Tag Archives: Buenos Aires

Mi Buenos Aires querido

Over the course of my study abroad many friends and family members have asked if I am homesick. It was difficult for me to come up with an answer to this question initially and now I think I’ve finally figured it out. As with many things in life there is no simple black and white answer. Have I been homesick? Well, what is a home anyway? Webster defines it as the place where one lives permanently. What if you’re like me? You consider yourself a nomad, or someone who is constantly moving from place to place. Well, Webster offers another option: a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates. Except I run into yet another dilemma: all three of those places are different. I originate from Birmingham, Alabama, for the past two years in the States the place I could most typically be found was Atlanta, Georgia, but that place is now Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the place where I flourish? I believe that I flourish in many places, if not everywhere I am. Of course I miss my family and my friends, certain routines or habits, and favorite restaurants, but do I miss the United States?

Over the many long bus rides or trips to cross borders people inevitably have their passports in hand at some time or another and it seems to be the norm that everyone wants to trade passports to see what other countries’ passports look like. After receiving mine back I spent a few moments in quiet reflection flipping through the pages and the answer finally occurred to me: I believe that I miss a United States of America that no longer exists. Or if it does exist, it exists for few and is no longer true of the entire country. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing a U.S. passport, know that of all the passports I’ve flipped through, ours is the most elaborate, the most artistic, and the most inspiring. Within the pages there are background photos of the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, the Mayflower (or some other initial colonizing ship), a bald eagle, buffalo grazing on grass in front of snow-capped mountains, a steamboat cruising down a river, a farmer clad in blue jean overalls plowing the ground using a hand-held wooden plow pulled by oxen with wheat in the foreground and a homestead in the background, wild West cowboys herding cattle on horseback with mountains in the background, a coal-burning, black-iron train, a black bear with a fish dangling from its mouth, an Indian totem pole, among others.

Accompanying these various images are quotations across the top of the pages under which entry and exit visas are stamped. The quotations range from excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, to things said by various presidents like George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt and revolutionaries like Martin Luther King, Jr. My favorites are these:

“Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

“For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.” Is a new world coming? We welcome it –and we will bend it to the hopes of man.” — Lyndon B. Johnson

“We send thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are glad they are still here and we hope it will always be so.” — Excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk version

Despite the election of Barack Obama in November and the renewing spirit of America, I still feel like America is missing her original spark, her original charm. The good old homestead is fading into the background and I feel that I have a nostalgia for a country and a time that I never knew. Perhaps I lived a little too vicariously through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book series Little House on the Prairie growing up.

But now, as this incredibly exciting, life-changing chapter in my life comes to an end it is, as most endings are, bittersweet. I did not, as most people do, fall in love with this city at first glance or in a matter of a few days. I was enthralled with it for the first few weeks and then after that my feelings vacillated between love and dislike. This is unusual for me because usually I fall in love with cities immediately. New York City? Check. Washington D.C.? Check. Savannah? New Orleans? Atlanta? Check. Check. Check. But Buenos Aires and I? We had to grow into our relationship and as my time narrows down to a close I realize all the things I love about this city and that I will miss dearly when I’m gone.

Maté. Parques. People playing guitars in the parks while drinking mate. San Telmo. Submarinos. Children. The inability of anyone to drive in a traffic lane. Palermo. Cuisine. Architecture. Girls playing hopskotch. Little girl outside the fruteria. Cafe culture. Mis amigos. Being surrounded by Castellano (Spanish). My host family. One word: medialunas. The kindness of people here. Public transit. Subte línea A. Colectivos (I´m joking, sort of). …This list could go on forever.

Also, as I have travelled around the country on weekends and during the last few weeks I have been able to see the larger picture of Argentine culture and life. From the pampas, to the Andes, to Tierra del Fuego, I have to admit that the rest of the country won over my heart before the city did. For me the phrase cannot simply be, ‘Mi Buenos Aires querido,’ but rather, ‘Mi Argentina querida.’ This country and its people will forever hold a very dear place in my heart, having been my home for five months. I do not know when I will be back, but I do know that it will be hard to stay away for long.

As I write this I’m not quite ready for this to be over. It’s difficult knowing that the next time I’m here the experience will be something completely different. I will not be 20 years old, meeting Argentines on a college campus, and have the sole responsibility of passing my classes. Hopefully I will still live life with arms wide open and be able to make new friends as easily as I do now, but we all know that experiencing something when you’re 20 is very different from the same experience when you’re 25 or 30. And I guess, as is always the case, time moves too fast and endings never happen when you’re ready for them. But here’s to goodbyes and the next chapter of my life with the many more exciting adventures it is sure to hold!

