I have arrived in Buenos Aires. Travel was pretty simple, and the flight proceeded without much turbulence (thank goodness). Unfortunately, I had a seat between windows (and over the wing) so I didn’t have much of a view. While we flew over Brazil, I thought I saw Rio and Sao Paolo in the distance (I’m not sure if this is geographically possible). I also thought I saw a huge island at one point until I realized I was staring at the engine in the early morning light.
Once I was at the airport, with help from the research group PA, I got a taxi into the city. The cost was ARS$250 ($ are Argentinian pesos) and the journey, at rush hour, took about an hour. Cell coverage is pretty good despite the high rise nature of the city, and my phone automatically connected to the Claro cell network with a full set of bars (remembering to turn off data roaming). The roads are very wide and marked with lane markings, although this seems to mean very little here (but perhaps that was just my taxi driver). The outer barrios look pretty bleak from the road, but on arriving in the city itself, Capital Federal, everything becomes more closely packed. The buildings get gradually more impressive and taller and taller with overpasses crossing over smaller buildings.
My first impression of the city is that it is like a cross between every European city you’ve ever visited crossed and an apocalyptic film version of New York. We drove past a park that was full of dogs; some tied to trees and others just wandering about; I’m not sure what they were doing there. We passed a market on the side of the road with a huge basket of sweet potatoes and yams. As we pulled up to my building, I noticed building work opposite the building: the scaffolding is best not scrutinized, and I think anyone working for the HSE would probably have had a fit of apoplexy.
I arrived and met my flatmate, Peto, showed me around the apartment. I am living in an area called Palermo (although, I was in error when I wrote that, and it is, in fact, Barrio Norte). It is fairly central; about half way between the microcentro and the chemistry faculty. After I had unpacked, I took a walk around the city. With no real plan, I just wandered and ended up at the Plaza de Republica de Chile. I sat in the park looking at the huge trees (Jacaranda), and watching the planes from the nearby Jorge Newberry airport taking off (a mildly terrifying sight). I wandered along Avenida del Libertador towards the centre of the city, passing the Academy of Arts and the Faculty of Law and Social Science (an incredibly impressive building). Walking further, towards Avenida Alvear, where there are some upscale shops, I passed through a small park with huge trees (Ficus) with the most incredible root systems and birds making the most extraordinary noises. I wandered further to Avenida Callao in search of a shop to buy a SIM card for my phone. I stopped in a Starbucks (yes, I know, but I was pretty tired by this point, and I needed free WIFI) for a quick break and to check the map.
I found myself in Avenida Santa Fe and wandered aimlessly along it. Occasionally walking into shops and having a look around. I stumbled across ‘El Ateneo’, which is an old theatre converted into an amazing bookshop. I bought a SIM from a kiosk. I needed a micro SIM, but it turns out you can just cut off the card around the chip and turn a regular sized SIM card into a micro SIM; it cost $10. After lots more wandering, I found my way back to Calle Agüero and went into a branch of Carrefour to buy some provisions: food is surprisingly expensive.
Back at the apartment, I made some supper (an exciting dish of pasta with butter and an egg) and had a chat with my other flatmate, Milena. I was feeling pretty tired after all of the walking, so I had a quiet, and early, night. My sleep was rather ruined by the fact that I woke up at 0530 (0930 UK time). I have a meeting with my boss this morning, (in an hour) to try and sort some things out.
So, my first impressions.
- The city is huge (and I mean huge).
- There are dogs everywhere.
- There are no rules of the road.
- A green man doesn’t mean it’s safe to cross just that maybe, just maybe, it’s slightly safer to cross.
- People actually queue here.
- Opening times are weird.
- I’m so glad I brought some Marmite with me.
- It’s pretty beautiful in a very odd and unique way.