The Rules

Some observations and rules to live by if you want to keep your sanity in Buenos Aires. 

I love the city, but it's like a family. Vaguely dysfunctional and yet somehow endearing. A thing for which you feel simulteanous love and total frustration.  Some tips for survival. 

On Transportation  
It takes longer than you think it should to get anywhere. 
People do not stand to the right on escalators. That’s just a NY thing. Deal. 
Buy a Guia-T. Get a monedero. Keep your change, just in case. 
The bus routes lie: sometimes they kick you off early. They lie to us. (See: The 128.) Be prepared for your subway line to close. Yes, the whole thing. No, it will not be open promptly.
But sometimes inexplicably they let you on the subway for free. I love pasa libre.
When picking an apartment get it near the bus routes. Forget about the subway. 
It is impossible to get a cab on New Year’s Eve. 
Without fail, when you need to go to the airport in a rush there will be a strike on the highway. Add two hours. 

Beware of 
Baldosas Falsas: Loose tiles that after rain will splash you with tepid street rainwater. 
Lots of dog poop. 
Broken sidewalks. 
Microcentro after dark: No. 

On Money
Banks will run out of money.
Gas stations will run out of gas. 
When they refill the bank’s ATM, they are refilling ALL of the ATMs on that street. Simultaneously. You will not find cash. Often this happens the day your rent is due.
Prices will rise. Daily. It’s called inflation. 
Break your 100s when possible. Kiosks will not accept 100 for a piece of gum. 
I have tried. 

On Commerce
Feria Americanas: The best deals on clothing. BUT. Wash the clothing first. 
Separate your carton for the cartoneros. 
Everything closes on Sundays. Everything.
Your phone will always run out of carga in the middle of a conversation. On a Sunday. You have been warned. 

On Food
My happy place for food: Chinatown.
You will love medialunas, because this city will force them down your throat. 
Churros make you fat. Especially the ones filled with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate.  
Now Serving: Parilla. Or Empanadas. 
Beware the Choripans. 
Available Flavors for Anything: Dulce de Leche.

On Socializing Konex Center. 
Group events- arriving 1-2 hours late is on time. 
When in doubt, come bearing empanadas or malbec. 
One on one- be prompt. Unless everyone else is running late. It happens. 
No one minds new friends. Reach out.
If you are Italian, mention your Italian roots. 
If you are British, lie and mention your “Italian roots. “
Saying goodbye never gets easy. 

In Conclusion
Everything will take twice as long as you think it should.
If you’re going to be late, at least look nice.
If you’re going to look nice be prepared for the piropos (flirty pick up lines).  
Don’t encourage the piropo-ers, but remember what they say.  
Cause like all the BA annoyances, once you’re gone, you’re gonna miss it. 

A Day in the Life

One of the joys and great challenges of being on a fellowship was learning how to manage my time. 

Sometimes this did not go so well.

Often I was asked by my friends what I did with my days. I never knew what to say. To make up for that I present:

