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  • Dawnelle Salant

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us





Arriving in Buenos Aires after nearly 28 hours of travel is fairly anticlimactic. It’s pouring, we’re exhausted and starving - but there is something about South America that feels like home. Hearing Spanish and speaking Spanish gives me a rush that I haven’t felt in years. I don’t know how people who don’t speak Spanish make it in these countries, even with my knowledge -getting a taxi and trying to change money took nearly two hours. There is a system where you buy a ticket for the taxi, they give you a number and then you wait with about 100 other people to hear your number called. Then they call your number to give you a receipt. Then you wait again. Then a man comes and calls about 10 numbers and everyone follows him, with all their luggage, through a crowded airport in a city that has a reputation for being unsafe. But we don’t travel to be comfortable and do things that we know how to do. We travel to have new experiences, and new experiences always lead to learning.

After a long taxi ride, we check into the hotel and head out to find something to eat. Around the corner from our hotel in Recoleta, a homeless man sleeps under an umbrella, surround by garbage bags full of his belongings. It’s a hard sight to see, but I have to fight the urge to photograph him. He is part of the city, a reality that makes the city what it is. A short nap after lunch and a hot shower revive us slightly and we make our way to Puerto Madero for dinner. It’s fairly far from our hotel, but as we have no Argentinian Pesos we start out walking. Getting pesos has turned out to be a nightmare - no exchange places in Calgary carry them, and the airport in Dallas was sold out. The bank machines won’t take our cards and there are no exchange places open.It’s dark, it’s a strange city and we have no idea where we are going. We go into a hotel and ask if they exchange money, but they don’t. Do the Argentinians not want our money? We do learn that taxis will accept US dollars so we flag one down and finally arrive in the tourist trap that is Puerto Madero. Lovely, but overpriced restaurants line the river and we choose one at random. We are just happy to be here and sweating in the hot, humid air. We order steak and vegetables and I have my first glass of Malbec. It’s ok, but nothing extraordinary. Our steak is so overdone that we can’t even eat it. I manage to get it taken off the bill and we head home for some much deserved sleep.

The next morning we walk two blocks to Teatro Colon, which is apparently one of the best Opera Houses in the world. Usually opera houses are small, to get the best acoustics. But this one, with nearly 2500 seats, and superior acoustics, ranks it as one of the best. We are meeting our Free Walking Tour here - this is a company that runs free tours all over the world - and I highly recommend them. If you are pleased with the service, you give a tip at the end of the tour.

We wander through the streets with our guide pointing out important buildings and streets. The highlight of the tour is the Cementerio Recoleta - this is where tombs and mausoleums fill several city blocks and the result is both unearthly and magnificent. The rich and famous are buried here - but not the pop singer/football type famous. It’s a resting place for political figures - the most famous resident being Eva Peron, or Evita.

We learned a lot about both Buenos Aries and Argentina from our guide. One of the most interesting things he shared with us is how bad the Argentinian economy is. The US dollar is king, and the peso fluctuates significantly, making it hard to get ahead. (from about 20 pesos per dollar in 2018, to 58 right now in Dec. 2019). Argentinians used to buy dollars with all their earnings, but the government capped the amount they are allowed to buy. Additionally, if they travel and charge things to their credit cards, they are charged 35% on top of the price. It’s hard to believe that a system like this exists in this day and age. He also told us where to get pesos on the black market. So we finally have pesos and now we know why they were so hard to get.


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