Vern: Buenos Aires is definitely growing on us, though we're still a long way from figuring out the porteno´s daily routine. They seem to do everything four hours later than the rest of the world (lunch in the late afternoon, dinner between 10 and 12, and the nightlife only fires up about 1am and goes until 4ish, 6ish or noon the next day. Smaller businesses (and entire towns, in less urban areas) shut down between 1pm and 4pm for siestas but those working office jobs don´t seem to - we have no idea how they do it, though yerba maté tea may have something to do with it.
The crushed tea leaves are held in a gourd (a metal, wood or leather orb shaped mug) and hot water is added from a flask after every few slurps. Sips are taken through a metal straw with some mesh on the end. And all this aparatus is carried around all day. I tried it in an unpopular (but much more convenient) tea-bag form, but we´re still waiting to be invited by someone to join in a tea-sharing ritual. One is warned not to refuse such a ritual.
Another ritual (less well-documented) but unmissable, is lunch-time torso exposure. Minutes after leaving the office, to grab a sandwich and a tea, men remove their cufflinks and roll up their sleeves only once (like musketeers). Then ping, ping, ping, the three shirt buttons from collar to sternum are released and the opening pulled wide. Pectorals and chest-hair for all!
We imagined a porteno on his lunch break eating at his desk and being interupted by a colleague:
"Adriano, would you mind taking a look at these numbers for the... oh sorry, my apologies I see your nipples are getting some air so you must be on lunch... I´ll come back later"
It was a balmy evening on the 17th and we walked down from our second hostel (much quieter, and for one night we were upgraded to a private room because they couldn´t wake the guest in one of our allocated beds in the dorm - result) to downtown, stopping at all the parks along the way to enjoy some cheap wine, peanuts and some salad. In the park in front of the Plaza del Congreso, we were surrounded by groups of friends sharing maté and the sun set dramatically behind the capitol-esque building.
St Patricks day was celebrated with a vengeance! The Irish pub (there´s one in every city) was heaving and the entire street around it was awash with green revellers. Television stations even had camera crews out filming the festivities.
The next day we ate a picnic lunch in Parque Lezama. The city of Beunos Aires was founded here, the only thing we founded was how to slice up a tomato with a spork (thanks Lloyd). Then we went down to the poor district of La Boca, near the old port to see the Caminito area: pedestrian streets surrounded by brightly coloured corrugated-iron buildings. Artists sell colourful paintings and street performers dance tango. An impressive Diego Maradona lookalike posed for photos with paying tourists. We had unfortunately forgotten our camera so we couldn't get photos of the colourful buildings--or the lookalike of the colourful Argentina football coach.
A few blocks away, as we headed out of La Boca we noticed, at least subconsciously, that the street looked a bit seedy and were discussing how much money was in my wallet, so we would know the impact to the travel budget if we were to get pick-pocketed. Because of this conversation, I had my hand in my pocket, quietly removing half of the notes (which were all small bills anyway) to give to Andrea, so as to halve the impact if anything should happen.
The next thing, two well dressed fifteen year-olds raced at us and grabbed onto the backpack on my back. We responded with fists of fury, shouting and throwing punches (one of mycfists was ironically full of pesos, as I was about to hand these over to Andrea). They were unarmed and scared and quickly realised Andrea was wearing no jewellery and had nothing of value on her (and is an awesone ninja) and that my backpack was over both shoulders and not going anywhere. The kids ran away, jumped on the back of waiting scooters and disappeared.
We were a bit rattled, but pleased that it was over in a few seconds, no one got hurt and we didn´t lose anything. The contents of the backpack was a Lonely Planet guidebook (with the sections on Venezuala and Colombia cut out of it), our sporks, and a bottle of tap water. So what did we learn from this? Well, like world leaders and the boards of Fortune 500 companies, sporks must travel seperately. In this way continuity will be assured in the event of any mishap. Park picnics cannot stop because of petty crime.
We continued our walk to the picturesque bohemian district of San Telmo, and had a coffee and a beer in a bar overlooking a busy plaza. Once rested, we walked back to the hostel unfairly giving teenagers and scooter-drivers suspicious looks, but the stroll was event free. We scoffed a small dinner, booked our next few hostels and called it a day.