67. What I like about Argentina (Auckland, NZ)
The nature: the desert rock formations of Cafayate, the cactuses and hills of Jujuy, the imposing Andes, the lakes around Bariloche, the Glaciers around El Calafate, the pancake-flat pampas, and the European feel of BA, Argentina is a beautiful land. It only lacks quality beaches.
The language: to learn Spanish was the first reason I went there. Mainly because I'd always felt a little ignorant amongst my multi-lingual European friends. I love the Spanish language, and the Buenos Aires accent I like too. It's funny, the other day I was re-reading a beginner's guide to BA which I'd first read before I came, and it mentions lunfardo which is the early 20th century Argentine slang still in use today. It's funny how many of those words I now know and use, having learnt them off my friends, but I didn't realise they're lunfardo.
The people: passionate Latinos. Sexy brunette women. Mullets and monobrows on the men. Love it.
The gestures : I love the hand gestures they use when they speak. They're ingrained in me, so much so that I use them when I'm speaking English.
The customs: Some customs are strange, but most are sensible. The other weekend me and my girlfriend did our usual Sunday afternoon ritual of rising late, walking through the San Telmo Sunday Market down to Puerto Madero, and along the Costanera Sur, where we watched the families with children running around, found a spot in the sun, and drank mate from a thermos. This is my favourite part of BA on a Sunday, yet many expats complain Puerto Madero has no soul. That may be so on weekdays, I don't know, but on weekends it's a buzzing family affair with streetside parillas, artisan markets, lots of green spaces that are well looked after, a refreshing breeze off the river, and usually a live music act or two. Much like the Rosedal in Palermo. Anyway, we heard a group of people clapping a slow beat in unison for a couple of minutes. I assumed they were watching a street performer or something until Ruth pointed out they must have lost a kid in the crowd - and that the group clapping serves to alert strangers and the lost child where its parents are. That's a sensible custom I'd never seen before.
The food and drink: disproportionately cheap beer (US$0.70c for a litre bottle of beer in the supermarket), great steaks, and afternoons spent sipping mate (with sugar) are my favourites. The wine's supposed to be good too.
The highways: long, straight, in good condition, with little police enforcement. Southern autobahns. You just have to slow down every now and then to go through the tollbooths.