After just under a week in Argentina, I left the cosy confines of the Hotel Ritz and headed over to my student accommodation, a short walk away in Congreso. While attending school to learn Spanish here I would be staying in a shared apartment with fellow estudiantes - the place turned out to be crazy and wonderful all rolled into one. It was a large, old and beautiful apartment, with a long balcony which looked out onto the Plaza del Congreso: it was full of huge windows which would remain open throughout the day and night, the strong winds blowing a gale through the common areas. There were many of us students who found ourselves staying in the apartment together while we studied Spanish for this short time in our lives: a range of nationalities, ages, professions, personalities and backgrounds, we came together to hang out and share some wonderful experiences and memories of this great city and country - something which was very special indeed.
The first day I woke up at the apartment was a Monday, also my first day of school at Coined. The weather had begun to grow more cold and rainy and I remember, late as ever, rushing down the Avenida Rivadavia to the Coined school on Suipàcha in the Microcentro, determined not to be late for my first day of classes. I needn´t have worried - as I walked through the doors of school that morning, I realised it was a laid-back and friendly place where the students were welcomed and very valued. That morning I met my teacher and classmate (both lovely) and began to get to grips with the Spanish language. Lucky to have always naturally taken to words and linguistics of all kinds, I didn´t find it to be a huge struggle to begin understanding this language which I had no prior knowledge of. However, that didn´t mean it wasn´t problematic to adjust occasionally - in particular I found trying to find the words for simple things while talking with classmates and flatmates often tiring, hence why I spent most of this first week with a permanent coffee and nicotine buzz.
My first experience of a milonga - the traditional tango hall where Argentinians go to meet, eat, drink, dance and enjoy the beauty and melancholy of the music - came the following day. I met my colleagues in the beautiful and rare La Catedral de Tango in the barrio of Almagro, where we joined in as best we could with the portenos there to watch and learn from the talented teachers who were clearly in love with the dance and all things related.
This week, my second in Buenos Aires, was when I first began to fully understand the city and what it was about. I tried the traditional Argentinian food, empanadas, tried to get to grips with tango, and went with a porteno friend to a parrilla where every kind of meat is available and cooked in front of you on a huge griddle. The parrilla was in the Puerto Madero by the water - after a short Subte ride to the Plaza de Mayo, the walk to the lovely restaurant, followed by a great evening, with amazing food and wine, was one of the most special experiences I had during my time in Argentina.
Some friends and I spent the following Friday night in Bs. As´ party central, the barrio of Palermo. We visited the wonderful nightclub, Crobar, where we stayed till the early hours dancing and enjoying the buzz and vibe of the place, jampacked with portenos keen to party throughout the night.
I returned to Palermo a couple of days later for a visit to the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays and Museo Evita. The sun shone really brightly that day, and I enjoyed wandering round the beautiful gardens and spending time at the museum while reflecting on my first couple of weeks in Argentina: I thought a lot about the people I had met and my experience of Spanish thus far, and I looked ahead to my final week in this very special place.