First time in the Americas
Tanos «the Italians». Originally with a negative and derogatory meaning this word referred to the Italian immigrants in Argentina, today it’s a common appellation for the Italians or those with Italian origins.
Funny fact: the first Italians in Argentina were named Xeneixes by the locals and came from Genoa (north of Italy); only with the arrival of Italians from the south, and in particular from Naples, the actual “Tano” word started to be used: “soy napuli-tano” (I am neapolitan).
Among the languages I speak, Spanish was always my favorite one: when I was a kid my parents bought a collection of audio cassettes and booklets whose title translated in English would be “Spanish for everybody”, which included also a dictionary that I still have somewhere. I was middle school age and I used to have already English and French classes at school, but I had a strong desire to learn Spanish and those audio cassettes were the first contact between me and this amazing language.
In my high school curriculum it was foreseen the study of two main languages and another one starting by the 3rd year; luckily enough that 3rd language was Spanish.. You should have seen the smile on my face during the whole first lesson: I was in love! And already ahead of the schedule because I had learned by myself the basics that the professor was teaching.
Time went on and I never got tired of the musicality of that language, that in fact I chose as first one in my university curriculum, where I was also introduced to the South American varieties. It is exactly during these years that I started watching movies and TV series not only from Spain but also from Argentina, learning the different sound of the language, the different words and the amazing culture. The fascination for Argentina was so strong that I decided to spend three months there after my degree (in the end I stayed shorter, but later I’ll tell you why).
I flew to Buenos Aires beginning of September 2013 and Spring was going to start soon – my favorite season ever and I think also a great time to visit. My mother got the contact of a Residencia where I could stay for free by working a certain amount of hours per day, so once landed in Ezeiza Airport I took a remis (a private car with driver, basically) and went to the residence.
The deal was: you work in one of our structures, we give you room and board; if you work some more hours you also get some money. At the beginning I worked those hours more to earn some money, but when I realized that I wanted more free time to enjoy mi Buenos Aires querido*, I changed to the no money-deal and I didn’t regret.
[*it’s the title of a song by Carlos Gardel, the most prominent singer of the history of Argentinian tango]
I was lucky, the ladies hosting me were super nice, they called me “la viajera” (the traveler); they helped me a lot: to change the euros I had, to buy a sim card for my mobile phone, to taste all the specialties of their country, to walk around Buenos Aires… I have a really good memory of all the beautiful people that took care of me there and I am still in touch with some today, thanks to the social medias.
Are you wondering about what “work” I was doing there? Waiter and housekeeper in one or two properties of the organization, nothing more nothing less.
I was staying in a shared room with other girls and even if there was a sort of curfew, I used to go to the club with those of approximately my age: Mayte from Perù, Diana from Costarica, Yamila from Uruguay and me from Italy used to get out before 8pm during the weekend, eat something, go to some club in Palermo district and after that go bothering Diana’s brothers in their place because the doors of the residence were locked until 8am – sometimes we went for breakfast and let the boys sleep.
I was 23, could still survive a whole night out until the sunrise.
The experience I had was a cheap and convenient way to visit one of my favorite cities in the world and I could also take advantage to visit some other place: with Mayte (the same Peruvian friend I used to hang out with), like real backpackers we took a night bus to Mendoza, the land of Argentinian wine, where we stayed five days visiting the city and trying not to get drunk; on the two-floor bus we chose the privileged seats in the front of the top floor from which we could enjoy a gorgeous sunset while leaving the city. We also became friends with Gonzalo, the guy who worked on the bus: being him familiar with the city of Mendoza he took us a little bit around and despite the advises he gave us, we were able anyway to get lost coming down from the Cerro la Gloria, so much that we were saved by Valentìn, a local boy who was passing by and drove us back to the city.
(note: we traveled with Vía Tac bus from Retiro station to Mendoza; in 2013 the one way tickets costed us 436 pesos each; you can purchase the ticket in advance but you have to be at the platform at least 20 minutes before departure)
The city of Mendoza is practically at the border with Chile, this gave Mayte and me the crazy idea to have a day trip in Santiago: we left our bags in the residence, we only filled one backpack with the essentials (passport, water, mobile charger, camera…) and we took another night bus to go to Santiago de Chile (note: we traveled with Cata Internacional bus; in 2013 the one way tickets costed us 230 pesos each). To get there, we crossed the most impressive border of my life: the driver woke us up in the middle of the night , we got out of the bus and we were there, right on the Cordillera de los Andes (the mountain range that divides Argentina and Chile) feeling super small in front of the immensity of that black sky full of stars…
It was freezing anyway up there (despite the spring season) so we went to get our stamp on the passports and ran back into the bus.
24 hours, maybe less, running around Santiago de Chile to visit all the places on the list before our night bus back to Mendoza. If you happen to travel to Santiago please, learn about the history of the city, about how the National Stadium was turned into a detention camp for those who became the Chilean desaparecidos; some time before traveling to South America, I watched a documentary about this so it meant a lot to me visiting the stadium and the Museo de la memoria y los derechos humanos.
What I still remember very well of Santiago are the mountains that frame the city, the numerous stray dogs we noticed and the refreshing mote con huesillo we drank on the Cerro San Cristòbal, but there’s a lot more to see and I am sure that one day I will spend more than 24 hours there – even if we made it to visit all that we planned.
After a fast dinner in Patio Bellavista, we went back to the station for our night bus to Mendoza where we arrived very early the morning after. It was the last day before going back to the Capital Federal but time was enough to make a quick visit to the stunning colors of Potrerillos which I show you through two photos that make useless any word.
As said, I didn’t stay in Argentina the three month originally planned; why? Because I was fluent already in Spanish and I wanted to become fluent in Chinese too; I wanted to finally could say “I speak Chinese” instead of “I studied Chinese” so I left Argentina earlier, but I can surely say that time was enough to fall in love with the country, the people, the dulce de leche and alfajores and empanadas and asado and… OMG, I loved everything!
Nevertheless, I changed my flight, went back to Naples and look for the best way to go to work in China for some time.
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I’ll read ya!