Sunday, January 14, 2007

Puerto Madero y San Telmo, entonces la tarea (Ken)

I was having my cortado at the café yesterday, when I ran into my friend Magdelena (Mále for short, como Molly only with an "a"). We met her in the same café last weekend. She is a Porteña pharmacist who is in marketing for Merck. She speaks English very well and has helped us get to know the neighborhood. We really like this neighborhood and apartment. It is close to everything. We can walk to whatever we need, and all the great parts of the city are a long walk or short ride away. Mále asked where we had been and what we had been doing. She suggested that we go the the flea market at San Telmo on Sunday, today. We looked at the map and decided to walk.

On the way, we passed a monument to the Argentine soldiers who died in the 1982 Las Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands War with Great Britian. It remineded me a bit of the VietNam Memorial in the USA. There is an eternal flame and two soldiers standing guard. My understanding is that the military dictatorship in power at the time had made quite a mess of things. The ecomonomy was ruined, people were protesting in the streets, and they tried to divert attention by provoking Great Britian into a conflict over some disputed islands of the southern Antarctic coast of Argentina. Great Britian quickly regained possession of the islands and the military dictatorship fell the following year. However, hundreds of Argentinos paid the price.

Although our intended destination today was San Telmo, I saw the newly reshaped skyline of Puerto Madero. The up and coming barrio of Buenos Aires. This is where all the new cinco estrella hotels and deparamentos expensivos are going up. There is also a Hooters and TGIFridays there. It´s strange though, Argentina is not really set up for North American tourists. There are a few old sailing vessles from the Argentine Navy that are being restored as museams. However, the signs are all in Spanish. We detourde to Puerto Madero because I wanted to see the famous De La Mujer pedestrian bridge that I saw in the movie "Nine Queens."
We stopped in the Buenos Aires Hilton to look around and use the restroom. We tried our best to "look American" so that they wouldn´t ask us to leave. There is a gift shop there that sells touristy stuff as well as traditional Porteño items. One special Porteño item is the maté cup.

Maté is an herb tea that Porteños drink by the gallon. The traditional cup is a gourd that is filled with the dried leaf of the yerba maté plant almost to the top. Hot water and suger are added and the resulting tea is sipped through a silver bombilla--a straw with a built-in strainer. In the Hilton gift shop, the kit cost $320 pesos--over US$100. At the San Telmo flea market, you can buy the same thing for $30 pesos--about US$10. We got the idea that it is possible for a tourist to stay in a 300-dollar-a-night hotel suite and see the city through the windows of an air-conditioned bus, eat in tourist-ready restaurants with English-speaking waiters and go home thinking they have seen Buenos Aires. You miss a lot that way. But, how would I know, before two weeks ago, I´d never been out of the USA.

The flea market, or Feria de San Telmo, only happens on Sundays. It was originally confined to the relatively small Plaza Dorrego, but has grown to encompass many blocks of the barrio´s narrow cobble stoned streets. These are blocked off, and the vendors take over. In addition to arts and crafts, there are street musicians and tango dancers on almost every corner--sometimes competing for the ears and eyes of la gente que pasa cerca. Some of these guitar players are so good, it just makes me embarrassed of my meager skills. They can play some really great stuff.
We made our way home, but still had homework--la tarea--to complete for tomorrow´s class. So off we went to meet with our tutor, Paula, at Cala Pizza. Ella es agradable y dulce. We like her very much. She is a student at UBA studying medicine. She is on summer break and works in the cafe. As you can see, she was not very busy at 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon and had time to proofread our essays.

It was a busy day. We walked for hours and saw two new barrios. It is back to school tomorrow for another week of class. Good night North America.


emilyeffinconrad said...

Helen and Paula look very pretty in that picture

Chas said...

Caramba! Que puente loco!
(tambien: caramba! Que linda Paula!)

emilyeffinconrad said...

dad says he missed both of your calls (he was at work the first one and then moving his car later) and you didn't leave a number. he didn't want you to think he was blowing you off.