After the saga with the bike lock and having picked up another bike, I took to the bone shaking cobbled streets with my two wheels and peddled about the gridded streets. I happened across some great cafes that felt both inspiring and comfortable. Places where I could enjoy some background music and musive atmosphere. I need a good soil to dig in my toes to enable me to write. !Genial! (Spanish for ‘great’). Goldilocks had found her place. However, despite my intentions and efforts, no new words formed. Except for those of the Spanish kind. Try as I might I seem to be obsessed with my espanol estudias. My love for Spanish is growing. The words and phrases are shuffling around in my headspace like jumbled jigsaw pieces. A strong survival instinct appears to be prioritising my needs or me! Prose has taken a back-step to learning just how to say ‘i would like some carrots please’ and ‘where the heck am I?’
So, back on track after a string of ‘annoyances’. Two cool cafes discovered. One great day was had.
Then I got sick.
Overtime, I have managed to find a diet that works for me (and the planet) and my food intolerances are managed mindfully. I’ve learnt recovery from stray ingredients takes its time and mishaps from trigger foods are most definitely best avoided. I guess something, gluten perhaps, was in a dish I ate somewhere. Or, it could have been the BA water? It could have been the stress! So I wasn’t bed ridden…but I was laying low.
My bout of sickness just so happened to fall on Wednesday (Miercoles…love the way that word sounds!). This is the day when Erica, my raven haired, elfin sized cleaner comes to flick her duster around and make my home spotless again. I’d been out exploring Palermo Hollywood when my stomach first started to snarl, and I was all too keen to get home. The makeup on my face had sunk into my pores in the humidity, and felt like a leaden mask, and I longed to scrub my face and splash it with clean, clear water. Rid the city’s sooty pollution from my skin. Relief was washing over me as I neared home. When I tried the key in the lock. It didn’t budge. I wriggled it about in vain, vain hope. Then it dawned, my landlord had not passed the new key to Erica, and she’d taken the folded card that was stuffed into the chamber, the locksmith had placed to stop it unlatching, and taken me back to square one. I sat on the step and stared at the door. I so badly wanted to be home. I was home. There was just a door in between me and the bathroom! Thank the Lord, this time I had my computer with me. The wifi was making waves through the wooden door and I had network access. I emailed my landlord, capitalizing ‘urgent’ three times in the subject line. I needed rescue, and fast.
Is three hours fast in Argentina? It felt like seven!
Entry gained, I was not in the mood for small talk and practically shoved my dear landlord out of the door. I quickly put the experience behind me. I had access. Erica now had the new key. The skin on my face was taught from soap and water, it was breathing again and I was home.
Next day, I decided to go to visit the much advertised La Boca. A gritty area North of the City. No chic Palermoesque boutiques and cafes here. Just one long street of acid bright colours. Two block of murals running along the grassy train track.
I journey across the city, bike-powered, to the seedy side of town. Yes, I had to stop twice along the way to get the guys from the city’s free bike loan stands to pump up a slow flat but, hey, no matter.
(Apparently) La Boca is home of one of the worlds best known football clubs. I walked by the stadium, aware of how ungrateful I was probably being in some peoples eyes to just be close to the gaudy, yellow and blue monstrosity. The area is also known for the Caminito. [History….thanks to Wikipedia!During the 1800s, a small stream flowing into the Riachuelo River ran along the same route where the Caminito is now. Later that century, this area of the stream became known as the Puntin, the Genoese diminutive term for bridge (a small bridge allowed people to cross the stream there). When the stream dried up, tracks for the Ferrocarril Buenos Aires y Puerto de la Ensenada were installed at the site. Disused tracks remain at the end of Caminito, along Garibaldi Street. In 1954 the rail line was closed and the area where Caminito is now became a landfill and a neighbourhood’s eyesore. Over the following three years, Argentine artist Benito Quinquela Martín who lived nearby, painstakingly prepared the walls facing the abandoned street, applying pastel colors and, by 1960 having a stage put up at the southern end; the wooden-plank stage was replaced with a nearby theatre house in 1972. The artist was a personal friend of Argentine tango composer Juan de Dios Filiberto, who created a well-known 1926 tune by the same name.
