I woke up with a bitter taste in my mouth when I saw the news in France. The tragedy was plastered all over the Web, in Spanish, English and French. I grew up reading Charlie Hebdo and I loved their irreverent articles and cartoons. Even as a left-wing radical, I didn’t agree with everything they wrote and their punch lines sometime made me cringe. “Oh, you can’t say that!” I’d think. But they did. They were free to print and say whatever they wanted, and I love them for that. Nothing was taboo. Charlie made fun of everyone. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
And now some idiots tried to silence these free spirits. Go to hell, really.
France has issues, mostly economical, but I don’t remember French hating each other. Please don’t start. Don’t go down that road. Can’t we just be French and argue about our differences on national TV? Weapons, shootings, terrorist attacks, barbaric killings… Marianne is crying.
And so am I.
I learned the news in Buenos Aires, checking my emails in the cheap hotel we had booked close to Retiro, since our main goal was to figure out the next step and it involved a trip to the city’s gigantic bus station.
The hotel was old and packed with travelers from Bolivia and Venezuela doing some shopping in the capital. It had two antique elevators that barely work or stopped between floors, and a tired recorded voice kept on repeating “por favor, cierre la puerta; por favor, cierre la puer…” even though the damn door was already closed. If you have an elevator manufacturing business, you may want to enter the Argentinian market—most are antique and can barely fit two people.
We spent an afternoon exploring Abasto, a district I was curious about since it was supposed to be multicultural and had the famous Mercado de Abasto. In my mind, I had pictured an old market, much like the one in San Telmo. When we exited the subway, we followed the signs that said “shopping” and we were greeted by Christian Dior, Nike and Starbucks. Ooops. Not quite the Mercado I was hoping for. In fact, it is now the Abasto Shopping Centre and no longer the central wholesale fruit and vegetable market of the city. I came in thirty years too late.
The neighborhood is dedicated to Carlos Gardel, the soul of the tango style, who lived in this barrio. Several streets around the shopping mall have colourful façades depicting the artist and his work. However, there was little left of the multicultural aspect of the neighborhood but for a few comida por kilo Chinese buffet. We walked along Corrientes where there is a sizeable Jewish community working in textile and clothing, and that was it.
And then… and then I got sick. Something I ate, probably, or the heat, or whatever. I felt like complete crap for an entire day, which sucks when you are traveling. Eventually, we found a nice quiet playground in posh La Recoleta and Feng and Mark (well, mostly Mark, really, Feng doesn’t care that much about slides and plastic trucks) played there for a couple of hours, while I napped on the grass. No, it’s okay, I didn’t look like a drunk who had passed out—the siesta is a respectable activity here, phew!