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Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

February 3, 2019

Today marks my 20th anniversary in Buenos Aires.  I want to share some of the reasons why I’m so happy in this great city.

Blue skies and sun during the summer and the winter!

Great weather all year around.  I have no complaints.  My hometown Chicago was hit this week by the polar vortex and registered cold like the south pole.  I feel sorry for family members, while I enjoy summer in Buenos Aires.  Even when it’s colder during the winter months of July and August, we don’t get freezing temperatures in the Paris of South America.

Citizenship.  It’s relatively simple for a retired person with social security benefits to get citizenship through the court.  You can do it yourself or hire a lawyer to handle the process which takes about a year.  I have dual citizenship since 2013 and two passports.  I have the right and the obligation to vote in all the elections.

Bilingual culture.  English is taking over the world.  I’m glad I studied Spanish for two years in high school or I’d be lost.  Knowing the local language facilitates making a connection with people.  Without it, I’d be at a loss for words, literally.  I meet people all the time who studied and speak English.  Store windows have signs in English, and restaurant menus are bilingual.

Social Security is enough to live on.  I started receiving monthly retirement benefits at age 62.  I own an apartment that I bought in 2005 with money from my mother’s estate.  I can live comfortably on my small retirement income and have savings, but I don’t know how I would manage if I still lived in Chicago.

Public transportation.  Buses and the subway are the most efficient means for getting around the city.  The highest fare based on distance is 17.50AR — about 50 cents.  We have electronic cards to pay the fares, and most lines are air-conditioned.  Buses run 24 hours a day, and the subways have extended hours on the weekends.  You don’t need a car in the city.  The downtown is pedestrian friendly.

Tango is everywhere in the city.  The dance and music brought me to Buenos Aires.  The milongueros viejos are the reason tango is unique in the city where it was born.  I learned what tango means to them, and they taught me how to feel and love tango.

Teatro Colon

The National Symphony Orchestra – Centro Cultural Kirchner

The Chamber Orchestra of the Nation in the National Congress

Philharmonic of Buenos Aires in Usina del Arte

Cultural life.  This is a city that values the arts and makes them available to all.  I attend free concerts at several venues.  It’s like having a subscription to four orchestras, except that all the tickets are free.  There are weeks I attend as many as six concerts and a concert lecture.  My years of instrumental music study helped me appreciate the cultural life I have in Buenos Aires.

Community involvement.  I attend neighborhood meetings every three months  hosted by the mayor and his staff when residents express their concerns and make suggestions.  Participation keeps me informed about our neighborhood.  The police commissioners hold monthly meetings at the police stations to stay informed and handle problems.  In my opinion, this is a city that works on improving all the time, and I like being involved.

Neighbors.  Having lived in the same apartment for 17 years, I have gotten to know many neighbors by name when we meet on the street and talk.  It makes me feel I’m a part of the community, like the one in the 1950s and 60s in Chicago when we knew all the families on the block.  Life is fast-paced today with technology, but I don’t feel anonymous here.  The owners of the health food shop greet me by name and know my purchase preferences.  I returned to the local pasta shop this week after a year, and the new owner, who met me only once, remembered I’m from Chicago. This happens regularly for me in Buenos Aires, and I love it.

House sales and resale shops.  These were my shopping destinations when I lived in the USA.  I’ve been a regular at the weekend house sales and resale shops in Buenos Aires since I heard they existed here.  I furnished my apartment going to house sales, and all my clothes and shoes are second-hand.  I give what I no longer wear to a church-sponsored feria americana.  I recycle everything.

Organic fairs.  When I finally learned that eating organic is important for my health, it wasn’t easy finding markets that sell it.  Fortunately, the city organizes organic fairs on the weekends in the parks.  I go on Friday or Saturday to buy fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, and beans.

Friends.  I am grateful for my friendship with these three women–Marilyn, Ines, and Romaine.  Concerts are our common interest, so we enjoy music together.  It’s always a special time for me being with them.

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What would you miss most if you left Argentina?

May 9, 2018

That question was the title of a thread on BAexpats.org by a man from the UK.  Many reasons quickly popped into my head that resulted in my post:

I’d miss being greeted on the street by the neighbors
I’d miss being greeted by name at stores
I’d miss the blue sky and lovely warm days
I’d miss walking this beautiful city
I’d miss all the incredible free concerts the city offers in dozens of venues all year-long
I’d miss walking at the ecological reserve and Palermo park
I’d miss tango dancing with lifelong milongueros
I’d miss the magnificent architecture of the city
I’d miss connecting with friendly portenos in daily life
I’d miss all the hug and kisses I receive and give to friends and acquaintances in this grand city

I will never leave Argentina.

Then today I noticed that someone quoted and liked my post.  That person wrote the following:

I love your posts and your passion for this city. This forum is often used as an outlet for people to express their frustration with living in Argentina as an expat, which I completely understand, but your posts serve as a constant reminder of all the reasons to come in the first place, and reasons to continue living in Buenos Aires. Your free concerts thread is one of the best things on the forum!

I will admit that it touched me and caused immediate sniffling.

Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

April 22, 2018

I remember being excused early from school when I was in third grade with a few other students so we could go downtown to attend the Chicago Symphony Youth concerts at Orchestra Hall.  That was my first subscription to the symphony.  We sat at the very top of the hall in the gallery, looking straight down at the orchestra on stage.  Years later in my 20s, I had a subscription to the evening concerts.

I’ve attended concerts throughout my life, but never have I attended several each week as I do in Buenos Aires.  There are three symphonic orchestras in Buenos Aires: Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional, Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires, and Orquesta Estable del Teatro Colon.  All three offer free concerts in addition to the subscription concerts by the OFBA and OETC.

The first free concert of the season by the Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires was Friday night in Usina del Arte in La Boca.  I went to the Teatro Colon box office on Thursday morning for two free tickets.  Mi Primera Sinfonia (My First Symphony) is a series of six concerts.  The conductor explained those concerts will feature the first symphonies which aren’t performed as often as their later works.  Dvorak’s first symphony has glaring composition errors written when he was 24.  First symphonies programmed are Beethoven (May 11), Nielsen (May 24), Sibelius (Sept 24), Prokofiev (Oct 26), and Max Bruch (Nov 10).

I enjoy retirement with so many free concerts throughout the year in Buenos Aires.  It’s a concertgoers’ paradise.

Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

April 20, 2018

You probably think this photo is in a bar or cafe in Buenos Aires.  Actually it is in the newest subway station at Las Heras on the H line along Jujuy/Puerreydon.  I discovered it for the first time this month as I was exiting the station after my first ride to Las Heras in Barrio Norte.  I heard the pianist playing a familiar tune that got me to stop and listen.  He was playing, What a Wonderful World, and I began singing along.  When he finished, I said, I know that tune by Ray Charles.  He corrected me — no, it’s Louis Armstrong.  Right!  I thanked him for his beautiful interpretation of a tune with inspiring lyrics.  With all that’s happening in the world today, we need a reminder that life is wonderful.

Music is everywhere in this city — you’ll hear musicians on the subway trains, too.  This is one of many reasons I am grateful to live in Buenos Aires.

Milongas for the early birds

January 29, 2018

It’s possible to attend milongas in Buenos Aires from mid-day to the wee hours of the morning.  I checked Hoy-milonga.com and found these places for early birds:

Sunday: Club Pedro Echague in Flores opens at 13 hs

Monday: El Beso in Balvanera opens at 15 hs

Tuesday & Thursday:  Casa de Galicia in Montserrat opens at 16 hs

Wednesday: La Nacional opens at 15 hs; Salon Canning opens at 15:30 hs

Friday:  El Beso opens at 14,30 hs

Saturday: Club Gricel opens at 15 hs; El Beso at 15 hs; and La Nacional at 16,30 hs.

I also heard that Jony’s new Wednesday milonga will open at 15 hs.  There is enough interest among the older dancers for mid-day early bird milongas.

Tango is macho?

January 25, 2017

Recent conversations prompted my search on this topic. The following is a translation of an article by a blogger in Europe.

 

In the milonga you listen to comments from people close to you that sometimes make you happy, others make you sad, others leave you puzzled, some annoy you, and others just do not understand them, let alone in a society like the one we live in today.

It was early and the milongueros were arriving little by little, greeting others, occupying tables, changing shoes, and preparing for the night. Then a young girl, whom I’ve known for a long time, arrived. After greeting one another, we decided to catch up, but as usual, we ended up talking about tango, the milonguero codes, hugs, what we like and didn’t like about them.

She told me that she likes a firm close embrace and that she does not care for those in which she can barely move, since it is the man who marks and the woman who follows, and that, after all, tango is a macho dance. I also like the close and firm embrace, but I also like that you can breathe in it and be flexible, and what I definitely do not like is for the man to ignore me and do not bother to “listen” to me when I dance.

I was surprised by her explanation that tango is a macho dance. In my opinion, no dance is and, even less, tango. He is the milonguero – and for nothing they all are , who is sexist, whether they dance tango or not. What is certain is that if he is macho, it is convenient to say that tango is also, so as to excuse his behavior with the milongueras and in the milonga.

Some also say that the cabeceo is sexist. Again I think that is a tremendous nonsense. Maybe the one that nods is, but the eye contact itself is not. In the eye contact, it is the woman who looks at the milonguero with whom she wants to dance. Then it is they who perceive her glance, if they share the desire to dance with her, extend their invitation in the form of head movement; and finally it is she who confirms it or not. The nodding exchange is a totally bilateral non-verbal agreement.

I firmly believe that tango is a channel of communication between two people who embrace each other. What makes this communication bilateral is mutual respect and listening on both sides to the other person, in which there is a proposal and an acceptance or not of the movement. It is a free tango, nothing macho if the person proposing the movement isn’t, one who respects and has equal consideration for the other person. However, what makes this communication one-sided is a milonguero who imposes his will, who does not count on her except to follow him and do what he commands. This last case is the clear example of a macho milonguero, who surely in the privacy of his house is exactly the same: authoritarian, with an immense ego and a very accented pride.

