Last week presented the first real opportunity for homesickness to creep in – my birthday. No matter though, such is my feeling of residence here already. That’s now a government-approved feeling too, after my certificate of precarious residence was issued on the doorstep by a policeman. Incidentally the procedure involved me answering the door of the address I had supplied, with a form of ID, and that was apparently sufficient. Naturally I marked this somewhat strange occasion with a birthday Quilmes on the balcony, overlooking the trendy Palermo bars below.
A very understated birthday this year, the morning entailed the exchange of a few calls/texts/emails after a lazy start to the day. Communications were by no means confined to Blighty however, as new Argentinian friends and my boss got in touch, whilst my new work colleagues added me to the team WhatsApp group – the ultimate acceptance – and many a ‘Feliz Cumpleaños!’ was wished.
As well as the easy temperament of the porteños, another reason I feel so settled in my new life here is because of where I am staying. I chose an Airbnb apartment in Palermo for my first week in Argentina as it looked quaint yet homely, with easygoing cats a feature too. A few extensions later, by the time I move into the Recoleta apartment (to house-sit for three months) I will have been here for a month.
A city of animal lovers, the roads and green spaces of Buenos Aires are patrolled by professional dog-walkers. Complicated road crossings can be all the more so if you get wrapped in one of ten or so clustered leashes, as I discovered in Colegiales last week. However large the pack, each dog is always immaculately turned out. Carefully selecting a suitable walker is not a job taken lightly by doting owners either, as there is an array of professionals with different selling points to choose from.
Meanwhile the domesticated felines of the population live a pretty nice life too. Lounging in the sun and picking at nibbles throughout the day like a Mediterranean retiree, there’s a lot to be said for being a cat in Buenos Aires. Unlike many mercenary cats elsewhere, the male cats (gatos; not to be confused with gatas) in this apartment come as a pair. They eat together, mirror each other’s pussyfooting, and often just settle and take stock in shared reflection from a joint spot in the flat, wherever it may be.
Although it was enticing, I was keen not to drift into their vacuum of luxurious nothingness over the public holiday weekend. Instead, I met up with a new Irish expat friend at his local in San Telmo on the Saturday, before going on a date with an Ecuadoriana on the Sunday. Although I’m not sure how much the would-be Maria enjoyed it, she demonstrated great patience as I trawled through my limited Spanish repertoire for five or so hours to keep her company.
Waiting to meet a friend who is in town from London with work, I peer out at the grey clouds and watch the rain descend, sat with the equally nonplussed pusses. After more than two weeks of sustained glorious sunshine, right on cue the downpour comes without relent on the bank holiday. Outdoor plans forcibly shelved, seemingly the only logical solution for the locals is to seek refuge in nearby watering holes and wait for further instruction from above. A home from home, perhaps Argentina isn’t so different from England after all.