LIFE IN BUENOS AIRES
I suppose it is typical of Hispanic countries, but we have been constantly surprised by the schedule kept by people here in Argentina. The shops open at a normal hour--9 or 10 a.m.--and close at a reasonable time--6 or 7 p.m. at night. But dinner is late, often starting at 10 or 11 p.m., and you'll see very young children out with their friends/families at midnight or even later. On Friday, we were walking home from dinner at 1 a.m., stuffed, tired, and ready for bed, at a time when many bars in the U.S. are starting to wind down, and we passed group after group of people who were headed the other way, just starting their fun for the evening. Indeed, so far as we could tell, we were the *only* people headed home at 1 a.m.
It's a great schedule when you're a tourist and can sleep until noon (especially one from California, which is 5 hours behind, noon here being the equivalent of 7 a.m. there), but I can't imagine showing up at work at 9 a.m. after being out and about until 1 or 2 a.m. According to Alejandro, the very friendly man who runs the bed and breakfast where we're staying, most Argentinians sleep only 6 hours a night so they don't feel like they're missing out on life. That may sound fine to some of you, but it would absolutely kill me.
Part of the reason this may register with us so strongly is the social nature of life in Buenos Aires. It may be that many Americans are awake until midnight or 1 a.m., but if they are, they're usually at home, lying on the couch watching tv or reading a book in bed. Here, everyone seems to have a very robust social life, with lots of time spent sitting in cafes with friends/business associates, with family in the many small parks that are sprinkled throughout the city, or just outside in whatever way, whether it is sitting on the stoop drinking beers, under a tree watching the dog, or in a restaurant having a bite to eat. I suspect that Argentinians who come to the United States find the atmosphere somewhat suffocating, with so much time spent indoors rather than out, alone rather than with friends and family.
A FUTBOL MATCH
On Saturday, Laura and I went to a soccer game between River Plate (a local futbol club who is usually quite good, but apparently not this year) and Los Estudiantes. We wanted to see a game on Sunday night between Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo, two teams that are very good this year and who are contending for a playoff spot, but when the guide found out that Laura was pregnant she recommended that we skip the game. Apparently it was going to be too rowdy/dangerous--we would be on our feet standing the entire game, pushing and shoving other fans, not the best environment for our unborn Fiat.
So we went to a game at River Plate instead, in the biggest soccer stadium in Argentina, one that seats ~75,000 people. From what I can tell, soccer in Argentina is dangerous for fans and players alike. Police dressed in riot gear met us about a half a mile from the stadium, directing River Plate fans in one direction and Los Estudiantes fans in another, with barricades dividing the two. Inside the stadium, the visiting fans were seated in sections separated from the other fans by 15 foot high chain link fences topped by barbed wire. After the game was over, police prevented the River Plate fans from leaving the stadium for 30-45 minutes so that the Estudiantes fans could escape (which I think is really the best word for it). And this was all for a meaningless game at the end of the year that ended in a tie! Apparently all of these security measures are necessary because the hard core fans are essentially gang bangers who sell drugs, fight the police, and kill opposing fans: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Borrachos_del_Tablon (we could not go to the same part of the stadium or into the same entry gates as Los Borrachos, for which I am thankful).
As for the players, there is a moat around the stadium to prevent fans from rushing the field and attacking them. The game itself was very physical, with the referee allowing a lot of contact, a lot more, I think, than is typical elsewhere. At least two players were carted off the field with injuries, and even the goalie got hurt in a collision.
While the stadium was probably only 60% full, and the game, as I said, was meaningless, it was still a really neat atmosphere. At their end of the stadium, Los Borrachos sang songs and played instruments the entire game; the Estudiantes fans at the other end did the same for most of the game. It wasn't just cheering, like Ohio State fans do when they beat Michigan for the sixth straight year, but full on songs, two or three different ones, repeated the entire game. At different points the entire crowd would sing along, making arm gestures and really getting into it. It was fun, and made us both wonder how much better it would be go to an important game in a smaller stadium. Unfortunately, we can't--our baby girl is already starting to ruin our life.