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Trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina

Published: Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 02:02


2011 The Picket

Argentina's largest city is Buenos Aires, with a population of 13,076,300


The best learning experiences from studying abroad were not in the classrooms, but walking on the streets, speaking to taxi drivers, bartenders, guys (sometimes girls) at Boliches (clubs), and any place you can imagine.  The classes I took did not cover all I wanted to learn; they emphasized grammar and a little bit of reading. My class was all grammar rules and such, so the class consisted of things that one has to memorize but will not use most of the time when speaking informally.  I expected to learn about grammar, literature, some history, current events, or more information about the country we were visiting. But besides my class, I started reading about Che Guevara's life (the famous revolutionary guerilla leader who was born in Argentina).

The view from my aunt's apartment where I stayed even taught me about Buenos Aires.  I stayed near the Congreso. I saw people protesting all the time about different issues, especially students protesting about the school systems, and about the price of public transportation. The view from there was beautiful, especially during the day when the whiteness of all the buildings emphasized their beauty in the sun.  

Transportation and getting lost was something I worried about before leaving, but soon I did start to recognize where I was in the city. Buenos Aires is one of the biggest cities in the world, and I lived in a different part of the city, but it seemed that if one had time, they could walk everywhere. A good way to travel is by subte (metro): it is cheap, direct, and easy to figure out. The subte got extremely crowded at times, and it was always very hot, even if it was nice outside. Another inconvenience about the subte was that it closed around 10 o'clock every night. Besides that, I enjoyed using it and reading my book, and listening to my iPod or to the musicians playing for money during my trips. There were also collectivos (buses), which were pretty cheap. Buses have different prices depending on your trip. They were tricky in the sense that one had to learn the routes, but slowly it got easier, and a great thing about them was that they ran for 24 hours. Then there were taxis from different companies that were the majority of vehicles on the streets. Most of the drivers are nice and talkative and many gave me good suggestions on places to go, but one should be careful that they don't rip you off by giving you fake money as change.

The currency situation is that one peso equals about one quarter of a dollar, so was is great to have dollars.  But some people who aren't good at budgeting, like myself, don't realize they are still spending a lot. Throughout the trip, I had to learn to start keeping money in mind more, and spending less on food outside of home, taxis, drinking at bars and clubs, getting into clubs free (sometimes by being sneaky), and more. Although the cost was low for many things, other items such as drinks at the bar ended up costing a lot of money: it is a city after all. According to my family here, the food is more expensive to purchase than in the US, especially olive oil, Italian pasta, and other food items.  

There was a lot of visible poverty on the streets in Buenos Aires. People slept outside with their kids much of the time, but it's nothing in comparison to the rest of Argentina which can be considered a low-income country. I did not visit the rest of Argentina but it is a known fact that Buenos Aires is more middle class than the rest of the country. At night, there were people going through the many bags of trash on the sidewalks to find things that could be used or eaten, and at a certain time of the day the bags got picked up by trash trucks. There were also people collecting cartons to take someplace where they would be paid a little money. The recycling system was not very organized, so many people didn't recycle.

Most people were very nice and polite. It seemed that everyone spoke to everyone, but they always asked where I was from.  I'm from Italy, so sometimes I say from Italy, sometimes the United States, and sometimes both. I liked when they couldn't tell that I was a foreigner, which happened a few times. As we had been warned, random people on the street were just a little too nice, sometimes because they were trying to rob us.  Everyone has to be quite careful, and I always tried not to look like a tourist.  I didn't have any bad experiences though.  The men on the streets made it obvious that they liked what they saw: they made kissing noises, said things to get our attention; sometimes, even though it was disgusting, it was quite comical. Besides gross men on the streets, there were many good looking men and women from there and other countries. I met people from many from different places.

The nightlife was amazing there.  It is a big part of the culture. Buenos Aires is a huge city therefore it has many options, especially compared to Shepherdstown.  Besides there being more choices, the night life starts later at around 2:00 A.M., and can end as late as 7:00 A.M. During the week, I found less popular places to go at night: clubs that had hip-hop nights, places that taught the tango and had tango shows, places that had live bands; some were cheap, some free. It seemed that the popular things to do at night, especially for tourists, was either go to a Milonga (where they teach the tango and have shows), to take tango classes (tango is the traditional dance and music of Argentina), or to just see a show. And on weekends there were the numerous Clubs that played a lot of pop, techno, reggae, and pop of South America. Of course there were numerous theater events. There was so much dancing, and I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of break dancing going on. 

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