After being completely spent yesterday we crashed early, unable to stay awake for the long awaited catch up with our mates from home, Laf and Barnaby. We do however have a morning rendezvous that we’re chomping to get to. Oddly we have a notable degree of excitement unusual for a meeting with such long time and close friends. This journey of detachment from our real lives is ready for some ghosts from the world we have temporarily left behind.
Over coffee that Laf and Barnaby have described as dirty water from a mans armpit, very apt sadly, we catch up on all things the other side of the Pacific. In truth we’re all a little excited and the conversation holds the excited tinge of kids in a playground, it’s so good to see friends from home. First stop after armpit water is the Mercado (market), obligatory in any new city. Fresh produce abounds in this all too indicative site of local culture. The Mercado is nothing to really write home about, it’s small-ish for a city this size and contains a fairly limited array of food options. We do however find our souvenirs to send back, knives. A carving set and two of our very own gaucho style steak knives are the real Argentinian deal and we can’t resist. We’ve essentially bought nothing from this trip as we can’t afford any more weight but a necessary sending home of camping gear in a couple of months means we are sending something anyway.
Over arabic food the school-yard excitement returns to the conversation to pass away the early afternoon. After lunch we get into our first blue dollar exchange, the black market currency that is everywhere here. With the Argentinian peso so unstable, locals pay up to 40% more for hard US currency for their savings rather than putting it into banks. So with three in a small boarded up room and me standing guard outside we substantially grow our wealth as easy as that. This surely can’t end well for the Argentinian economy but we’re not complaining now, just need to get our hands on as much US currency as possible.
The Argentinian phenomenon of closing down forces siesta as the city grinds to a halt. This phenomenon is really quite amazing, this surely can’t be an efficient way to run any business. It seems though that there’s a huge portion of the Argentinian economy that is simply happy to do it the way it was always done rather than pushing for improvement. We hear anecdotal stories all over the place and two weeks in to this country I’m finally starting to permit myself to say that commercially Argentina could do with trading in some bureaucracy for simple efficiency. I guess in relation to it’s neighbour Chile, it falls behind in terms of being organised and progressive. On the flip-side our time in Argentina has been culturally more lively so I guess it’s not a closed debate. What is a closed debate is the indisputably annoying habit of closing shops when you most need them. Even a restaurants own opening times can’t be trusted, astounding doesn’t begin to describe it. Cafes closed early morning and mid afternoon and wine bars closing at 10pm on a Saturday night is just baffling.
A fantastic time catching up with mates of course must continue on, we have our first go at local timing. What this means is drinks at eight, dinner at ten, a few more drinks at midnight and go out at two. This is seriously the normal thing, siesta through the afternoon pushes everything back, I guess there’s no point just doing a days work in one go now is there? It’s on this point that we’re tending to get out of the towns and cities in Argentina. Cordoba shows glimpses of entering a new progressive world, and it partially has, but the strings of the past haven’t been cut just yet.
When in Rome though, we have a crack at our second gay bar of the trip. Unsurprisingly it is completely in line with a gay bar anywhere else. On merits it’s a terrible bar, barely a redeeming feature; except for the show. Imagine two elderly men, add copious amounts of cosmetic surgery, stretch them in alligator skin and get them to dance like they’re in an 80’s film clip wearing small tight dresses. Comical value that is, as Barnaby calls it, on another level. It borders the embarrassing, glances by the shameful and lands entirely into the hilarious. Now sober it’s hard to articulate what about this environment was fun, but an undoubtedly great time was had by all. 5:30am, disgracefully drunk, box ticked. The most welcome of intruders have made a nice visit to a new town something far more than it otherwise would have been, strangely it’s taken inspiration from home to throw us into the timeline of Argentina, welcome intruders indeed.