I was woken this morning at 3.30pm (that is not a type-o) by the woman next door singing. One could say “singing”, for me, it was difficult to know when the singing stopped and the cat-beating began. As such, I am sure that everyone can appreciate that this is being written in a somewhat delicate and delirious state.
This is exactly one week from one of the week’s highlights and a recurring theme so far… I was sitting in a café, which was to become the week’s local, writing last week’s blog. It was here that I consumed the customary coffee and medialunas (explanation to follow).
Cloudy day > sitting inside. Bearded chap at neighbouring table, after sometime, says “Hey – are you Charlie”; WTF. Apparently my wifi had given it away! (I am actually changing that right now. Changed.) Long story cut short: chat about technology and his experience working with IBM; he is building a banking app. Writes his number on a napkin and hands it to me saying if I want/need anything… he knows some the local bars and best coffee places. Cool. Being the polite chap that I am, I send a message later that day (translation:) “<name> want to grab a few beers later in the week?”
<name / whatsapp> Me encantaría (I would love it…)
…. Got chatted-up by yet another gay guy! I can only assume it is because I look so burly with my beard.
On Monday, I went to Tigre, which is a place outside the Capital City. The barriers of Buenos Aires are quite hard to explain. Buenos Aires has a (large) central part but and then huge and sprawling suburbs. It is somewhat like London in that respect and has an f-off road, somewhat like the M25, that separates ‘in’ from ‘out’. It has just dawned on me that that was very easy to explain. (El Tigre – the tiger – a less apt name has never been conceived, it would be as antithetic as calling Elephant&Castle “Bella Borough”). El Tigre I would describe it as Henley-on-Thames meets Trigo Mills (or Thorpe Park for want of a more popular reference). Immensely pretty river running through it, ubiquitous boat clubs and people sculling. The other river bank hosts the following: a theme park; a mini-China town; a huge fixed market with everything from boxes with the union jack on them (going to be bringing one of those home!), to woodwind instruments, to grape juice (which costs more than wine…). What I also noted in El Tigre, was the frequency of London Plane trees and Wisteria. This may have contributed to my association with rural Oxfordshire. (Minus the over-loading of boats with logs. Must reach a point that they help rather than work against buoyancy – right?)
El Tigre itself was not the highlight. The highlight was the train journey there&back. The train itself was incredibly comfortable – I was astounded by my leg room and indeed filmed my surprise (in truth, this is too exciting to be shared with the world). However, the Train’s residence were a collection of people singing, selling chocolate, selling highlighters, making one’s name out of blue of pink wire. Tell you what, after I have been to one of the most comprehensive markets in the country, what I really need is for people to be walking up and down the train shouting the name of the brick-a-brack that they are selling!
Tuesday passed with fewer events and I began my “internship”. Thursday essentially copy&repeat. This was pretty much working for free, doing what I normally do in England. The mind positively boggles as to why one would do this (don’t have an answer for you I am afraid). However, I have now learnt the word for “Augmented Reality” in Spanish… You telling me that’s not a useful word to learn? On both occasions, I was supposed to arrive at 10.30 somewhere that is a 15 minute walk from the lovely apartment I was in! The late arrival and proximity means that I arrived late on both occasions!
I took the opportunity on Tuesday, due to a quite evening, to FaceTime my good friend Chris (Kitten to his friends). I have been advised that I have to wear something akin to a girdle to support my back if I am travelling ~ if I am sitting for a log time. Apparently this is a very funny sight and perhaps one that will not assist with seducing women from any continent… Each to their own.
Wednesday, met with the same Argentinians I had met on Saturday night while “out-out”. We saw-off a notable number of beers. This was proceeded by my first exposure to Fernet (think there may be an accent on the é. This is the same Fernet that they have in Italy, but apparently nicer – less bitter). It is hard to articulate quite how disgusting this drink is. I think that if one could mix Vodka, Gin, some herbs, Coca Cola and a smattering of Fennel then you probably have Fernet+Coke. I know the word in Spanish for “repugnant” (mostly because it is exactly the same as the english word). Its applicability here was both apt and to general agreement (as they all continued drinking Fernet). I shared with the group: how to seduce English women; the British class system and why we have not had a revolution for a while (weather and transport failures).
Now, I would normally not report <a Heavy Night>, but I am not sure this one counted. We arrived at some club (God only knows where), we numbered just three at this point and entered Euro-trash. Brilliant. I also made the mistake of opting for the mysterious drink “Speed+Mixer”. This was Double Vodka+Red Bull – the only drink in the world that makes Fernet delicious. I stomached this with very little stoicism and when I was presented with a Fernet and Coke, immediately afterwards, felt the same despondency as one feels just before a marathon, the stomach-wrenching “fuck this is going to be an unpleasant thing for the next few hours”. The drink lasted me about as long as it would take me to run a marathon also! > Bed.
Thursday morning hit me as if a donkey had accurately sat on my face: with a taste in my mouth akin to that same image. I staggered to work via coffee and three medialunas (these are small, dense, sweet croissants) that is an all-inclusive offer. In truth, the only thing that makes the incredibly bitter coffee drinkable is the medialunas and conversely, the only thing that makes these fiercely sweet half moons (appropriate name given their gravitational mass) palatable is their dunking in the repugnant coffee. The two together however, really rather pleasant.
Lunch with the immensely likeable boss (Ale – Argentinian ex-IBM – wise chap!) and I broached topics such as “why do you guys keep complaining about the economy of the country and the political situation?” ~ seems in rather good shape to me, especially if the price of coffee is anything to go by (and I think it is). Rather elucidating conversation actually: lack of investment in infrastructure; default of payment in 2002(?) resulting in a huge drop in trade; corruption. The new President is to change all this, but I am told that change in this country happens “poco a poco”. However, the currency is far more stable than before.