The Ideal Day 

7:30 AM: Wake up
7:45-8:45 AM: Write
8:45-9:00 AM: Quick Breakfast: Fruit and a Media Luna or a Smoothie
9:00-10:30: The Morning Routine (Emails, Blog, Finances, Journal, New York Times, Facebook, To Do Listing.)
10:30-11:00: Get ready for the day.
11:01: Get to bus stop. 
11:02: Bus comes to take me to the rink. 
11:17: Arrive at Rink.
11:17-11:20: Say Hello, pay, get skates on. 
11:21-12:20: On the ice. Skate for an hour. 
12:30-12:45: Walk to Arevalito. 
12:45-14:00: Lunch with Jean. End promptly on time. 
14:00-14:15:  Walk home. Appreciate the weather. 
14:15-14:30: Stop by home. Drop off skates. Change. 
14:31: At the bus stop.
14:32: Bus comes. 
14:55: Arrive at nondisclosed location for a secret interview. 
14:55: Take a stroll. Fix hair & make up.
14:59:45: Ring doorbell.
15:00-16:30: Enter. Great Closed Door Restaurant Interview. 
16:31: Find bus stop.
16:33: Bus comes. 
16:33-16:58: Bus ride. Someone gives me their seat. I check off my To-Do list. Feel accomplished. 
16:59: Timbre doesn’t work, but bus driver stops anyway. 
17:00: Arrive at café same time as convo exchange partner. We enter and chat away. 
18:02: Convo exchange partner says he has to go, right when I’m thinking we should end. Perfect. 
18:03: Waiter brings the check. We both have exact change. 
18:04: Leave café. 
18:05-18:25: Leisurely walk to tango. Buy some fruit for tomorrow. Take a few more pictures. Buy some phone carga, just in case. 
18:26-18:55: Chat with tango friends downstairs. Shoot the breeze. Get up to class early, start stretching.
19:00-21:05: Tango Class. Awesome. Sneak a dance in, before heading to dinner.
21:10: Get to subway. Subway closed, but conductor tells me what bus to take and where to find it. Should still be able to make it to dinner. 
21:11: Find bus stop.
21:13: Bus comes.
21:13-21:29: Bus ride.
21:30: Get to Dinner. Get texts saying everyone is running a little late due to subway. And then texts saying, nevermind.
21:31-21:34: Everyone arrives. 
21:34-23:36: Great dinner. Pizza. Jenga. Beer. Spanish Practice. Jokes and stories. 
23:37: Ask for check. Everyone has change. 
23:38: Leave the bar. Everyone’s taking a taxi.  I take a taxi with them. 
23:53: Get walked home. Rehash the major conversation points of the evening. 
00:00: PJs on. Aaaand sleep.  Start again tomorrow. 