On Culture Shock

One of the things I think every girl dreads about traveling, going abroad, or simply moving to a new area is having to find a new hairstylist. For the first year after I moved to Atlanta I insisted of waiting until I could make a trip back to Birmingham to let anyone touch my hair. There were occasional times when I’d let my mom trim my hair on the back porch because it seemed silly to pay someone to do that. When I knew I was coming to Buenos Aires–I won’t lie–I fretted about what I was going to do. Going almost 6 months without a haircut isn’t an option for me because I have curly hair that splits easily, whether I fry it by blowing it out and straightening it or not. My mom would love to know that majority of the time that I’ve been down here I have worn my hair curly and even started to like it, but even being extra nice to my hair and making an effort not to straighten it as much couldn’t save me from the fact that I was going to have to get a haircut down here and I could either buy a pair of scissors and trust a friend to do it, or I could brave going to a salon and letting them trim it. I even went so far as to schedule my last hair appointment in the States as close to my departure date as possible to prolong the amount of time I would have to find somewhere suitable here in Buenos Aires.

I’m trying to be less high-maintenance, and I don’t even think of myself as much maintenance in the first place. I mean, I can go camping for three nights and subsequently go without a shower for that entire duration and not be bothered in the least. Sure, when all is said and done I want a shower just as much as the next person when it’s over, but I’m not one to complain about something like that. I do, however, complain about the lack of toilet paper in almost all bathrooms in South America (there is intentionally no toilet paper. It is not a matter of running out or not being able to adequately stock a bathroom, it just, plain and simple isn’t there.). But then, there are people like my sister (hi, Nettie!) who need a shower after driving from Birmingham to Atlanta before she will consider going out to eat. In fact, I distinctly remember my other sister. Sage, balking at her and telling her to take a “bird bath” if need be, but to get real.

But here’s the thing: Argentines don’t have the most “normal” hairstyles one has ever seen. In fact, you might say their entire definition fashion and sense of style has gone the way of the 80’s in North America and Europe. Picture neon skinny jeans, cut up tee-shirts with neon screen printed images, piercings, multi-colored hair, and specifically, hair that has been razored and cut from so many angles you aren’t really sure if it was intentional or just a really bad botch job. And then there’s the guys’ hairstyles which can almost always be summed up in one phrase: business in the front–party in the back. Whoever coined that phrase deserves a high-five because it’s so much fun to say. But it’s true, guys here have mohawks, they have fauxhawks, they have dreads, they have shaven heads with a pony tail of dreads coming out of the back of their head, they have rattails, they have one single dreaded rattail, they have multiple rattails starting from several different places on their head–are you getting the picture? It’s quite unsettling when you first see it. You’ll be walking down the street with your girlfriends completely checking out this gorgeous guy in a business suit and after he has passed and you turn around for one more glance and there it is: three lone dreads gathered up in a pony tail in the back despite the rest of his head being shaven or of a “traditional” style.

So you’re starting to understand my apprehension about getting my hair cut here. It was all I could do to get over the fear that I could very well walk out with a shoulder-length bob and various different lengths of hair all over my head. In fact, I think the only reason I was able to muster up the nerve is because Liz and I had been on one of our all-day lunches in Palermo and were looking for somewhere to get a pedicure. We were told about this place and as we walk in to inquire only the most beautiful of boys is standing on the other side of the door to answer our questions. No, they don’t offer pedicures, so we turn away to continue our search, but not before Liz–who had just gotten her haircut several days before–remarked, “You know, I can get my hair cut again,” and we let out little laughs as we walked away.

