2023 Summary: Part 5

At the end of part 4, I said I’d decided to round off my world travel by visiting my colleagues in Argentina.

Buenos Aires

I spent the week before Thanksgiving in Buenos Aires. Finally, my spouse got to come along on one of these trips.

We learned you should not arrive in Buenos Aires on a Sunday. Nothing is open. No, you can’t buy a sube (metro card) to ride the subte (metro). No, you can’t go to Western Union to convert your dollars to pesos. You want to eat breakfast? There are two restaurants within 4 blocks that open before noon. But the weather was lovely, so we spent the morning sitting in various parks, enjoying it, and marveling at the telecoms cables draped from building to building.

Meeting Friends

I got to meet 4 of the 6 guys that I’ve worked with down there over the last two years. (The other two live in other cities.) One of the guys who lives within the city limits hosted a cook-out so we could all get together. I brought s’mores ingredients as a special treat. First, they don’t have s’mores in Argentina; they’re a US thing. Second, s’mores go great with a cook-out. They’re fire-roasted dessert. So, we had our dinner, then out came the TV for the Argentina-Uruguay game. At half-time, we made the s’mores. They all suddenly understand the name; I think I’m the only person who only ate one. They said they’d seen them in movies, but getting to taste them was something new. During the second half of the game, they asked if I’d had mate before. I’d only had it served like a tea, which they told me was not the same thing at all, so out came the mate, bombilla, and thermos, to ensure I got the full Argentine experience.


(Esteban, me, Pehuen (our host), Facundo, and Juan)


Of course, as a new tango dancer in the birthplace of tango, I had some tango-related plans. The first night, I went out to a milonga (social dance) and took my practice shoes. I didn’t even arrive until almost midnight, but Buenos Aires is known for late nights. I noticed everyone there was dancing close embrace, so I went along with that as being the norm there. Good thing one of the guys I dance with regularly here had introduced me to it already! It can be pretty uncomfortable the first few times, but it also makes a world of difference when it’s with someone who you’ve already seen being perfectly respectable about it on the dancefloor.

I had a mission for that night, though: figure out where to buy tango shoes. Tango shoes are built different. They’re stilettos with heels that are further forward and stiff shanks, all in the name of stability, because in tango you keep all your weight on one foot at a time. I asked all the other women which store they recommended. The next day, I went shoe shopping, just before the most-recommended shop (DNI Tango) closed. (If you buy shoes later in the day, your feet are already a little swollen, so they don’t end up pinching.) I was very proud of myself for doing that whole shoe shopping interaction in Spanish without needing anything repeated or slowed down. Another customer told me she thinks T-straps keep the ankle from rolling, if they’re made of the right material. The saleswoman told me she thinks strap-back heels allow for more natural movement of the foot, as much as that makes sense for anything as unnatural as high heeled shoes. That other customer and I talked about how I don’t have any clothes that would really go with the bright red ones, and really, bright red just draws so much attention, you know? As all the shoes are locally hand-made, there were something like 6 options in my size, of two different designs, and one of those designs wasn’t the right shape for my foot. I ended up with a pair of closed-heel black shoes with a pattern stamped in the leather. (No, I didn’t pay that price. That’s the international price.)

That night, I went out to a queer milonga, with my new shoes. I hung out with a pair of Chileans, who were not nearly as difficult to understand as everyone says. I danced with a lovely German woman, but it was overall difficult to find dance partners because of the arrangement of the space and the lighting. I couldn’t see across the dance floor. There was one woman there who teaches Argentine folk dance, so she led a round of chacarera.


(See? Hard to see the other side)


Live Music

My coworkers recommended we visit a bar called El Boliche de Roberto to hear some live music. It was tiny, crowded, and well over 100 years old. The band was an arm’s length away, and there was about one square meter of empty floor space. The singer and flautist from the first band started dancing tango in that tiny little area while the second band played. There are live bands there every night.



Having consulted Atlas Obscura, we climbed many many flights of stairs on the tour of the Palacio Barolo. I’m afraid of heights, so this was not an easy tour for me. Also, I managed to say about 2 sentences in Italian to the Italian family that was in the tour group. I need more speaking practice. We also took a tour of El Zanjón de Granados, a set of underground tunnels that were initially built to enclose a stream.


(My spouse and I near the top of the Palacio Barolo)


I think that covers adventures, hobbies, and changes for 2023. I guess the last thing to note is that the 18-month-long saga of structural repairs to the house finally came to an end.

I’m looking forward to doing less in 2024.