How the Ideal Day Actually Goes 

7:49: Wake Up
7:50- 8:15: Jump onto email. Scan junk emails. Realize I was supposed to start writing. Will write later. Never do.
8:15-10:15: The Morning Routine (Emails, Blog, Finances, Journal, New York Times, Facebook.) Think I’m ahead with my day, and then remember I forgot to write. But still feel vaguely accomplished, enough. 
10:15-10:45: Lose half an hour magically. Talking to a housemate. Landlord. Looking at tumblr. Trying to figure out buses. 
10:45-11:15 Get Ready. 
11:16: Start waiting at bus stop. 
11:32: Bus Actually Comes. 
11:47: Arrive at rink. 
11:47-11:55: Wait on line. No one is any rush to take my money. Finally someone shows up. Get my skates on. Get on the ice.  
11:55-12:45: Skate. …There is a photo shoot on the ice?? Skate on half of a very small rink. Send Jean a text asking to move lunch back 15 minutes. Jean says yes. 
12:45: Get off ice. Skates off. Walk to Arevalito for lunch.
13:03: Get to lunch. 3 minutes late, but Jean arrived early and has been waiting for ages. Feel guilty.
13:03- 14:16: Lunch goes a bit too long due to a second coffee and an apathetic host. 
14:16-14:26: RUN home. Step in dog poop. Gross. 
14:26-14:35: Get changed in a flash. Knock over something. Whatever. Leave the house, running.
14:36: At bus stop.  See my bus two blocks ahead. Just missed it. 
14:36-14:44: Waiting for bus. Consider getting a taxi. Okay, 14:45, I’m getting a taxi. 
14:44: Bus comes. 
14:57: Get too excited and hit the timbre early. Out of shame and the glares of everyone on the bus, get off the bus several blocks too soon. 
14:57-15:02: SPRINT to the interview stop. Almost run over an elderly woman. Jaywalk. Get honked at. Try to take 30 seconds to catch my breath and look more composed. It takes longer than 30 seconds.
15:04: Ring the doorbell. Apologize, profusely. Enter. 
15:05- 16:15: Decently good Closed Door Restaurant interview. Minus calling the owner by the wrong pronoun…twice. 
16:15-16:22: Look for the bus station. 
16:23: Find the bus station, marked by a piece of cardboard jutting out from a building. 
16:37: The bus finally comes. 
16:38-17:05: Bus ride. Use the last of my monedero carga. My timbre doesn’t work. The bus shoots past my stop. I go to the other door.  Walk back towards my stop. Write a text to my partner to tell him I will be there very soon….but am suddenly out of phone credit. 
17:06: Arrive for a new convo exchange. Partner is prompt, as always. Apologize profusely. Explain phone credit situation. Skeptical looks.  
17:02-18:04: Fun, jovial conversation change. 
18:05: Start getting antsy. Conversation Exchange partner tells me he has two more hours free to talk. Die inside a little. Lateness means less ground to stand on to cut this short. 
18:28: Now I really have to go. Awkwardly say so. Only have 100s to pay. Convo partner rolls his eyes, but doesn’t offer to pay. Try to flag down waiter.
18:35: Waiter comes to table. Only have 100s to pay. Waiter rolls his eyes. Waiter takes passive aggressively more time to bring back the change. 
18:42: Waiter finally comes back with change.
18:44: Finally depart from conversation exchange person. 
18:45-18:58: Walk, vaguely leisurely to tango class. Take a photo of something. Get weird looks. Trip over the break in the side walk. Get more weird looks. 
18:58: Get to Tango “early,” but hit rush hour at the front desk. Wait forever to pay. Also, need to buy a new 10-Pass. Don’t have enough small bills to pay in exact. Pay in 100s. Eye roll. 
19:03: Get up to class.
19:03-21:05: Excellent Tango Class. Someone asks me to stay to dance, but I have dinner plans. 
21:05: Leave tango. 
21:06: Stop by the fruit stand that closes at  21:00, but is still open. Buy a kilo of apples. Pay in exact change. Marie says thank you. 
21:10: Get to subway.  See that the B line is shut down for a span, including my spot. 
21:12: Go back up to the street. Pull out the GuiaT.
21:12-21:25: Look through GuiaT trying to figure it out. Lose my page. Several times. Figure out what bus I want. Watch it drive by without stopping. I must be at the wrong stop. Dinner starts in 5 minutes.
21:26: Flag a cab. Get hit on by cab driver who tells me I must be Brazilian. (Is my Spanish that bad?!)
21:37: Get to dinner. Everyone else is running late. No one is there. 
21:39-21:45: Everyone else arrives. Why didn’t I text? …I had no carga. 
21:45-23:36: Dinner. Pizza. Jenga. Beer. Spanish Practice. Jokes and stories. 
23:37: Ask for check. Everyone has only 100s to pay.  
23:40: Finally leave bar. Say I’m taking the bus,  but realize I have no money on my monedero or any small coins. Martín is taking a taxi, says I should just join. We argue and discuss and get distracted. 
23:45: Everyone gets in a taxi 
00:02: Get dropped off at the YPF Gas Station. Try to buy phone carga. They are out of carga, try tomorrow. 
00:07: Get home. Room is still a mess. French roommates are having a loud French party in a fog of cigarette smoke. Politely pass. Clean room in a moment of inspiration. Decide to check my email. And facebook….and tumblr….and lose an hour.
01:04: PJs on. Aaaand sleep.  Start again tomorrow. 

20/20: Things I'll Tell Myself for the Next Time

I found the fellowship a lot more challenging than I expected. In way I never expected. Some thoughts if I were to do it again. 

7:30 is a good time to wake up. 
Mourning routine. 
Set daily goals.
Set monthly goals. 
Shoot for them.

Time management. Time management. Time management. 
Time management. 
(What does that even mean? As if time allows itself to be manage.)

Send more postcards. 
Talk more walks. 

Don’t bother asking for permission. 
Trust how you spend your time. 
It’s never gonna be the same. 

Don’t spend so much time staying in touch. They’ll be there when you get back. 
People for the most part, are generally good. Stop being afraid of them. 

The hardest things aren’t the things you see coming.
In fact, the most important things aren’t the ones you see coming either.
You don’t even know. You won’t be able to guess. You could never imagine.
And if you could what a limited and boring world it would be.  

When there are no worries about time nor money, thoughts turn existential. Steel yourself.  It gets heavy. 
There will be lonely days. 
Figure out your demons. Forget the things that aren’t your demons. 

The space between the plan and the reality can either be cause for disappointment or for learning. Pick learning. 

Never make the mistake of thinking this, or anything, will last forever.  
Especially when you’re down.

You have your own personal relationship with everyone you come across- the city, the people, tango, writing, a fellowship. Embrace that relationship instead of trying to mold it to what you think it “should” be. 
Accept it. Fight to accept it all. That’s your demon.