August 7, 2011 § 1 Comment
News from the South have been a long time coming. I arrived in Buenos Aires nearly two weeks ago, and this is somehow the first time I’ve managed to carve out a space to write a blog post. In my defence, those two weeks have been a whirlwind of new places, new people, frantic room-hunting and all sorts of bureaucracy. But now I’m settled in a lovely big house in San Telmo, the oldest district of the city, and life is slowly taking on some semblance of a routine. So here we go:
I arrived last Monday evening, in the middle of an enormous storm that caused two deaths. The lashing rain and apparently endless high-rise towers seen from the motorway didn’t give the best first impression, but things started getting better the moment I walked out of my hostel front door on Tuesday morning and saw this:
which is called the Palacio Barolo, is enormous and was apparently at one point inhabited by just one person. It’s not the only grand building on the Avenida de Mayo, which is one of the main streets in the centre of the city and, like so much of Buenos Aires, lends itself to some rather nice photographs. Putting them up on here is turning out to be a bit of a chore, so I’m probably going to find a less painfully slow way of uploading them.
Buenos Aires feels like a slightly warped version of Paris or Madrid, a city where fancy French architecture sits alongside fading Spanish colonial houses, which themselves brush up against 1970s concrete monstruousities. The blocks and avenues seem carefully planned, but not what sits in them. Another distortion: the Argentines eat for breakfast medialunas, which look exactly like croissants but are deliciously sweet. Sweetness seems a national strongpoint, in fact, what with dulce de leche and alfajores, which I reckon might just be the best pastry-cake-things yet crafted by man.
BA’s fancy cafés and cake shops, monument-studded parks and museum-piece underground trains make it hard to connect with the South America I lived in two years ago (rural Peru). On the surface, there isn’t much at all in common – just a few clues in street names, (some) Latin American Spanish words and an all-consuming obsession with football. That said, ask me the same question in 10 months time, and there will probably be a very different answer.
As of Monday, I’ll be studying at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. I’ve been to the building a few times now, and it feels like a timewarp back into the 60s (I’m thinking May ’68 in Paris – there are socialist banners and slogans everywhere, student movements huddled round tables in every corridor). A nice change from Cambridge, then – and the courses I’ve chosen (in film, philosophy and literature) look to be very interesting, if pretty weighty.
There’s so much else to tell already, from food to music to politics (currently inescapable). I’ll try to make subsequent posts a bit less rambling and more focused on one or two things in particular. In any case, Buenos Aires seems full of all parts of life, and will, I think, be a great place to spend a year.