Monday, April 15, 2013

I Can't Believe How Much I've Forgotten About Buenos Aires!

Yesterday, I was Facebook IMing with Sebastian when he offered a flashback-inducing reply to an age-old Buenos Aires pregunta, the Argentine equivalent to the Aussie "How are you going?"

"Como estas?"

"Si, bien, en casa, tomando mates y organizando para salir con mis amigos hoy a la noche." (Sebas was the only person I knew in Argentina who bothered to use commas and accent marks when writing, and I loved him for it.)

Ah, mate! I've been so focused on "mate" (as in "How are you going, mate?") over the course of the last two on-off years in Australia that I'd totally forgotten about mate (rhymes with latte), that vile hot drink that's sort of like Argentina's national tea. In four and a half years in BA, I never quite acquired a taste for it, preferring to boost my spirits with a few shots of whiskey instead.

Oh, and it had totally slipped my mind: In Argentina, you don't drink (beber) anything. You take (tomar) it. Good times.

But why am I forgetting so many minor details about them? A few months ago, I had to consult my friend Rob because I couldn't remember the name of the street that ran right in front of Ambar la Fox, my favorite club night in BA. "Federico Lacroze," he reminded me, incredulous. "How can you forget?" He was right? How could I? I always secretly wanted to date a guy who called himself Federico Lacroze, and I must have drunkenly uttered that name hundreds of times, if not in the throes of passion, to taxi drivers.

I'd better remember the cross street when I go back because I intend to be there next Saturday night?

Speaking of cross streets, I can't remember how many of them I've forgotten. Rob and I used to brag about how we could name all of the Buenos Aires calles and avenidas extending from Callao on the edge of Recoleta to the Carranza subte station in Palermo Hollywood, in order. But while looking for a Palermo rental online, I couldn't believe how many times I had to consult the map to figure out where the apartments were. Soler and Bonpland? Where's that? Oh, just one block over and one up from the apartment where I lived for four years and three months!

Perhaps most pathetic of all, I almost declined a friend's offer to pick me up at the airport after my arrival at 12.45 in the morning on Thursday. "I'm flying into Ministro Pistarini, so I won't be too far from my rental. Go to bed. Don't worry about me." It wasn't until the rental agent at ByT Argentina told me that someone would meet me at the apartment at 2.15am to check me in that I started to piece together the truth. Well, actually, she did it for me.

"Do you really think it will take 90 minutes for me to get to the apartment?" I asked as scary images of me standing on a deserted Palermo Soho street in the wee hours flashed through my mind. "I'm flying into Ministro Pistarini, which is much closer, and I just don't want to be waiting outside with my suitcase in the middle of the night."

Her response: "Dear Jeremy 90 minutes it's fine. Ministro Pistarini airport it's not close to the city, it's outside the city. The airport inside the city is Jorge Newery."

Oh, yes: Jorge Newberry! At least I could still get the name right when prompted. But wait? What's Ministro Pistarini then? Did they build a new major international airport since I left. I consulted Google for the answer.

That's right. Ministro Pistarini is just the official name of Ezeiza, the international airport I'd flown in and out of at least a dozen times.

Looks like I have my homework cut out for me. One of the first chores I'll tend to after landing is starting on the last of a series of six travel articles I've been doing for The Bangkok Post over the last several months. It's a good thing I saved Buenos Aires for last. (The others were on Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Instanbul and Rio, which I'm currently finishing up.)

Although I've spent more time in BA than I have in all the other cities combined, in some ways, being there again will feel like the first time, which might actually be a good thing. I just hope I say the right thing to the taxi driver next weekend when I leave Ambar la Fox. "Guatemala y Carranza" will forever be emblazoned on my mind, but I don't live there anymore, and I never will again.

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