Monday was the date of my First Official Spanish Lesson. I have had many unofficial Spanish lessons already – drilling numbers and reflexive verbs at Javier’s dining room table; learning simple past tenses in the back of a jeep bumping down a dirt road in Colombia; practicing “soy allergica a gluten” over and over in preparation for ordering at a restaurant; listening to my friends speak Spanish for hours at the house in Uruguay – but this was my first with a dedicated professor. I feel a little silly and proud that we’re able to speak exclusively in Spanish. It surprises me, actually, how much I’m able to communicate (albeit slowly and awkwardly). I’ve never learned a language while traveling before. It’s a strange, organic process, especially after something as structured as Latin. You learn survival phrases first, grammar be damned, and sometimes it’s weeks before you learn the literal meaning of phrases you’ve been taught. I can’t deny that I get a little delighted by my tiny accomplishments (recharging my bus pass, discussing drink components with a bartender, haggling at the Sunday market, etc). It feels like slow going most of the time, but I’m still
miles kilometres beyond where I was when I first landed in Bogota.
This week and part of next week I have 90-minute Spanish lessons each day. In the meantime…
Monday evening I joined the horde of French people staying at my hostel for Bomba de Tiempo ( http://labombadetiempo.blogspot.com.ar/). This is a massive drum concert that happens every Monday in an open air venue that holds probably 1000 people (I am making this number up because I have no concept of how to gauge crowd sizes, but anyway it’s a lot). Apparently it has become pretty overwhelmed by tourists in recent times. I couldn’t tell you, honestly – I was captivated by those drums the second I heard them and I didn’t stop dancing until much later that night, after the street parade and afterparty. It doesn’t feel touristy. You look around and you see other people grinning as wide as you are, drinking and dancing like happy fools, and you don’t worry so much about whether they’re tourists or Argentines or beautiful French people still managing to hold their cigarettes elegantly while they dance. After the concert, a block away a group of drummers with marching drums start to play on a street corner and suddenly 200 people have taken over the street and cars are squeezing through with the people inside laughing and taking pictures as everyone dances and drinks and parades to a night club close by. Because I am not a Nightclub Person, I was in a cab on the way back to the hostel about five minutes after we arrived, but I believe it’s a good nightclub if you like that sort of thing.
Tuesday I had the delightful experience of listening to a fantastic mambo band (I didn’t even know I liked mambo) followed by the heartbreaking experience of finding out that it was their last concert. The venue was Vuelta la pez (or “flight the fish” which is no less enigmatic in Spanish than in English), small, dimly lit, hidden up the stairs and behind a discreet little door with just the street number painted on colorfully. I’m not sure what you call this kind of place (bar? Lounge? Speakeasy?) but it is My Kind of Place. There was dancing there too, lots of girls dancing what I assume was the mambo, but also places to sit and talk and sip cocktails and just absorb the music. I was dead tired from Bomba de Tiempo the night before so after the music ended and I hugged my friends I piled myself onto a bus and headed back for the night.
Lots of little everyday things happening this week – asados, many cheap and delicious bottles of Argentine wine being purchased and drunk, exploring the streets around my hostel, feeling cool when I figure out how to take the bus correctly. Though the hostel is a bit of an insulating environment, I’m slowly beginning to know Buenos Aires better and better.