I’m in Buenos Aires at my hostel now. Already I’ve met some cool people. I sat sat next to a wonderful old Argentine-born American woman on the (very long, tiring) plane ride from Atlanta, and I’ve already befriended a couple girls at my hostel. I also met a very young couple on their honeymoon (in my shuttle from the airport, not at the hostel!) and I’m not sure they realized what the weather would be like here! It is the end of winter, after all, and it’s cold, gray and occasionally drizzly. Not exactly what I’d pick for my honeymoon, but I’m sure they’ll still have a good time.
Arriving in the airport was a bit trying. Apparently having just a backpack means you can skip ahead of everyone else in customs and forgo having your bag X-rayed. OK, fine with me. But then the first two ATMs I tried didn’t work and I ended up exchanging some of my precious US dollars before I later found an ATM that did work. I had some problems communicating with people (and when I didn’t it was usually because after I asked them something in broken Spanish they responded in English!), but in the end it all worked out, and my hostel is wonderful! They are hosting an asado (Argentinian BBQ) for us tonight. It will be a good opportunity to meet the rest of the people in the hostel (it’s quite small so I feel I’ve already met a lot of them — it’s just keeping names straight that will be a challenge!)
I will probably relax and take a nap first, though. I’m pretty exhausted, as I’ve already walked a lot of the area near my hostel, including the Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada, up and down the (seemingly endless) pedestrian shopping street of Calle Florida (where I splurged and bought a pair of the infamous Havaiana flip flops), and saw the Obeslisk on Av. 9 de Julio (the widest street in the world), which I had to cross twice already! I didn’t take a ton of pictures since I didn’t want to give myself away too much aas tourist – though I pretty much stuck out like a sore thumb in my blue microfleece in a sea of gray and black winter coats!
There are a few things I’ve noticed that might be interesting things to share. For one, the traffic lights also turn yellow when going from red to green. As if drivers need any more reason to rev their engines and get ready to speed ahead! I also found it funny that I saw a stray dog adhering to the pedestrian crossing signs right along with everyone else. He was crossing Av. 9 de Julio and stopped when the light was red and went when it said to walk. Funny to see! I also saw a stray dog just lying curled in a tight ball smack dab in the middle of a big empty part of Plaza de Mayo. I tend to think of strays curling up next to buildings or on sidewalks, but really there in the middle of nothing, on a cold windy day, it was a bit weird. They also have a store everywhere called “Open 25 Hours” which I think is a fun name!
Finally, I was reminded today of an important lesson to learn when traveling, one we often forget in our daily lives, and that is that a smile is your key to the world. All day today I could see that the second I smiled at someone, their demeanor changed entirely. They would smile back and be much more eager to help me. In the van on the way to my hostel, we were caught in traffic and there was a little girl and her mother and brother on the side of the road. I smiled at her and she smiled back and started flamenco dancing (the best a 4 or 5 year old can) for me! It was so cute. Soon everyone in the van and our driver were all watching her and laughing at how adorable she was. It totally brightened the mood. A little smile never hurts!
Accomodation: Terrazas Estoril – cost 40 pesos (about US$10) a night for a 6 bed female dorm. I highly recommend this hostel! Great place to meet people – just hang out in the TV/internet lounge or by the bar. Offers wifi, small kitchen, free internet, TV and dvds, etc. Amazing place!