Friday, August 29, 2008

Our Final Days Together in Buenos Aires

Feeling that night buses gave us a little more flex in our evertightening budget, and dearly hoping for no more snoring senores, we took a bus from Cordoba to the illustrious Buenos Aires. Now, we had both read and heard that portenos (residents of Buenos Aires) were infamous for their sour disposition and pessimism. This turned out to be, at least in our experience, completely false. Nearly everyone we talked with bent over backwards to help us, converse for awhile, offer us suggestions, and basically continued the same stream of almost unbelievable friendliness that we had experienced in Cordoba.

But of course, this was little consolation to poor Kiwi, who was now dearly regretting he had ever said anything in our family conference about not experiencing enough "real" travelling. I asked him if he was nervous as we pulled into the huge station in Buenos Aires, and he said, trembling, that he was not nervous but excited. If you missed the last entry, I felt Kiwi would benefit in the long run from having just a little taste of travelling alone, which was a pretty big step for him. Keep in mind this is a city of 13 million people, this was his first ever international adventure alone, he didn't speak Spanish and his English was limited, AND I had kept the guidebook so he didn't even have any kind of map or idea of where to stay (perhaps I went a little far on that last one, but I felt it would eventually give him a greater sense of confidence). Nevertheless, he bravely stood there looking small, while the rest of us grabbed our bags and walked away, turning back often to wave and give him the thumbs up.

The initial navigations of Buenos Aires were simplified greatly by the cheap and quite interesting subway. Line A, for example, was built 95 years ago and has a wooden interior with doors that you have to pry open and which only slam shut from momentum awhile after the subway is in motion (leaving little comfort for those standing next to the doors!)

Settling in a rather gloomy dim-lit hotel (it´s always hard to find a good place to stay for the first night in a town because the heavy backpacks lead to rather quick decisions), we went straight for the main pedestrian street, Avenida Florida where we sampled some fine Buenos Airean cuisine... McDonalds! Though I had repeatedly censored such a move several times earlier in the trip, I had to admit that their breakfast sandwiches were more appealing after a long night bus than the standard Argentinian breakfast of simple bread. In any case, the two story, plant-filled, couch-decored McDonalds was a cultural experience in itself.

Another unavoidable cultural point is the tango. It is everywhere - in the music, the signs, and of course the occasional live street show...

(Just for the record, I´m not sure what dance the second picture portrays with the ladies balancing jars on their heads, but it´s probably not tango.)

On our second day in BA, we went to the huge Plaza de la Republica monument at precisely noon to meet our long lost traveler, Sir Kiwi. The only problem was, he wasn´t there. Joo, who had been a bit worried all night long (it didn´t help we had watched a full-length special on sexual predators in Spanish), started to fidget and I began to wonder if it had been such a great idea to push him out on his own...

But he finally did show up (thankfully). As it turned out, the actual navigations of the city were slightly challenging for him, but the real issue was simply figuring out what to do when you are travelling by yourself. Unless you´re able (or willing) to talk to others, it tends to get REALLY boring REALLY fast. It brought back flashes of my first independent adventures in the Netherlands where I wondered around looking for my hotel in what turned out to be the completely wrong city.

So Kiwi survived, and he reunited the foursome in time for us to do some serious shopping for mates, yerba mate, and various other Argentinian specialties. We then turned our interests towards an elusive target, the Koreatown of Buenos Aires. In trying to figure out how to actually get there, we asked several locals (none of them knew) and read up on the internet (where I mostly only found stories of people who had unsuccessfully searched for the mystical barrio). We finally picked one internet tale and decided to follow it. After a couple subway rides, an attempted bus journey, and a zigzagging walk of about 50 city blocks, we did indeed arrive in an area where we found a few Koreans and even a couple Korean restaurants. As an explanation for this picture, non-Korean speakers might be interested to know that the Korean text translates into ¨Joo Yeon¨who apparently has a hair parlor named after her!

On the boys´final day in South America, we took a trip towards Palermo - an older, wealthier district of Bueno Aires. Our first stop was Cat Park where we played a game as to who could spot the most cats (JooYeon was winning at 7 cats until we stopped playing because there were suddenly too many all around us)...

I had planned our final meal for a couple weeks... an extravagant steak dinner at one of the best steakhouses in Argentina, La Cabrera. Ironically, that morning Chris Longenecker, king of cuisine, wrote me knowing that I was in Buenos Aires, and told me I HAD to go to La Cabrera some time. And we were not at all disappointed! The opening salad itself almost didn´t fit on the table, and once the steaks came, I thought I was back in Korea with all the little accompanying cubiertos (side dishes)!

So as not to establish habits of overly elegant eating styles, as soon as we were back in the room, I indulged in our favorite new product... a carbonated water bottle with a pressurized spray top...

Both of the boys were a bit sad to leave South America, as were we to see them go... I´ll give a more complete summary on their share of the trip in the next blog entry... until then... ciao!


  1. Thanks for the update. How did Chris know about the resturant? Just got back from the labor day festival...and yes Bethel still has the sausage booth. Mom

  2. Ooooh... that sausage must have tasted wonderful! I´ve been enjoying the beef here in Argentina and Uruguay- Chris and Alison were down here in May for a trip to Chile and Argentina. Daniel