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Graham Williams & Louise Jones Travel Blog This is our journal logging our trip through Central and Latin America from July 2005 to the present date. We update it and add new pictures every two to three weeks. At the moment Will is travelling in South Africa, while Lou is living in Buenos Aires.For more background reading on our travels go to - http://journals.worldnomads.com/will/

Staying in Buenos Aires

ARGENTINA | Sunday, 19 November 2006 | Views [750]

I have been in Buenos Aires for the last seven weeks working on my Spanish.  I am staying with a delightful local couple, Geno and Eduardo, in their large house in the north of the city.

On weekday mornings I take a Spanish class and then spend the afternoons trying to practice what I have learnt, chatting with my conversation friends, visiting museums and drinking lots of coffee in the multitude of cafes that this stylish city boasts.

Living here is quite different from passing through as a traveller and has allowed me to get to know people as individuals, discover hidden corners of the city and understand a little of life here.

Quite a few "porteños" (inhabitants of Buenos Aires) learn some English and want to practice it, so three afternoons a week I meet people for a conversation exchange: we speak in English for half an hour so they can improve their English and then in Spanish for half an hour so I can practice my Spanish.  A pleasant way to practice and get to know people.

I´m getting used to the loud kiss on the cheek with which porteños greet anyone they know.  As a traveller, I had not taken part in this ritual so was not used to it.  At first when people´s heads moved towards me I almost involuntarily took a step back, which was rather embarrasing.  Now I am on kissing terms with my teacher, my conversation friends, the couple I live with and all their friends, the man who runs the laundry, the waiters in my favourite cafes etc. etc.

Buenos Aires is one of the greenest of South American cities with a string of parks running the length of the riverside.  I have taken up running again and within 5 minutes of the house I am in a park.  At weekends the parks are full of people enjoying the sunshine - it´s late spring turning into summer here and the weather is warm and sunny.

The city is very big but it´s distinct barrios or neighbourhoods give it a manageable feel.  I´m living in Nuñez which still has lots of small local shops and cafes, family houses in tree lined streets and a very European small town air.  The southern areas are poorer and more cramped  but overall the standard of living here is noticeably higher than most of the rest of Latin America (apart from certain parts of Brasil and apart from Chile where instead they have a big gap between rich and poor.)The financial crisis of 2001 seems a long time ago and most people here seem to feel positive about the growing economic prosperity of their city and country.

One big topic of conversation here, however, is personal security.  To me, Buenos Aires seems one of the more safer cities in this continent but many people here worry about safety.  As in England, it is hard to distinguish between the objective risk of crime and the subjective perception and media portrayal of it.  There is a tradition here of demonstrating in the streets when one feels aggrieved and there are frequent marches and rallies, both organised and ad hoc, which have a tendency to get out of hand and turn violent.  Violence on the streets between opposing fans after football matches is also common and is taken by the media here to indicate both a passion for the game itself and an undercurrent of violence in the working classes.  People have been very keen to tell me what they believe the reasons are for this and their suggested remedies. I´m happy to listen and talk to anyone here (as long as it´s in Spanish) so I feel I have heard a good range of opinions.

My diet has become fully Argentine now: meat and salad, fish, fruit, ice cream, wine and coffee! Geno cooks lovely dinners and we always have a bottle of wine (well this is Argentina!). In the house we also have two American students for the next two weeks who are also learning Spanish.  Over dinner we talk a mixture of English and Spanish as both Geno and Eduardo speak good English.

At the weekends I have been visiting old towns out in the countryside, with their 19th century buildings, rural tranquility and gaucho (cowboy) museums, and taking boat trips in the nearby delta region.

All in all, I cannot think of a more pleasant place to "work" on improving my Spanish.

Louise

Tags: On the Road

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