Buenos Aires: La Policia

Here’s a funny story that happened to us a month ago. Keep in mind that we’d only been in Buenos Aires for two weeks and our language skills were lacking significantly.

The Buzzer 

One morning the loud buzzer to our apartment rang, announcing a visitor. We ignored it. We weren’t expecting anyone, we didn’t even know anyone! It rang again, and again we ignored it. The buzzing stopped. Five minutes later it started again, persistent and loud. I should note that the buzzer is loud enough to be heard throughout the ten-unit apartment complex so it wasn’t just annoying, it was embarrassing.

I nervously pressed the talk button and immediately a man’s voice flooded the speaker with rapid Spanish. I sort of explained I couldn’t understand him and promptly hung up. The buzzer rang again. I said hello and goodbye in one mumbled breath and hung up. Buzz! Buzz! I ignored it but it kept buzzing, seemingly louder and angrier. I yelled at Harry to get out of the shower because I needed his slightly more advanced language skills to save me.

The Building Manager

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Through the peephole, I could see a man standing there! Of course I assumed it was the angry buzzer-pusher from downstairs so I cowered in the corner.

Harry jumped out of the shower, quickly got dressed and opened the door, half expecting to get punched in the face. He managed to decipher that Vincente, who lived in the apartment upstairs, was the building manager. He explained that the police were downstairs on the sidewalk waiting to talk to us. We could tell that he was super annoyed by all the buzzing.

La Policia 

We followed Vincente downstairs with our minds racing and hearts pounding, and sure enough there was a policeman standing on the sidewalk waiting for us. That’s when I realized that I had been repeatedly hanging up on the police officer! Oops. When he reached around his back Harry was sure he was going to get handcuffed, but instead he just wanted to shake hands and introduce himself.

The Crime

So what did we do wrong, you’re wondering with baited breathe? The crime was that our 2nd story air conditioner unit wasn’t in proper working order. The drain hose was hanging down out the window, dripping water in front of the shopkeeper’s doorway. She was furious about the puddle of water so she called the police. I’m not making this up!

The funny thing is that there are air conditioner hoses coming out of windows on every building all over town. We get dripped on everywhere we go. In fact, walking on sidewalks is quite the risky undertaking: you have to look down to avoid stepping in dog poop and tripping over broken concrete while simultaneously looking up to avoid the big drips of water.

The gathering crowd appeared amused and the officer seemed embarrassed. We apologized and did our best to say we’d get it fixed. To our credit at least we knew how to apologize in Spanish.


The air conditioner was fixed the next morning which made the shopkeeper happy. Now she waves to us as we come and go. We see “our” officer occasionally on our block and we always exchange friendly greetings. I’m pretty sure he was secretly tickled pink to have his picture taken with Harry.



Buenos Aires *Our First Month*

Thirty days ago we landed in Buenos Aires with a plan to stay for one month to study Spanish and explore the city. It turns out that a month isn’t enough time, so we’ve decided to extend our stay for another two weeks. We’ll be in BA through February for a total of six weeks.

Everyday tasks have become so much easier due to the fact that we are more familiar with our surroundings and that our Spanish vocabulary and comprehension are increasing. The nervous feelings we had coming down here have all evaporated at this point. While there are daily bumps in the road, we certainly celebrate our victories. We seem to do a lot of high-fiving these days.
We love walking down our block to buy fruit and veggies on a daily basis. The fruit continues to be delicious, especially the mangos. Harry, ever the shopper, made friends with Javier, the butcher across the plaza from our apartment. He stops in several times a week as much for the conversation with Javier as for finding out what’s fresh and local. We’re continually amazed at how many sweet sweet shops there are – per block! Harry finally gave into temptation and has become adept at finding the tastiest sweet treats around.
City Exploration 
Walking is such a big part of our world. While there are a million buses to choose from we prefer to walk as much as we can, oftentimes walking several miles a day just to run simple errands or to go to school. We like moving our bodies as much as we like seeing and hearing what’s around us. We also have some of our best Spanish sessions together while walking. It’s also a good time to hold hands.
There is a fantastic book in our apartment called “Let’s Walk!” It showcases sixteen different waking tours by highlighting places of interest like parks, churches/temples, noteworthy architecture and sites of political upheaval / triumph. We like the mini history lessons that accompany each section. At this point we’ve explored almost all of the areas.
We’ve also been on two “Free Walking Tours”. The three-hour tours, given by energetic twenty-somethings, were very informative and interesting with a subtle (and at times, not so subtle) political commentary on this society and government. Some of the topics included the Falklands war, the last military dictatorship, terrorist attacks, and the instability of the financial system.
Learning Spanish is tough. And rewarding. And hard work. It’s such a beautiful language and our goal of being able to communicate with locals pushes us every day to keep learning.
We are enjoying our Spanish school, VOS. We both agree that the social component is as important and beneficial as the actual lessons. We are in class together with a few other students three days a week. Taking a more intensive approach at this point would be too overwhelming for us. At this pace, we still have room in our brains to study at home…  and while walking…. and while in stores…. really, everything we do is about Spanish so we are constantly “on”. There are learning opportunities every minute of every day.
Each week there’s one big activity for all the students, like a BBQ at the director’s apartment, dinner at a local restaurant or a wine tasting with inexpensive, tasty bottles of Malbec. We value the social time with other students from around the world while experiencing local culture.
We continue to enjoy the time we spend with Harry’s cousin Ellen and her husband Amin. They are wonderful companions and always up for an adventure! We met Merry and David, a newly retired couple from Boulder, at school. We’ve had fun hanging out with them and exploring new places. We look forward to catching up with them again in southern Patagonia in a few weeks. We’ve also met some wonderful people on the days we’ve volunteered (more on that later).
Harry, Kerry, David, Merry



