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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Freddie, an Australian expat who’s currently working and living in Buenos Aires. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city, shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail.com.
It doesn’t really matter where in the world I am, I always find it difficult to get out of bed, especially in the middle of winter. I would dearly love to say that I’m a morning person, but I’m not. Instead I’m the person that hits the snooze button incessantly, until a glance at the clock reveals that I should have been on the bus five minutes ago and I throw myself violently out of bed.
Thus begins a normal day for me in Buenos Aires.
After just over a year, I’m still a bit confused about how I’ve come to be living here. I mean, Buenos Aires was always in the plan, but then all of a sudden I managed to get a job, and a boyfriend, and then I went back to Australia ‘for a visit’, and now I’m still here with no immediate plans for going anywhere…except for my quarterly visa run.
I work for an edtech company, and like most offices here, we start at 10:00 am, so I can snooze just that little bit longer. Time moves differently in Buenos Aires; it’s like a strange slow-motion vortex that sucks you in. You saunter into the office, do the rounds and kiss everyone on the cheek in a manner of greeting (including your boss), get yourself some mate (Argentine green tea that is a staple in any office kitchen) and finally sit down to check your emails. Lunch happens about 2:00 – 3:00 pm, and dinner is on the table any time starting from 10:00 pm. Luckily, there’s almost always a merienda of a cup of coffee and some medialunas (deliciously sweet and sticky croissants) to get you through the long haul.
The public transport here is a thriving—and surprisingly efficient—network of buses, trains and subway. The only problem is that it’s constantly evolving. My bus route to work changes almost daily, so I never quite know where it might drop me off. There are no timetables; everything just runs continuously, so as long as you know where the bus stops are (often no more than a numbered sticker on a tree), you’ll be fine.
After work, my plans always vary, though I tend to pop into any bookshops I might be passing on my way. My reading level in Spanish is still not good enough for anything more advanced than Harry Potter, but as a serious bookworm, I have to take advantage of the fact that Buenos Aires has the most bookshops per capita in the world! My favourite is El Ateneo, which back in its heyday was a theatre that hosted great Argentine tango artists like Carlos Gardel. The stage area is now a cafe, and there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than having a coffee (or glass of Malbec), browsing some books, and doing some serious people-watching.
Twice a week, I head to yoga class after work. I was never a big fan of yoga until I started here. There’s no signing up for particular classes, no maximum or minimum number of students. Anyone is welcome, so the class is a whole mix of abilities, and yet our teacher will always let us know when we are ready to advance with our postures. Two classes a week costs me about $40 per month, and basically doubles as a language class for parts of the body, so it’s way more economic than back in Australia. The other day I was the only person who showed up, so I ended up having my own private class!
My boyfriend’s two dogs, Tommy and Vegas, also keep us pretty busy and we will often take them out after for a walk around 11:00 pm when it’s a bit quieter on the streets.
Buenos Aires is the city of dogs. Whether it’s a chubby pug, an enormous bear-like creature, or a slick mutt from the street, there are dogs everywhere. Since a lot of people here live in apartments, or work during the day, there are also a lot of dog-walkers. But these aren’t just average dog-walkers; they normally have anywhere between 5 and 15 dogs attached to their person by various colourful leashes, and they’re all walking in complete harmony. I’ve seen dog-walkers taking care of more than twenty dogs at a time. I don’t know how they manage to keep the peace; our two are enough of a handful!
Living with my boyfriend also means I am now part of the weekly family lunch on Sundays. Argentina has a very family orientated culture, and every Sunday without fail we have lunch together, or at the very least, coffee and some cake. Asados, or barbeques, are also practically obligatory at least once a week. While Australia has a strong barbeque culture, asados are quite different. Cooking the meat over coal gives it a completely different flavour and also means that I’m normally salivating over the delicious smells for hours before I actually get to eat something. I’ve been told the key to a successful Argentine asado is catering for about a kilo of meat per person.
But apart from the ritual of family lunch, nothing really gets planned here. Friends meet up spontaneously and invitations are given out with little advance notice. I just got invited to a wedding that’s less than two weeks away! In Melbourne, I struggle to book my friends in for brunch a week in advance, but everything here happens much more organically. No plans for the weekend? No worries, something exciting will always come up!