Of apartments, tuna-fish and the Guia TPosted: January 22, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen, I have an apartment! Yes, a little studio in Recoleta (which is the Beverly Hills of Buenos Aires. Not my first choice given my deep commitment to proletarian aims, but after a week of searching I had to take what I could get). It’s a studio. Spartan but lovely, with hardwood floors and a tiny kitchen with a two-burner electric stove. It has a bathtub and lots of natural light–its two greatest selling points. I am paying a bit over a third more than what a Porteño* would to live here. This is the cause of some frustration, but I have accepted the cost as one of many that come with outsider status. And it is still half what my rent was in Los Angeles. Pictures of my fine domicile will follow once I figure out how to say “I’d like a card reader for my digital camera” in Spanish without sounding like an idiot. I imagine it would sound something like the following sentence if I try today: “Hello. I am looking for a thing that I can use to take out photos from this card that exists in my camera so that I can put them on my computer. Do you understand me?” Serviceable, but so awfully clunky.
I moved in today and shortly thereafter walked a block down my street to the CarreFour grocery store. I purchased the following: six eggs, one loaf of wheat bread, one large bottle of water, butter, mayonnaise, mustard, two peaches, a bottle of cheap Malbec and a can of tuna-fish. (The tuna was by far the worst decision I’ve made here thus far, excluding perhaps the canned mushroom sandwich I ordered two days ago. Yes, that’s right, canned mushroom sandwich. With canned asparagus and crappy cheese. ‘Fracaso total’, as they say. It was, in my defense, an attempt to avoid yet one more disastrous jamón y queso concoction. God they love ham and cheese here. They make lasagna with it, sandwiches, empanadas, pizza…everything).
And now, dear readers, I am sitting comfortably at my table sipping from a mug of wine, writing this little post and attempting to decipher the Guia T. The ingenious Guia T is the guide to the complex bus infrastructure in the city. Buses, unlike the ‘subte’ (short for subterráneo), run all night and from my neighborhood, they are by far the superior form of transportation to any other section of town. You find where you are in the city and then where you want to go and see what bus numbers correspond to both. The guide comes as a little booklet “de bolsillo” and a new addition is put out every year. Every other page has a map of one section of the city divided into 24 squares, corresponding to 24 squares of bus numbers on the page preceding it. My problem: I have absolutely no idea which direction the busses should be headed when I catch them. None. My cardinal directions are always bad but have moved from bad to non-existent during my time in Buenos Aires. Luckily, a friend of mine gave me a spectacular compass before I left. I’ll have to keep it around my neck to have any chance. Another fun fact about the buses here: When you hop on at a stop, you don’t tell the driver where you are going, you tell him how much you want to pay. I have yet to meet anyone who can tell me exactly how one decides how to gauge the appropriate cost. The consensus seems to be to just say 1 peso and 20 centavos and assume this will serve you well.
Its nine now, so still a good hour before the porteño dinner hour. That’s how long I’m giving myself to figure out how to get from Recoleta to Palermo, a barrio I would liken to L.A.’s Silverlake. Wish me luck.
*’Porteños/as are Buenos Aires residents.