Bienvenido a Buenos Aires, or not?
The wind was chilly when I walked out of the airport of Buenos Aires. I just arranged a taxi and the man walked fast in front of me, smiling, talking a lot. I didn’t understand him so I just nodded politely and smiled. When in the taxi I finally relaxed. I made it! Another continent of which I know nothing. The dream city, the dream place, the dream. “Es muy frio, no?” I asked the driver. No respons. After what feels like an hour we arrive in San Telmo. My eyes widened, not wat I had expected at all.
The streets are dirty and dark surrounded by dilapidated buildings. It reminds me of the outskirts of Liege in Belgium. Homeless people meet each other in corners, empty and broken beer bottles stand solitary along the long alleys, dogs poop and men pee wherever they want. The smell of all the different odors make me nauseous. It smells worse than a beer brewery at work. I get out of the taxi and wonder… Is this the city I dreamed of for so long?
After a rough start I get my backpack out of the taxi, wave and thank the taxi driver for bringing me here. He probably thinks I’m mad. Without a map, a phone, an address and with no Spanish in my possession I start to walk. It’s cold and no-one, except the occassional tramp, pays attention to me. “Donde estas la playa de San Telmo?” I try, no reaction. The lady just points in a direction “allá!”
Finally, the streets get prettier, the buildings more artistic, less beer bottles, poop and more people. Suddenly I see a hostel which I enter. Unfortunately it’s fully booked. This goes on with five other hostels until I finally find a very cheap bit shabby hostel which has space. “Una habitación doble con descuento”, the discount being paying a one-person price for a double room. “Acuerdo!” I reply.
As soon as my backpack is from my back I take a shower, get my wallet and get back on the street in search for lunch. I walk around and find out that San Telmo is not as shabby as I thought when I arrived, it actually reminds me of some neighbourhoods of Paris with some Italian and native American vibes. The big San Telmo market is in full swing when I arrive, I immediately feel at home. A while I walk around the market smiling at everyone and everything when my stomach reminds me that I haven’t eaten since the morning.
The lady on the right side of my table taps my shoulder “I see you are doubting, you should take the empanadas de carne, it’s delicious.” The choice is easy “dos empanadas de carne y una cerveca por favor.” Maybe it is because I haven’t eaten for hours or the beer makes me tipsy after one zip but these empanadas are amazing. After paying the bill it is time to search for the supermarket.
Where in the French supermarchés you find the expected and the unexpected, in Argentina you find nothing unexpected neither expected. The supermarkets are owned by Chinese people and only have a selection of food. The yoghurt has nothing to do with a cow anymore, the pizza’s are cheaper in restaurants and the vegetables look like they’ve been lying here for years. There is no meat, huge cola’s and many different washing products. Bad milk products, overly expensive sweets and bottles of water.
Soon I find out that in Argentina there are different shops for different products. Vegetables are at the veggie shop, meat at the butcher and basics at the supermarket. After buying the basics I walk towards a veggie shop where an elder lady welcomes me. She sits outside on a crate of bananas. “Hola!” she smiles at me. She has about 5 teeth in her mouth, beautiful white hair and a goldenbrown skin with uncountable lines in her face. She takes me by the hand and together we enter the shop.
So it is here where they hide the beautiful vegetables and fruits of Argentina. She gives me some fruits to taste and I happily accept them. Mango, avocado and apricots. She tells me that in Argentina they eat more fruits than in any other place in the world. I instantly believe her. She is from Bolivia though but came here because the Argentines eat so much and pay well. The shop is small, peeled posters hang on the doors, the floor is littered with dust, the fruit is stacked in wooden crates. I buy some pears, peaches and manderines. She weighs the fruits and gives me a banana for the way home.
It has been a good day in the end. A world of difference from when I arrived this morning where a grey, dreary Buenos Aires welcomed me. Now a bright, amiable Buenos Aires is shown to me. Back in the hostel I cook a meal, eat this in silence and start my search for an apartment and a job.