Sometimes I walk just to explore, but usually I’m looking for something very specific that is hard to describe.
Often I look for a coffeeshop. They are incredibly easy to find. But I’m never looking for just a coffeeshop. I’m looking for: a coffeeshop with Wi-Fi that is not Starbucks or Peet’s, has baristas that won’t get mad if I stay for three hours, stylish, not too crowded, not too quiet, fair-trade, organic coffee preferred. I also don’t like places that serve espresso drinks in to-go cups.
Sometimes I think I maintain so many requirements just to give me an excuse to explore Berkeley or SF or Buenos Aires, whatever city I’m in. So sometimes I never find what I’m looking for, but that’s okay. This is why I walk a lot alone.
I landed in Buenos Aires on Sunday, January 29 at about 10am and arrived at my hostel in the city center around 2pm. It was sweltering and humid, and I was happy to get inside the building of my hostel. The first apartment I entered was a volunteer house (I missed the sign on the front door “THIS IS NOT A HOSTEL”), the apartment next door was part of my hostel but with no receptionist. I waited there for about fifteen minutes before some guy that was smoking a cigarette and Skyping with his mom in Spanish told me and the girl next to me that we were supposed to go to the sixth floor. We dragged our luggage upstairs, only to be told that my reservation was for the first floor, not the sixth. I finally got to the first floor, put my things in my room, and then went to the roof.
Hostel Estoril takes up two floors (at least) in the building, and all of the residents have access to the roof. It looks like this:
There was no one on the roof so I went for a walk.
I’m a Geography major. When I tell people this, they usually assume I that I am: a) learning how to make maps or b) memorizing the locations of every country in the world. Thankfully, my major involves neither because if it did, I’d be failing miserably. I get lost a lot. I have a horrible sense of direction. But I also hate to walk down the same street that I’ve just walked, because why do that when you can see more things on the parallel street a block over? So when I get a little lost, I don’t turn around. I just keep walking.
This is good because I rarely look like l’m lost and I get to see lots of different things. It’s bad when streets are topsy-turvy and don’t run exactly parallel/perpendicular to each other.
I left the hostel to go exchange some cash, but when I got to the intercambio they told me I needed my passport. Since I don’t like to walk down the same streets, instead of walking straight back to the hostel to get my passport, I went for a walk.
I ended up walking from the center of the city to a mall called Alto Palermo. I remembered from the short orientation that the hostel’s receptionista gave me that the mall in Palermo was quite far from our hostel.
This far, actually:
I wasn’t tired of walking, but I was tired of being lost. I asked a guy at a kiosco (like small 7-11’s that are all over the city) how to get back to Avenida de Mayo, and he told me I’d have to take the subte, or subway.
I went to the subte and studied the map a bit. It’s very easy to use, and even though I had to make a transfer to get to where I was going, I understood how to use it. I’ve taken BART enough times to know how to read a subway map. As I was looking at the map, an old man around 65 or 70 years old came over to me, smiling, and showed me where I needed to transfer. I already knew but I was thankful for a friendly face and some eye contact, which I hadn’t gotten much of all day. I asked him in Spanish if I would need more than one ticket and he said no, but as we were talking our train arrived and he swiped me in so I didn’t have to buy one.
He started talking to me on the train, and asked what language I spoke. I told him and we continued talking in English, him leaning in so he could hear me. I told him about San Jose, like I always do when I’m talking to strangers on public transportation. I told him I was in Buenos AIres to study Spanish, and he told me, “First it will be hard, and then it will get easier.”
Seats opened up and I sat down, and he sat down too, reading Camus.
When I got back to the hostel I realized my wallet was gone.
I thought back to when I had last had it– the subte. I had taken it out to buy a ticket and then put it back in my purse when I got on the train. The entire scene came rushing back in 20/20 hindsight. The way the old man’s face lit up when he saw me looking at the subway map. The way he leaned in as if he couldn’t hear me. And “first it will be hard…” Sly fucker. I realized I had just gotten worked.
I emailed my parents and went to sleep early. ¡Bienvenidos a Buenos Aires!
This is the first thing I wrote in my journal when I got to Buenos Aires:
Jan. 30, 2012, Buenos Aires, AR:
It is hot and drizzling. When I walk outside the airport it smells like cologne and cigarettes in the best way, like a new boyfriend (not the old one’s musty jacket). I am on the bus and am not quite sure how or when it will arrive at my hostel, or even if my hostel cancelled my reservation because I am late, but I am accompanied by my unbounded positivity and faith in others. Faith is a great travel companion (faith, not naïveté).