April 9, 2006
Andrea Visit Day 1
To the faithful readers of Dan's blog, you are now about to gain a new perspective, mine. (Dan Says: Well, I still feel the need to throw in my opinion every now and then. So plan on hearing from me throughout Andrea's ramblings. Think of it as a conversation of sorts.) This is Andrea, a friend of Dan's, who some of you may know or have heard about. So for the next week you will be hearing from me as I detail an account of our adventures.
This morning I arrived in Buenos Aries, Argentina, after a very long flight originally from Chicago. When I got off the plane a guy was standing there rattling off instructions in Spanish so I had no clue what he was talking about. So I just followed the crowd. There was a huge line of people going through some sort of immigration checkpoint. There were two lines, one for citizens, one for tourists. I felt better after someone asked me in Spanish which line was for tourists. He asked in English after I met him with a blank stare. After getting through the checkpoint with no problems I went to get my luggage. After that I wasn't quite sure where Dan would be meeting me. As I walked toward the exit I saw a crowd of people waiting so I figured that would be my best bet. It was. As soon as I walked past the last security point Dan spotted me. (Dan Says: Thankfully, I was there on time or I would have faced the wrath of Andrea). It was great to see him again, but a bit weird as we were in another country. (Dan Says: It was nice for me because she was the first person from home I had seen in over half a year. We hopped on a bus and caught up. Mostly I filled him in on stories that I had been saving because I was too lazy to type out all that stuff on e-mail. (Dan Says: I enjoyed hearing someone with a Wisconsin accent again. Phrases like "holy crap," "cripes," "royally ticked," and "holy buckets" were mainstay in our conversation.).
Once we arrived at the hostel we had some breakfast and coffee. We were able to get our own room and bathroom in the hostel, which is nice as we don't have to share a space with five or six other people. (Dan Says: It's the nicest hostel I've stayed in for a long time). After we got settled in we took off to walk around the part of the city near our hostel. There are several pedestrian malls in the city. The one near our hostel reminds me a lot of State Street in Madison, lots of shopping and places to eat. We also took a brief walk through the shopping mall, which was much nicer than any I've been to in the U.S. The shops looked upscale, but the prices were cheaper than in the U.S. (Dan Says: I guess that brakes the "Third World Country" stereotype.).
So far it doesn't really feel like I'm in a foreign country. The people are just like any you would see in any big city in the U.S. I thought I would stick out here, but I don't at all. It is a very diverse place. I recognize a lot of brand names from the U.S. Plus there's no language barrier for me. I can have a conversation with Dan in English and many people here speak English as well. When people do speak Spanish Dan can translate, so no big deal. Anything else that is foreign, like the money system, Dan can explain to me. He's been here for awhile and knows the ropes, for the most part. (Dan Says: I love playing tour guide!).
We had lunch early in the afternoon around 2pm, which is fairly typical. We just shared some grilled chicken, which was good. It was made on an open grill in the main part of the restaurant. This is also common. My favorite part of the meal was the sauce that went with the bread. I liked it even better than ranch, which I love.
After lunch we went back to the hostel to make plans to attend a soccer game later in the afternoon. Dan tried getting into contact with someone he had gone out with the night before. The lady at the reception desk was enjoying mate (pronounced "mah-tay"), a very popular drink. As he made the phone call to his friend, I had mate. It is basically a special cup filled with dried Yerba leaves and then infused with hot water. You sip it through a metal straw that has a strainer on the bottom, which prevents you from drinking the tea leaves. The kind most people drink is bitter and Dan had made it sound like it was practically undrinkable. However this the less-common kind, which had a little sweetness to it and I liked it. (Dan Says: Personally, I like "amarga," or non-sweetened mate better. It's a way of life here.).
