July 23, 2019
Travels through South America – Chapter Two
I just arrived in Buenos Aires. It’s 10:00 pm. Just as always, my taxi driver is animated and eager to talk about the economic situation and corruption in the government and the government-controlled media. Then he takes it to a whole other level – IMF funding, debts and widespread corruption in the banking system.
Yup, I was in Buenos Aires – people don’t hold back and even simple taxi drivers are somewhat informed and very opinionated. Invariably about half the Argentines I talk to know who Rabindranath Tagore is. In the United States if I tell a random person I am from the land of Tagore, I will get a blank look. Tagore is just the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is a Bengali.
It was a crisp winter night, as I got out of my taxi and rang the buzzer to my apartment – the apartment I was renting from my friend Fede who had sold me my Antarctica trip in January. That is how things work here, in Buenos Aires. You meet someone for a cup of coffee and/or do business with them and they invite you to stay in their home. It’s called Buena Onda (loosely translated – good vibes). And Buenos Aires is the land of Buena Onda.
Check out Fede and Luciano’s company for the best Antarctica Tours: https://wayfinderadventures.com/about-us/
At 11:00 pm in Fremont, California I would have been starving. The only thing open is the McDonald’s around the corner. It’s a different story here. After dropping off my luggage, I went downstairs to search for food, and right across the street there was a shop selling empanadas open until 11:30 pm. Perfect. Dinner, check!
The next morning I got a lazy start and watched a bit of the Tour de France and eventually got all my dirty laundry together – and of course I found a “Lavandería” just across the street. After dropping off my clothes, I started to walk towards central Palermo to have lunch at Full City Cafe, my favorite coffee shop serving great Colombian coffee. But within a few blocks from home I encountered Cafe Cortázar (named after the famous Argentine writer Salazar Cortázar). I opted for the Menu del Día – lentil and beef stew – and it did not disappoint. This would become my favorite spot for writing and having lunch, close to home.
It was destined to be an active first day. I was going to meet my friend Cindy who was traveling all the way to the Netherlands for a few months. She had a flight to catch the next morning and still made time to meet me for a drink! After that I met up with Flor. Flor and I go back a long way – we met at a Mundo Lingo, a language meet up in 2016 and I convinced her to take a yoga class with me. Ever since then we’ve become great friends. Being language aficionados, we met up at Soria Bar for Mundo Lingo’s Wednesday night language meet up.
If you read my last post you saw that I had vowed to take Salsa lessons. Just as I hit “post” I got a message from my friend Gaby asking me if I wanted to take Salsa lessons and go Salsa dancing. What are the odds? This is Buenos Aires and it is never a dull moment here!
After Salsa we checked out a new joint called “Rabia” in Palermo.
It’s winter here in the Southern Hemisphere. My third day here, it rained all day – it’s part of the deal. Rain or shine, Buenos Aires is Buenos Aires. This is my home away from home. Every time I visit, I wonder if I will feel differently, if I will want to spend chunks of my free time elsewhere. But without fail, I feel at home and rejuvenated. I usually have no desire to go elsewhere for prolonged periods.
Come Saturday, the weather finally got better and it was a sunny day with blue skies and right on cue Leonardo called me and asked if I wanted to go to “La Rural”. It literally translates to “The Rural”.
I vaguely remember hearing about this event that lasts for a couple of weeks. It’s like a country fair, rodeo, petting zoo, big truck demo and wine festival, all thrown in together.
Even though I was not particularly interested, I said yes and met Leonardo in Palermo at 2:15 pm. We would end up staying at La Rural until 7:00 pm! There were a variety of events that kept us busy. I saw some of the biggest and healthiest bulls, cows, hens and roosters I have ever seen. There were some llamas with very diva-esque hairstyles. I bought a wool scarf (100% sheep’s wool) and we ate some Pata sandwiches – beef from the cow’s leg.
That night I had been invited to see “Hamlet” with an Argentine twist. My friend Ariel is a theater director and professor of theater at the University of Buenos Aires and he has a cozy small theater space in his home. This was exactly the kind of small neighborhood theater that I was interested in. The production was superb, replete with a lot of improvisation, audience engagement/interaction and humor. There was even a stall where you could buy empanadas and drinks. Ariel was the first friend I had made in Buenos Aires way back in 2015 but I had never had the opportunity to see one of his shows until now. I was quite impressed!
“Hamlet” played by Angel and directed by Ariel Padula
I know that this is just the beginning of my stay in Buenos Aires and in usual fashion, five weeks will fly right by. I try not to think about it. I just live it, one day at a time. I will probably not be posting about Buenos Aires much – who posts about their home, right? 🙂 But I am sure I will be inspired to write. It was actually a goal of mine since 2017, after my mother passed away. My mother was my biggest fan and she loved literature and she would be happy and proud every time one of my articles appeared in the newspaper in Dhaka. About a decade ago, I used to write for the Daily Star, it’s weekend edition The Star Weekend Magazine. You can find my articles on-line here: www.nabeelatique.com/articles/. The topics ranged from climbing in the Alps, surviving the Tsunami of 2004 to what it was like to teach high school for a year in California.
In 2017, as part of the grieving process I wanted to start writing again, for my mother, for myself, to experiment with how I felt. Perhaps it would be therapeutic, perhaps I would be able to write some good pieces.
It never happened.
Fast forward two years – and the flood gates have opened :). Sometimes you have to let the universe take it’s course.
Thanks for reading and expect some wide-ranging posts in the near future – such as “Antarctica”, “What Yoga Means to Me”, “Fifteen Years After Surving the Tsunami “, and hopefully many more!