Buenos Aires: Tangos, Robbers and a House of Hippies

Buenos Aires is BIG. I mean, HUGE. Yes, people have told me before but as always, it’s different once you experience it yourself. What does big mean? It means, everything that is within an hour walking distance, is super-close. Everything you can reach by public transportation in an hour is pretty close. We once took a train to a small town outside of Buenos Aires because we were told, “it’s really not that far” – translates into: 50 minutes bus ride, 2 hours on the train and 30 minutes walking. Obviously, being two geniuses when it comes to navigating around big cities, even after 2 weeks in the same neighborhood, we get lost every time we go to the supermarket. But, amazingly, we did manage to find the tango in Buenos Aires. First, on public display for the tourists in San Telmo. These performances made me doubt we were in the city of tango. I dance the probably worst tango there is – but even I could tell, these dancers (average age: 65) should not be shaking around any more. Then, we found the milongas. Not that I knew what a milonga was before coming to Argentina but it is the typical way to dance tango in Buenos Aires. Dancers of all levels and ages go to different bars to dance tango (usually, it involves some kind of live music, too). A milonga attracts tango dancers of all sorts: professional dancers go, just as do beginners. So even I was asked to dance! What I loved about the milongas we went to – nobody cares how you dance and if you are an absolute beginner, most are delighted to teach you. Most interesting character I met: an older gentleman. Of course he offered his entire life story: how he got divorced from his controlling wife (meaning: he probably cheated on her a little bit too often), then discovered tango (meaning: an easy way to meet women) and then decided to use tango therapy in his work as a psychologist (meaning: not sure). So even if you don’t dance at all – just watching and talking to people at a milonga is a joy!
Another experience you shouldn’t miss while being in BA is getting robbed. Again, I am starting to think, you don’t get the full BA experience if you miss out on that. Naturally, it happened to me, too. So here we are riding the subway (SUBTE, as they call it) and I am fascinated by this girl who puts on her make-up (including eyeliner!!!) just using a tiny mirror and doesn’t seem to be bothered by the bumpy ride at all. Unfortunately, she was the wrong person to look at. Noticing my constant staring she pointed it out to the two boys she was with. I have to admit that I get carried away many times by my anthropological interest so thinking she feels bothered, I look away shamefully … Little did I know! Getting off the train, there must have been about a 20 second period where I did not have my purse in front of me, by the time I realize my wallet is gone. My natural first reaction is to yell at basically everybody who has ears that my wallet was stolen. Poor Sam doesn’t know why I am acting like a mad woman until a lady comes up and says: “Are you missing something from your purse?” – YESSS, (duh!!!). “I saw it exactly, it was them!” and she points towards the make-up girl and her two friends. Of course! So I start running after them (Sam following me, still confused at what exactly is going on). I grab make-up girl (the señora is screaming from behind: “that’s her, that’s her!”) and I am not exactly sure what came out of my mouth but it definitely included the words “weona” “culiá” and “concha tu madre” (pardon my french but I was ready to beat her up). Make-up robber girl was of course in full denial but as everybody realized what was going on, people blocked the way so she couldn’t escape until miraculously my wallet is laying on the ground, and nothing is missing! So this is a warning to all the robbers out there: I have a history with pick-pockets, so please, make sure you’re fast enough because I am coming after you no matter what!
Equally exciting (although in a completely different way) was our time in a house full of hippies. Full of 17 hippies, their friends, guests and 2 dogs and 1 cat, to be more precise. This house had everything!

– A Chilean mime who got a little bit too excited over having another “Chilean” in the house – so he made me say and repeat every Chilenismo he could think of.
– An Argentinian cinema student who wore a different hat every day and spoke to everybody in English, even if the other person was Argentinian as well and didn’t understand a word
– A Danish dancer who practiced her moves wherever she could – preferably in the kitchen while cooking
– A Mexican who had all the connections to anything and everything illegal in Buenos Aires
– A Romanian who was actually Hungarian and every time I saw him he was giving somebody a tour of the house (we got the tour as well, so I know it used to be a hostel until the hippies took over)
– An Austrian who under no circumstances would speak German but I got a feeling she was the one organizing the house (who made coffee, who owed money for the shared food, who had to do the dishes etc. etc.)
– A Slovakian violinist with her Argentinian boyfriend (bass and guitar player) who played Balkan music together (divine!!!)
and and and

Needless to say that under the Austrian regime, it was the most organized, the cleanest, one of the friendliest and definitely one of the liveliest places I have ever stayed at!

It will be hard to say goodbye to Buenos Aires. It’s not only a big city, it is a great city: from full moon festivals, over constant music and dancing on the streets to the best pizza I have had in YEARS- ché!

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