Caminito is basically one long street of souvenir shops, good looking dancers inviting you to hand over your money in return for ‘el foto’, and waiters trying to lure you to their tables for a bite to eat and a glass or two of vino. It’s a tourist trap. I didn’t care. I was transported into another age as I sat under the welcome shade of a restaurant awning. I sipped tea and fawned over the passionate embraces and theatrical movements of the dancers. The expressions on their faces tore into my heart. Their postures a ballet teacher’s dream! An elderly man with jowls of a bloodhound and expressions that told a thousand stories, sang a songs that obviously told tales of turbid love lost and found…or found and lost. I couldn’t tell. Not a word could I understand, except for perhaps the odd ‘siempre’ (always). A blissful hour passed. 100 photos taken.
I stopped for one tyre pump-up one the way home. A day to remember.
As was the next. A crazy storm and a stomach still irked by something foreign and unwelcome, rudely forced me into the day. Undeterred, I made ready to bike to Palermo and my Spanish lesson. I was grateful for two wheels that would speed me through the city and the wall of precipitation. Except my bike tyre was poufed. Ok….No matter! I breathed deep (very deep) and set off to push it to a bike-hire box by the park. One thing I’ve noted about Argentinians is that they are always ready to help. The young guy at the booth chatted away to me, oblivious to the fact I didn’t catch a word, as he pumped the flaccid tyre. The rain was making for great acoustics inside the metal container used for the rental office. Tire sated, I peddled out and into the downpour. For a total of five minutes! My orange bike was abandoned. Tyre completely flat. I tied it up and walked the twenty minutes through flooded streets, to cafe where I was to have my lesson. Once inside I removed my shoes, as discreetly as I could, and stepped out to the patio to wring my socks, dripping all over the polished floor as I went.
My teacher was a no show. A few too many emails of my ‘i’m sick not coming, no, don’t worry I am coming’ obviously thickened confusion and she believed I was staying at home. Again, no matter I decided. My fault. I’d just sit and enjoy a cup of tea, in my very damp state, and I needed to get the bike changed over anyway.
That done I finally got home to get dry and put the day to bed.
The next morning the sky was azul. A (slightly) cooling breeze swirled about and I was feeling light as air.
This day my Spanish class was less turmoil…. more triumph. I had lunch in a great raw-food place I had been to before (and would go to everyday if budget and the call for variety allowed). My new camera was playing ball and I was snapping away happily. So comforted was I, that I decided to just ride around the bike lanes on an exploration and get lost in the warren of residential streets that threw down welcome shade from the burning sun. In fact, such a good day was it that I hummed the happy thought to myself that it was ‘the best day yet’.
A few streets from my home I realised I needed some groceries for my morning juice. I locked my bike beside a busy bus stop and popped into a shop for a few minutes.
Now, you know when something happens that you cannot quite believe and you stand there, waiting for a few moments for the scene before your eyes to correct itself to the reality you WANT to perceive, but it doesn’t change as you bid?! I stood, not breathing, as I took in the fact that some (lets just call them ‘thief’ for want of a more ‘substantial’ word) had taken sharp croppers to my lock and STOLEN my little orange bike. I was winded! What the FLUFF was going on! I quickly hushed the voice in my head that said serves you right for being so happy. Oh but I was forlorn! My body language told no lies. But hey, I got to see the inside of a police station and brush up on my ‘emergency Spanish’ so all was not lost. Well, apart from the $600 pesos to cover for the bike to the hire shop and an expensive call to my travel insurance to have them tell me ‘bicycles are not covered’ on my ‘Platinum’ policy.
Not beaten. I refused to be squatted! It was just an incident. One lone misfortune in an ocean of brilliance. I pushed it aside quicker than a pile of lost chips in a casino and went to bed with high hopes for a better day come daybreak.