A lot has happened in the last couple days, but I wanted to share my cultural experiences from Thursday. After class that day the founder of BAIS took Rachelle (another TEFLer; very fluent in Spanish) and me to look at a few apartments. We had to take the subte a number of times and so we learned lesson #439 about BsAs: avoid the subway between 4-8pm. It was — I never thought this was possible — more packed than what I saw in Korea. It costs like 30Ã‚Â¢ per trip, but the experience is so apocalyptically claustrophobic that it hardly seems worth it.
Apt. #1 was pretty much what I expected and something I’d definitely like… except it was $1k/mo. Half the size & twice the cost of my Ohio apt. You could theoretically get 2 people in there, but that’s still too expensive for me. The next place was an absolute dungeon — absolutely zero windows and tons of people crammed into like 3 bedrooms. Just a total hellhole. Diego from BAIS had to leave us after this but sent us to a pretty decent place in Barrio Norte (I think). It had 4 bedrooms, 3 of which were occupied by students from France, Mexico, and Brazil. The people were very friendly and very funny, especially when it came time for an impromptu English lesson. They all had apparently been debating how to say “to” — as in, “to go” or “nice to meet you.” But the Brazilian seemed hellbent on “choo” and, despite our gentle correction and the cackles of his friends, just could not seem to make the hard “T” sound. “Nice choo meetch you” was followed by a say-and-repeat dialogue:
“Very nice! Well done!”
“Oh ok, so is ‘choo’?”
…and so on. It was good prep for week three when we’ll be actually doing our own English lessons in front of a whole class. The Brazilian & Italian guys who had shown us the place were heading for sushi @ 9pm but we politely declined and finished out the night by finding a little eatery that seemed to cater to locals, unlike the places right around me in Congreso. Baked chicken + fritas + Fanta naranja for $4 ain’t too shabby.
So since I’ve been in Buenos Aires for a week now, I thought I’d give a list of observations & things I’ve learned since arriving.
— They love pizza here. This place has to be the pizza capital of the Americas, perhaps even the world. I also didn’t expect ham to be so popular. And obviously I knew BsAs was known for its cafe culture, but you really can’t fathom how many cafes there are without being here.
— Here the double “L” in Spanish is pronounced “sch” –> my street, Callao, is pronounced “Ca-sch-ow” instead of “Ca-yow” as it would be in Mexico.
— Upon meeting someone, or among friends, you greet with a kiss on the left cheek (male & female both). I’m very bad at this still. Hugging is entirely off limits.
— I passed an internet cafe tonight and there was a guy clearly sitting in there playing on PokerStars. PokerStars, by the way, does a lot of sport sponsorships around here, including futbol.
— Someone again tried to pickpocket my bag. I think I know when too. But it looks like they unzipped it, saw that it was just fasos y plumas and gave up.
— I have a cellphone now (Nokia!), which is uber-useful for a lot of reasons, but I’m terrified it’ll get stolen within a couple days.
— Gaseosas in restaurants always come in bottles & never with ice. Waiters always open the cap and pour your glass half-full. Sometimes you pay for your meal at the table; sometimes you pay at the front. It is never obvious (to foreigners at least) which way you’re supposed to do it.
— The ground floor of a building is the planta baja and is not actually counted as a floor. So I live on the top floor of a 7-story building, ie I live on the 6th floor. Our elevator has been out-of-service 60% of the time I’ve been here, which means walking up those stairs to my dorm is quite the exercise.
— The unofficial national beer of Argentina, Quilmes, is quite good in my opinion. Like with everything between the two countries, Quilmes competes with Brahma from Brazil. Brahma is pretty light and very mediocre. It often seems like most restaurants choose one or the other… tonight, for example, my only choices were Brahma or (LOL) Stella Artois. So obviously I just went with Pepsi (way less syrupy than in the USA).
— Water is rarely free when eating. One cafe gave us tap water (which is safe here) in small glasses (no ice), but normally you just have a choice between agua con gas (carbonated water) or agua sin gas, both from bottles. I think asking for a lemon slice with my ice water would blow their minds.
— Like in the Philippines, nobody gives a rat’s ass about the so-called right-of-way. If three people are having a conversation on the sidewalk, they will never budge even if they’re blocking all the pedestrian traffic. Since sidewalks are often narrow and always full, this is more annoying than it first sounds.
— Pet dogs, even in the middle of downtown, are extremely common. Always tame, but not always leashed. The way people take dogs for walks in the U.S. suburbs is the same way portenos walk dogs in the middle of the trendiest downtown hotspots.
— Taxi drivers round the fare down when giving change. I saw someone mention this online but thought it was a fluke… I’ve experienced it enough here already to know it’s fairly standard.