Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

Unfinished post – Winding down

Monday, November 1st, 2010

This post is out of sequence as it didn’t quite get finished while I was in Buenos Aires. I wanted to do a review of my time there. I started to write it two weeks before coming home, added to it at one week to go, then one day before boarding my flight but was too busy to actually finish it. So finally, here it is, several weeks late and still incomplete but never mind.

*****

2 weeks from today I will be back in the UK. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here over 5 months, and very tempting not to go back at all. I’m making friends here and have settled into city living very easily. However there are sound financial reasons for going back and I’m looking forward to seeing my UK friends and dancing with them again – tango, modern jive and west coast swing.

Some of the milongas have gone a bit quiet again after lots of visitors went home after the festival in August. There is still an excess of leaders in most of them, but as we move into Spring the numbers will pick up again and the balance should improve. It’s a shame I’ll miss out but there’s no doubt I’ll be back here one day.

Coming to Buenos Aires for six months has been a Good Thing.

Back in April in this “Faffing around” post I laid out some objectives for this visit – improve my tango and learn some Spanish. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster on the tango front. My dancing has changed, improved. I’m feeling much more relaxed and my confidence has stepped up a few levels.  It got dented and knocked down a bit more than once but has ended up higher than when I arrived. Taking part in el campeonato was a surprise. Finishing not in last place was a decent achievement but secondary to the confidence boost gained simply by participating. My appreciation and feeling for the music has improved although I’m still not very good at identifying a lot of the orchestras. I rather like Biagi these days. DÁrienzo is now the guy I leave the floor for. And the milonga tandas. Although I have danced a few, and did dance one including “la milonga que faltaba” with Jo, which was another one of my objectives.

I did go to a Spanglish meeting, wasn’t impressed and didn’t go back. More recently I signed up for a “Spanish para extranjeros” course at Instituto de Enseñanza Superior en Lenguas Vivas “Juan Ramón Fernández”. There’s a blog post coming about that. My vocabulary has expanded but it hasn’t reached 1800 words. The blog posts entirely in Spanish objective quietly fell by the wayside. I have managed to get by but simply haven’t worked hard enough to reach the level I would have liked to. I can live with that.

On the exercise front I joined a gym just a block and a half away and I’ve averaged two visits a week. There were some weeks when I went four and even five times, and some – like when Sam and Jo were here, when I didn’t go at all. Gym membership wasn’t in my original budget and something had to give to make room for it. I couldn’t cut accommodation, food or tango, so out went medical insurance. A risk but it worked out OK.

I did a reasonable amount of sightseeing and took a lot of photos but didn’t venture outside of the city. Argentina is a huge country and I didn’t plan to visit anywhere outside of Buenos Aires before I arrived. The point of this trip was tango.  Everything else was secondary/optional/unimportant. I had a vague idea that I might go to Iguazu Falls but wasn’t prepared to pay to fly there, and wasn’t prepared to spend 16 hours on a bus each way. And I’ve seen plenty of other waterfalls. Iguazu might be bigger but they’re still just waterfalls and any photos wouldn’t really do them justice. The furthest I got from the city centre was an empanada cooking class in Adrogue.

I got to some milongas a fair way from the city centre including Sin Rumbo, Club Sunderland and La Baldosa. They were worth visiting once but too far to bother with on a short (say two week) visit or to go to more than once. Being a bit of a techie I kept a record of where I danced and when. In 174 nights I went to 141 milongas. Back in the UK and back at work it would probably take the best part of four years to go to that many milongas.

I read a lot of tango blogs and made lots of new international friends. Next time I’m in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Vancouver, Istanbul, Minneapolis, Marseille, Bergen, Denver, Napoli or Lecce among others I’ll have tango partners to look up. And next time I’m in Buenos Aires I’ll have Argentine and ex-pat friends to see and to dance with.

Yes, coming to Buenos Aires for six months has most definitely been a Good Thing.

*****

Que pasa

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

There’s not a lot for me to report on the tango front. The week before last I tried a new milonga for me – the Tuesday afternoon El Arranque at Salón La Argentina. I got there shortly after it opened, at about 3:30pm and stayed for about 4 hours. There weren’t many people there when I arrived but by 5pm there were about 100 people, with an excess of men. So rather more people than the Monday afternoon milonga at La Ideal. I was the only extranjero (foreigner) there and easily the youngest man in the room by at least 15 years. Some of the guys looked like they’d have difficulty walking without a zimmer frame, never mind dancing. A couple of the women were possibly in the same decade as me, the rest were at least a decade older. Despite those things, or maybe because of them, I danced all the tandas I wanted to.

