Monday, February 9, 2009

Buenos Aires: Tango in San Telmo

January 25, 2009

Our second day was as packed as the first. Although I slept through the first and second alarms, streaming sunlight and a light breeze through the window woke me gently. The night was very hot, but bearable, and after trundling off to the shower I was greeted with a modest (though delicious) breakfast of a croissant, some toast, juice, and coffee. As I ate, was continually astonished by the sheer amount of sunlight in and around me. Perhaps it was simply a reaction after having spent so much time imprisoned in dreary, wintry New Jersey, but I actually felt better rested, happier, and healthier than I had in months. Talk about seasonal depression.

After a leisurely meal, we headed out to the Plaza de Mayo with Professor Litchman, an abnormal psycholgy professor from Princeton who happens to have a summer home in Buenos Aires and was here for intersession, just like us. He gave us a brief history of Argentina and described many of the historic government buildings surrounding the Plaza de Mayo, including the Casa Rosada (Pink House), which is the equivalent of our White House except the president doesn't actually live there.

After feeding some of Plaza de Mayo's many, many pigeons, we struck out for San Telmo for the Feria de Pedro San Telmo, which takes place every Sunday afternoon. One road, Calle Defensa, is entirely blocked, filled with street performers and vendors selling a variety of handcrafted and antique goods, including the silver and leather work we'd seen before but also fileta (I think that's what it's called? a folk-art type way of painting that involves lots of ornate lines and curlicues), crocheted ponchos and scarves, mate (pronounced MAH-tay, traditional Argentinian tea) and countless other items.

Armed with my Lonely Planet, I managed to find the one organic, vegtarian-friendly restaurant in all of Argentina, where we had a delicious pizza lunch. Becky, Maya and I then ventured out into the Feria, where we browsed and meandered and simply absorbed the atmosphere. Although our bargaining was largely ineffectual, I managed to get a few gifts for friends and family. More exciting were the countless street performers, including a seemingly infinite supply of guitarists, one of BA's most famous tango bands (complete with violins, double bass, three accordion players, and even a piano), a very talented tangoing couple, and even some kind of painter-cum-dancer-cum-performance artist, rhythmically splattering neon paint on black canvas in time to the Bob Marley blaring from his stereo.

We met again as a group for dinner at Manolo (still far too early to be anywhere close to genuine Argentine dinnertime), then to Plaza Dorrenga to watch some outdoor tango. From there we pretty much invaded the Torquato Tasso Senter Cultural for some tango of our own! Although only a few of us knew what we were doing, we each ventured onto the dance floor once or twice (to the clear dismay of the experienced, graceful Argentine couples) and played the stereotypcal bumbling Americans. However, we cleared out shamefully early (midnight) to let them tango in peace, and retired to the hostel for the night.

The lobby of the hostel

Feeding pigeons in the Plaza de Mayo

According to Prof. Litchman, one of BA's best tango orchestras!

Fresh-squeezed jugo de naranjas, one of my favorite things :)

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