I got to my hostel in Buenos Aires Tuesday at...noonish I think, BA time. My flight left Seattle at 7:18am on Monday, got into Dulles/DC at 2pm, and left again for South America at 10pm.
Amazingly, walking around killing eight hours at Dulles, I ran into Henry Shue, who is a philosopher at Oxford. Somehow I recognized him from a talk he gave at UW three or four years ago on the ethics of climate change and torture (kind of a two topic talk). He was on his way back to Oxford, and we talked for a little while about a lecture he gave on torture in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Philosophical details aside, the long and short of it is that even the middle class people in Sao Paulo have fences around their houses, and that you never, ever, want to end up in a prison in Brazil.
On the flight to BA I sat next to a girl who was coming to visit her friend. Her ride from the airport fell through, so we decided to share a cab. I'd heard that 80-90 pesos is the max you're supposed to spend on a cab, and the official airport taxi service was charging 120. The shuttle I was going to take originally was 40 pesos, but it would involve some walking downtown, I had a backpack, would be splitting a cost for what I thought would be at most 10 pesos more than I would on the shuttle, so the cab seemed like a great idea. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
We went outside to look for a cab, which my guidebook suggested you do to find cheaper fares. We found a guy who took us to his car and passed what looked like an obvious exit in favor of a long, winding route through parking lots and multiple gates to get us out of the airport. Already suspicious. On the freeway, the meter was screaming fast and any thoughts of saving money quickly disappeared. When we finally got there, he took one of the girl's hundred bills and quickly swapped it for a two peso bill and claimed to be shortchanged. We didn't stand for it, and he got a little irritated but didn't overcharge us beyond the already high price. When we got to my stop he took BOTH of my bills and deftly changed them for twos. I don't know how he possibly thought I wouldn't be watching. He again eventually begrudgingly made change for the correct amount. Asking around at the hostel, it turns out I paid just over twice what the maximum was that I should have paid for a taxi trip, so with the girl's fare as well the guy probably is taking the rest of the week off. On the other hand, a German guy who took the shuttle I was considering paid only 30 pesos and it dropped him off right at the door.
At one point on the ride the crooked cabby took a cell phone call and talked too fast for me to understand, but I heard "chico," or "boy," a couple of times, which was probably something along the lines of: "Hey amigo, I have the stupidest chico in the car, you wouldn't believe it. Hohoho, stupid chico." Suspecting as much, I asked him who was on the phone. He said the coffee machine at the airport was broken, and that you put in your money, but no coffee. I was listening closely to the conversation, and I'm almost positive the word for coffee wasn't mentioned once. On what I'm sure was an extremely scenic route of downtown Buenos Aires, full of switchbacks and unnecessary turns, he pointed out a number of prostitute bars. According to him, prostitutes are called "cats" in BA. "You go there, have a drink, say 'I love you for you,' you know? Then dinero. You understand?" He was a funny guy.
We heard a lot about the cabby's family on the ride, and I really don't mind financing what will probably be a lavish weekend, raising their glasses to stupid tourists. The ride was only a little bit more than what it costs for a taxi to SeaTac. It was worth it to see such shenanigans in person (although it wouldn't be worth it a second time). However, everyone should root hard against Independiente, which is his favorite soccer team. I personally am hoping for crushing defeats at the hands of merciless foes for the rest of the season, then for a franchise relocation to Oklahoma City. He also recommended a restaurant for carne asada.
Yesterday I walked around Buenos Aires with a very nice German guy named Toby. I really like the city. Mullets are definitely cool here, and I've heard mostly American/UK music everywhere I've been. Lots of Rolling Stones and lots of Prince. I heard purple rain twice just yesterday, which is of course fine by me. Can't get enough Prince. Lots of 80s music in general, which with the mullets and all the smoking makes the place seem very 80s.
We also went to Recoleta Cemetery, which is a very cool sort of city of the dead with little alleyways between mausoleums. There were also lots of cats (of the kitty cat, not the strumpet, variety). We also went to a very cool bar called Olsen, where we had a very strong Argentinian drink called a Fernet Cola, which was weird tasting but good. The subway was closed, so we then walked back, which took forever. See picture below.
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That might be it for now...I can't think of too much else to report. I'm going to get a picasa account going for pictures, as it's kind of a hassle to embed a lot right in the body of the blog.
Here's a link. Some are pretty lo-res, but I've got better versions saved. I'm concerned about running out of space.
All for now.