubs - oh an learning some Spanish too! A weekend trip to the amazing Igauzo falls is also top of the list of priorities!!!

26th December - Make my way over to Santiago via Mendoza to see my pal Sophia who I met in NZ and haven't seen for 6 years!! Spend NY with Sophia, her Chilian partner Ricado and his entire Chilian family - this should be a very interesting experience!! Road trip with Sophia from Santiago to Calama according to Sophia's amazing itineriary!

16th January Say bye bye to Sophia (sob) as she leaves for NZ - I travel onto Cuzco Peru. Here I will be volunteering with Aldea Yanapay and amazing volunteer organisation improving the lives of Peruvian children in Cuzco. Here I will be living in the volunteer house and helping out with the after school centre most likely teaching English.

20th Febuary - leave Cuzco, see the rest of Peru and Ecauador

21st March - Fly from Lima to Montevideo (Uruguay) - Chill out on a beach, get a suntan!

31st March - Say bye bye to South America - fly home to the UK hopefully full of amazing life experiences and tales to tell, being able to speak fluent Spanish and no doubt with a very empty wallet ;)

Wish me luck!!!

Posted by amanda_w24 14:12 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

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