Today, with my pencil-case full of coloured pens, a dictionary, a notebook (thanks gang for moleskin black book), I went back to school. Going to school consisted of waking up early to prepare for the placement test and looking for a bus to school.
The Argentinian bus system (called colectivos) is a complex web of buses and routes. There is no guide available and no online maps. It’s like the italian mafia, the illusive vente privé, the unavailable Hermés birkin. Only the ones in the know will know. To know the bus system is to be truly integrated into the holy grail, the becoming of a porteno. And it costs about 1 peso (20 cents euros) per ride. (Good for the budget.)
Witness my triumph. This tiny ticket proof of my bus trip to school. 1.10 pessos on bus No. 17. This is a small, tiny, minute success in a web of hundreds of buses that is still a mystery to me. And by the way, I have not figured out how to come home by bus. The streets in buenos aires are like New York. They are formed by perpendicular streets forming tiny square boxes on the map. All streets are one way streets. That meant, no chance for finding the return bus on the other side of the street, try a totally different parallel street that could be 1 or 2 or 3 or 5 blocks away. To top it all, the “bus stops” are made up of simple steel plates on metal poles. The bus numbers are most conspicuously hidden amidst posters, signboards etc. I walked over 20 blocks to get home today.
Proud as I was of my conversational skills in Spanish, I was humbled, thrown cold water in my face, directed to Elementary 1 class. The only redeeming grace being – it was Elementary 1 part 2. Basically, I was no better than those who had started spanish class 1 week ago. But I was no longer 16 and the under-achiever in me accepted the judgement with “grace”. I love school.
While I attempt the 25 block walk home, I have decided to make 2 stops for tango shoes. And I should add, the most famous brand of tango shoes worldwide is also hidden off the main streets. After walking through a passage, climbed up 3 flights of stairs, I would have to ring the bell before being allowed in. If you imagine a shop space displayed with glorious shoes in all shapes and sizes, then let me remind you of the mysterious bus system. “Comme Il Faut” is a true Argentinian brand. They are only available here or through expensive imports and the pictures of shoes are seldom displayed on websites. Tango dancers around the world would buy their shoes based on photos that were either blurry or showed a small part of the shoe. In the shop, a shop assistant asked for my size and preferences for style and colours before she brought different designs of shoes, only 3 – 5 at a time. I would not even try to ask her to show me all the available design.
Finally, a pair that is a combination of prints in nude colours spoke to me. They are glorious. Apparently, in 2 week’s time, I could return to see if there were new arrivals. These shoes are limited in design and often, there are no more than 2 or 3 pairs of the same design per size.
Now, lonely planet says that people come to buenos aires for the good food. This is still elusive to me, I have yet to experience food that makes me think of paradise. Please, are you being evasive, my lovely buenos aires or am I simply not perceptive?