Sunday, August 23, 2009
Leaving Washington, On the Ground in Argentina
Once I got going on Friday afternoon things got better. I met my friend Kerry for lunch in downtown Washington, right on Capitol Hill. It was pretty cool to be around all of the famous monuments and buildings. It was my third time in the capitol, but I had only previously been when I was a child and for an afternoon a couple of years ago. I walked around from a couple of Smithsonian museums, stopping inside to ride out a thunderstorm and cool off with the air conditioning.
I suddenly decided, with only about a couple hours to spare, that I really wanted to see the World War II Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Following the Washington Monument, I walked with a purpose through the intense humidity, and by the time I was past the Reflecting Pool and at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I was drenched. I sat for a while thinking and cooling off before heading back into downtown to catch a bus to the airport, where I waited with the two other passengers from the night before.
Again our flight was delayed, this time two hours, because of thunderstorms, But the worst part was that once we were on the plane and the gate was locked, United Airlines opened up the gate again TWICE to let more people on who were making connections, holding us up even longer. We stayed on the ground another hour at least, but the night before they couldn't hold the plane for 10 minutes. It was a royal slap in the face. Despite all of the nonsense from United, we finally got airborne and for once I actually slept on a plane for a bit, aided by the fact that with so many empty seats, I was able to spread out a little bit.
And finally, after waiting for so long and dreaming about it for years, we arrived in Buenos Aires at 11:30 am local time. Right now Argentina is an hour ahead of New York. After going through customs I got a car service to take me to my apartment where I tried to get a bit settled in. On the ride through the city my first impressions weren't great. I kept in mind that most areas around an airport are pretty lousy, but to me it just seemed like any other city. It didn't help that it's winter here, and aside from being cold, all of the leaves are dead and the trees are bare. I haven't been in winter in maybe 15 months, and all through 2 summers ago, Ecuador, and recently at home, I saw lush green vegetation. It was a bit shocking to see this all again. It definitely takes away from scenery.
The neighborhood where I live is in a crossroads. The street we live on, Avenida Regimiento de Patricios, mostly known as just Patricios, is a border. On one side is Barracas, on the other La Boca. And about two blocks up the street is San Telmo. It's definitely a blue collar neighborhood with nothing glamorous, and has a reputation for being dangerous. Just a few blocks away is the stadium for the soccer club Boca Juniors. In many ways, the apartment I live in reminds me more of the place I lived in in Ecuador than what I had imagined Buenos Aires would be like, but I'm not totally disenchanted. I have some friendly and helpful roommates, and we actually had a party last night.
The woman who rents the apartment out, Kate, is from Kentucky and was celebrating her 1 year anniversary in Buenos Aires. Some of her friends came over and we ate some food, drank a little beer, and eventually passed around the Mate tea. Even though I was exhausted we hung out until 4 am. Sleeping in a bit, I went out with Kate today to try to learn some of the bus routes and see some of the city. We found the building that (I think) I have to go to tomorrow to deal with my citizenship papers.
After splitting a pizza and piece of cake we went to see a Senegalese movie, but within minutes of the movie starting I passed out and only occasionally woke up to see what was going on. We were both pretty tired and once the short movie ended we headed home as the sun was setting. I've still got a lot to see and do here, but I've got a little taste now, and I'm curious to see the rest. Tomorrow I need to get to the DNI citizenship paper office by 6 am, so hopefully things will go well for me, otherwise I will be tired and frustrated.
Above: Pictures from my day in Washington D.C. Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial