Monday, March 25, 2013

Buenos Aires, A Beautiful City with a Familiar Flare

In the process of trying to complete my matriculation at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, I learned that I needed to have their name on my visa.  To do that, I needed to go to a Brazilian consulate office outside of Brazil.  For me, living in Florian√≥polis, the closest Brazilian consulate, outside of Brazil, is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  So began my trip to a city that I knew very little about until I arrived there. 
Because Brazil has always been my South American country of choice, I had never considered visiting any other country in the region.  Had circumstances not dictated my need to travel to Buenos Aires, I can see now, it would have been a mistake to miss the opportunity to visit a beautiful and interesting city that shares a lot in common with two of my favorite destinations in the US, Washington, DC and Manhattan, NY.

I’ve had the privilege of living on the east coast for several years, specifically Washington DC and northern New Jersey, and there are some principal characteristics of those areas that make them nice places to live and visit.  Interestingly, while in Buenos Aires, I felt right at home because I noticed some of those same characteristics that I loved about living on the East Coast. 
 Because I love “live” flowers, I immediately took notice, in Buenos Aires of the ubiquitous street vendors selling flowers.   The same is true for DC and Manhattan.  Since they were so accessible, while living on the East Coast, it was easy to reward myself with fresh cut flowers regularly.
Second, my attention was seized by the architect and monuments in Buenos Aires.  Since this trip was unplanned and strictly a business trip, to change my visa and quickly return to Brazil, the only research I did prior to leaving for Buenos Aires was to learn all I could about changing my visa and gathering all the documents necessary to accomplish that end. 
Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, the first item on my agenda was to locate the Brazilian consulate office.  On my way to my destination, to my great surprise, as I ran across the busy intersection of 9 de Julio, I saw a tall obelisk, an exact replica of the Washington Monument.  Interestingly, on my last day in the city, on my way to purchase my return ticket to Brazil, I stumbled upon a monument that resembles a combination of the Vietnam Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC.  The monument is named, “El Monumento a Los Ca√≠dos en Malvinas.”  Similar to both the Vietnam Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it pays homage to soldiers lost during war.   The appearance of the monument is like the Vietnam Memorial, the names of fallen soldiers are carved into black stones, but the activities at the monument are similar to those at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  An eternal flame is a part of the monument and guards dressed in historic uniforms are posted at the monument.
Third, I would be remiss if I did not mention the parks, plazas and shops.  Buenos Aires is very urban and holds the distinction of being considered “the Paris of South America.”  I stayed in the Recoleta neighborhood, which reminded me of a combination of Dupont Circle in Washington, DC and the upper east side of Manhattan, NY.  Despite its urban characteristic, it is clear that the city demands its green space.  I was enamored by the plazas and parks that I frequently stumbled upon, and the variety of shops and restaurants that kept my constant attention as I made my way from one destination to the other. The fashion trend in Buenos Aires, for every member of the family, is definitely inspired by Paris.   
Fourth like any major city, with all its wonderfulness and beauty, you must exercise caution.  I was almost the victim of a theft while walking along the busy avenue of Santa Fe.  I was carrying my book bag on my back.  I thought it was secure because I had all the zippers pulled completely to one side.  I was not prepared for the craftiness of three perpetrators as oppose to one.  While one person, perhaps standing to the side of me, slowly unzipped the bag, the other, standing behind me, attempted to rummage through my bag.  Fortunately, I felt my bag moving and turned around, startling the thief and thus foiling their plan.  When I took the bag off my back, it was completely open.  The most surprising thing about the entire ordeal is that I would never have suspected the persons to be thieves.  They were well-dressed and groomed, and looked like your typical employees on a lunch break.  While it seemed strange at first, I became quite comfortable carrying my book bag covering my chest. 
Finally, I know that there is so much more to Buenos Aires that time and circumstance did not permit me to explore, however, the corner of the city that I was able to experience was a great place to start.





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