We had a five hour tour – a five hour tour – of the city yesterday and today our first class. So, we’re well underway. On Sunday, the first group of students had their orientation while a second group had theirs before the tour yesterday. Why two groups for orientation? A failure to communicate. The Sunday orientation was set for 4pm and I was told to be sure the students were there by that time. So, I casually told them “You have to be in Buenos Aires for orientation by 4pm.”
You see the problem?
I, being a wise and well traveled man, assumed if you knew you had to be somewhere in Buenos Aires at 4pm you’d arrive well before that. Okay, let’s face it: No, I wouldn’t. I’d do exactly what the students did which is to arrive before, but not long before, 4pm. Seven of our students booked arrivals ranging between 2pm and 4pm. Ezeiza, the international airport in Buenos Aires, is on the southwestern fringe of the city, about an hour by taxi from the university. Moreover, if you’ve traveled internationally at all, you know that you can’t rely on passing through customs and immigration quickly. Add that to collecting bags, finding transport, etc. and someone arriving at 2pm is never going to make a 4pm appointment at the university.
Nor, it goes without saying, is someone arriving at 3:55pm. Teachers will appreciate that one. The student met the technical demands of my sentence. They arrived in Buenos Aires before 4pm. Sigh.
Anyway, it was felt that we should do orientation for the early arrivals on Sunday so that no one went out in the city that night and got themselves mugged. Connoisseurs of bureaucracy will understand why that is. At some point, an international student visiting the university got themselves mugged before an appropriate orientation and, more importantly, signing the form indicating they’d been warned about the thieving thieves.
It worked out. Everyone got oriented, signs got formed and we headed out for a guided tour of the city after an excellent lunch. Were we mugged? No. I’ve yet to feel unsafe in Buenos Aires though I haven’t yet attempted public transportation (scheduled for Thursday) nor have I walked anywhere that wasn’t very close to my apartment or between here and the school. Mary has wandered farther than me and is smaller, and a woman, so might be expected to have experienced more danger. She, too, reports no worries.
Basically, the gist of the place is that, except for a few very bad neighborhoods a visitor (or resident, for that matter) is at very low risk of violent assault and very high risk of theft of opportunity: A phone ripped out of one’s hands, a purse snatched, a wallet lifted. As potentially liable parties often do, a scarier picture is painted to keep everyone on their toes. iPhones cannot, legally, be purchased in Argentina so they’re highly sought after. Pickpockets abound here as in any large city and tourists are a prime target. Basically, it’s like being in New York but you don’t speak the language or know the customs. There is a higher police presence on the street than in the USA but not quite as high as in Chile and they seem more laid back. They are certainly less powerfully armed than in Chile (or the USA).
In any case, I feel safe and I think the students are safe and they’ve certainly been warned. I’m sure we, the group, will lose some stuff and have some stuff stolen but I also believe they have pretty good heads on their shoulders.
We departed the university by bus and our tour guide pointed out that the barrio in which the university sits, Nunez, is very beautiful save for that terrible, ugly stadium. It turns out our guide follows Boca Juniors and our university sits just a couple of blocks from River Plate’s stadium. Don’t wear blue and yellow to class, kids.
I will, hopefully, write much more about Buenos Aires in the coming weeks. I’ll simply put up some photos today and caption them if I can remember what was up. Imagine doing a five hour tour of New York or Paris and consider how much you would retain. It was beautiful and interesting and they do like their statuary. The park system looks incredible and, from a simple drive by, rivals Hyde Park and, certainly, Central Park (the only two big urban parks I know well). We also took a guided tour of the Colon opera house and I was eager to see a show and then disappointed to learn they are off-season, it being late summer.
Captions below photos:
The patroness of Buenos Aires at a monastery in Recoleta.
At the cemetery in Recoleta. Recoleta is one of, if not the most, upscale barrios. The cemetery is incredible.
I can’t recall the names of these guys. The green monument is for a liberator originally from Ireland – quite a few were. The stone tomb is for a liberator who wished “to be buried under the Andes”. Rather than bury him under the Andes, as he wished, the family had a bunch of stone brought from the Andes to build his tomb. I want it noted here that I don’t want a bunch of legal interpretation of my last will and testament, okay? If I say I want to be buried in Hydro I don’t expect to be stuck in the cellar of a dam.
The first president elected after the junta. Our guide loved this guy as she said she was never sure she would be able to vote again.
Eva Peron’s tomb.
Estadio de Boca Juniors. Our guide stopped here for use to see la Boca and get some coffee. In the interest of equal time, I’ll get a photo up of River’s stadium soon.
Colon opera house.
Colon opera house.
Colon opera house.