the first month in Buenos Aires

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After one month in a Palermo Hostel I have at last moved to my own apartment. It has taken a week, but today I have had broadband installed so I am back in communication with the world via this blog. How great it feels to have my own space again and along with it, all the small things that add up to a home and a normal (!) life: a bath, a kitchen, a TV, a CD player, the internet, a balcony with plants, front door keys… Now I feel that I am living in this city and not just visiting or on holiday.

Of course moving means learning about a new area. I am lucky. My apartment is in the middle of the first block from Avenida Santa Fe, in Recoleta. It’s a great district and I have everything I need just yards away: laundries, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, supermarkets, shops of every kind including a 24 hour Farmacity (the equivalent of Boots in the UK), the subway, buses… it’s all on my doorstep.

Santa Fe is a busy Avenida lined with shops, large and small. I love it because it is always full of Porteños going about their business. It is not ‘touristy’. I can walk downtown along it and never get bored. Since I moved I am doing much more walking. I am enjoying piecing the city together in my mind as if doing a huge jigsaw puzzle. Every time I walk rather than take the subway, my brain clicks into place and I can picture, in three dimensions, another area of the tango map that I always carry in my bag.

I don’t walk at night. I take cabs. I always choose the radio taxis with numbers printed in yellow on all four doors. These are the ones that I am told are safest. They have meters and the drivers always use them. They have radios and belong to an official taxi company. Some others look very similar but only have numbers printed on two doors, have no radios and maybe don’t have meters. From my new apartment I can get virtually anywhere that I regularly go to for less than $10 (less than £2) pesos in a cab.

So where have I been in the past week? Well, my most visited Milonga has been Salon Canning. We have started to reserve a table here, which is a must on busy nights. After Canning I have walked the few blocks to La Viruta and twice stayed up all night there to dance the last tango. This is only possible for me because of the coffee and medialunas (croissants) they serve from about four in the morning! The last tango at La Viruta is something else. They turn all the lights off then flash spotlights while they play a passionate and dramatic tango. A fair bit of snogging goes on in the dark moments (I believe!). After the tango they turn all the lights on and play a loud rock and roll number which most people dance to. To see this at 6 o’clock in the morning is quite incredible. This first time I saw it I had to stop myself staring, open mouthed. How do they go to work a few hours later?

On Tuesday at Canning I watched the stunning Gustavo Naveira (The Tango Lesson) and his partner Giselle Anne. Truly I felt privileged to see them dance just yards from me. Three other couples danced before them and they were all great in their own way. I have memories to treasure from this night. As I watched, I felt that someone would shake me awake in any moment and tell me that I was dreaming. But no, I was actually there, I am really here and this is  my life!

Last night we were at Ariel’s to watch a movie. We ate takeaway, then enormous amounts of icecream. The Porteños are big into icecream. What a heavenly surprise! We ate chocolate, banana, coconut, tiramasu, strawberry and the must have for an Argentine – dulce de leche. Dulche de leche is like the caramel you find in Banoffee Pie and it is delicious in any form. As icecream it is ‘to die for’. Then we settled down at around 1am to watch the movie. It was 4am when I headed home in a cab. Even an evening in with a DVD means staying up half the night here…

I am still squeezing in my tango classes, Spanish lessons and Spanish homework. I finally learned the past tense this week!  That means I have moved beyond saying slightly stupid things like, ‘Yesterday I go to La Viruta.’  To give you an idea of how I use my Spanish, I can now explain to a Porteño, that I like him and I like dancing with him but I only want to be good friends. I can even explain that it is important that while I am here I dance with many different men to practice my tango, that I want to spend time alone, that I do not want a boyfriend. Impressive huh? It is amazing what I can manage to say when I am under pressure and don’t have Gabriella to help me out. I am proud of myself.

So slowly but surely I am settling into my second month in Buenos Aires, into my new life. I think less and less about home. In a way this is conscious on my part. If I think about things in the UK, I can start to miss them or to feel sentimental. This is not good for me. My life for the foreseeable future is in this city, this country and that is what I have to focus on. Of course I get moments when I miss home and the people I have left behind but I can’t dwell on these things. I remind myself every day how lucky I am to be here, to be able to pursue my dream. I focus on my desire to become a great dancer and then I know that I am in the right place at the right time…

See pictures taken this week on my walks in BA

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