And what does machismo have to do with tango? The same as fashion, cinema, relationships between people, labor relations,  family, and many other aspects of life itself.  Tango is just one more element in time and space, in which women have been treated and considered in a certain way throughout history.

 

 

Buenos Aires is a great city for retirement

January 19, 2017

festival-vaticano

This is the third year the Asociacion Civil Cultural Centro Historico Teatro Colon presents a series of concerts, opera, and ballet in the Plaza Vaticano next to Teatro Colon.  Last Saturday was Tosca by Puccini from the 2016 season in Teatro Colon, with the Argentine tenor Marcelo Alvarez.

I arrived at the plaza before the introduction, and some empty seats were still available.  I hoped that a friend would find me so we could enjoy the presentation together.  Marilyn spotted me, and I joined her. I’m wearing a black jacket.  No tickets to buy, no waiting in line — just go, find a seat, and enjoy the presentation on the big screen.  It’s better than attending inside because the recording bring us closer to the musicians, singers, and dancers.

I’m grateful for the outstanding cultural agenda available in the city.  I have a retirement life I never had imagined for myself.  The summer festival at Plaza Vaticano is unique.

Inflation in the milongas 2017

January 3, 2017

Foreign visitors to Buenos Aires don’t feel the economic pinch as much as porteños do.  If you have U.S. dollars or Euros to spend, you get an excellent exchange rate — now at 15.76 to the dollar. Your biggest expense is air travel and lodging.  Once you arrive, your expenses for milongas, local travel, and food are less now than they were in 2001 when the peso was equal to the dollar.

Porteños face a different situation.  One visit to a milonga may cost 400+ pesos with the cost of taxis or parking, entradas, food, drinks, tips, etc.  Portenos are not going to dance as often as they used to.  Those who live on a government retirement have to manage their money to last until the end of the month.

This is a comparison of prices in 2001 versus 2017:

Bus ride: 80 centavos/cents (2001)  6.50 (that’s $0.41 in 2017)

Subway ride:  70 centavos/cents (less than the bus in 2001)  7.50 (2017)

Milonga entrada: 3-5 pesos/dollars (2001)  80-100 pesos ($6.35 in 2017)

Bottled water at a milonga: 2-3 pesos (2001) 40 pesos + tip (2017)

I read today that highway tolls and parking fees will increase 50% this month. That means your trip from and to the airport in a taxi or remis will cost more.

The peso and the dollar were equal until the end of 2001.  Today the official bank rate is almost 16 pesos Argentine.  There is really no increase in the milonga entrada for anyone with dollars to spend; you probably pay more than that to attend your local milongas.  When I paid 3-5 peso entradas in 2001, I was going to milongas almost every day of the week.   Today my routine is Wednesday and Sunday at Obelisco Tango where I spend 150AP each night with no transportation cost — I walk ten blocks.  I consider that the best tango bargain in the world because I get to dance with the milongueros viejos.

Technical difficulties resolved

December 6, 2016

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I’d been having internet connection problems for months every time I tried to open a new window.  I finally arrived at the point that I was without internet at home on November 21.  Calls for technical service with the local phone company didn’t get results.  The only one I could turn to for help was my friend John Morton, who just happened to be in Buenos Aires.  He came over on November 25 to have a look.  The Ethernet connection didn’t work, nor did the disk drive.   A computer shop person said the cable was good, but the old router was the problem.  Believe it or not, I still haven’t gone from broadband to WIFI.

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I brought my notebook over to John’s apartment so he could try everything out there.  He had to reinstall programs and got everything in working order after laboring many hours on the weekend.  I stopped by this afternoon when John showed me how things work with a new system.  I have to upload some programs I had before, and I’m so grateful to John for making my notebook work again.  I went to a public internet space several times last week.

I was without my notebook for two weeks.  It was nice to unwind and relax.  I have a backlog of emails and posts to write for the blog.   I’ll get to them.

II Tango Congress – Academia Nacional del Tango

September 22, 2016

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The second annual free conference was held at the Palacio Carlos Gardel on Avenida de Mayo in the tango museum.

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Gabriel Soria is president of the Academia Nacional del Tango.

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The display cases house memorabilia from various contributors of tango.

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The shoes of Carlos Gavito’s are on display with other items he donated to the museum.

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The tango world has many collectors who contributed to the Museum.

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The walls are covered with photos of tango greats.

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I heard talks on the origin of social tango, tango lyrics before Contursi, and the dance before the 1930s.  Carlos Puente, a record collector, spoke about the music of the 1940s and provided recordings for our listening pleasure.  Carlos could talk for hours about his passion, but speakers were given 20 minutes.  A well-known stage performer from Tango Argentina spoke about the era from 1935-1983.  He has no first-hand knowledge of the milongas.  In fact, I saw only three familiar faces from the milongas.  When the microphone was open for questions, a man from the milongas couldn’t remain silent and to share his sentiments about tango as a social dance.  He had heard enough from the academician.  As was the case last year, only the famous stage professionals speak at the congress about their careers on stage, with no mention about social dancing in the milongas of today.