The Force is Strong in Buenos Aires

Written by Jacqueline Newell

Last Wednesday, I made my first overnight bus trip in South America. I hopped aboard Cata International, unsure what to expect after having heard many horror stories. I purchased a “full cama” ticket for my trip, meaning that my seat had the ability to turn into a complete bed. A few hours into the trip, we were offered appetizers, small bottles of wine (at least 2x the size of in flight bottles), and full dinners. Each individual had a tv in the wall in front of them in order to watch whatever movie they wanted. As everyone settled in, wine and whiskey were served before the lights went out. Bolt Bus and Megabus really need to step up their game.

DSCN1300I arrived at 9:30am on Thursday and headed to Charmaine & Marine’s apartment in Palermo. I spent the morning drinking tea and eating pastries and the afternoon was spent along side the Rio de la Plata.  I wandered alone around the Casa Rosada (Buenos Aire’s “White House”) and the Plaza de Mayo, reading the protest banners that wrap around the monument. I navigated the Subte system home, huddled between strangers during rush hour, and cooked dinner with the girls.

Teatro Colon stairs

Teatro Colon stairs

The following day, Charmaine and I took a tour of the Teatro Colon, named after Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) in order to “symbolize humanity.” Our tour guide told us that three architects worked on the building, two dying at the same young age (one from health, the other murdered by his wife). In order to enter, one must climb a set of stairs, symbolizing your departure “from the Earthy world” and entering that of art and dreams. Inside the theater, we learned that there is a walk way around the ceiling’s dome and, sometimes, groups will line the dome to sing. We also were able to see the widows’ box. They were completely black and below everything else because, in the past, widows were not allowed to be out and about at social gatherings. We sat in the la Presidenta’s box in order to get a better view of the theater but, no photos allowed.

The book fair

The book fair

The rest of my day took me to an inflatable museums about the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, a massive theater turned book store (where my scarf was stolen), and to a giant book fair at the Convention Center. Different countries’ embassies had booths set up, sharing books about their countries and in their language. After the book fair, I made my way back to the apartment with swollen feet, a handful of empanadas and some brand new (slightly damaged but discounted) books. I returned to the apartment to prepare for the reason I came to Buenos Aires – a Star Wars themed 7 KM race!

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The Club Hipodromo was packed with so many light saber wielding nerds, my heart could hardly stand it. Everyone had to choose a side, the dark side or the force, and based on their decision, they received either a red or blue shirt. The beginning of the race had everyone divided, the sides racing against each other. The race was held on a horse racing track, leaving our shoes filled with lots of dirt.  We were in the very back – better to pass than to be passed, as Sarah Daly would say. Following the race, we took advantage of every photo op we could find and took part in the madness that was the “guardaropa” (aka where you drop your bag off).

The view of Plaza de Mayo from the balcony

The view of Plaza de Mayo from the balcony

After a weekend of exploring the Presidenta’s office, leaving “the Earthly world,” avoiding light sabers and seeing some good friends, it was time to head home. Unfortunately, my luxurious trip was not repeated. “Semi cama” offers chairs that recline a bit further than the average bus seat. I was treated to the coughs and snores of my fellow bus riders for 16 hours. And although I bought a ticket with no services, when we stopped at a cafe, I was still given a cup of coffee and medialunas. Lesson learned, folks!

The full cama!

The full cama!

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The book store

The book store

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