Buenos Aires contains recognizable elements of many large American cities. The vastness of LA meets the hip neighborhoods of San Francisco at the intersection of sporadic New York stench and history-was-made-here Philadelphia. All of these elements come together to make an enormous puzzle of a city I’ve spent five weeks trying to decipher, and slowly but surely am learning to love. Our judgments on the world that surrounds us are a translation of our sensory experience of interacting with an environment and our mental perception of those interactions, so here are a select few of these sensory interactions within Buenos Aires.
Sounds: The music of street tango performers mixes with the push and pull of traffic, a constantly convoluting accordion of honking, braking, yelling. I hear women and men persuading, fighting, murmuring, commenting, analyzing, recounting on their cell phones or to their company as I pass on the street. Italian influences saturate this culture and even trickled into the very way that these people speak. They express and exude passion more than the cookie cutter American.
Smells: You never know what you’re going to smell when you walk down the streets. One minute you’ll be engulfed in an invisible cloud of unidentifiable, nearly debilitating stench and the next you’ll stumble by a bakery that eludes aromas that simultaneously turn your salivary glands into Niagara Falls and stimulate Type 2. Sometimes, you’re unfortunate in that the two extremes collide.
Tastes: Argentine cuisine is a little mix of everything. It is most famous for its asado, which is a special way of preparing cow. Our only experience with asado was definitely a miss, but we went somewhere on a whim and ordered a very traditional meal that included cow kidneys and unidentifiable organs. I much prefer organs when they’re intact and inside of a person and doing the job they’re suppose to. Apparently if you actually know what you’re doing, though, asado can be life changing.
Italy’s influence on the culture also extends to the dinner table. It’s easy to find high-end Italian food for a very reasonable price and there’s an unnecessary, yet delightful abundance of pizzerias. You also can’t walk down a block without running into a bakery with a ridiculous amount of sweets. Dulce de leche, a type of spreadable caramel, is in almost every dish, which is excellent for people like me who could eat the stuff out of a jar like peanut butter.
Touch: The pole you desperately grab as the 93 bus suddenly jolts forward. The plastic bag you take full of fruits and vegetables that would cost three times as much in the United States. The cold wind on your face as you turn the corner of a monumental building that previously shielded you. The cold glass of water after a long night dancing. The piercing eyes of the children that are mystified when they hear you speak English.
Sights: Buenos Aires is a glistening snow globe and each building is its own flake. No two edifices are identical in height, architectural design, color, nada. Skyscpaers are loosely contained to one larger district, although they are sprinkled haphazardly around the city. A humble coffee shop could be nestled in between two of these giant building and no one would think that was weird. One building will look like it’s from 17th century Spain and the next will look like it’s out of the Jetsons. Don’t come to Buenos Aires if you’re OCD and you want to live in a Utopian society like from 1984 or Fahrenheit 451.
Buenos Aires landlords don’t give two hoots about pets in their buildings. Therefore, lots of people have dogs. This means two things: you can’t go anywhere without seeing these dog walkers surrounded by caravans of 5-15 dogs. It’s hilarious. I’ll have to post a picture sometime. Second, this means that there is no shortage of dog pies along the sidewalks. Turns out that animals can relieve themselves on something that isn’t grass. Cool!
In reality, this city is too hard to really put into words. This was an extremely brief – and long time coming – post. As I start to travel more and try new things, I will be informing my dear readers. Thank you for your patience and GB.