Well this isn’t a post about Japan, you eagle-eyed readers. It’s barely a post about Argentina, quite frankly. It’s a wiffly holding pattern while I get my shit together to create either of the aforementioned. Because I’m having some major solo traveller blues. And asking myself alot of why I am I travelling?…why am I writing this blog? and in fact, what am I actually doing with my life type questions. And until I can formulate that into something other than a steaming pile of self pity I feel a bit like my blog- writing hands are paralysed.
Maybe it’s inevitable that Buenos Aires would have this effect. This post has been 12 years in the making really.
Buenos Aires is the one that got away. It’s unrequited love, parallel universes, a fantasy vision of escaping failing realities, of reinventions. It’s an almost mid-life crisis crashing headlong into youthful naivety and wondering what the hell happened, why what might have been hasn’t been.
But no particular place can fix those things for me, not even my beloved Buenos Aires.
That was three days ago – let’s see if I can manage something a little less melodramatic now…I expected to love being back in Buenos Aires but, fantastic though it is, I didn’t enjoy being there that much. Partly just due to some vagueness in my plans: waiting to hear from a friend who may come out to join me for a bit, I wasn’t sure whether to hang around, or to start travelling immediately. I’m not at all averse to covering huge distances and doubling back on myself if necessary, but the general economic quilombo in this country means that inflation has left Argentina with the most expensive cross-country transport in all of South America so I was wary of moving when I wasn’t sure of my itinerary. A long distance bus in this country costs around double what it would in Peru, mile for mile (and for similar quality levels – you could always take a bone-shaking death trap in Peru if you want to save even more soles). And very roughly, I’m looking at travel costs of around 5x what they were in most of Asia. Even in Japan, there are are low cost airlines which lessen the financial pain – but they don’t yet exist here due to government restrictions (this may be about to change, but not for the time being). More background on the Argentine economy in this piece; I especially like the quote from an economist he mentions re four kinds of countries – developed, undeveloped, Japan and Argentina!
A couple of days after arrival, I decided to move to a more conveniently located hostel and decided arbitrarily to book in for a week. They asked for payment up front, but as soon as I’d dumped my pile of bags and sprawled onto my bunk I regretted it straight away. The room was incredibly hot (temperatures here have been above 30 C..), I was being feasted on by mosquitoes, and the other guests were mostly very lively twenty something Brazilians. It wasn’t really clear who was staff and who was just staying there, but someone had a single reggaeton album and they weren’t afraid to use it (which uncharacteristically, didn’t annoy me as surprisingly I like reggaeton. Take that, youngsters!). The difficulty sleeping and the total lack of privacy and personal space sent me a bit nutty and unfortunately when I’m in this kind of mood, my already shaky willingness/ability to attempt sociability with strangers completely deserts me. Having already seen the *sights* last time, I would have then made a sharp exit were it not for the fully paid up hostel booking. So there were some fairly mundane but explicable reasons for my morose mood, I guess.
While we’re here, I may as well bust out some more photos from last time:
La Boca – the touristy bit of it that’s famous for tango (also football..)
Evita’s grave in Recoleta cemetary:
San Telmo: on Sundays it’s a big street fair with stalls, live music and general merriment.
And tango. Of course tango. It would be perverse of me to write blog entries from various places in Central Asia that bang on about it and then arrive in tango mecca with barely a whisper of it, wouldn’t it? 🙂
This is the moment when I first saw real tango being danced, a Sunday in February 2005 in Plaza Dorrego:
Notice the lack of: bizarre outfits, fishnets, roses in mouths, back breaking posture and facial expressions suggestive of an unpleasant case of constipation! Just typical porteños wearing normal clothes and dancing happily to scratchy music from a long time ago, with looks of quiet contentment on their faces.
Tango is still danced in Plaza Dorrego, there’s a milonga on Sunday evenings and at other times performers dance to entertain the tourists at the street cafes. I saw these two a couple of times – they were actually dancing real tango very nicely, albeit with flashy outfits and a challenging floor!
In the photos above they were dancing to one of my favourite tangos – ‘Buscandote‘ (Searching for You – I think the name sounds less cheesy in Spanish!).
Tango (and its two variants, vals and milonga) are usually danced in sets of 3-5 songs that are musically harmonious eg same orchestra/similar year etc so that dancers have a chance to explore a theme rather than face an unexpected jolt from one piece to the next. Since you wanted to know (you did, obviously..), here are a few more of my favourites, loosely grouped into tandas though not strictly adhering to the rules! First up, these three: Adios Arrabal, Tres Esquinas, Cafe Dominguez (novelty factette: I took a workshop in London once with the dancers in the last video so I very briefly experienced dancing with them..). I get pretty excited if these come on in a milonga. I think they are all more or less about the bittersweet nostalgia for youth, and long lost days in the old slums of the city (the arrabal). [Buenos Aires still has many extremely deprived slum districts – villas miserias – similar to those of Brazil and Peru].
Three more: Que falta que me haces (video not great quality but the dancers, when they were still together, were one of the classic modern day tango couples); Al compas del corazon and Jamas Retornaras. If I understand right, these three are straight down the line, pining for your lover (or mourning that they will never return) tangos. Cheering stuff..Well I’ve cheered myself up anyway : coming soon, the ‘Buenos Aires – it’s not all bad’ post!