November 20, 2006

Yawn Sweat Shiver Frown
Córdoba, Argentina

I've been ready to leave Córdoba for at least a week now, but a combination of curiosity, the weather, and a sharp distaste for revisiting the inside of a bus has kept me from moving on.

The temperature has been absolutely nuts. Out of the dozen nights I've spent here, only a few of the days were reflective of the temperate spring weather that Córdoba should be sporting at the moment.

The heat started to kick in a few days after I arrived, and kept climbing until it reached a whopping 38°C (100°F) one day. Swimming pools that are typically open during the summer months were still winterized (empty). You couldn't walk around town during the daylight without looking like you just ran a marathon. Some travelers headed for the mountains to try and escape the heat, while others (like myself) simply idled in the hostel, waiting for dusk to bring some relief.

Then, one morning, I awoke to a sky that had turned grey. It started to rain. The temperature plummeted to a brisk 13°C (55°F), and it stayed that way at least half a week—I was in London. Too many folks praying or dancing for rain, I suppose.

I was considering moving on to my next city, but it had the same weather system hovering over it—not exactly great for the riverside beach sunbathing I'm stopping there for.

Yawn… Frown…

This has been the first Argentinean city that I've sampled the nightlife at. It's almost a requirement, as Córdoba itself is truly one hell of a boring town. I've wandered all over the city, walked into the suburbs, sauntered through the park, checked out an art exhibit opening, window shopped along the pedestrian-only streets—but nothing is really doin' it for me. I've read a dozen novels since I've been here, polishing off one 600-pager in an afternoon. This is a hub city, a jumping off point for tours and outdoor activities.

What I was hoping to find during two weeks of intermittent bar/disco hopping was someone that would bring me into Córdoba's inner-circle. As a visitor, I feel like I'm only seeing the less stimulating surface of life here. I'd love to visit the inside of couple of the apartment/condos that tower over the streets, hear about university life, or eat a meal in a nameless restaurant that I'd never find on my own.

Finding that someone to expose me to these experiences turned out to be much harder than anticipated. Attractive, defensive, closed, reserved, and standoffish are the words I used to describe the groups of women I encountered during my first weekend out and about.

I watch the eyes and body language, just like when I'm on the streets—observing and interpreting. What I'm seeing is a complete lack of roaming eyes. Group after group of girls, simply keeping their gaze locked on their friends. No invitations of outside conversation.

Most everyone has a lighter skin tone and higher concentrations of European descent, making the gringo status effect far less obvious (and immediately beneficial) as it is in countries to the north.

A week later, I'm watching more closely how the Argentinean guys are interacting with the women in a nightclub setting. A lot of persistent, aggressive, advances. Hand grabbing, path obstruction (stepping in front of them as they walked by), and general uninvited advances were very common. You gotta feel sorry for these girls at the end of the night, when the guys really turn it up.

That sort of thing isn't my style, but a fellow I went out with proved that tossing yourself, uninvited, into the mix is about the only way you're going to have any conversations. Perhaps a third of those I met had a working command of English—there's a lot of kids studying law.

Oh, and I absolutely refuse to dance to Grease Lightning or It's Raining Men—horrible genre focus at a few of the spots I went to, these DJ's will play anything.

On the brighter side, one thing that I'm really enjoying about Argentina is ability for vendors and businesses to make change for most dominations of notes given to them. It still really surprises me when I hand over an AR$10 bill (US$3.25) for something like a two peso purchase, and the shop keeper doesn't cringe and ask me for a small note—completely commonplace in the rest of Latin America, even with such small amounts. It's a very refreshing culture change.

OK—I'm more than ready to get out of here. I've bought a bus ticket (now that the weather's cleared up), and tomorrow I'll spend the bulk of the day pushing towards Rosario (7.5 hours, US$13). I miss the beach, and hopefully I'll be able to toss a little color on my skin before I head off to the capital (even though I'll be doing it next to a brown river).

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