A couple weeks later I was in the same area, having just eaten at one of our favorite little Indian restaurants, Krishna, and decided that it was now or never because my hair was starting to look pretty shaggy. I walked back to the salon and went inside to find out how much risking the worst hair cut of my life was going to cost me. I think it was something like a very reasonable $40 Argentine pesos which is less than $15 USD. But what really sold me was the fact that possibly the most gorgeous guy in the world was going to cut my hair (and he was straight!) and his name was Juan Pablo (only the most common name here in Argentina) nonetheless. We chatted in a mix of Spanish and English and I insisted more than once that I wanted just “un poquitito” cut off and nothing crazy. Just snip, snip, and I’d be happy. After he shampooed my hair I sat in the chair with my stomach in a knot. As I watched him cut my hair he did many things differently from my stylist in Atlanta. Besides cutting my hair parted down the middle after I mentioned several times that I always wear my hair parted down the side he swore he wouldn’t make any difference, “Yeah, not the way people here wear their hair it wouldn’t!” I kept thinking. And then, and then, he took a razer to the front pieces of my hair and tapered them. I have curly hair, and word to all stylists out there: you do not let a razor come near curly hair! Period! Especially not to taper the front pieces of it! Razor = frizz. However, I let it go. Hair grows back, I reminded myself. A few minutes later the torture was over. Nothing was done how I’m used to it: I wasn’t pampered, the cut took all of 8 minutes, and I was left to walk out with a wet hair. What more did I expect for AR$40?

But I walked out of the salon happy that afternoon. My hair dried a lot curlier than normal and I have yet to straighten it since I got it cut, partially out of fear for seeing what it looks like straight and mostly out of laziness and not having the energy to fight the humidity that is Buenos Aires in the spring and summer. And now, less than a week before I have to leave this part of my life behind me, I have grown accustomed to the hairstyles here–even fond of them. Since I’m not sure I’ll ever have the nerve to dread my whole head and then shave all my hair off when I’m done with the phase, I have been toying with the idea of creating my own lone dread lock in the back on the underside of my hair as a tribute to how much this experience has changed me and cutting it off when I’m ready for the next part of my life to begin.

Esperanzas Verdaderas

When I went to the U.S. Embassy to turn in my absentee ballot a few weeks ago I ended up striking up a conversation with the guy in line behind me. As we waited we exchanged stories about what had brought us both to Buenos Aires, how long we had been here, where we were from in the States, and so on. After we submitted our ballots we were both going in the same direction and continued talking. Having a little free time we did the only proper thing to do when you’re in Buenos Aires and want to socialize: we went to a cafe. Him for coffee and me for lunch.

Having already established that Ethan was working down here as a writer and moved here for the sole reason that he wanted to experience something different, I had to ask why he chose Argentina. Ethan has picked up Spanish in the two years that he has spent living here, but did not speak a word of it when he first arrived. He shared humorous stories about things being lost in translation, we talked about the frustrations we have both experienced in everyday communications, and I poked fun at him for his rather large map which he pulled out to show me where a really cool bookstore was located in San Telmo. I, for one, refuse to be seen holding a guide book in my hands these days and try to be inconspicuous about whipping out my Guía T when taking unfamiliar bus routes, but Ethan announced that he has no problem whatsoever standing in the middle of the sidewalk, map noticeably held up in front of his face shaking it for exaggeration, and exclaiming, “Estoy perdido! Muy perdido! Ayudame, por favor!” He acted out this scene for my amusement as we’re sitting at the table and I laughed loud enough that I’m sure people on the sidewalk outside turned to see what was so amusing to the Americans. After numerous tangents we finally got back to the question at hand: “Why did you choose Argentina?” And so the story began.

Ethan provided me with a brief overview of the situation in Argentina after the 2001 collapse of the economy and what life was like at the time and is still like for many here in the city. Relating it to the current crisis that the United States is experiencing he raised the question to me of what the reaction is for Americans right now, most of who have never lived through any economic crisis and many who can’t comprehend what life was like during the Great Depression. I responded that majority of Americans were in a panic. I can’t open a news website now without finding at least one headline or article about how Americans are relearning the meaning of frugality, panicking about paying their mortgages, losing their homes, and so forth. The attitude of many has become solemn and fear-stricken. He then calls over our waiter and asks if he would mind answering a question for us. The waiter obliges. After an explaining what he were talking about Ethan proposes the question (in Spanish, so all translations or mis-translations are mine alone): “Do you think another financial crisis is likely to happen in the future?” The waiter nodded his head in response to Ethan continued, “Since you acknowledge that another financial crisis is imminent for Argentina, how do you live?”

The waiter doesn’t understand the question. Not because we didn’t ask it correctly, but because it doesn’t make sense to Argentineans. What do you mean how do we live? We live. Our waiter continued to explain that his son doesn’t currently have a job and he isn’t sure how he can afford to support him, only that he can’t afford it. Times are tough, the economy still hasn’t gotten back to where it was pre-2001 collapse and now it’s starting to get worse again. After the waiter tells us a little bit more about his life he walks off to help someone else. Ethan turns to me and says, “Did you understand that?” and I tell him I did but I’m confused about where he’s going with this. He looks me straight in the eye and says, “I went back to the States for a few weeks about a month ago and I swear my blood pressure is still up from that short time. People are always in despair, in a panic about something and the government doesn’t help. Here, times are tougher and people work longer hours for less pay but you know what? At the end of the day, as long as they have their family and can afford to have a beer, life is good. They have hope.”