The following night at Sueño Porteño I had something of an epiphany (in the feeling sense). It struck me that actually I don’t need to tango every day. This came as quite a surprise and I haven’t worked out all the ramifications yet. On the practical front it does mean I’ve only been out to dance 4 times since then including (another new one for me) the Nuevo Chiqué 1st anniversary milonga at Casa de Galicia. 3 of them were rather disappointing outings because my heart wasn’t in it, but last night at los Consagrados was good as usual.

There’s a photo from El Arranque and a few from Nuevo Chiqué in my Milongas set on Flickr.

I’ve had a few days out and about sightseeing. One was a wander around Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero. Plaza de Mayo houses many government buildings and the architecture is very grandiose and monumental. Puerto Madero is rather like London’s Docklands – a rejuvenation of the docks area into a luxury flats and fine dining complex complete with a single pylon suspension/swing bridge, La Puente de la Mujer. According to the designer it represents a couple dancing tango but I can’t really see it myself. Have a look at the photos in my Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero set and see if you can.

Another was a wander around Palermo and Recoleta, including the world famous Cementerio Recoleta. Having been before I didn’t need to track down the tombs of the rich and famous in general, or Eva Peron in particular. But it was a good excuse to take a few photos.

The third was a visit to Palacio Barolo in Avenida de Mayo. When it was built it was the tallest building in Buenos Aires, at 100m, and the views across the city from the lighthouse at the top are quite impressive. At the time of writing this post, their website is broken but you can read a bit more about the building and it’s history here and see some photos in my Palacio Barolo set at Flickr.

In a couple of weeks I will either have to go and sit in Migraciones all day and pay $300 (pesos not US dollars) to renew my visa, or take a boat trip across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. Spending the money on the boat trip sounds like the better option…

I’m making a bit of progress on the castellano front. Slow and not at all steady, but progress nonetheless.

A good week

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

On Monday I proclaimed I was on a roll. Things were going well and could only keep getting better. I walked up Av. Scalabrini Ortiz on Monday night to Salón Canning feeling cocky and pretty damn pleased with myself.

Expecting that it might be busy because of the bicentenary holiday weekend I had telephoned and made a reservation. When I arrived the host gave me a front row seat, although it was in a corner so not as good as it could have been. By about 00:30 the place was full, the first time I’ve seen it that busy since I arrived in April. There were lots of porteños and long term visitors in, very few obvious tourists. For the first 2 hours or so I had a really good time, my cabeceos were accepted and I danced reasonably well. The floor was never less than very crowded. There was the obligatory demonstration dance followed by the singing of the national anthem.

And then it was like someone had dropped Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility over me. After a couple of hours with no dancing I gave up and left.

I didn’t go out to dance on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday nights. On Wednesday I went to El Beso. It was a very quiet night, only about 50 people with a slight excess of leaders. It wasn’t a good night for me. I danced one tanda and then most of the rest of the night became an exercise in frustration. I danced just 3 tandas in total.

My private lesson on Thursday with Maya went well. Lots more milonga and a little bit of tango.

On Saturday night I went to Los Consagrados again. I arrived just after 7pm and was given a second row seat half way down the leaders side of the floor. The guy in front of me left before 8pm so I effectively had a front row seat for most of the night. In contrast to Wednesday night I danced almost every tanda. In the 4 hours from 7pm until 11pm I think I sat out about 3 tandas, in each case through choice. I even danced a reasonable milonga tanda which included my favourite “la milonga que faltaba”. A certain person will be delighted!

In other news, I had a little sight-seeing outing on Wednesday to Calle Lanin. In the Barracas barrio of Buenos Aires, Calle Lanin is a short street where the house fronts have been decorated with tile mosaics. They’re quite colourful but not really in the same league as Caminito in Boca. Or maybe they’re just in a different league. There are some pictures in my sightseeing and Calle Lanin sets at Flickr.

Most remarkable of all this week, I actually made a little bit of an effort on the castellano front. It’s somewhat overdue since I’m nearly 2 months in and only have 4 months left here, but better late than never.

So overall, a good week. 

It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the start of half-term. True to form the weather there wasn’t brilliant today. The forecasters predict better for Sunday and Monday, so for my friends back in the UK I hope they’re right.