Monday, April 12, 2004

On Sunday I had perused the paper and was ready to start the day making phone calls to the various apartments I had seen that fit into what I wanted. I quickly found that the process was going to be much more difficult than I thought.

There is something here called a garante, or gaurantee that one must acquire in order to rent an apartment. That is, you must show you have a job or assets that amount to enough to cover you in the incident you can't pay rent. On top of that, they still require a security deposit. Many people here, especially the young ones, don't have a "garante" and therefore must get a parent to "cosign" for them. Well, this can also be a problem, so many realators take people "sin garante", or without garante. Well, atleast that is what it says in the paper...but later you learn that means you pay a considerable fee (that can exceed the amount of one month's rent) to them and they provide a garante for you. Essentially, they are getting money hand over fist for doing absolutely nothing. And the rich get richer.

Now, before making my calls this day, I didn't really know all this information and it took me several calls to learn and understand just what I needed. The people I spoke to on the phone were incredible rude...doing nothing but blurting out their address and where there office was and then literally hanging up the phone. There were not helpful in anyway, shape or form and I was incredibly annoyed.

Anyway, seeing as I don't know how long I'll be here, there is no way I want to pay this "garanane", plus a security deposit, plus a first months rent all up front...especially if I end up staying here for only a month...so the route I needed to take was to find a special deal, or find someone who was looking for a roomate. I figured that maybe the realty offices might have some sort of "searching for roomate" list so I that was what my plan was to do. I had had it with the phone calls and realized I would get absolutely nothing done that way. The problem is, the one person that I did actually get a chance to talk to could only meet me around 4 p.m...which gave me a good chunk of the afternoon to kill.

I ended up going to an internet place in the centro and spent a bunch of time working on getting my camera empty and trying to put pictures up on my website. I was making good headway, and was in no mood to deal with the realty folks, so I ended up staying at the internet place all day.

On the way home, I passed a cinema that was showing "Monster", the Charlize Theron movie I had heard so much about, so I decided to check it out. Wow! She does do an amazing job, as does Christina Ricci in that movie. It was a slightly disturbing movie to say the least. A warning to anyone seeing that movie that is on the edge mentally...it might push you over!

Anyway, back at the hostel it was an uneventful night. I read and worked on journals and hit the sack.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Ahhhh...a new day! I got up rather early with renewed vigor to get out there and try to find a place to live. Staying in the hostel is fantastic but it's way too expensive and of course, staying in a hostel doesn't teach much about living in a city. It's a much different world.

I got some breakfast and was ready to rock. This time I figured I would try to target people who were renting rooms in a hotel (fairly common here). One of the first few places I called told me they had a room available. I set up an appointment to check it out. I would later learn that these types of places are abundant, but finding a good one that has a room available is very difficult. At that moment though I didn't know why most of the places I called didn't have rooms.

Back in the hostel, I talked to Mercedes who works at the reception. She is a really cool girl, very friendly, and actually pretty cute. Anyway, she's looking for a place too so she has been helping me out a little. She found a student residence for me that was close to the hotel I was going to so I marked it down and headed out to check them out.

First I went to see the room that I had called about earlier. The room was cheap and rightfully so...it was small, dirty and the hotel was shady to say the least. I realized that my search was going to require some serious patience. I walked about 20 blocks to the student residence Mercedes had told me about. Along the way there were many places that had signs for room to rent, but every single place I stopped at didn't have anything available. At the student residence, nobody answered, so I headed back to the hostel downtrodden.

On the upside, when I got back, I caught Seinfeld on TV. After a nap and some time working on journals I ran into Fiona/Australia in the hostel common area. She was in the midst of quite a crisis...she had checked her bank account and had found two charges totalling almoste $3000 USD that had mysteriously been charged on her account. She told me she had never let the card out of her sight and only used it to get cash and once to buy plane tickets. She had no clue how they did it, but it's a good reminder of how rampant credit card fraud is down here and let's you know it can happen. Anyway, she's talked with the bank and getting it taken care of...but it will be a process that will take weeks and requires tons of paperwork.

I decided that she was definitely in need of a beer after the trying day she had gone through...so we went to Gibraltar for a beer. I also ate dinner there which I only mention because it was easily the best meal I've eaten since I got here! You wouldn't think that small bar had such a great kitchen, but I gave it my highest marks.

Anyway, after a therapuetic beer we called it an early night and headed back to the hostel.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Today was one of serious frustration...one of those ones that make you question if you want to stay in a place or not. It wasn't that any one thing so horrible happened, it was more like a number of little things kept reminding me that it's tough getting used to a new place and the way things are done.