And it struck me how true this was. Argentines, and porteños in general, are a pretty laid back bunch. If nothing else, their cafe culture shows this. They have a tea time of sorts here called ‘merienda’ and it’s not at all unusual for every table in rather large cafes to be pull of friends and families drinking coffee, sharing medialunas or other alfajores, and simply enjoying each others company. On the weekends many are sitting outside of parillas with a 770ml of beer sitting in the middle of the table laughing and talking. And on any given weekday at any hour you will always find a fairly large number of people sitting in the parks and plazas with friends sharing maté, enjoying live music on the weekends, playing a guitar and singing, or taking a nap while soaking up the sun, and on the weekends this is even more so. You are pressed to find a spot to sit down on beautiful days because it seems the entire city is outside. I now realize that this probably has to do with a more socialist culture where its all for one and one for all and I think Americans would be the better of for it if they learned to lean on each other a little more and realize that life isn’t about working your life away to buy things you don’t need. It’s about realizing the blessing of having friends and family around you, taking care of each other, and letting everything else fall where it may.

Which is worth more: 1 peso or 2?

One aspect of Buenos Aires that I most definitely will not miss is seeing signs everywhere that read: ¡No guardá las monedas! Or: ¡Colaboré con las monedas! And lastly: “No hay monedas!” These signs are everywhere. You go to the panadería across the street from your house and you will be asked for exact change. If you do not have exact change you more times than not will not be allowed to leave with food. But isn’t it better for the business to make the transaction and have a little bit of money in their pocket as opposed to turning you away, you ask? Apparently not in Argentina. Or when that is the case, for example, when you attempt to purchase a liter bottle of water and an boxed apple juice before class and your total comes to six pesos and fifty centavos you will, of course, be asked to supply the fifty centavos. Assuming that you dont understand him, the attendent will commence to hold up monedas even after insisting that he has none to give you. And apparently if you still don’t have monedas to supply, well, lucky you, you just don’t get any change. So if you really want your purchase? You better cough up those monedas or forfeit fifty centavos, that is actually rightfully yours. When the aforementioned situation happens to you, you will be amazed at your ability to immediately commence arguing–pretty well, I might add–with the attendant in a language you’re still learning to grasp. When this yields no results and you’re more frustrated than one probably should be over less than twenty American cents you settle for a good curse in English since you know nothing insulting enough in Spanish and walk out the door with your overpaid-for purchase.


Photograph taken by Mateo.photo.

(I also remember reading somewhere once–I think it was in Eat, Pray, Love–that Americans are very reserved and cautious when it comes to anger and other emotions, because if you were really mad, you wouldn’t curse someone out in a language that isn’t your native one because it requires you to think about it. I never thought about this too much, but I think it means that I’m either reserved with my anger–or my Spanish is significantly improving. I think I’ll go with the former.)

Back to the topic at hand, Argentines like their monedas (coins) more than anything, and the only way you will ever be lucky enough to get monedas is the off-chance that you go to a restaurant where the menu isn’t priced in whole dollar amounts (good luck), you manage to scrounge up enough after purchasing subte rides (which, if not purchased in increments of 10 must also be paid with monedas), or you ride the bus 9 times in one day and happen to save all 9 of the ten cent centavos you receive in exchange for the one peso moneda you put in the machine. Or you’re lucky enough to get to the bank at some point during their five hours of daily operation between 10 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, as if you don’t have classes or a job or an internship to be at during the aforementioned hours. Technically they don’t close until 3:30 but, because they can, and because the building is usually packed full at this time, they will often lock their doors beforehand. Oh, and you’re only allowed five peso monedas per day.

Of course you can go to different banks and get five monedas from each, but unless you’re there as soon as the doors open, you’ll have to wait in line for a guaranteed at least 30 minutes. In fact, the other afternoon I was so desperate that I spent a good 45 minutes in line just to receive five monedas. The exchange would be roughly $1.67 USD. Let me repeat that: 45 minutes in line to receive $1.67 USD. That is what my time has become worth in Argentina, apparently. Except, wait, I didn’t actually even make any money! I only exchanged what I already had!

