I know this sounds like an exaggeration but I think I actually walked a 108 blocks today. Here's the ridiculous fucking calculus for teaching English in Buenos Aires, at least for me:
1. Walk 8 blocks from our apartment in Palermo to Bulnes and then hop on the D-line Subte to Tribunales.
2. From there I walked 5 blocks to Avenida M.T. Alvear where I taught for an hour after haggling with yet another security guard about who I was and why I was there. It seems really hard for them to understand that I'm not going to have a National ID or an Argentine Driver's License because, contrary to public perception and my impeccable accent (as if), I'm not Argentine.
3. Then I walked 6 blocks south to Avenida Corrientes before walking the wrong way for a good 10 blocks and then being harassed by a man who stopped me while I was looking at a Subte Map for the 12th time that day. For some reason, he wanted to know where I was from, then started speaking to me in French, Spanish, and for some damn reason, German. When I spoke back to him in French, he started frothing at the mouth a little bit before telling me my French was good. But the weird thing was, he kept asking me in both Spanish and French: Where are you from? Chicago, I'd say. No, he said, but where are you living now? Buenos Aires, I said. No, where did you used to live? He asked. Chicago, I said. But what part of Chicago, he asked. West Chicago. Oak Park. Humboldt Park. But where were you born? He asked. Where? I asked. Yes, where? I'm sorry if this is strange, just tell me where you were born. The truth: Traverse City, Michigan. What I said because I knew he didn't know small town Michigan: Chicago. Then he patted on the shoulder and said:
Bye. And walked away. It was really bizarre. And now back to the chronometer:
4. Once I'd take another Subte, ironically, the D line again, this time, all the way to Congreso de Tucuman, then I walked 12 blocks to Ave. Libertador, arriving an hour early. So then my next mission was to find a park to eat my lunch. But I kept walking and walking and I couldn't find a public park anywhere on Libertador Avenue. My Guía showed that there were plenty of parks in that area, but they were all private parks. I'd never heard of a private park. That's an oxymoron in the US. Parks are the only thing not privatized in America. Finally after 6 blocks, I found the Club Ciudad de Buenos Aires
but it's for members only. Of course. So I talked to the guard and he said, oh, you need to get a ticket in that booth over there. So next I walk into this little house, talk to the woman, show her my passport, fill out a form, she gives me a ticket, I go back to the guard, he takes my ticket, tells me to leave through the same entrance I entered and finally, finally I got to eat my lunch.
It occurs to me that most Argentines don't bring their lunches with them to eat. They go out. When I was done, I walked another 6 blocks back from Ave. Crisologo Larralde to Calle Ibera where I saw a group of deaf Indian athletes signing on the street corner. How do I know they were Indian? Because they were wearing matching track suits that said "INDIA" on their back. For a second I was definitely like: where the fuck am I? Anyway, once I'd made it back to work, that security guard gave me shit too for not owning Argentine ID but this time I brought my passport, so she calls up but no one comes down to get me. And then we ride the elevator together and I walk through the office with this security guard like I'm in trouble and she caught me doing something I wasn't supposed to do, like I just ran off with a Plasma Screen or something. Meanwhile, she looks for the two employees I'm supposed to be teaching and I have absolutely no idea where I'm supposed to stand. Everyone's looking at me from their cubicles. Am I criminal? A rockstar in my hip grey jacket? A lost Yanqui? Their faces seemed to say. Anyway, once she finally found the guys I was supposed to teach, she said goodbye, gave us warning and then I taught 3 hours of English to two separate groups (Andrés, Vicky & Carolina and Santiago and Boris) before walking another 12 blocks back to the Subte station.
5. By the time the subway arrived at the José Hernández stop, the conductor informed us that the train was now out of service so everyone got out, grumbling. And by the time the next train arrived, there were twice as many people trying to cram their bodies into half the space available. Seriously, I've never been so tightly packed in my entire life. One old woman scrambled out of the train clutching her chest, unable to breathe while some passengers came close to wobbling to the ground, and I kept getting pushed, my pelvis first rubbing against this woman's back, and then later, against this middle-aged woman's thighs. It felt incestuous really. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had one guy's hand pretty much in my ass, a woman's knee in my crotch, a boy's elbow in my stomach, and another woman's butt bouncing against my belt line and I tried to pretend I didn't notice, even though there was something so dreadful and primal and sexual about the way everyone's bodies were touching each other's. Of course I say that but the truth is, I heard a number of women in their 80's groaning as their bodies were slowly grounded into human powder by two colliding glaciers, which was definitely not a pleasure groan at all. Anyway, then I had to ride the whole way like that until I got to Diagonal Norte until I transfered to the C Line. Ah yes, fun times. But wait, it's not over!
6. From 9 de Julio I walk to Moreno (1 block) and then 8 blocks East to Avenida Paseo Colon, and then 5 blocks south to Ave. Independencia. Then I kick it at a cafe for an hour and a half, eat some medialunas, drink some mineral water. And then when I walk to Accenture for my 6:00pm job, the secretary tells me that Señorita M.L. Márquez had a meeting. When I looked super-irritated, she told me in English (why, I don't know): she said Mrs. Márques had called and told someone. Oh well, then it must be true, I mean if it's someone. When I got home, there were no messages on my phone and no new email messages and my coordinator never mentioned anything either. So it's total shit. Finally, I walked 12 blocks to Florida and 3 blocks to Corrientes where I took my fourth Subte ride today. And finally I walked the normal 8 blocks from Medrano to our little home. I must have looked either really pissed off or really pretty cuz women were staring at me as I sped-walked back home like I was some well-dressed lunatic. And maybe I was. A lunatic, I mean.
108 Fucking Blocks!
And I did this all for 112 pesos! That's almost a peso a block. God, how depressing.