I flew into Buenos Aires on a Tuesday, opting for the 2 hour plane ride over the 20 hour bus ride. Worth every stinking penny! As I flew in I got a birds eye view of the city and have to remark at the similarities to New York. The building sytle is a bit different and some is much much older but it feels distinctly like NYC. Tons of concrete, very few trees but a handful of little parks and a really large green area near the water. I spent the first couple of days walking around, getting slightly lost a few times and really getting to know the neighborhood, Palermo, where I was staying. On the third day I was wondering around in the Microcenter (main downtown part of town) searching for a book store with English titles. After scoring a new book to read and hitting up Starbucks (there are several in Buenos Aires) for a classic iced green tea... I started walking in the direction of home. I didn´t get very far before I found a spa. I ducked in to make a reservation for a massage and to my delight they had an opening that evening for 8pm so I took it. It was now about 4pm so I decided to head back to the hostel (on the other side of town)and relax for a few hours before grabbing a cab back. When I stepped back out of the spa it was almost dark out, I looked up to see the darkest clouds I could ever remember and realized I needed to get moving fast.
Up to this point I´ve been taking the subway but its like a box oven with more people on the cars than should be legally safe. Considering its over 90 degrees and 100% humidity, the subway is far from a pleasurable experience but its cheap and fast. I started walking in the direction of home as it started to sprinkle, realizing it wasn´t going to get any better I decided to duck into the subway and catch the train to my neighborhood. Apparently a million other people had the same idea, I waited for 2 trains before I could find room to squeeze into the train before the doors shut. I was instantly soaked with sweat, hating every minute but blindly unaware of what was happening on the street above me. As I jumped off at the location closest to my hostel it was already raining hard and the water was really flowing down the streets. I didn´t make it more than 2 blocks before it was raining so violently hard I was completely soaked, including my bag and everything in it (like my new book). By the time I made it the next 4 blocks the water had overflowed the streets and was running down the sidewalk at a good 3-4 inches deep. I got inside and changed into dry clothes, assessed the damage of my bag and laid everything out to dry. As I headed into the living area the employee had switched on the news and we were amazed. In the area where I had been just 15 minutes before, the street was completely flooded. People were wading in waste high water, transportation was cut off and they were sending in life boats to rescue people. Of all the places I´ve been, I could imagine this happening in several of the remote areas but I never thought it would occur in downtown Buenos Aires. We watched for hours as the rain continued to pour with lightning and thunder. Its a good thing I had made a run to the grocery store earlier in the day, it turned into a movie night in the hostel.
By the next morning all the water had drained away but the trash and damage was still visible. At breakfast I talked with the Swedish girl, Ingrid, who had been stuck in that part of town. She had taken refuge on the stairs of a building and met a guy who lived there, he invited her inside and gave her some dry clothes. Turns out he is an actor and currently in a play that has been running since September. He gave her 2 tickets to come see the show and escorted her home later when things calmed down a bit to make sure she didn´t have any trouble. She invited me to see the show with her and we thought it would be a good Spanish lesson. The play was the story of a previous president of Argentina, Arturo Umberto Illia, his life and how it came to be that he took and lost his run as President. I didn´t understand a lot of it, but could follow the flow of the play based on context and the emotion of the characters. It was well done but I had to resort to the internet to read up on him later which helped me put together the pieces I didn´t understand.
Its been an interesting week in Buenos Aires full of sweet, street vendors, large shopping malls, fantastic architecture and a park full of cats.