From Costa Rica and beyond

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making My Way In BA

Yesterday was April Fools Day and it was no joke. A couple significant things transpired - I will tell you about them later.

I am still in Buenos Aires. At this moment I am seated comfortably in the home of Stafford and Fernando in one of Buenos Aires's nicest neighborhoods, Belgrano. It is a holiday today, a memorial day of sorts for the people and the pride and opportunity lost in Argentina's 1983 fight for the Falkland Islands. The long weekend is a great opportunity to get out of the big city, so this well-to-do wooded neighborhood is even quieter than usual. Stafford is the younger brother of a dear colleague from my year teaching at the Leelanau School. Molly wrote to me as I approached BA that I should definitely meet up with him. He and his partner have been hugely helpful to me.

Stafford and I met about a week ago, probably the day after my previous blog post. I took my first ride in BA's underground (the Subte) to Belgrano and walked somewhat awestruck up his beautiful, quiet, tree-lined street. Stafford took me on a walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood which is home to numerous interesting architecture styles, grand high rise apartment buildings, and stately embassies (the German one being the largest). We concluded the walk with a delicious coffee at one of the many sidewalk cafes. At that moment, I knew that I could not turn my back on Buenos Aires. Santiago is a very nice city, but BA is a great one.

Time to start looking for apartments. Years and years ago in Paris, Paul Miotke and I would daily check the bulletin board at the Eglise Americaine for apartment offers. It was a hassle, but it was good to be out walking and exploring as we made the pilgrimage to the church each day. Nowadays people search for things they want on the internet. I used Craigslist, Mercado Libre, and Airbnb to find offers and then emailed my interest. As I checked the offerings and then waited for responses, I became a rather sedentary being at my hostel - barely straying outdoors for a couple days unless it was to check an apartment or get food.

Those days seemed a bit gloomy. Hostel life was getting to me. Nick and Ivanka had left, there were only a few people I was really chatty with, I was getting shifted from room to room, and some of the people in the rooms were rather inconsiderate when going out at 1am and returning drunk at 5 or 6am (BA just might be the latest city in the world). My wardrobe was getting to me - same clothes every day, simply because I don't have any more. By far the most significant factor contributing to this gloominess was news from back in Saint Johnsbury. A lovely colleague, Melissa Jenkins, was murdered by a local married couple. The death of this 33 year old single mother and the unfathomable motives and cruelty of the killers has left everyone who had some connection to Melissa at a total loss. Suddenly, the world seems to be devoid of meaning and logic (even evil logic!).

But life goes on and so did my apartment search. In one day I looked at rooms in three apartments. I could have taken one, but it was dumpy - the landlord never responded to my lower offer. The other two didn't select me because I am only staying until the end of June.

Fortunately, Stafford and Fermando had invited me to stay with them. I have a comfy bed here, great company, both my hosts appreciate great food and drink (Stafford's beef carpaccio is amazing!), Fernando is tutoring me in Spanish, and I have internet access any time I want it.

So, it was with tempered optimism that I visited two more apartments yesterday. The first was across town in a much poorer neighborhood. The rooming arrangement there would not allow me to have visitors and the surrounding area lacked cafes, bakeries, and good food stores. Too bad, because the price was right. At six, I met with Nicole in her apartment about 12 blocks from Belgrano. The walk there brought me past numerous restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, stores, and internet cafes. The neighborhood (Chacarita) lacks the polish, but also the slightly pretentious feel of Belgrano. So far, so good. The apartment is simple and clean. The roof is open for lounging and visiting. Nicole and I discussed arrangements, what it will be like sharing her apartment, and rent. We agreed upon a very fair monthly rate. We would speak again the next day to finalize things. My 30 minute walk back to Belgrano seemed to take seconds as all the sights and sounds and smells of this neighborhood now had a new meaning.

The evening was not over. Stafford had invited a few friends over for dinner. Delphine (a French expat) and Graham and Brenda (he is from the US, she is Argentine) made for great company. Graham and Brenda own a lovely little hotel in downtown BA ( and mentioned that they need another receptionist. Stafford knew that the compensation is a free room, so he immediately said I might be interested. Indeed I was!

But what a conflict: Should I take the room in the cool, slightly gritty Chacarita or should I take free lodging and a job and live in a business and tourist district? I visited the hotel this morning and Graham understood why I was torn. The solution? I will take the room in Chacarita and then, when Graham and Brenda are out of town in May, I will supervise the hotel. I am thrilled! If I want to leave Chacarita, I can, but if I want to stay, I may.

All is well in Buenos Aires. No joke.

1 comment:

  1. It is hard to make owners accept tourists because they do not trust strangers especially if they are not staying for a long period. That is why I always say that if you want to get apartment for rent in buenos aires it is better to go with a company you know because somebody recommended it, and they accept you right away.