Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back to the Summer

That is Tango in the street. This is Buenos Aires. Get an idea of why I came back in such a hurry? I wasted no time in hopping a 3-day bus route back up the other way to the capital city, forgoing Argentine gems like El Califate and Puerto Madryn to get to Buenos Aires for a weekend. I'm sorry to miss everything I'm missing, but if I stayed in every country to explore as long as the country deserved, I'd still be in the first one I visited.

So that’s how I went from Antarctica to a city where it stays above 80 degrees at midnight. The kind of heat where you feel sweaty and gross, take a shower, and then feel exactly the same way about ten minutes later. So even while people online were IMing me to tell me how dumb I was to swim in Antarctic waters, I found myself wishing I could do it again.

Instead, I went to the neighborhood of San Telmo since it was closer. That’s how I found the San Telmo Sunday fair. And that’s where I took this photograph. Art everywhere, music everywhere, and the odd couple tangoing around the food salesmen, mimes, orange juice stands and the obligatory twenty-somethings with the cardboard signs that say “Free Hugs.” The crowds, acts, and sights shifted so much that I walked a two or three block radius for about two hours and hardly saw the same thing twice. I spent a chunk of my afternoon with a massive pumpkin, corn, and cheese pan relleno following drum bands, jumping ahead of them past the Charlie Chaplain impersonator to a three man jazz combo playing a block away from the four-accordion(bandolin), four-violin traditional tango orchestra with piano, cello and bass backup. This was after I'd gone past the didgeridoo (yes I had to look up how to spell it) and chatted up the local painter who had painted abstract portraits of her suburb based of of home video stills, adding things she felt were there but weren't in real life. Just like politics, she said when I told her my major in college, it's there in people's minds, but it's not really there.

Before that though, I had to fulfill a goal I’d been working on for longer than it should’ve taken me: seeing theater in Spanish. I quickly figured out that the equivalent of Broadway was Ave Corrientes, featuring a Spanish musical of Othello, Phantom of the Opera, and Pinter play, among others. I even saw a sign for Shakespeare’s famous “Mucho Ruido, Pocos Nueces,” which took me a second to actually identify since I couldn’t recall ever seeing a play called “Lots of Noise, Few Nuts” in the collected works (I had to switch “Lots of” to the more literal “Much” before I got Much Ado About Nothing out of that one). I was surprised to see how much of the stuff was originally English. I’d written off the preponderance of American movies in Latin America to the relative budgets and sheer numbers of movies the US puts out. But really the theater scene shouldn’t have surprised me that much. There are, after all, lots of plays that go up in the US all the time that are originally written in other languages. Just think of Checkov or Ibsen.

I found a small theater off the beaten track that was putting on El Duelo. It wasn’t until I got in the space and read the program that I realized it wasn’t originally Spanish either—it was an adapted version of Checkov’s one act, The Brute. Good too. The only time I had trouble with the Spanish was when both actors onstage were talking at once. Then I was even more lost than most of the people around me. Still had a great time, especially hearing the actors warm up from outside the house. That was what really brought it all back for me...

But I’m not done moving. I stayed in town long enough for the play, the fair, exploring some massive parks, making a few travel arrangements for the next two real big ticket items (details coming soon, I promise), and collecting on the offer of a private piano lesson from a professor I’d gotten into a debate with about politics and philosophy in Ushuaia. Now if only I had an easy way to practice the stuff on the road.

As for the bus out, I nabbed a discount through my HI membership and upgraded to “cama” or bed class for 5 pesos. Definitely worth it. Much comfier seats, full meals, wine included (airplane quality food of course) and I found one thing backpackers had been telling me about ever since Colombia: they give you a glass of champagne. Somehow I don’t see that happening on Greyhound back at home.

The bus has dropped me in Puerto Iguazu. Tomorrow I’m going on a boat trip through some waterfalls.

Some very, very big waterfalls.

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