23 noviembre 2006

yo monté mi bicicleta por tu ventana anoche...

We've become members of the South American Explorers Club (SAE), a dubious honor, which has at the very least provided us a place to store certain of our belongings while we travel elsewhere. We had heard it was a good resource for maps (which are difficult to come by here), and that other members (some of whom were cyclists) had recorded detailed travel logs with specific routes and anecdotes concerning water, food, etc. When we first visited there about three weeks ago, I felt as though I were at a summer camp, or a training seminar for missionaries. A bubbly, blond Californian named Jenny greeted us at the door, each sentence a crescendo: "Well, hello, how are you! Welcome to the clubhouse! Now, how long have you been traveling in South America? What are your plans!"

The "clubhouse" holds regular events for gringos, including such staples as yoga and tango, and has regular dinners and parties. Two days ago, we joined the club in order to have a place to store our bicycles for the coming month. That evening, Ivan, Erica and I were walking down Florida (the commercial pedestrian avenue downtown) on our way to Lavalle to see a movie, which was playing two doors down from what is apparently the only "California Burrito" place in Buenos Aires. A week earlier, as we were craving Mexican food of any kind, Erica and I had eaten at this overpriced Chipotle knockoff, and now Erica was describing for Ivan, in detail, exactly how insufferable the food had been. The details of this conversation I shall not recall here, except that I remember Erica comparing the rice to the residual plastic inside the lid of a gallon of milk, and the black beans to saturated gardener's mulch. The conversation lasted the better part of the 20 minute walk.

As we crossed the street at Sarmiento, we saw the same blond Jenny, who immediately stopped and asked in the same bright crescendo, "Hey, are you guys on your way to the California burrito place?"

"No, we're going to see a movie," Erica told her.

"Oh," said Jenny, "I just assumed you were on your way to the California burrito place. Tonight is 'Networking Night' there, and that's where I'm coming from right now!"
* * *

Buenos Aires, we've heard from many people, is a very unique place in Latin America, an apparent island of European sympathies and sentiments, and the PorteÑos (Buenos Aires natives) consider themselves a separate brand than the rest of Latin America.

Apparently the job of the SAE is to make the experience of traveling to a foreign country (even one so accessible, so European, as Buenos Aires) as easy as possible for gringos. Not to say this isn't an honorable goal, but not a word of spanish did I hear spoken in the clubhouse, all the signs were in English, and every time they quoted a price for us, they helpfully reminded us how few American dollars it translated to.

We're ready to leave here for a bit, though the SAE really isn't any indication of anything save for its clientele. This city is pretty rad, and I will happily return.