Saturday January 24, 2015 (Argentina, Brazil, Buenos Aires, South America)
Just a nice walk around the city today to see some areas we haven't visited yet. Some beautiful architecture in the city. Some interesting signs too, like ones that directly translate to "Sorry for the molestation" when a public area is under construction. I've had a few things built up here that I wanted to mention, some of which go back to Brazil. Sorry they don't match up with our geographical location at the moment, but I have some time to write in the random thoughts that didn't fit anywhere else.
The famous Brazilian flip-flops are Havaianas. They're popular the world over. But awesomely enough, tons of Brazilians wear them too! It's like a bunch of Canadians walking around in Roots gear. So at least I don't feel like a crazy tourist wearing mine. Good news.
My favourite word I've learned in Portuguese so far is saudade. Pronounced "sow-DAD-jay". First off, it just sounds sexy. It means "the act of missing a person". Kind of like the English "longing" or "nostalgia", but it must be directed at a person. The best part is, you can use the word as a noun. So you can have saudade about somebody. I think it's a great concept that doesn't directly translate but is quite beautiful.
The little Portuguese I learned was honed in Rio. This is a problem. People in Rio are called "carioca" (or "cariocas" for more than one). Everybody who's not from Rio hates cariocas. Also, people from Rio speak with a Rio accent. So when I learned how to say the plural of real (or reais, which is the Brazilian currency), I learned to say it as "hay-EYE-sh". Pronouncing the "R" like an "H" is pretty normal in Brazil, but the "sh" sound instead of the "s" sound is definitely 100% carioca. So then when we went to other areas of the country and I tried to use my newfound Portuguese, people had a mild hate-on for me due to my city-boy pronunciation. Damnit, Brazil!
Brazil was very fond of what can only be described as plastic napkins. You'd eat out at a restaurant and be given what might as well be slices of a garbage bag. You're expected to wipe your face with these, somehow. Unfortunately their noticeable lack of absorption power meant you just ended up moving food around on your face instead of wiping anything. This cultural phenomenon has got to go.
We'd also notice a ton of stores with their doors wide open in 40 degree weather. Blasting their air conditioning. Almost every store did this. I can't even imagine the utility bills these places have to pay! Why can't you just plop a door on your place like all of the other places in the world where the outdoor temperature isn't necessarily desirable as an indoor temperature?
Lots of songs in Brazil seemed to be direct copies of big US singles but with Portuguese words inserted by a different artist. It's like karaoke. But these are their top hits. Here's an hilarious example. Listen to the track on the left. If it's not immediately obvious to you what the track is, listen to the one on the right. Goodness knows if these cats are paying royalties for this stuff, but it's pretty funny regardless. A common "function over form" tactic in Brazil to deal with the heat was the infamous "roll the shirt up over the belly" manoeuvre for men. Too hot? Roll that shirt up. Just over the belly, though. Don't expose those nipples – let's keep it PG and cool ourselves down at the same time. Everybody wins! I didn't really try to catch anybody in the act with a camera, but we've certainly seen our fair share of offenders. Maybe I'll try bringing it back to Canada.
Now onto something Argentinian we've found. Or at least, something we've noticed in Buenos Aires. It hasn't rained since we've been here, but darned if you're not constantly getting spat upon while you walk the streets. By AC units. Everywhere! There are all of these huge buildings with AC units hanging out and dropping condensation all over the place. It's bizarre to feel these icy cold drops landing on you in the scorching heat. Sometimes they come down as big fat droplets. Other times it's a pleasant mist. But it's almost inescapable!
Another difficulty of navigating the city as a pedestrian is the number of one-way streets and corresponding lack of signage. Handy "yes, you can walk man" signs are not very common, so you have to guess at whether it's your turn to walk based on whether the traffic appears to be moving in your direction. This can obviously change at a moment's notice, so it's not a perfect system. Compounding this issue is the fact that because there are so many one-way streets, you can't see a green light for the cars headed in your direction, so you're really just guessing as to whether or not it's your turn to go!
In terms of fashion, Sandra has noticed that super-chunky sandals are quite the rage here in BA. Big platform sandals. Like you took a pair of Birkenstocks and resoled them 28 times without removing the previous unworn soles. Sandra's convinced people are insecure about their height here. Easy for Captain Talls-a-lot to say.
We completed our first "blue market" money exchange today. We got about 41% above the government rate for the peso by trading in a bunch of Brazilian money. That's how it works here! I guess maybe we should have brought more cash, because this rate makes the country a lot cheaper to travel in. But then you're taking the risk of travelling around with pockets full of money. Generally considered bad form in the risk management department.
Tomorrow we celebrate our Aussie friend Dave's birthday! It sounds like the plan is frisbee in a park followed by some good Argentinian steak. I'm looking forward to it because I haven't really had any yet. It's oatmeal and yogurt for your frugal travellers!