Living La Vida Local in Buenos Aires
We just couldn’t move anymore. We had been traveling for nearly a year – my twin daughters, my husband, and me – and we were tired of packing up every week to move to a new place. Plus, we realized we still had quite a bit of home schooling to do before our year was up, and we needed a place where we could just be. No schedule, no tours, no trains, no searching for vegetarian restaurants since we could cook in our temporary home. (And thank goodness for that, because we were offered chicken in restaurants as a vegetarian option more than once in beef-loving Argentina.)
It was refreshing, really, to be in a place we had never been before, but with no pressure to see the things or do the things you are supposed to see and do in that place.
We decided to stay in Buenos Aires for a month before we had ever set foot in the city. It looked good on paper: a historic city with European charm (though that always struck me as a strange thing to say about a place in charming South America), near the ocean, and big enough to find something for everyone in the family to enjoy. We rented an apartment in the lively neighborhood of Palermo Soho with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and lightning-fast wifi. We would get through these math courses if it killed us!
It was refreshing, really, to be in a place we had never been before, but with no pressure to see the things or do the things you are supposed to see and do in that place. We just decided we wouldn’t. We would just do our own things.
On our first exploration of our new neighborhood, we discovered a circus supply shop and three circus schools within an eight-block radius (yes, really!). One of the schools offered a weekly aerial silks class for teenagers, and my budding gymnast jumped at the opportunity. Though she didn’t speak much Spanish, my daughter was easily able to understand her lessons, and she got to meet other kids her age.
On our way home from the class, we found a mom-and-pop pasta shop using machinery from the 1950s, making the most delicious fresh pasta and sauces we could take back to the apartment.
Down the block, we found a craft beer bar with the very descriptive name of Bodega Cervecera, or “beer bar,” serving local craft beers. After a week or so, we realized that when we arrived at 9:30 and left by midnight, we were missing the real life of the bar, which started well after midnight and continued who knows how long. We would never find out because we did not have the stamina – that was one local custom we could not pick up. One night, the bartender told us she would be performing, but since she knew we would be leaving before her performance, she broke into song for us before we left.
A few blocks in the other direction, we found a language school that was willing to customize courses for the four of us for a short period, offering each of us a chance to improve from where we were. They gave us cultural lessons, too, showing us how to prepare mate – a type of tea drunk throughout South America – and more importantly, how to share it in a group, as is the custom.
After brushing up on my Spanish, I was able to read in the local newspaper that once a month, the galleries in “our” neighborhood had openings on the same night, so we arranged to meet some friends who happened to be traveling through the city at the same time, and along with all of our kids, we made a night of it.
By the end of our month in Buenos Aires, our breakfast had changed from coffee and cereal to mate and facturas, the sweet Argentine pastries.
Back home in Washington, DC, I played with a percussion band called Batala, which has branches all over the world, including one in Buenos Aires. Their practice space, though a good hour by bus from our apartment, was just a few blocks from the parents of our gallery-hopping friend. She helped me find the place, and they welcomed me like family. Because the bands play the same songs around the world, and I had brought my drumsticks with me, I was able to join a performance on the day before we left.
By the end of our month in Buenos Aires, our breakfast had changed from coffee and cereal to mate and facturas, the sweet Argentine pastries. We greeted our neighbors warmly each day when we left the apartment. We knew which taxi companies we should call. We knew which empanada shop had the best selection. We felt at home.
After a month in the city we did indeed see some of the highlights of the tourist trail through Buenos Aires, but what we remember most vividly are the moments that we felt like we lived there.
Top Photo By Kevin Dooley