Sunday, April 10, 2005

Buenos Aires

We barely made it in before they stopped serving breakfast at 10am. When we got to the dining room, it was packed full of people. The sun was shining in through the window. It was like having breakfast in a greenhouse, made less enjoyable by all of the noisy people squawking away and the lack of any real air conditioning. There was only a small wall unit that didn’t even put out enough to cool a single table (ours, as luck would have it).

We walked down to Plaza de Mayo again, and there were even more cops out today. We walked by the spot where some teenagers had been filming their skateboard stunts yesterday. We’d stayed just long enough to watch one of them wipe out on some stairs, in that classic fashion. Instead of skaters, today there was a woman selling the creepiest hand puppet I’ve ever seen. It looks like a baby, but doesn’t move like one. I don’t know how else to describe it. We walked over to San Telmo for another art fair / antique sale, where we saw more creepy baby puppets. We also stopped into a number of shops, and found a wedding present for my fraternity brother Jimmy. Which is very timely, as I’ll be headed to the wedding at the end of the month. It’s a silver-plated pitcher with a decorative trim.

RRR is a fan of public displays of Tango
The outdoor market is very crowded, and the smoke and incense are getting to us. The road is littered with street tango dancers and little boys playing accordions. There’s also your ubiquitous street artist who thinks wearing a costume and standing still is art. One guy did have a fountain as part of his act. I think that he had a hose running inside his outfit.


If I haven’t mentioned it before, there is dog poop everywhere. I don’t know if there is a phrase in Spanish that translates to “curb your dog,” but apparently folks here don’t know it either. I can’t tell if it’s from being on a common walking path or that there are just so many strays. We stopped for some soda, Coke still comes in glass bottles here. Water too.

We walked in to La Boca, even more dog poop.  The area got pretty shabby. For some reason, Kacey didn’t want to get food at a roadside grill with dogs and pigeons all around it. Something about it being “unhygienic.” We found our way to the Caminito, a very brightly painted and energetic street in La Boca.

Alley artwork
Festive colors
El Gato Blanco
The whole area reminds me of New Orleans crossed with the Bronx or Brooklyn scenes you see stereotyped in movies. Because of the Boca game later today, the whole area seems to be celebrating. It’s like the  fútbol version of football tailgating with food and team stuff everywhere. During lunch, the drums were pounding like a drumline on parade. We walked back to the Subte, took the train five stops or so, and made it back to the hotel with about 30 minutes to spare before our pickup for the game.

I donned the Boca jersey I’d bought /blog link/the other day and Kacey wore a hat she’d bought for someone but now seems inclined to keep it. We were in the lobby at 4pm, or slightly before, with the bare minimum of stuff to avoid getting anything stolen /blog link/ (again). I checked with the front desk at 4:30, because the 30 minute window had passed. Our names are in the computer and the receptionist called the tour guide for us. We’re hesitant on tours without vouchers after our experience with /blog link/ the penguin tour.

A few minutes later, our guide Benjamin came to the door in an Argentina fútbol  jersey. We got in the bus with him and were on our way. A few blocks from the hotel, we saw kids playing in traffic. To be fair, it was more like performing. But in the middle of 9 de Julio? The street is seven lanes wide, in each direction, and the three-lane access roads on either side means that there are 20 lanes of traffic. One kid was juggling three green balls and one red ball while his young friends walked from car to car. Trying to collect money before the light changed and they got run over.


We picked up a few more gringos whom I was able to discover were in the US Air Force, working for /link/ SouthCom. One girl named Michelle wouldn’t shut up, and her voice was the kind that carries though a crowded room. We stopped at an intermediary location to buy the tickets, which in itself was a weird experience. Because I wanted to pay with a credit card, we stopped into a cashier desk where they charged my card (again, only Visa accepted) for both tickets. But not at the same time, because the guide forgot about Kacey’s ticket. Then they gave me cash and a receipt. I then used the cash to pay for use of the season ticket seat, which was in the form of a credit-cardlike plastic ticket. I’m not sure if it counts as a cash advance or not, but I’m guessing that it does.



Back we climbed into the tour bus and then we drove to La Boca, where we were this afternoon. Once the bus parked, we slowly gaggled our way into /link/ La Bombanero, “the candy dish” and home stadium of the Boca Juniors. A sea of royal blue and yellow surrounded us. The other team, Rosario Central, sports a uniform with slightly darker blue and a more orangey yellow. There were kids on the outside of the third balcony fence, which is topped with barbed wire, who were hanging banners over the edge at least 75 feet above the second level…which was also high above the ground. We were in what appeared to be the tourist section, as the stalwart Boca fans were on our left behind the goal and Rosario fans were far away on the right. We arrived during what must have been their B-sides playing.

The sun went down, the stadium lights blinked on, and the whole place lit up like the daytime. Rosario’s players came out of a long inflatable tube connected to a staircase, probably to protect them from projectiles from the crowd. The Boca Juniors came out to a flurry of white paper squares handed out minutes earlier. The music swelled up and the scantily clad (seriously, one wore less than a Las Vegas showgirl) cheerleader flag girls started cheering, waving, and jumping up and down all the while a “Bocafied” starfish that reminded me of Spongebob’s friend Patrick with a CABJ tattoo pranced around.

The locals section behind the goal also seems to be the designated drum and music section. From before the game until sometime after it ended, they were singing very loudly. Unless something on field prompted a bellowing “OH!” I think that I even heard a trumpet in there somewhere. Everyone seemed to know all of the words to all of the songs. Even the ones that sound like The Brady Bunch en Español. When Boca scored, everyone hopped up. Some hugged each other. On the first level (we were on the second level), people swarmed the fence in surging tide of humanity. One guy was up on a 30-foot fence waving to us and gesturing to cheer. Crazy, especially since the fences between our sections are nearly 20 feet tall, made of clear glass or plexiglass with metal spikes or barbed wire or curved hooks on the edges.

At the half, Boca led 2 to 1 over Rosario Central. While not baseball park quality, we got some stadium food. Two hotdogs with mustard (4 pesos/$1.30 USD) and one small coke (2 pesos / 65 cents) for 6 pesos total. Watching fútbol in a fanatic country recovering from an economic collapse: Priceless. Boca’s first goal in the second half caused the fans to surge forward again, and the mass of ecstatic fans began bouncing and swaying. Some were also waving hands and flags. To minimize the risk, no alcohol is sold nearby or in the stadium. Also, there are about 15 policemen between the Boca and Rosario fans…on the Boca side of the glass. The final score was Boca 4, Rosario 1. My shirt was just the right weight for the game, since the air got very warm with so many people around.

And the crowd goes wild!
Our group clustered together in the crowded streets as we made our way back to the bus. Our stop came up first. Our room still doesn’t have functional air conditioning, even though it was working just before we left for the game. We stopped at a restaurant next to the hotel for some ice cream (chocolate and dulce de leche) before going to bed.

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