Since having monedas is the only way you are able to get on the bus, and given that I take the bus at least twice a day, but usually four to six times a day, you may be starting to understand my frustration. Coins aren’t prevalent like they are in the States, where if you drop a penny on the ground and don’t feel like picking it up–well, hey, it’s just a penny, right? No, here, you better bet that if you drop a moneda on the ground some grubby little hands will snatch it up before you’ve even noticed it fell out of your hand!

Then there will be times when you’re supposed to be meeting your friends at a bar for some celebration or another and it’s easily one o’clock in the morning. Realizing that you only have fifty centavos in your coin purse begins to put a serious damper on your plans. Feeling hopeless, but not willing to spend $15-20 pesos on a cab, you go into the maxikiosco next to your apartment and beg for monedas. You plead to no avail, until finally the woman behind the counter tells you that she’ll give you a moneda in exchange for that two peso bill. Wait, “¿Cómo?” Yes, the woman did indeed just tell you that in order to receive a one peso moneda you will have to pay her twice what it is worth.

I’ve since decided, that simply having “study abroad” on my resume will no longer suffice. No, I think I will be well justified in writing, underneath the ‘skills’ section, “Extremely proficient in negotiating near-impossible business exchanges in Spanish,” even though negotiating doesn’t necessarily mean you get the best deal. Hey, at least you got that moneda!

Side note: Argentines also like small bills (ie: $5 versus $50) and you can read a comical discussion of this finicky monetary observation between me and my best friend, Carleson, here. If you are interested in learning more about the shortage of monedas in Argentina a quick Google search turns up numberous amusing (albeit, I´m sure, true) theories including but not limited to: the mafia hoards them and then sells them on the blackmarket, the bus system takes them and sells them on the black market, and lastly, that the Chinese immigrants send them to China where they are broken down into scrap metal and sold at a higher cost.

Un conversación en “Spanglish” entre amigos

Emily: [Argentines] can all go to hell over those monedas. It stresses me out every day. Jesus.
Carleson: Jajaja. Viste como a ellos les encantan los billetes chicos. A nosotros queremos grandes, eh? Pero ellos, no. Intentás pagar y te piden billetes chicos. A la mierda. Que sale de los ATMs? Billetes LAR GOS. Repetí después de mi. LAR GOS. Como para sentirnos que tenemos.
Emily: HAHAHAHAHA! COME LET ME GIVE YOU A BIG SQUISH!
Carleson: :)))))))
Emily: Hahaha. And they expect you to go wait in line for an HOUR, che, to get some small bills and monedas… and then they only give you FIVE fucking monedas!
Carleson: The colectivo!
Emily: Do you know how long that lasts me?! A DAY. Before I have to go back and do the same thing again!
Carleson: Estás jodido si no tenés monedas. Y nadie te quiere dar. Las ahorran como si fueran di puro oro.
Emily: Hahaha. Exactamente! I´m quoting you in my blog. Cough.
Carleson: Yo me pregunto por que no tiran algunos de los billetes a la basura y entonces hacer más monedas.
Emily: I´m telling the Internet what you said :))
Carleson: Así se calma la gente, eh? Coolio. But the funnier one the first one.

———————————————-

Emily: [Argentines] can all go to hell over those monedas. It stresses me out every day. Jesus.
Carleson: Hahaha. You´ve seen how they love small bills. We want big ones, eh? But they don´t. You try to pay and they request small bills. Shit. What comes out of the ATMs? LARGE bills. Repeat after me. LARGE. To feel as if we have [money].
Emily: HAHAHAHAHA! COME LET ME GIVE YOU A BIG SQUISH!
Carleson: :)))))))
Emily: Hahaha. And they expect you to go wait in line for an HOUR, che, to get some small bills and monedas… and then they only give you FIVE fucking monedas!
Carleson: The bus!
Emily: Do you know how long that lasts me?! A DAY. Before i have to go back and do the same thing again!
Carleson:You´re fucked if you don´t have coins. And nobody wants to give them to you. They save them as if they were pure gold.
Emily: Hahaha. Exactly! I´m quoting you in my blog. Cough.
Carleson: I wonder why they don´t throw some of the bills in the trash and then make more coins.
Emily: I´m telling the Internet what you said :))
Carleson: So that people are calm, eh? Coolio. But the funnier one the first one.

