26. 10. 2006
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Britské listy

ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
26. 10. 2006

A Letter from Argentina II.

Buenos Aires: La la land

This city is so immense, that from the first day I arrived here I realized I would need a lot more then one year to get to know it thoroughly. As I walk its streets, use its subway, get on its busses, go beyond one area to the next to discover the one after and the one there after, there seems no end to it. You know the size of the city, but as you stand on the corner of one street it's as if you can't crasp it. You can't imagine all that comes after this street and the next block. The streets are the longest I have ever seen before.

I am not the best person when it comes to a sense of direction anyway, so imagine how utterly confused I get as I think I am somewhere I haven't been before and then all of a sudden see a familiar street name. It makes my tiny brain cells that function for my sense of direction get over steaming and worked up until they finally snap, setting me off in whatever direction. Sometimes I get lucky and finally really do recognize where I am or I find the subway from where I mostly manage to get back home. Other day's I get in a taxi and rely on the poor man to drive this disaster home.

Sometimes I think I am miles away from home and then suddenly find myself in the street I live in. This is all explainable though, as you really are miles away with streets that run up to numbers as 7000! The system here, is that the streets are build in blocks, each block having a hundred meters, which makes it easy in a way to count for yourself how far you have to walk when you are going somewhere!

There is so much to see and to do that there really is no reason for you to ever feel bored. I love going for walks, that is as long as I remember how to get home. Today I went for a stroll to discover more about the neighbourhood I have just moved to. It takes quite some time to learn all the shops and actually remember where they are in the spider web of streets.

I went inside this small fruit shop and a smile appeared on the old man's face who worked there. I got stuck in the same routine of questions as I always seem to do. People asking you the same questions over and over again. We, us foreigners, already started making jokes to start printing t-shirts with all the answers on it, so they can just read them off there.

Or just carry sheets of paper, so when you are asked again you can just hand them over the sheets: I am from Holland. I study here. I have been here now for such and such many days or months (this you would have to correct every so often) and I will stay here for a year in total (maybe easier if you would just mention this on your t-shirt, although you would have to prepare for the question `how long you have been here up till now then'...) And it goes on with "How do you like it here?" "Why did you decide to come?" and "How have they been treating you here?" Of course for me, being from Holland and all, there is always the extra little after match with the question "And what do you think of Maxima?" Aaah yes...Maxima. The normal girl from Buenos Aires who married the Dutch prince, making her the upcoming Queen of Holland.

Well, when I say `normal' girl, of course we are not talking about your average waitress in the coffee shop around the corner. She surely comes from a big family name and a wealthy one that is. But normal enough, as was demonstrated in a video shown all over the country, that she also liked to have a good night out with a piss up and lot's of fags. Of course, until she became the misses. Now it is only knee length skirts and UFO sized hats for her. What is it with royals wearing weird hats? I've always wondered.

Well, when you are asked by an Argentine what you think of Maxima, you have to be careful when you answer. Best way, as I discovered after doing it completely wrong; getting into a huge discussion with a teacher on one of the first day's in university, not making myself very popular for the following months, is to answer in a very neutral way. Then as you notice from what angle they look at it, you can start sensing to what degree you can really tell them what you think.

It's not that I don't like the girl, I have never met her. She never bothered to stop by my place to socialize a bit after she moved to my country! I would never have behaved like that. I would have said `hello' if she had still lived here. No, but the matter is a bit political, that is where it can get tricky. Her father was in the military during Argentina's dirty war. Now some say he didn't know anything about all that was going on.....and some say he does. When Maxima got married in Holland, the Dutch government had prohibited him from coming, as a political statement. Should a reunion of two people in love become a political statement?

Well yes, if you marry into becoming the countries new queen. But as I said, it is a bit of a touchy subject in Argentina, so maybe I should refrain from putting that one down on my t-shirt. So the lovely fruit salesman goes on the same ramble of questions, but I enjoy it. He is such a lovely old man and takes my hand into his as I am about to leave the shop and places a kiss on them. Bright, as my fair lady herself, I walk back home. It's funny, I think, how you can just talk to a complete stranger and meet such friendly people here. You don't even have to look for them; they seem to be everywhere. And that while in Europe I might wonder for days without finding anyone, someone you don't know, who cares to throw you a smile.

As I come home from my stroll I walk into my apartment building and find Alfredo, the porter, sitting behind his little table reading his newspaper. I am immediately reminded how people can also be `overly' friendly here, giving you the chills down your back. He jumps up and gives me this intense look of his which makes me wonder if `once again' I forgot to put any clothes on today. As he starts walking towards the lift to open the door for me he calls me "princesa", princess, again. I tell him: "look Alfredo, it really is a secret that I am a princess, so I would prefer it if you would keep it quiet." He starts laughing and as I am waiting for him to let go of the door so I can shoot up he says what a pleasure it is to see me every day. "Always in and out of the apartment, always busy. Where is it that you go every time and when will you invite me along?" "Well Alfredo", I smile, "who knows...one day". And then I take the door from his hand and close it. As I am going up till the eight floor, I am once again thinking how I will ever manage to get this man of my back. He is the only thing that is unpleasant about the other way so fabulous apartment I have found here.

As I walk in to my apartment I slam the door. Gaston, my lovely Scottish roommate, is sitting on the sofa. He starts laughing as he needs no questions, he knows exactly. "Don't let that old sexist Alfredo get to you, just give him what he wants", he teases me. The most that bothers me is that whenever I am going in or out of the apartment with Gaston, Alfredo doesn't dare to say anything. So basically I can't even prove his obsceneness towards me. But Gaston believes me. Or so he says, but if he doesn't he surely finds it amusing enough anyway to see his feminist roommate (as he has baptised me) get all worked up by the testosterone of the macho men here.

We go out on our super duper oversized terrace which looks out onto a nice sky line of buildings and the quiet street below where you see so many yellow car roofs from all the taxis driving by. If it wasn't for the peace you can feel on this terrace, even though you are still in the middle of the city, I think this city would have been the end of me. You need to be able to have a quiet place to go, to get away from the noise and business. Luckily we found it here. Apart from the weird flat across ours where we look onto from our terrace, which is unoccupied but then randomly is full of people having a party. And the ultra sonic sound studio that Gaston has built in his room to play all the instruments that he has collected in there, number still growing. And the sometimes unexplainable fit the porteños get themselves in, that when one car starts honking its horn for no particular reason at all, all the other cars must join in, sending up an orchestra that even reaches to the peace of our terrace. Other then these noises, I would say we found peace here.

Obsah vydání       26. 10. 2006
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