It’s been a little while since I posted and that’s mainly because I’ve been finishing off my course in Portuguese.
The good news, dear reader, is that I passed and have acquired (so my certificate says) “a sound understanding” of the behemoth that is Portuguese grammar. The bad news is that, as with many things in Brazil (see Jeitinho Brasileiro), Brazilians tend to improvise when it comes to the rules and structure of their beautiful language. Consequently, whilst I’m frequently told that my Portuguese is improving, my suspicion is that those kind souls are merely humouring me and that in reality my hand signals are making just as much impact upon my day-to-day discourse.
To be fair, my acquisition of Portuguese has probably not been helped by my insistence upon visiting Spanish-speaking countries around the continent – like the short jaunt I made to Buenos Aires last month.
Buenos Aires is undoubtedly one of my favourite places in South America (shhh I should only say this quietly as my visa is still being processed) and, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it was whilst I was there on my travels around the continent that I met my future (Brazilian) wife.
As you do.
That was over four years ago now (yikes) and seeing as it was our anniversary recently we decided to take advantage of one of Brazil’s (many) holiday weekends to go back and visit the place where it all began.
So, with four years between visits it was interesting to see what, if anything, had changed. Here is what your eagle-eyed explorer discovered.
It’s often said that Argentinans look towards Europe whilst Brazilians prefer to cast their gaze north to the States. Buenos Aires is, perhaps, a perfect example of this as its wide avenues, elegant architecture and huge parks often given first-time visitors the impression that they could just as well be in a European city like Barcelona or Paris.
Inevitably, with this aspiration for European ‘sophistication’ (or arrogance as Brazilians like to call it) it’s no surprise that Argentinians themselves seem to pay as much attention to their own appearance as they do their surroundings.
However, whilst Argentinans may have looked to Europe over the past couple of centuries for inspiration for their architecture, cuisine and fashion (well, some of it), it seems they only ever took fifteen minutes to look at a small window in the late 80s and early 90s to inform their tastes in coiffuring.
Mullets, rat-tails, perms, curls – name a terrible 1980s hairstyle and there is likely to be an Argentinian somewhere (most probably the footballer Rodrigo Palacio) who has worn one or all of them (sometimes simultaneously).
Even Argentina’s footballing messiah has been found guilty of hair-crimes.
Despite some thorough research (via Google) I am unable to provide any meaningful reason as to why this fate befell a nation of people that is apparently so obsessed with how it looks.
However, perhaps, just perhaps, ‘the times they are a-changing’.
For you see, when I asked my wife what she thought about being back in BA she simply replied: “Well, the hairstyles seem to have improved”.
And it seems that they have. Whilst I should tread cautiously (we were, after all, only there for four days), it did genuinely seem as though the nation’s barbers may have been issued with updated styling manuals, as this recent photo of the Argentine national team also seems to demonstrate.
If this is true it would seems that only dark days lie ahead for the mullet in Argentina. A national treasure may well be extinct by the next time you visit.
2) The Falklands / Las Malvinas
Having dealt with the weather, buses and pavements since starting this blog I certainly cannot be accused of having dodged the big issues here in South America. As such, I thought it was probably about time that I wrote something a little more light-hearted and on a topic a little less sensitive.
So, with that in mind I’ve decided to use the second part of this week’s blog to talk about the Falklands dispute.
The reason? Well, it was hard NOT to be reminded of it whilst we were in BA.
The Falklands / Malvinas dispute has been significantly ramped up since my last visit. Four years ago the only reference I saw (that I can remember anyway) was a fat guy in Salta wearing a T-Shirt that said “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (The Falklands are Argentinian). And the few Argentinians my age that I spoke to about it didn’t really seem that bothered. To be fair, it was only a few and they were workers in hostels and bars so they were probably more foreigner-friendly. They may also just as well have been placating me in order to try and avoid an awkward topic of conversation.
Either way, there definitely seems to be have been a shift in the mood of the nation since I was last there and the most in-yer-face example of this was the Malvinas graffiti that seemed to be everywhere.
It was, understandably, always going to be a more prominent issue this year given that it’s the 30th anniversary of the conflict. Additionally, the Argentinian government, President Kirchner in particular, has been doing as much as possible to beat the drum. As a result, even government buildings had some sort of Malvinas garb on them.
I’ve no doubt that this may genuinely be an important issue for the Argentinian people. However, the cynic in me also thinks it’s convenient that the drum is being beaten so loudly at a time when the Argentinian economy seems to be going down the toilet.
The government line is that inflation is under 10% but in reality everyone else says it is more likely to be 25% (I even heard some one say 40%), though the Argentine media is censored from reporting otherwise.
Hmmm, censorship and an ailing economy. That sounds just like…errr…1982.
More importantly though, it also explains why my steak worked out as being twice as expensive as four years ago – despite it being bought in the same restaurant. Kirchner out!
And whilst the graffiti did get a tad tiring after a while there was one bit that brought a smile to my face.
In Portuguese ‘gato’ means cat but it’s also used to refer to a good-looking chap. Now, when I saw this little doodle I was pretty certain that its use had a different connotation, but what?
Alas, following a quick Google of the significance of ‘gato’ in Argentine Spanish I can exclusively reveal to you that David Cameron is in fact a whore. Who would have thought?