Passage of Time

From the way they make their coffee to the way they dry their clothes, everything moves slower here. In fact, people will look at you funny if you ask to get your coffee to go (I heard all of you gasping). To myself and many of the other students on the program this was a somewhat discomforting fact. Several of us have early classes–and anything before 10.00 is way too early to college students and porteños alike–and the idea that we would have to go sit down in a café or drink it at home before we left is taking some getting used to. To the porteños the idea that you don’t even have half an hour, or for a real porteño an over an hour, to enjoy your medialunas and cafe is bewildering.

I think I would feel safe saying the vast majority of people line dry their clothes and dryers are only for the upper-class elite, hotels, and laundromats. Sage, I will include this tidbit here for you since it falls along the same category: every home you walk into here uses CFLs (to the uninitiated, compact florescent lamps–Google it!). I like to think this outweighs the fact that recycling has yet to catch on in a big way here even though there are people who are called cartoneras who go through all the trash that’s put on the street for collection and separate out the paper because they can get money for it. Basically the equivalent of people in the States who push around grocery carts collecting glass bottles and aluminum cans (and if this is a horrible stereotype, forgive me) except they aren’t homeless and most are your run-of-the-mill, middle-class citizens trying to earn some extra cash flow.

I also like to think that the reason why you don’t see produce labeled as being ‘organic’ is because it all is organic and I’m probably more right about that than I think I am. In fact, as many of you know, in the States I drink only soy or rice milk and substitute gelato or sorbet for ice cream and can’t eat processed cheese because I’ve developed lactose intolerance? That was something that I was incredibly nervous about coming down here because I had no idea how my body was going to react. Especially after finding out that vegetarians are few and far between here I figured I was going to have a real difficult time. As it turns out, soy and/or rice milk are impossible to find and you’ll be lucky if people even know what you’re talking about when you inquire about it, but I have drank cafe con leche (coffee with milk) almost every single day since I have been here, I have eaten ice cream, and I have put milk in my scrambled eggs for breakfast and I have yet to have even the smallest stomach pain from it. If that doesn’t make you question what kinds of additives, hormones, and preservatives must be in our dairy products in the States then I don’t know what will.

I started this post wanting to talk mostly about the speed of life here in Buenos Aires but obviously I’ve deviated from that. There is a slow food movement that is starting to pick up in the United States, but it’s catching on… well, slowly. Even if you don’t ditch the coffee maker for a French press or sell your dryer for a line (though the Earth would appreciate it if you did), I highly recommend trying to slow your life down some. It’s so refreshing to come somewhere where time is not of the essence and showing up on time for a party or a meeting with friends is considered rude. Americans are always rushing to get somewhere or get something accomplished when, really, does it even matter? The world keeps turning…

“To live is so startling that it leaves little time for anything else.” — Emily Dickenson

Watch out for that…

Due to the economic crash in Argentina in 2001 (and I’m sure to many other circumstances) much of the city remains as it was 100 years ago. While the main roads are all paved, there are still many charming cobblestone streets. Even on the paved roads there is often evidence of the faded glory of the city where the pavement has worn away to reveal the cobblestone underneath. It is rare for sidewalks to be cement here unless you’re in a more upper-class barrio so they’re tiled. Big tiles, small tiles, octagonal tiles, square tiles, and very often loose tiles. Personally, I think it only adds to the city’s character and charm which is very rustic and antiquated to start with.

But loose tiles isn’t all you have to worry about when you’re walking down the street. No, you also have to watch out for all the piles (piles of what, you ask?). Well, I can’t decide if it’s from the lack of decency of pet owners here or from all the stray dogs in the city, but I often find myself missing beautiful architecture and other sights because I’m too busy staring at the ground in front of me to make sure I don’t walk through something stinky. It’s more prevalent by the many parks and plazas, but it’s still ubiquitous enough that you always want to scan the ground a few paces in front of you to avoid any mishaps. Does this remind you of Phoebe’s song, “Smelly Cat,” from Friends? I couldn’t help but sing a few lines as I wrote that last paragraph. If I was the only one you can excuse the pop culture reference.

Then there’s the wide variety of architecture you can see from the doors here. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so the lighting will warm up a little as well and I can take my D70 out and do a photo montage of the doors leading into condos, apartments, and homes here. They are almost always 12-15 ft. and probably even 18 ft. near the center. My words won’t even begin to do justice here so I promise photos as soon as the weather and lighting warms up a little!