Go Canada, go!

Feb 27th 2010: Travel

How to make a life for yourself in a country you have never been to before, you don’t know a single person, and not only do you not speak the language, but everyone around you is reluctant to speak yours (can’t hold that against them though – I’m reluctant too)? This has been preoccupying me for the last week since I got here and it turned out to be not as easy as I had thought – though I’m sure had I given it a bit more thought up front I would have realized that.

Don’t get me wrong: Buenos Aires is a fantastic city. After the rain of the first few days it’s been nothing but beautiful, nice and warm and dry, and the neighborhood I live in, Palermo Viejo, is just heaven on earth. It’s so nice in fact that I have not ventured out into the rest of the city much. There is no bad mood, no feeling of frustration that a nice cup of coffee sitting on a small table of a cafe, at the sidewalk, in the shade of a big green tree, on a bright sunny day with blue sky, next to the cobble stone road wouldn’t fix. Not only that but Palermo is also the current cultural center: bars and clubs and boutiques and galleries everywhere. I even spotted a Starbucks! The stores all open between noon and 3pm and close around 8pm, while the bars and restaurants open 6pm-ish, but dinner is usually at 11pm. And the clubs open at 2am and don’t fill until 3 or 4am. The whole city is on a nocturnal schedule. Last night I had a beer with guy I met at a cafe in a plaza around the corner from me at 4am. And the Plaza was packed. And then there was a power outage which only seemed to encourage people to stay longer and drink more.

I immediately fell in love with this part of the city and knew this is where I wanted to live. Not as much because of the late drinking as I haven’t had too much of that yet, but because it’s really a peaceful place to let the soul rest. So my top priority was to find an apartment. After much online hunting I started prowling the neighborhood and looked out for local agents renting out places. Then I found one saw the photos online and knew that this was the apartment I wanted. Renting an apartment is like the advanced version of ordering beer: harder but also very rewarding. I got to see the place yesterday and it’s the one! Photos to come. Since it’s still occupied I will be moving in two weeks. Can’t wait!

Another aspect is the obvious question of how to meet people? It’s a city of three million people. Can’t be that hard, can it? Well, my Spanish, or the lack thereof, has been the biggest hurdle. Fortunately there are always the expats that are happy to practice English with you. Following a hint on a website I found *the* expat bar (Shoeless Joe) and got to listen to Nirvana and Guns’n Roses and support the Canadian hockey team winning against the Russians. Meeting a filmmaker and a fashion photographer I found myself the next day at a small house party where I got plenty of advice on how to play the stock market from an older lady from Seattle.

It was interesting to see the variation between all these expats. There was no common thread among them except that they are all in BA now. From the man that married an Argentine woman and moved here five years ago and now has a small son, to the student on exchange excited to get affordable front row VIP seats to Coldplay, to the stock playing divorcee, to the guy who came here three years ago to party and live the good life (and apparently is) but has to yet learn any Spanish, to the Swiss volunteer working in a soup kitchen, they are all here. As a German expat myself I have recently become more interested in these stories and will continue collecting them – though I’d prefer to mingle with the locals and get to know the culture more. Maybe after more Spanish classes.

Which brings me to the next two weeks of pain: I signed up for six hours of Spanish classes every single day (4 group, 2 private) for two weeks. And they start at 9am! I don’t think there was a single week in the last year in which I made it into the office at that ungodly time everyday for a week. And I have to commute for 45min too! And then there are Tango classes at night. So if you don’t hear from me in the next two weeks, assume I was killed by exhaustion. But depending how things are going I’ll try to post more. Especially a food post is way overdue. Hmmm… food… I think I’ll go for some tasty grub. Ciao!

Posted in Travel by Ernst Bruening on February 27th, 2010 at 9:20 pm.

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