Before arriving, I fully expected to experience some degree of culture shock. After all, I'm between 5,000 and 6,000 miles from home on the opposite side of the earth; surely the culture is drastically different. To my surprise (and disappointment actually), Buenos Aires is not that different from many big, modern, westernized cities elsewhere in the world. I'm not saying I wanted to experience extreme culture shock, nor am I saying that Buenos Aires is not an authentic South American city with a unique culture. I just didn't expect to walk down Avenida Córdoba or Avenida Santa Fe and see skate shops full of Billabong apparel, designer clothing shops, Reese Witherspoon in makeup advertisements, posters in every part of the city promoting Keanu Reeves in his latest movie "El día que la Tierra se detuvo", pharmacies on every corner just like in the states (Farmacity is the most prevalent company), and 15 McDonald's and Burger King restaurants.
Speaking of avenues, Buenos Aires is home to the widest avenue in the world: la avenida 9 de Julio (named after Argentina's Independence day). It has 12 lanes of traffic, and can take a few minutes to cross on foot due to pedestrian crossing lights at the intersections. Below is a picture I took during my walking tour. Sections of the avenue were closed down due to the Dakar Rally that passed through on January 2nd. Notice that you can only count about 6 lanes in the picture!
I suppose it's best that I'm not overwhelmed with culture shock and can make a gradual transition into South American life. In any case, it's essential to get out and explore the locale in order to experience the culture, and I did just that on my second day here. The best, cheapest way to see a city is certainly by walking, so I took an 8-hour self-guided walking tour of the city (in other words I repeatedly got lost and had to backtrack and look at my map). Pictures of my adventure are in the montage that I posted a few days ago. The only expenses I incurred during the tour were band-aids (curitas) and Argentina's famous sirloin (bife de chorizo not to be confused with sausage which is simply chorizo). After about 7 hours of walking I was so famished, I stepped into a parrilla in the San Telmo neighborhood called La Vieja Rotissería and got an order of bife de chorizo to go (para llevar) and didn't think to check my bag for any type of silverware or even napkins. I ran to the nearest plaza to stuff my face, opened the bag, and realized that the only thing in it was a huge hunk of grilled meat wrapped in paper. Discarding any sense of civilized manners, I grabbed the hunk of meat with my hand and voraciously devoured it in a matter of minutes. Satiated and feeling a bit barbaric, I picked myself up off the steps across from the plaza Eva Peron and finished out my walking tour with an exhausted ride on the metro (called el subte, which is short for subterráneo) back to the Palermo neighborhood.
It is quite difficult to concentrate at the moment. Right now I'm sitting next to a six year boy that is burping continuously. I think it's my fault too. He burped after drinking some juice, and I asked him if he felt better. He giggled because I knew the word for "burp", then proceeded to burp for the next 5 minutes straight. "Vas a explotar" I told him - "You're going to explode". It didn't phase him. I had to distract him with music to make him forget he was trying to annoy me by burping in my face...incessantly. Led Zepplin to the rescue. The kid is adorable, but don't say "cochino".
My favorite part of Buenos Aires life so far is no doubt the kind, hilarious porteños (people from Buenos Aires). I'll elaborate on that tomorrow, but for now the cochinos are getting to me.