After having no luck the previous day and getting a little discouraged, I got up early with renewed vigor and was determined to find a place to live. I had a new section of the classifieds and I was going to sit there and make calls and set up appointments for places to check out throughout the day. From the start Buenos Aires got the upper hand though because when I walked out of my room in the hostel I realized that it was raining cats and dogs outside. That might make it a little difficult to walk around the city trying to look at apartments. No matter...I had time because I was going to the locutorio first to make phone calls...perhaps it wouldn't be raining later.

I spent about an hour calling every place that I had circled the night before. After several "it's already rented", "you have to sign a year contract", and "you need a 'garante' I ended up exactly where I started...with nothing. Zilch. Not even a place I could go look at. Arrrrrrr. It was still raining pretty hard anyway so I would have had to wait out the rain anyway.

I had a few places on my list that I didn't call because I wanted to look on a map and see where they were first so I went back to the hostel to look at the map and talk to Mercedes, the awesome girl who works at the reception. She had helped me a little the previous day...plus I had some questions about how the "garante" process worked. She actually helped me out more than I imagined. Since she is also looking for a place to live, she had written down a bunch of places to call and brought them to work with her. We spent some time calling a few but still ended up with nothing for me. It looks more and more like I'm going to have to just get a small room in hotel or something or maybe even live with a family...which is not something I'm interested in for several reasons.

Anyway, I was ready for a break from all the phone calls so I decided to head to the internet place to finish working on the pictures that I was trying to get posted on the website. I was there for several hours and actually got everything up to date and made some changes on the site...that was really the only part of the day that was actually productive...and since it pretty muched poured the whole afternoon I didn't feel too bad about spending the day at the computer.

Back at the hostel I ate an early dinner and talked with a couple people. Of course, the first question out of everyone's mouths is "How's the apartment hunting going?" I went up to my room to and Fiona/Australia was there working on her Spanish homework. I helped her out with that and it was pretty fun actually. It's strange, I don't really remember ever having to "think" about the endings for past tense of regular verbs but I'm sure I did. I've certainly come a long way.

I wanted to go to this place that Anthony and I had been to a few weeks before called "Museum". It's near the hostel and early on they have pretty good specials and a cool show on the stage. So it was really early but I wanted to go just for a couple hours before going out. Yulon, Jose, and a new Korean girl in our room decided they would go with me.

We walked the short 4 blocks in the driving rain, attempting to stay as dry as possible. When we got to the place, they wouldn't let us in. Maybe it was how I was dressed, maybe it was the way I look, but either way I'm getting sick of the pretentiousness of this city. It's really frustrating the hell out of me. There is something interesting about it though. I would say that Houston is about as pretentious as any city could be. I mean, we're talking about a city where every fifth car is a Beamer or Benz and with valet parking at the freakin' movie theatre...but somehow those things didn't bother me there. I never cared that the clubs had rather strict dress codes or that some places were choosy about who got in or not. Perhaps that's because it was never a problem for me there...I was part of that "fashionable" crowd that always knew the hot spots, knew people who worked in places, and got in right away. I guess after spending a year in Brazil I've changed considerably. I've just become far less image concious. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, I think that people should take a little pride and care in how they carry themselves, but on the other hand, they shouldn't be judged by whether or not their shirt has a collar on it. Like that somehow makes them worthy of respect or something.

This was the second time I didn't get into a club in this city and the second time I was pretty pissed about it. Those kind of things make you not want to stick around if you are a tourist and reflect very negatively on the people of a city and a country. But I think back to my first months in SP and I remember going through those same frustrations. I remember wishing I was back in the north of Brazil and I longed for the warmth of those people. But it just took time. It took awhile to find my niche and my way in the city. I've been here in BA for about 2 weeks total at this point. I think it's a little early to be judging it, but I can't say that I won't be frustrated at times. Maybe BA will win and I'll leave in a week or two (especially if I can't get work or an apartment) but for now...I'm sticking it out. I want to see what this place has to offer.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Tracy/Australia got back to the hostel yesterday. She had left for a few days to hit the beach a little to get a pseudo tan before heading back to Spain (via Las Vegas). It was good to see her back...her mere prescence brings energy into the hostel. Anyway, this would be her last night in the hostel so it was cause for a good send off celebration. I was definitely game to go out since I hadn't done much the previous couple days and had only been marred in the frustrations of trying to find an apartment.

I had talked to Andrea/BA and she mentioned a place called "Maluca Belleza" that plays Brazilian music. We spent most of the evening drinking in our room in the hostel and then a huge group from the hostel went to the club. It was decent, but only played Pagode and Axe (certain style of Brazilian music) most of the night. It seems this music is much more popular amoung the young people in Argentina than it is in Brazil (well, in SP anyway). Everybody in the club had all these line dances they were doing to the songs...which made it sort of lame if you didn't know the songs or the dances. Anyway, it was still a decent night.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The hostel has a huge group of university students coming in for the weekend...something like 80 people, so we had to change rooms in the hostel. I was lucky, they made a lot of people leave the hostel...but a choice few of us who have been here awhile got to stay...although they stuck us in a room way up on the top floor where the elevator doesn't reach, which translates into a considerable amount of trapsing up and down the stairs. That's all good though, I can definitely use the exercise.

