When it comes right down to it, I think Buenos Aires has a little too much of everything. It seems like the city bounces from one extreme to the next. When it rains here, it pours, literally. When it’s hot and sunny, put on some thick sunscreen and stick to the shade when you can. The luxury is elegant and graceful, while the poverty is gritty and immense. The buildings are an extreme jumble of different eras crowded in and out with people. There are lines of people everywhere all the time waiting for something, from McDonalds to the Post Office to the fruit vendors. It makes day to day activities a daunting task of negotiating broken sidewalks, abandoned dog poo, stray animals, crowds of people going in every direction at once, while trying to find your own direction. That’s why sometimes I still have to work up a bit of extra energy to do simple day-to-day things.
Although, it’s gotten easier. Now that I know a bit more about life here, things can be a bit more predictable. I think I’m getting the hang of the lifestyle here.
Still, I find myself walking old familiar routs as though they were brand new. There is always some detail that I missed before, such as a new bakery or an interesting molding on a building. I can cross the street fearlessly and follow the ebb and flow of traffic, bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians.
My favorite days often include a lengthy stay at a café. Here the café culture is strong. Waiters don’t raise an eyebrow to people loitering around for hours with a newspaper, book, or just staring out the window. There’s something slow and easy about having a cup of coffee. One side note, they almost always serve coffee with a cup of water, which I think is such a pleasant courtesy. After a cup of coffee, sometimes a drink of water is wonderfully refreshing. Also, indoor smoking seems to be banned everywhere, which makes the sidewalks packed with grumpy smokers, but the cafes, bars, and restaurants pretty pleasant.
People read here all the time. In restaurants, cafes, buses, subways, parks, etc. I always see people, even the apparently homeless, checking up on the news or reading through a book. This hearty readership is also encouraged by frequent bookstores. On nearly every block is a bookstore. Being a strong proponent of reading and a cantankerous literature snob, I find this to be one of the most cosmopolitan aspects of Buenos Aires. I stumbled upon one bookstore in a renovated theatre house and talk about unexpected glamour. It was fabulous! Unfortunately, I found it when I didn’t have my camera.
So lately, I’ve been most thoroughly contented by being in Buenos Aires. I don’t have detailed daily agendas like I did those first several days. I mainly just stroll around and admire. It’s been a more or less tranquil week in a city I first found less than tranquil.