Monday, February 8, 2010

Much ado about everything

We are 4 days into our Buenos Aires adventure, and I need a nap.

I say this even after sleeping in until almost noon, and without even going near one of the all night dance clubs yet (they don't even get hopping until 2 am, which is normally WAY past my bedtime). There is so much to see and do here, that I am forcing myself to stay in and start writing it all down this afternoon, lest I forget the details after too long!

Muzac
The Cranberries! Buenos Aires! The Cranberries in Buenos Aires!!

It was one of those pinch-myself-moments to see one of my favourite bands from the 90s, live in concert, in what is now one of my favourite cities in the world. Live music is such an emotional experience for me, especially when coming from a band whose songs were an anthem for my University years. There were definite tears in my eyes as they played Linger and Dreaming My Dreams, and even the popular rocker Zombie.

Our seats weren't the best, being almost directly left from the stage and quite a way back, given that we arrived a bit later then intended and it was rush seating. Who knew, that in such a laid back country, that the band would actually take the stage at the EXACT time the tickets said they would? Pete and I applied our usual Canadian concert strategy - show up just before the posted time in order to catch the opening band, and then wait an hour for the headliner - but we got there with only about 10 minutes to spare before Dolores O'Riordan and the crew took the stage.


It was a tremendous show, O'Riordan showing she hasn't lost any of her spunk over the years, and the crowd responded enthusiastically. It was quite an interesting crowd and so different to what we are used to back home - no hooting or whistles in between songs, instead the Argentinians like to employ a lot of synchronized clapping. And I mean, A LOT of synchronized clapping. In between songs it would get so strong that it would sometimes ruin the beginning of the following song.

When we learned that The Cranberries were putting on a show in BA, we had planned our whole route through northern Argentina and Uruguay to be sure that we were here in time, and the show did not disappoint. It was even worth the half hour wait in pouring rain for a cab afterwards, in which we both were soaked to the bone when we finally made it back to our room. Would have done it all again the next night if there wasn't so many other things yet to do!

La Boca
One of the really enchanting things about this city is the distinct neighbourhoods within it. Even though BA ranks in the top 10 cities of the world in terms of population, it just doesn't feel that way. As we move from barrio to barrio, each stands out with a different personality that makes it feel like we are visiting numerous cities instead of just one.

One of the more popular areas to visit is La Boca, made famous by the brightly coloured metal siding on many of the houses, painted that way during the boom years of the late 1800s when there would happen to be leftover paint from the shipping barges. Unfortunately, the area is now so touristy that there are a multitude of tacky souvenir shops and cheesy picture ops with tango dancers. Still pretty to visit though!


Real Tango!
We met our new friend Margaret in Uruguay - a San Franciscan now living in Buenos Aires, she works instructing English teachers by day, and by night, she lives to tango! After having heard of our witnessing a tourist dinner/tango show our last tour through town, she promised to show us some REAL tango this time around.

Saturday night we met Margaret for dinner and pumped her for some behind-the-scenes information on the local tango scene. There are many quite astounding traditions to the dance, and after making her talk about it for almost two hours, we had to see it in action. She had brought along her tango shoes, and so took us with her to a nearby milonga she had planned on attending.

Milongas are essentially traditional tango dance parties, usually with lessons given before hand. On any given night there can be twenty or so going on throughout the city, starting after midnight and sometimes going until dawn. We arrived just in time to see the last bit of lessons, although some of the participants looked like they have been doing it for years. Pete and I sat shyly watching from the sidelines, not willing to move a muscle should it be mistaken for wanting to actually try to dance. Apparently there are only about 8 or so moves to tango, but the combinations available are endless. It looks very hard to this rhythmically challenged couple!

After the lessons were over and the lights turned down, Margaret commented: "Now all the bullshit begins," and it really got interesting. The milonga actually operates similar to a junior high dance. Nobody just goes up to the other and ask them to dance, it is all done via eye contact. It is initiated by the female, who scours the room and tries to catch eyes with someone that she would like to dance with. If the chosen fellow accepts, he nods his acknowledgement, and they meet on the dance floor. The couple is then committed for four songs, until the cortina plays - a brief interlude of another style of music. If the female doesn't want to continue dancing, she thanks her partner and it is over. She returns to the sidelines and begins scouting her next potential dancer.

There are all kinds of rules and intricate details about the flow of the evening that are quite amazing. We watched in awe for about an hour at the many couples that crowded the dance floor and got lost in their movements. Margaret, being a newby in town, took a little while to find a partner and get started. But after that first dance when she could show her skills (I know nothing about nothing, but she is GOOD!), she was set for the evening. We left her to dancing and returned back to our room well before dawn.

Pete asked on our walk back: "Do you think we could ever do that together?" Margaret had told us that there aren't actually many couples who dance together, because there is so much intensity in the dance that it can just give the pair one more thing to fight about. Seeing as we have friends that won't even let us CURL on the same team together, perhaps tango stays off our to-do list!

Futbol and football!
We woke up to rain yesterday morning, again, and were worried that one of our most anticipated activities - another futbol game - would be cancelled. This time, it was to be the REAL deal, a league game featuring one of the more popular soccer teams in the city, River Plate (BA has an astounding two dozen teams, the most in any city of the world).

The sun peaked through in the afternoon and we were good to go. We also met up with a high school friend of Pete's! Alex and Pete haven't seen each other since graduation, but via the wonders of Facebook, they reconnected and we all just happened to be in this city at the same time.

The four of us (Pete and I, and Alex's friend Kristal) bought a package through our B&B that included transportation to/from the game, and beer and pizza beforehand. We arrived to the massive stadium (capacity of 65,000) well prior to the game start, and were treated to the theatrics of the "hooligans" of River Plate as they got ready to see their team play the out of towners from Rosario. Diehard fans climbed over the barb wire barriers to hang many banners, some of which look like they have been hung at every single stadium game this century. At the far end of the stadium were the most vocal of the local fans, the most enthusiastic being those that showed up just ten minutes before game time. They marched in beating drums, chanting, jumping, and of course, synchronized clapping! Stopping only for half time, they were on their feet constantly and kept the crowd hopping - easily drowning out the small contingent of fans from out of town cheering on Rosario. In fact, whenever Rosario fans even tried to make a noise, or when Rosario held the ball, or when a call was given in favour of Rosario, the River Plate fans would all whistle in unison, so loudly as to hurt eardrums.

Some of the tunes they sang still play in my head today, and will likely be there for some time. Here is a brief video clip taken during the final minutes of the game, note that most of the noise was coming from the opposite side of the stadium!

video

Unfortunately, all of this hoopla was for nothing, as the game ended without one goal being made. Being the hometown fans, we were left in the stadium for 20 extra minutes while the Rosario section filtered out (allowing them a head start to get safely away)!

We were let out in time, however, to get ourselves to a local pub and watch football with actual scoring - the Superbowl! Our gringo roots shone brightly through as we cheered on the Saints through the last quarter of the game. We did have to laugh a bit at some of the displays of the fans there (wee little banners!) compared to what we saw live just hours before. A totally different game, and world.

We have almost one more week in this amazing city before we pack up for Peru. Coming up next: we head back to school, tour a cemetery, visit Andy Warhol, and get in touch with Ritchie Valens. Stay tuned!

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