Vagablogging Field Report: root canals and remains in Buenos Aires
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Yesterday, my boyfriend Steve and I went to Recoleta cemetery, which was one of the most elaborate monuments to the dead we have ever seen. It’s a maze of statues and mausoleums paying homage to the city’s wealthiest families. Some are the size of small houses, with stairs leading underground to a basement of ancestors. Our favourites were graves, weathered by time, where vines and grasses had staked their claim. There were many cats, which made us ponder the old wive’s tale that cats have a foot in both this world and the next.
Describe a typical day:
This was my last week in Buenos Aires so instead of whiling away days working in cafes and saying “I can do that next week”, it was time to see the things I wanted to before saying goodbye. Steve and I aren’t very good tourists so we could have seen much more than we did, but we prefer to do what we feel like doing rather than what we think we should. That said, we enjoyed exploring some of the ‘must-sees’ including Recoleta, San Telmo Market and a tango lesson at the ramshackle La Catedral. One sight we could have done without was La Boca, a small enclave that has been preserved to look like old Buenos Aires with pretty coloured houses and people dancing the tango. Unfortunately, the area was so artificial and touristy that seeing a photo was as good as the real thing.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
Buenos Aires isn’t a very environmentally-conscious city so I was happy to meet some people who are encouraging the city in that direction. I was invited to the agricultural university by a fellow couchsurfer who studies organic farming. He gave me a tour of a huge allotment that he and a team have developed to provide food for the university’s students. They grow, prepare and sell all the food on campus, providing a sustainable lunch option. Volunteers from outside the university are also welcome to help on the farm.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
After stepping in dog poo for the umpteenth time, I can definitely say the proliferation of it on the streets of BA is one of my least favourite things about the city. It will be a great day when BA introduces poo bins.On a less smelly note, I love the people of Buenos Aires. Nearly everyone I met, from taxi drivers to my yoga teacher went out of their way to make me welcome. “Just let me know if there is anything I can do to help,” is a popular phrase.
Describe a challenge you faced:
Last week I started to get a toothache. I brushed it aside as a “bit of sensitivity” for as long as I could until I eventually conceded I had better go to the dentist to get it checked out. It was quite a novelty visiting the foreign surgery complete with trashy daytime TV, and then being treated by a dentist who looked like he’d stepped right out of a telenovela (Portenos tend to be very well polished, beautiful people). But then things took a terrible turn and I was told my tooth was infected and I needed emergency root canal surgery. Five hours in the dentist chair over two days would be a challenge anywhere in the world, and it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I was lucky to be in a modern city with excellent dental care. It was tricky not knowing what was being said as the dentist and his assistant chattered in quick-speed Spanish over my clamped-open mouth, but perhaps I was saved the torture of words like drill, needles and file. Now I have a brand new porcelain tooth, which I managed to resist having painted with a Wedgwood-style pattern.
What new lesson did you learn?
I learned the importance of checking your travel insurance documents as mine doesn’t completely cover the cost of my root canal. I would have had to pay in the UK too though so it’s not a huge loss.
I’m writing this on the plane to El Calafate in Patagonia where we are going to see Perito Moreno glacier. I was completely dazzled the first time I saw a picture of the blue-hued ice giant so to be seeing it for real is a dream. After that, we will be doing some hiking in El Chalten and then heading to Puerto Madryn to hopefully see some whales. If you’re interested, you can follow our journey on our blog Bridges and Balloons.