Dan never got a hold of his friend so we made our way to the soccer game on our own. We couldn't find the bus to get to the stadium, but we did find some River Plate (name of soccer team) fans. We jumped on the same bus as they did and successfully found our way to the stadium. (Dan Says: My way of travel may not be the easiest or fastest, but at least it's adventurous.). We got off the bus a few blocks from the stadium, but could still here the boisterous crowd singing away. We were a bit late and by the time we got to the ticket booth that sold the cheaper general admission tickets, there was a crowd pushing and shoving to the to the window. It seemed a bit unruly until about two minutes later when the ticket windows slammed shut meaning they were sold out. All that meant is that we would have to pay more to see the game. The general admission price was 7 pesos for women and 14 for men. Personally I thought that was great. Instead we paid 30 pesos which is about $10 U.S. There are completely different sections for the home and away fans. River is the second best team in the city, second to Boca. Instituto, the team River played, was the underdog by far, so there were by far more River fans in attendance. The soccer game, no offense, was rather boring. But that's just me. However, it was a blast because of the crowd. The only thing I've experienced that is even remotely like this is a Badger Hockey game. The loudest River fans were located at the end of one goal. The fans were just crazy. In Dan's words they were sober but acting like a bunch of drunken fools. You could hear the banging of a drum or drums which provided the beat for the songs the fans sang. Songs at a soccer game here are the equivalent of chants, cheers, and shouting at sporting events in the States, except the songs never really stopped. They just got louder or changed when something exciting happened. At the end of the game when River was up 3-1 the rowdy fans unfurled the hugest flag I have ever seen. It covered at least five sections of the stadium from top to bottom. That was cool!! The only other thing that caught my attention at the game was all the police that were there. There were three or four at the entrance of each section and then four or five more scattered throughout the section. The cops are there to apparently prevent potential riots from breaking out. I haven't become a soccer fan, but it was a ton of fun.
After the soccer game we came back to the hostel to chill for awhile before heading out for supper. We left at 10, again a common time to eat, and decided on a buffet. We had Parrilla, which is variety of cow parts. I'm pretty sure part of what I ate was intestine, which I only took one bite of. The flavor wasn't bad, but the texture of the "filling" was a bit . The sausage was the best part, but that may be due to my Wisconsin roots. There was something else on my plate, I think may have been kidney or liver, but that pretty much made me want to throw up. Dan told me to just spit it out, but I just washed it down with Quilmes, which is pretty much the equivalent of Miller Lite, both in taste and popularity. You see signs for it everywhere. Dan doesn't like it, but I thought it was good. There wasn't really any dressing for salads and the best thing I had was some type of Chinese food. The ice cream was also good, but I think it was made from water instead of milk. I had blue, which tasted exactly like the frosting my mom makes for birthday cakes and pink, which tasted just like cotton candy. Yum!!!
I finally got to bed around 1am, maybe. Considering I only got two hours of fragmented sleep on the plane, it was a very long day. I had lot of fun though. So far I like it.
Observation of the day: My first impression of the city is that it is dirty, smelly, and loud. However, I'm not much of a city person and Buenos Aires is a huge city. The whole city is not like this. The pedestrian mall is very nice, and I think so far that is my favorite part. However, the city atmosphere is offset by all the parks and plazas I have seen. Those parts of the city are full of big trees, green grass, peace and serenity. I can't wait to relax in one.
Lesson of the day: People really aren't that different. At the soccer game there were these two little boys sitting in front of us. At the end of the game they appeared to be getting a bit bored with the game, as was I since I was watching them more than the game. They had just finished their popsicles and were playing around with the sticks. I was bit horrified when one seemed to shove the stick rather far up the other's nose. Then they proceeded to play doctor, the one Spanish word I recognized, using the Popsicle stick as a tongue depressor. I found it entertaining. At the restaurant we had supper at, there was a little eating something that made quite a mess around her mouth. I could tell her father was admonishing her as he reached over to wipe her face clean. She then used her sleeve, which only got an even more negative reaction from her dad. I just smiled to myself, thinking that's something I would have done when I was little. Kids are kids no matter what part of the world you are in.