We hope you are all well and surviving the winter. xoxo


Buenos Aires *Our First Week*

We arrived in Buenos Aires on January 14, 2015 after 24 hours of uneventful flights and long layovers. Needless to say were very happy to see our prearranged driver, Don Julio, holding a sign with our names at the airport. Less than 90 minutes later we were at our apartment in the Palermo neighborhood, a place we’ll call home for the next month.


Week #1: Getting to Know Buenos Aires

Exploring by Foot
Within a few hours of our arrival we were out walking the streets of our neighborhood. We were hungry and needed to move our legs. Our mission was twofold: find a grocery store and don’t get lost. Relying on Spanish from 30 years ago, Harry was able to ask a few kind strangers where to go shopping. We ended up at a market, bought a few provisions and headed back home. Or so we thought. We walked a few blocks this way, then a few blocks that way. When we finally both agreed that we were totally lost we went into a little cafe to ask for directions. The woman pulled up Google maps on her laptop and showed us that we really were only a few blocks away from home, just in a totally different direction. Go figure.

Apparently getting lost on our first day in BA was just a sign of things to come. The numerous traffic circles and diagonal streets make getting one’s bearings more challenging than usual. On a good day we take turns being right, and on a normal day we’re both wrong. We are constantly consulting different maps and racking our brains to remember where we’ve been relative to where we are trying to go. Of course everything is in Spanish which makes it even more challenging. Plus, street signs are often hidden or missing altogether.

We know better than to stand on a street corner looking lost, so our MO is to go into a store to regroup. More times than not the shopkeeper will help us out. Bonus if we can understand what s/he’s saying. Everyday we feel like we have a better grasp on our surroundings.

We have been on a walking adventure pretty much every day, spending three or four hours exploring in a new direction. Logging several miles a day in the intense heat has been both exhausting and satisfying. BA’s architecture is an interesting mix of French, Spanish and Italian influences. The old and the new are often side-by-side. BA is also known for its street art. Murals and graffiti are ever-present and make for a colorful addition to the local landscape.



We’re pleased to report that we’ve yet to step in the ubiquitous dog poop. It’s a local custom for dog owners to let one’s dog poop on the sidewalk and leave it where it lands. And there are a lot of dogs in the city! Of course we probably just jinxed ourselves.

Ellen + Amin
As luck would have it, Harry’s cousin Ellen and her husband Amin also arrived in BA the same day we did! They will be spending nine weeks in Argentina, using BA as their base camp. Ellen is a retired Spanish teacher so of course her language skills have been very useful on a number of occasions. “Once a teacher, always a teacher” is definitely the case with Ellen and we’ve been grateful for her on-the-spot lessons. The four of us have had a lot of fun adventures together.


Public Transportation 

The streets here are fast and busy, and no one drives with as much speed and daring maneuvers as the city bus drivers. Within a second of the last person stepping on or off the bus, the driver accelerates at full speed like a bat out of hell. It’s amazing that we haven’t seen any accidents yet, although Harry was witness to two taxi drivers fighting in the middle of the street over the hoods of their cars. The fight ended when one driver spat on the other.

Spanish School
Harry, Amin and I signed up right away for Spanish classes and we’ve already completed one of two weeks. Although the Spanish is coming slowly, we’re especially pleased with the cultural and social components the school has to offer. We’ve enjoyed meeting other travelers and the local teachers. My tango lesson was sixty minutes of fun confusion and made me realize that while I won’t be dancing in a club anytime soon, I still love the tradition, music and moves.

One of the benefits of traveling in the southern hemisphere in January is that there are many local fruits and vegetables in season. It’s really nice to have fresh fruit and vegetable stands on almost every block. Watermelon, peaches and mangos are a few of the treats that are currently available. BA is known for grass-fed beef, empanadas and, thanks to the large Italian population, pizza. Their quiches are pretty tasty, too. And of course let’s not forget about the wine!

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I know many of you will hate us, but here it goes: it’s hot here. Really hot. It’s been in the upper 80’s and 90’s since we arrived with a nice dose of humidity tossed in for good measure. We are hot and sweaty everywhere we go. No complaints, just the facts.

As we look to start week #2 we are ready for more Spanish adventures in this fascinating city!