Letters from Buenos Aires

by Nina Titova, 2008

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October 11, 2008

Hola,hola amigos,
we are here in BsAs.

First of all, it's really and truly exciting city. It's so much like Moscow, so much what I LIKE about Moscow.
It resembles Moscow but ... people are "lighter" and  energy is friendlier.
The streets are all old and dirty, the roads are all broken and you really need to watch your steps, but coffee is great and you can sit and sip it almost at every corner.
It's spring here! I haven't felt it for almost 20 years! Wow! Trees are blooming and air is "springish" if you know what I mean. We love walking along the streets, even though it's not easy, the air is very, I mean, so very polluted that we are all  coughing here.
Food is great and portions are big, so I am sharing it with John or with my "Tango coach"( whoever is available :)0

We are living in a "Tango collective farm" as I called it. 10 rooms Tango hotel. Our room is very basic, it has a bathroom, therefor it's called a suite. It feels like an orphanage to me but the chandelier  and the door handles are made out of  real  beautiful brass and we have a bidet.
The house of our "farm" is next to school and from 9:30 till 5:00 , these little "devils" are exercising their throats like there is no tomorrow.
But.. believe it or not, it doesn't matter, it's not important here.
Really. I can't tell you why.

We are very busy. John is working this week. Poor thing, he is taking subway and then has to walk for about 20 minutes every morning with his heavy computer bag. He comes "home" at 7PM and we are having Tango lesson right here in our place for 11/2hrs. There is a different teacher every day. What is different about them here VS USA, they work only on technique and never on the step.
There is a "pearl" in every single class.
I went to afternoon class ( 3hrs) and John and I went to one night Milonga so far. The class was more like practice. There is a teacher, but he doesn't teach you anything unless you come to him and ask.
Then he dances with you, asks what your challenge is and give you some recommendations. Then you go and dance with others. It worked very well for me because what he told me was enough for me to practise for 3hrs. There I met my "Tango coach" The teacher introduced him as an assistant, we danced and it felt very good.
Today, I hired him for a private lesson in our studio. It costs me $30 for 11/2hrs + half of my lunch.It was really worth it. Needless to say, I love it here. But I hate how much I don't know. I am really pissed that nobody has taught me a lot of basic things before.

Milongas.  Milongas are hard. Really depends on a place, but we went to salon Canning and got almost no dances. I got invited by the Tango driver (as I learned later), it was OK but not something I would ever remember. I also looked around and couldn't find anybody I would be  dying to dance with.

We also went to the local party. Mostly Europeans, all tango dances.
It was in a very beautiful place
Good dancers. Great party.

That's enough for a beginning. Need to go
  Besos, besos, besos ( "kisses" in Spanish)

By the way, it's true that "Argentines are Italians, who are speaking Spanish and thinking that they are French"


October 20, 2008

Hola Amigos,
como estas?

Sorry, I couldn't keep you updated , because at our new place in Recoleta, my computer can't connect.
Yes, Argentina is rich with natural resources, but the technology is far behind standard.
For example,  it is difficult and expensive to call somebody's cell phone. If you are calling from
land line to mobile phone, you need to use a prepaid calling card. So everybody is text messaging,
which is cheaper and, thank God, quieter.

We are getting from Spring into Summer. Sunny and warm, days are getting longer. We are living
in Recoleta, nice, a little more upscale neighborhood. The apartment we are renting is a one bedroom
tiny, basic one.  It's working for us, even though it has its challenges. The doors. The door
to the bathroom is constantly getting stuck and we have to rescue each other from time to time.
We are hoping that it won't happen at night.

Another challenge is : pieces of “art“ in the living room. So very disturbing! Huge gray canvas
with a woman sitting naked in the bathtub. Her face is a face of a smiling insanity and a face of
a man with a tattoo in the corner, looking really drunk. John and I are both thinking that the
removal of the “Art” would  have helped the owner's business tremendously :-)  Surprisingly the
owner seems pretty normal.

We walk a lot here and it is very pleasant. The mix of the past glory and present poverty.
Gorgeous French and Italian architecture with dates of the beginning of the previous century
and names of architects carved at the entrances. Collapsing but still glorious. Public bathrooms
with dirty, broken tiles and a modern, upscale china sink with sophisticated fixtures. This
kind of unpredictability is somehow pleasing for an artistic eye.

The food is good. Almost no spices, just plain, simple and delicious. We both like empanadas,
healthier version of Russian pirogies. I should say that vegetarians, dieters and “greens” are
not doing very well here. The meat is too good to pass, the food is at every corner and great
fur and leather goods are at every store as well as at numerous street markets. Don't even
try to prove me wrong!

But the most I really like local people. They are poor. Their economy is not doing very well now.
They can not afford much, but God, they have this kind of a gentle integrity about them.
They never bargain, they don't try to take advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner and you
don't know their language, even at the market, none of them are trying to persuade you to buy
anything you don't want to buy.  I need to admit here that it works as a reverse psychology,
because we did help Argentine economy really well :)  Only dancing shoes – 6 pairs !!!

There is so much to do and so much to see here!  For normal, not Tango people.  We are Tango
diseased.  It gets even more obvious here. For example, John's coworker took us on a trip to
Tigre Island by boat. It was beautiful and etcetera but we were very uptight about the fact
that we couldn't practice this day.  John made it clear: “I don't think it's possible to do
Tango and go sightseeing. So we won't go sightseeing any more.”

Yesterday though we went to Fair Mataderos, but just because our feet were sore.  But we end
up dancing there and went to Milonga at night. You got the picture.
I will cover our Tango experience in the next email.  It will be long  :]            

Besos, Nina

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Copyright©2008 Igor Polk & Nina Titova
Dance Tango in Palo Alto and San Francisco Bay Area