Monday, 24 January 2011

Una tipica noche de sabado en BsAs

Saturday night in Buenos Aires and what to do? Go out for dinner and go to a boliche (club) of course. So, me and three of my flatmates decide to head out on the town in Palermo Soho. After some research we decide on a highly recommended restaurant: 'Club Eros warrants a write-up and a pin on the map for being the single most UN-Palermo eatery in Palermo'. In an area known for being more than a little pretentious this sounds promising. On arrival, however, my flatmates are not so keen: 'it looks like a Cuban restaurant' comes the response. And yes, the blinding strip lights and peeling paint do not lend anything to the atmosphere but it does have that elusive authentic feel. Sadly I am outvoted and we go in search of another option (and I vow to return to El Eros another day...). It's 10:30pm and we find a table at a Mexican restaurant. We are doing well with time, successfully assimilated to Porteño life. If you eat before 10pm here you may as well be wearing a badge with the words 'soy un gringo'....

Guacamole, tortilla chips, burritos, salsa and what's this? This red flavoursome delight I see, something I feel like I haven't seen for months and barely even hot chilli peppers! How I have missed thee! One of my few complaints about BA is the lack of flavour and spice in the food. And no, if you drown something in salt that does not count I'm afraid.

Fully sated and two cocktails later we are entering Club 69 which to our surprise is possibly the gayest straight club known to man. Drag queens cavort with each other at the back of the stage while rude boys show off their break-dancing moves at centre stage making for a wholley incongruous spectacle. We have never seen anything like it but all conclude that it is highly entertaining.

And so we dance well into the early hours until we can dance no more....

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Adventures in finding a hairdresser (in the land that hairdressing forgot)…

I need to get a haircut so I do the only sensible thing and post onto the Lonely Planet thorntree forum:

I am living in Buenos Aires and will be staying for several weeks/months. I just wondered if anyone has any recommendations of good hairdressers in the city? If they speak some english even better as my Spanish is very basic.

The responses are a little unexpected:

The locals have probably been asking the same question for years. Have you ever seen the typical porteño haircut? Argentina is the land that hairdressing forgot.

"typical porteño haircut"
I was not aware that there is a typical porteño haircut and then you can definetely not mix up porteños with the rest of Argentina. I am curious. Why do you think that Argentina is a land that forgot hairdressing? What would be a typical brasilian or chilean haircut for example? Also, there are plenty of hairdresser all over Argentina and a lot in Buenos Aires. People, especially the ladies spend a huge amount of money and a considerable time in these places. Must be pretty stupid all these people to waste their time and money, according to your observations! Bear in mind that all these people have access to internet and TV and see haircuts and the latest devolpments of fashion from all over the world, including haircuts, all the time
I am curious. Why do you think that Argentina is a land that forgot hairdressing?

I made a mental note of the various types of haircut I saw in BsAs. Prevalent were the following.
1) 'I just got out of bed', with or without the cut on the bias. Common and quite ghastly.
2) The mullet, the femullet, the German heavy metal fan mullet. Popular.
3) The 'I think I would look like Gael Garcia Bernal' if I was only twenty years younger' look, a sort of subset of (1). Scary.
4) The bad 1970s TV detective show cut, with or without drifts of dandruff and usually with sideburns. Nostalgia for the era of the junta maybe? Or maybe Carlos Menem should be regarded as a more influential figure than is popularly recognised. Sad.
Now these observations were made about three years ago so who knows, maybe all that TV and internet viewing has changed things. Judging by what I saw you could have been forgiven for believing that a substantial part of that TV diet consisted of re-runs of the Rockford Files.
What would be a typical brasilian or chilean haircut for example?
I can't say that the coiffures sported by Chilenos stuck in my mind. Unremarkable, most likely quite conservative on the whole, like the wearers tend to be.
The general tendency in Brazil, at least for men is short and neat. I can get a decent haircut for as little as R$8,00 without fear of ridicule. My wife spends maybe four to five times that amount and as a whole Brazilian women tend to be rather particular about their appearance. SP seems to be a magnet for bad hairdos, the exception that proves the rule.
Must be pretty stupid all these people to waste their time and money, according to your observations!
I couldn't agree more.

All very amusing but not very helpful for my enquiry. Anyway, luckily the story has a happy ending and I find someone on an expats forum who cuts peoples’ hair in her apartment. She also has her own horror stories about hairdressers in BA and recalls one incident which ended with her in tears. Looks like I had a lucky escape...

Adventures in finding a swimming pool…

The first day is for jet-lag recovery and nada mas. Next day, I go in search of a swimming pool. Sadly Buenos Aires does not have any beaches as the sea is not clean enough to swim in near the city, but luckily there are enough gyms in BA to satisfy anyone. I find one near my hostel, a huge complex with seven or eight floors and pay the entry fee for one day. The swimming pool is on the top floor so I walk the many flights to the top, find somewhere to get changed and head towel-clad to the pool. I am immediately accosted by the attendant who launches a sea of Spanish at me. After some sign language, spanglish and more than a little time, I ascertain that I need to go the ‘medico’. I take the lift back to the first floor, the lift attendant also talking at me about ‘medico’, ‘examen’ etc. In the sparse medical room I get sudden flashbacks of primary school, half expecting to have a hearing test or be told to say ‘ahh’. Disappointingly, the doctor only asks to look between my toes and under my armpits. Thankfully I seem to pass the thorough examination with flying colours and am handed a certificate confirming this. When I say a certificate, it is more like a receipt the size of two postage stamps….most importantly I can finally have my long-awaited swim.

A few days later I have a look at another gym having decided I want to get a months membership while I rent a room in the city. This gym is much nicer and cleaner than the first so bracing myself for another ‘examen’ I decide to join. To my surprise, the second medico test is a little more thorough than the first. Not only does she take my pulse and my blood pressure but puts some kind of electro-cardio sensors on my body; on my legs, my arms, my chest and stomach. As I lie there I wonder if this is a special treatment for gringos who don’t know any better….ho hum.

Bien venido a Buenos Aires

A taxi ride later I am at my hostel. On arrival it’s nice to see the familiar face of Demian who worked at the hostel last time I stayed there in 2008. First priority is breakfast and siesta. Ah, the sweet taste of medialunas (small sweet croissants), freshly squeezed orange juice and terrible coffee…it feels like coming home.

So begins the adventure...

So, having been subjected to immense pressure from various peers (you know who you are!) I have finally given in and am writing the obligatory travel blog to keep you posted on my vida en Buenos Aires. I have a little catching up to do as I am already more than 3 weeks into my trip but here goes.....

All has been going smoothly so far. However it did not bode well at the beginning when I found myself headed to the wrong airport in London. Yes, despite having planned this trip since September I was in the embarrassing situation of being about to board the Heathrow-bound Piccadilly line with my dear pa only to look at the words ‘Gatwick South terminal’ on my printed out ticket. Those of you that know me well will not be in the least surprised I’m sure….

Having successfully boarded the plane to Madrid I felt as though I was already in Spain or Latin America, the air stewardess’ seemingly unable to speak English. So, my meagre Spanish was already put to the test without even setting foot outside the UK. All good practise I suppose, even if I am only stretched to say the word ‘baño?’ enquiringly.