Its true what they said about Argentine busses (or colectivos): better than first class on the airplane. I have a huge leather seat, plenty of leg room, curtains like old trains in the movies, and a knit red blanket to keep me warm. I'll be on this bus for the next 13 hours as I travel from Buenos Aires to my destination city La Rioja, so I guess I'll take some time to reflect on my first few days in Buenos Aires.
In three words: warm, beautiful, welcoming. Warm refers to the weather. Beautiful refers to the people and the weather. Welcoming refers to the attitudes, the people, and the weather. A warm beautiful welcoming bus attendant just gave me a candy.
When plane actually landed in Buenos Aires, the first chunk of hours was spent with Americans and other international students. Let me glaze over that and skip ahead to meeting the argentinos. You have to envision this location: an old catholic convento with marble staircases, huge open courtyards, and majestic stone arches (This is where we had our "orientation." How AFS managed to reserve this location, I don't know). Every room and hallway was immaculately clean. Every second felt like being in a movie, or a dream. In one of these courtyards is where I sit down with some of the AFS Argentina volunteers. The first thing I notice is a variety of skin tones and a strong accent. They are chatting with each-other about the diversity of kids in the program (Thai, German, New Zealand, Austrian, Japanese, Norwegian, Swiss, and US). As soon as I sit down they invite me into the conversation; me with in messy Spanish. They make fun of my pronunciation slapping me on the back, and throw back some words in messy English. In less than 15 seconds I am sharing mate with them (a bitter herbal tea, drunk through a silver straw called a 'bombilla') and joking about the monks walking around the other side of the courtyard. What's notable here is that even though they hardly knew me, they were treating me like an old friend. I never felt the division between their being staff and my being student.
And that's apparently the culture of Argentina, they explained to us at the orientation. Argentines are friendly to everyone. You can stop by at a friends house uninvited at 4:00 in the afternoon, and you will be welcomed in, fed, given mate and wind up spending the whole evening there. People do it all the time and no one questions it.
Now to list some details you might find interesting. Busses seem to be the major transit system, and the BsAs bus station is comparable to NY Penn Station. Out my window I just saw a guy poking at a bonfire right by the side of the road. Dinner is served between 21:00-22:00 (9 and 10 pm) and the earliest, and breakfast is a measly piece of bread in the morning. People kiss on the cheeks like in France, and talk over each-other at the table like Italians. They say che as in Che Guevara. The accent is ridiculous. Lluvia turns into shuvia and La Rioja turns into La Shrioja. Oh, and they just decided to make a verb form that doesn't exist ('vos').
That's just about I have to say about Argentina so far. It's about 9:30 now. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to play Doom for 11 1/2 hours.