Chile play Argentina at football. For those that don’t know: 1) Chile and Argentina hate each other for reasons that are to do with a) Chile’s support of the British during the Falklands b) Chile’s association with the US and neglecting of their Latin American identity. 2) Football is the religion of South America, and Argentina are one of the most devout. Thus this is a heated affair. Based on popular recommendation, I go to a popular sports bar (not just Brits abroad I’m told – and it was true). However, I must go via an art show that the American chap has invited me to. It was Post-modern Art. Readers, adoring fans, what does Charles Bennett feel about “Post-modern Art”? That it is an abhorrence, that it is a tool for those who lack true artistic merit and ability to articulate their sentiments with skill, which it is too often a perversity in the hope of stumbling upon some meaning? Just so. Nietzsche said that, “Post-modern Art is the scourge of mankind, a tool of the weak to blackmail those possessing merit.”
My aloof attitude was reduced somewhat when someone asked what I was doing in Argentina. I explained a little about my trip + my intention sometime next month to visit the glacier. But I don’t know the word for “glacier”. As such, next month I am visiting the “large ice in the South of Argentina” followed by the “Bulls of Pine” rather than “Towers of Pine”, having confused “torre” and “toro”.
Because of this quality Art and my precise Spanish, I was 5 minutes late for the football. No matter, it was not until the 44th minute that I was served with a beer. The proceeding Argentine was served in roughly 20 seconds. In the meantime I had been speaking to a chap in Spanish for the duration… Finally I am coming to understand these people and their “disturbing” accent! Nope: he was from Mexico. Further things about this chap: wife is Swedish; it was his birthday; that day had got a tattoo of Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince that day on his forearm. I, of course, ardently congratulated him on the former and questioned him on the latter. He replied “porque no!?” If anyone can shed light on why this is a self-evident response, I would be most grateful. But for my next birthday, I do intend to get a small boy tattooed on my forearm also and do not expect the need to justify myself!
Boring match. Argentina win based on a very easily given penalty because the skeletal De Maria cannot stay on his feet. I declared loudly that Argentinian footballers are “engañados” – cheats. This went down well: recall both point 1&2. Lovely conversation with a young Argentine couple who were not going out out for love nor money (there are some sane people here it seems)… Home.
Tried something called Mate. Mate is basically grass mixed with hot water drunk, using a metal straw with a sieve on the end, from a leather-fortified dried-fruit-shell. It tastes like… drinking grass + warm water, but with an oddly bitter after taste. I am told, as I was with Ferne that it gets better with time. I was told this with Whiskey, beer, vodka – you name it. In essence, it remains disgusting, but your body builds up a resistance. Mate is like a non-life-threatening infection that your body must just get-over, Mate is chicken pox.
Saturday is the day for the RUGBY match. Boom! Super12 Jaguars vs. Reds. Went with my Argentine friend. There is a peculiar rule (and a very very good one). You are not allowed to drink within 10 blocks (about half a mile) in any direction of a sports stadium on the day of a game. That is, unless you go to a garage with a “cafe” on the side who pay-off the police in order to sell beer to people. There is something about over-priced, illegal beer that just makes it taste better. I can see why people drank more during the prohibition!
Great match too – Jaguars won (which was great and added to the atmosphere). One of the best tries I have seen live, but a very nasty looking neck injury too. There is something in modern rugby that needs fixing!
Half time, chap called Maxi Trusso was the entertainment. He is a big-time star here, as it turns-out, and I really like his music. I have been listening to him a lot since, but have been reliably informed he is a “boludo” – dickhead – what else?! They do great halftime entertainment in the US and in LatAm. I don’t think it detracts from the game at all. It keeps you firmly and concertedly interested in whats happening on the pitch! The same happened during Medellin’s football match (when in Colombia), there was some farcical completion that involved someone winning a car! Fun though. Of course, the difference in England is that everyone takes that opportunity to buy a further 11 beers! I would have still elected this approach had it been open to me.
How can I begin to describe Saturday night? Firstly, the people here do not consider eating until 10ish; most are asleep until about 5pm from the previous night: “we are vampires” is used a lot! One pre-drinks (a staple of the culture here) from say 11.30-2. One saunters to the club at 3.
So it was… Ate a delicious delicious burger at 10.30. Took a bus across Buenos Aires, bought some Ice from what I thought was a coal bucket outside a petrol station (normal apparently). One vital deviation needed. CB needs a coffee ~ to stay-up that late there are several substances on offer. I favour caffeine. I did receive some strange looks and was berated a good deal. Eventually arrive to several Argentine lads + token woman (nice to see that some things are consistent across cultures) drinking a mixture of spirits. Given my lack of beer and desire to understand this rare cultural activity, I was forced to partake!
<Very heavy evening…>
Sunday far more tame and spent learning vegetables, animals and metals. The last seems somewhat anomalous no? Well not quite. Earlier in the week I had been watching Narcos (Spanish subtitles don’t you know). I was confused by the offer delivered by Pablo Escobar to all influential people he wished to silence: “Plata o…” Silver or…. Unfortunately, another malapropism, I asked “why does Pablo Escobar keep saying ‘Plata o Pluma’?” This translates as “silver or feather…” rather than “plata o promo” = “silver or lead”. What I find more funny is that I have been making this mistake for some time and may have told Alex Shelley that this was Escobar’s offer (when we went to Colombia and I acted as a – very bad – translator). The two of us have assumed that the tyrannous Escobar had been offering people money or feathers for the last year and a half!
Right sports fans. Due to the obscene length of this blog entry and indeed my inability to sit and do one thing at once, it is being finished on a bus having just got off a Ferry to Uruguay. Uruguay, incidentally, looks exactly like Somerset…