Tracy left that evening which was a little sad. She's a great girl and hopefully I'll be seeing her sometime next year in Ibiza.

That night Chris/Denver came to the hostel for a few beers and then he and I went out to Plaza Serrano. We were both pretty low in energy but still managed to have a cool night. We ended up meeting this group of girls from BA that were really nice. One of them was Romina but I don't remember the names of the other two...we all exchanged numbers and made plans to hang out the next week.

Note: We eventually saw them about 2 weeks later...a comical evening that doesn't warrant details, but I want to make this note to remind myself of the story. In short, they picked us up in Recoleta, drove us to Las Canitas where we went to some salsa place...a drunken/humoress turn of events led to us ditching them and going home.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

A new girl, Brianna/Australia showed up in the hostel today and moved into our room. I swear that my life is being taken over by Aussies...but I certainly have no problem with that. After I met her, something definitely clicked with us...atleast I thought so anyway. I seriously have a little thing for Aussies. Anyway, Anthony finally got back from Chile that day so I invited her to go meet up with him at his hotel. We went there and he showed us his amazing pictures from Chile. I have got to go up there when I leave here.

Afterwards, we went down to the centro for some food and had a couple beers. It was a great time and I was glad to see Anthony again and catch up. Brianne left early, but said she might be down for going out with us that night.

Anthony and I headed back to his hotel and had a couple beers. After we went to the hostel, where Chris eventually came and met up with us. We ended up going out to the Salsa club that I had accidentally discovered on my way home last week. It was pretty fun there but eventually it got pretty packed. I guess I was either too drunk or too tired (probably both) because at the end of the night I ended up falling asleep on the bar for a little while...which is pretty funny because the place was completely full and nobody woke me up and they didn't try to kick me out. Anthony had some pretty funny pictures of it that I saw the next day.

Anyway, after my nap, I hung out for a little longer and then headed back to the hostel around 5. The party was going pretty strong there. Brianna and this Israeli guy were playing chess on one of those little mini travel chess sets. I was drunkenly giving them advice on moves which is also funny because I suck at chess. I eventually decided that the only place I should be is in bed.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I woke up pretty late around 1. I ended up talking with Brianna the entire afternoon and found myself more enamoured with her the more we talked. It was a funny few hours. It turned out that after her chess game the previous night, she had lost one of the pieces (a pawn). As I mentioned, the pieces were quite small and virtually impossible to find if you lost one, especially in a drunken stupor. Anyway, it's a strange story, but she eventually ended up making a new pawn out of the head of a Q-tip...shaping it almost identically to the small carved wooden pieces, using coat after coat of fingernail polish to harden it and shape it correctly. It sounds ridiculous but here was the thing that impressed me about it (besides the fact that it looked identical to the actual pieces): she had started out on the whole thing with no intention of getting so serious about it, but it became a challenge. She was not willing to give up something she had started and wanted it to be as perfect as possible. I have a similar quality in that if there is sort of a problem or challenge presented to me, no matter how unimportant, I can't rest until it's finished/solved. I'm the type who gets a question in his mind and will not rest unilI get some sort of satisfactory answer. She had that same quality in her and I found it incredibly attractive...even though the whole thing of this small pawn was pretty insignificant, the afternoon gave me window into her personality that I really liked. I don't find myself geniunely attracted to many girls (I'm not talking about in the superficial "man" sense here...that happens all the time) so I guess I pause when it happens. It was hilarious because after she spent like 3 hours trying to make this pawn, I found the piece she had lost on the floor!

Anyway, the previous day, Anthony, Chris and I had talked about trying to hit a soccer game that afternoon...but obviously that idea got scraped. Anthony came to the hostel around 4 and we walked down to the San Telmo Market. It wasn't too eventful...we got lunch on a cool balcony with a great view...which was the only good thing about the place. The food was horrible.

After our uneventful lunch, we walked to the Centro so Anthony could make a couple of last purchases. It was going to be his last night in Buenos Aires. The next day, he was headed to Florianapolis. I sucked for me because it had been cool having him around...but I think leaving was probably tougher on him...which I'll get to in a second.

