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