Having hit an administrative snag in the process of starting my new job, I find myself with some unexpected time on my hands. Ample opportunity to put my spreadsheet handiwork from when I was in London to good use then. Sourced from the Facebook Buenos Aires expat group, Inter Nations (an expat website) and friends of friends, I created the spreadsheet to arm me with an arsenal of contacts for when I arrived. Since then, I have simply been getting in touch with lots of people and saying ‘Sí’ to everything – its effect enlightening. Things I have learnt so far include:
– Learning a new language is mentally exhausting. I was recommended a local Spanish teacher through an online forum, and happily it turns out that she is brilliant. Last week therefore was built around three hours of one-to-one Spanish lessons with her each day. Still trying to master the past tense (Indefinido v. Imperfecto) among other aspects, I was so worn out that I had to nap after my final ninety-minute session on Friday afternoon.
Three or four days into my residency in Palermo, I had taken the plunge and requested of my landlady that we only converse in her language. Combined with the fact that around 25% of the texts I send are in Spanish now, this approximates learning by immersion I suppose. Fingers crossed it pays off in due course.
– Puto can be a term of endearment too. Although considered to be the worst insult in Argentina, the meaning of the masculine variant of puta is determined by its delivery.
When asked at short notice by my new boss to play in the work football mini-league I jumped at the chance. Scoring a couple, I seemed to make a good impression during a game punctuated by the P-word. My reward at the end? A big smile, embrace and genuine warmth from one of the best players on the pitch: ‘You did a good game puto, we want you to play for us every week!’ Suffice to say, I won’t be attempting the word in either context quite yet.
– Supermarkets are expensive here. This naturally follows, as consumer prices have risen more than 15% in the first eight months of this year alone and are forecast to end the year easily in excess of 20% (versus 40% for 2016).
As we enter barbeque season, my solution to this problem has been to network for rooftop asados. The bigger the group, the greater the economies of scale from our pooled resources. One sitting easily provides enough sustenance for the day in this heat, although having water to hand throughout is advisable. Highlights from these asados include a first dalliance with a prospective Maria, and a possible opening as a house-sitter in Recoleta for three months.
– When in Argentina, attend the polo. Rather than an asado or over-priced staple from nearby supermarket Día, Saturday night was a French cuisine dinner party. An eclectic mix of locals and expats included a flamboyant French-Argentine gentleman and his wife who clearly ran to Argentinian time, arriving as the desserts came out. Nonetheless they were great value, and on hearing that I was English both insisted that I attend the Palermo Polo Club for tomorrow’s tournament.
Mixing it with high society, the three of us watched as Argentina’s elite players (many of whom were playing at the maximum handicap of 10 goals) and guest millionaire patrons jostled for supremacy on the finest bred equines. Refereed by two men on horseback clad in lollipop lady yellow, some of the play on display was incredible. Literally end-to-end, as the unguarded target posts alternate after each goal, the games were a fantastic spectacle of freneticism.
In polo those that can most quickly and positively change direction in pursuit of the best play thrive. A metaphor for what I am trying to achieve in Argentina, often the fine line between success and failure simply hinges on one word.