After the centro we went back to his hotel, had a few beers and talked and looked at pictures. Sundays are pretty dead so we didn't think we'd find much going on. We went to Kilkenny, which actually had a decent crowd, but not much was happening. After that we headed to Recoleta and ended up at this place called Sahara. I remembered that when I was here in 2002 that they had a pretty happenin' Sunday night. It was true, we had a pretty good time there...dancing until around 5 before heading back to the hostel. We ended up just shooting pool and chatting for a few hours until the sun came up, and all and all, it was a cool way to spend our last hours together.

There is something important I want to say about Anthony's time here in BA that is a little tough to talk about, but I want to remember my feelings on the issue...especially since it is having a heavy effect on me at the moment. In a financial sense, things are pretty tough on me right now and probably will be for some time (including whenever I go back to the US). I've always known it would be that way since I left, but for some reason I've been stressing more about it lately. It really hit home when Anthony was here because he could really do whatever he wanted...throw cash around, fly places for the weekend, I mean just money to burn. I was a bit jealous of that. Of course, he was in a different situation since he was traveling for a short while, but I was thinking a lot about which way would be better...or who I would rather be I guess. Lot of time and little money or little time and a lot of money. That always seems to be the problem in life...you can't ever have both at the same time. Now, Anthony did have 3 months which is still pretty good and he was in an extraordinary circumstance to even have that much time. But still, I was just thinking how nice it would be...and I really wanted to be in his shoes, if nothing, just for a little while. But then there is that enormous trade off...time is not something that we can have back. Fortunes are made and lost everyday. I certainly wouldn't trade all I've done in the past 15 months. I guess it just makes me realize that I still think about money too, and although it probably doesn't hold as high an importance to me as many others...I must sadly admit that perhaps it's still a little higher on the list than I would like to believe

I guess it wasn't until this night...his last one here, that I started to see the light again though. It had come time for him to leave, and I saw that look in his eye, and just from the conversations we had...he was pretty torn up about having to leave Buenos Aires behind. I am the lucky one afterall I guess. I just sort of forgot for a little while. I mean, this is the only option for me if I want to do this so that is how it's got to be. I guess I sort of feel like this is the worst off I've been (financially) for such a long time and just gets to me sometimes. Here in BA, almost every foreigner I meet is here for vacation or for foreign exchange so that don't really have that problem so it is little embarassing/annoying when everybody is sitting around talking about how cheap everything is (and trust me, it happens A LOT). I could tell Anthony felt bad for me sometimes because when people would say that he would defend me right away before I would even say anything. He paid for a lot of things too while he was here which was really nice of him and I appreciated more than I could express. He even told me one night how he couldn't believe my conviction in wanting to keep going and how I had given up way more than he ever would. It touched me really...to know how much he gets it and understands me. Having that around for the past few weeks has been invaluable, and I thank Anthony for our great time together in BA. It forced me to appreciate what I have a little more. As far as my situation goes, things might get harder before they get easier, but I guess that's part of what this journey is about for me...I just have to keep going.

Anthony finally left around 7:30...safe travels my friend.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I woke up surprisingly early, which was good because Mercedes had given me a heads up on another apartment to check out. It was a little far away in an area called Belgrano, but worth a look. I called the number I had and ended up talking to the aunt of the guy who lives in the apartment. She lives across the hall and takes care of things while he's at work all day. I told her I'd come by to see the place after lunch.

When I got to the apartment, I was pretty impressed. It was indeed a long way from the centro, but it was clean and pretty nice...the only huge downside was that it was a one bedroom place and there would be three of us. I decided that I didn't have much choice though...I couldn't afford to keep living in the hostel, so I figured I'd give it a shot for a month, but continue looking for something else. Hell, I don't even know if I'll stay in Buenos Aires that long at this point. It's expensive here so if I can't find something right away, I might head for Cordoba. I've heard a lot of good things about it.

Anyway, Regina told me to return that night to meet the two guys who live there...but I had pretty much decided I would stay there.

That night I met Daniel and Fabian, who seemed like okay guys. They are from a small town in northern Argentina...I don't think they have too much experience with foreigners. It'll be interesting to see how things pan out. Anyway, I told them I'd be moving in the next day and that was that. On the way back to the hostel, I stopped in Recoleta at a bar to watch the Lakers game. The bar was pretty empty so I ended up talking to the people who work there quite a bit. It seemed like a cool place and they told me that it turns into a club on the weekends at night. I don't much like the bars in Recoleta though...they seem to be far too geared towards tourists and the prices are easily double of most places I've been too. There are many places right next to each other so when you walk down the sidewalk they have people harrassing you trying to get you to go into their restaurant. It reminds me of the boardwalk in Natal.

Went back after the game and crashed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I woke up in the morning, and once again, went through the ritual of packing up my bag and not knowing when the next time I would have to do it would be. It didn't seem as exciting this time...I guess because of my uncertainty of how long I'll be in BA. Still though, it is certainly the beginning of another great chapter in my adventure.

AC

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