Ok, there may have been two milongas today … and a kind of performance

There have been many notable achievements throughout history, from great scientific breakthroughs like the discovery of electricity, to social and political triumphs like voting rights for women.

I think it is, however, fair to say that all of these pale into insignificance against the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced: loading a sensible amount of data onto a local SIM in Argentina. There is a Nobel Prize for Sheer Bloody-minded Determination awaiting the first person to achieve it …

Brother, can you spare 25GB?

We lazed away the morning (defined as ending at 3.30pm), and then set off to take care of three small errands, beginning with buying a decent-sized data package for my local SIM. This proved entertaining in 2019, but I was hoping I now had it figured out!

If you want to buy enough data to last about 20 minutes, you can do so at any street corner kiosk. Give them your phone number, network, and AR$300, and you’re done.

If you want to buy enough data to last a month, you can’t. Which is to say, Claro pretends that you can, but you can’t.

Right there in the 400 spam texts they send you as soon as you get a SIM is the offer of 25GB over 30 days. Perfect for me. Costs the equivalent of about £17. But no kiosk can load that package onto your SIM. Nor can phone stores, tech stores, nor even, I kid you not, Claro’s own website. I mean, it’s listed there alright. But it’s greyed out.

Still, they advertise it, so there must be some way to buy it, right? No. We literally walked the city for two hours, asking every likely-looking shop we found, and not a few unlikely ones. None of them could sell me more than AR$300’s worth of data – just over a quid.

Even Diego was struggling this time. He’d found a top-up machine, but it only sold you AR$20 worth of data at a time (about 6p). Then you had to wait about ten minutes before it would sell you another 6p’s worth.

There were, however, two pieces of good news. First, we got a truly excellent self-guided walking tour of the city. Second, we met some absolutely lovely people who joined our quest for the holy grail!

This included both staff and guests at the Hotel NH Collection Buenos Aires Lancaster. The reception staff offered their advice – which was good, but ultimately unsuccessful. An American woman here on business overheard our conversation and offered to fetch a local colleague who also tried to help, with equal lack of success.

A delightful Israeli man in a tech store spent 20 minutes battling with Claro’s online ordering system, before he too admitted defeat, using Google Translate to advise that the 25GB package was in fact completely fictitious.

My theory about all this is that locals only ever top up frequently with small amounts, while most tourists are too lazy to SIM swap. This means there is no actual demand for the high-value plans, so Claro can claim to sell it for boasting rights or whatever, without in fact ever having to do so.

In the end, I decided time was more valuable than money, so I’d revert to my UK SIM and pay the fiver a day Three wants for ‘unlimited’ data. But uh-uh: Data Passport isn’t available in Argentina. So back to buying half an hour’s worth of credit at a time.

Update: We did end up solving it.

Next on the errand list was to collect the cash I’d ordered to pay for my shirts and trousers. I left Tina in an Italian cafe, checked that the cash office would still be open when I got there, and walked the 10 minutes there. There were two people ahead of me in the queue. At 10 minutes each, that meant a 20-minute wait – only to be told that they’d run out of cash! It seems for larger withdrawals, you need to get there earlier in the day.

Which left the final item on the to-do list: picking up the laundry – which had, by this time, closed. Zero for three. Fortunately, the evening was very much more successful than the afternoon!

Milonga 3: La Maria

I’d been moderately keen on this one last time.

I completely lost track of how many tandas I danced; however many you can fit into two-and-a-bit hours of almost non-stop dancing. No exaggeration: there was not a single tanda which I would rate lower than ‘lovely.’ Many were amazing, and that first one was the best I’ve ever had. I want to pick up the whole club and everyone in it and have it flown back to London.

Of course, this can be a dangerous thing. The joy and the heartbreak of tango is that no two evenings are ever the same, even if it’s the same venue, same DJ, same people … Indeed, I went to the Saturday version afterwards, and while I had a very good time indeed, it wasn’t as magical. So I tried to temper my expectations this time.

It was in a new venue, and indeed very different to the pre-pandemic days. Much smaller room, way fewer dancers, much more varied standards, much worse floorcraft, much worse wine.

Oh yes, the wine. I was offered the wine list, and the most expensive Malbec was one I didn’t recognise but was £2 a glass, so probably decent enough. It turned out that the price was for a bottle, not a glass. It was drinkable, just about, but I had one glass and then donated the rest of the bottle to the DJ’s table. This had the dual benefit of ridding me of the rest of it, and making a new friend. This does not bode well for my 90p element of my Great Malbec Experiment

I would say the average standard of the followers was quite significantly better than the average leader level. There were a lot of guys rushing their movements, not waiting for the follower to complete pivots, and Tina suffered two of these. But the followers were lovely.

We left at around 10.30pm, to head home to sleep.

Milonga 4: La Catedral

Except that I happened to notice La Catedral was on the way home, and this is a must-see for anyone who hasn’t already visited. Which included Tina.

The venue is amazing, but bizarrely it is way more popular with tourists who come to have dinner and watch the dancers than it is with actual dancers. Last time I went, there were three of us there to dance. This time it wasn’t even that initially.

For a time, Tina and I had the floor to ourselves. It felt like a performance, but I had reassured her that most of the visitors knew nothing about tango, so wouldn’t be silently judging our technique, but merely wondering why it didn’t look like Strictly. There will be a video clip at some point.

The DJing was … interesting. The tanda we danced lasted either six or seven songs. Then there was a tanda which began with a tango and was followed by two milonga songs. This, in my view, should be a serious criminal offence. He also didn’t take the hint when the floor cleared, and persisted in playing the second one too.

The dance level wasn’t high. I danced with one other follower and didn’t enjoy it, and Tina didn’t want to risk a tanda with any of the leaders, having silently judged their technique while watching them. We decided to make an early night of it, and were home before 1am.

We’re available for festivals, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

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