Qualifying for a Nobel Prize before a visit to Barajando

Yesterday we were unexpectedly transformed into tango performers, and today we equally unexpectedly qualified for the Nobel Prize for Sheer Bloody-minded Determination!

I promise today’s blog will be the very last time I will ever again mention SIMs and data …

The last of the SIM saga

Although I had officially ceased all efforts to buy the 25GB package, there was one last piece of admin to take care of. One kiosk had claimed to be able to sell me the package, and taken my money. So when the data didn’t appear, I needed to return to attempt to reclaim my dinero.

I wasn’t 100% optimistic, less so when the guy we’d paid wasn’t there. But I cobbled together enough Spanish to communicate the problem to the two women who were.

Hola, señora. El señor es aquí? (No). El señor tiene mi dinero por datos, pero yo no tengo datos.

He was duly summoned, and called his Claro contact. The Claro person checked the account for the number, and confirmed the credit had been loaded, but the SIM was shown as inactive. They had no idea why. Then the woman’s son, aged around nine, had a bright idea. Maybe we should instead call the technical helpline. This turned out to be the solution. The kiosk vendor called, was told they had identified the issue, and we should go to the Claro shop and ask for a tech support person, who would be able to resolve it.

When we got there, it turns out that the large data packages are fact rather than fiction, but … you can only buy them in person, and only by showing photo ID. Fortunately I’d just picked up my cash for the tailors, so had my passport on me. A couple of minutes later, the data was active on my phone!

I queried the fact that I’d been able to buy an active, pre-loaded SIM from a backstreet place last year, and was told that was a blackmarket sale, and illegal. Ok, then. Excuse us, we need to go have lunch …

Cafe Tortoni

One of the most famous eateries in BsAs, it has been frequented by singer and composer Carlos Gardel and racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio, and visited by anyone who is everyone, from Albert Einstein to Hillary Clinton.

The good news is that it is indeed a very grand place to visit. The bad news is that it clearly trades on its history and appearance; the food is very, very average in a city in which it is very easy and inexpensive to eat well. Oh, and do not, under any circumstances, visit the bathrooms. Ladies or gents. Trust us on this.

We were able to walk home from there, doing a little shopping on the way.

Milonga 5: Barajando, at Lo De Celia

We’d toyed with the idea of another two-milonga night (I know, I know …), but in the end decided some rest was in order, and reserved a table at Barajando for 10.45pm. As with almost all milongas here, reservation requests are made via WhatsApp, and half an hour later we got a suitably stylish confirmation.

Entering the club, there was a woman of a certain age sitting at the top of the stairs smoking a cigarette. I assumed she was a dancer who had just popped out for a smoke, and I said a friendly ‘Hola.’ She didn’t return the greeting, and gave me a somewhat odd look.

She was in the exact same place when we left at the end of the night, at which point I realised that she was most likely there to provide a commercial coffee service for gentlemen of a certain age who had not succeeded in finding a fellow coffee fan in the milonga. The photo at the top is cropped to exclude the potential hot beverage vendor (‘hot’ being a debatable term in this case).

Warmly greeted by the host on arrival, and asked whether we wanted to sit together or separately. Tina quickly said ‘together,’ not quite ready for the full-on formal experience, but the choice isn’t so important here because they have an absolute genius seating system! (I’ve labelled this using genders rather than roles, as I’ve never seen any women sitting in the leader section, and I suspect any milonga sufficiently formal for segregated seating would faint at the very idea.)

So cabeceo is diagonal, not across the full width of the room. Behind the segregated seating, there is a wide aisle, so roaming cabeceo is also easy. Finally, against the walls, are the couple tables. We were behind the women’s seating.

This is part of the genius, because although I sat with Tina, if I was dancing, she could simply move forward across the aisle and instantly change her status from unavailable to available. If she was dancing, I could move to one of the corners by the men’s seating and cabeceo from there. I love this setup. It’s the best I’ve ever seen.

BsAs has a population of 15 million, plus however many tourists are in town. Yet despite the 26 milongas on that night, tango is a rather small world. Our table was directly behind Rita’s (we didn’t even know she was going)! It wasn’t a case of safely corralling all the tourists, either, as the tables either side of us were locals.

It’s an older crowd, and very friendly. Floorcraft is good in the outer ronda, while the inner ronda was like someone had turned out all the lights in an old people’s home and then shouted ‘Fire!’.

All my tandas were really good. I had a really fun vals tanda with a local follower where all I had to do was navigate and she did the rest! I have to say that my best tanda was with Tina, but that’s because we really know each other’s dance well, and our dancing is evolving in very compatible ways.

I’ve noticed that BsAs followers are great flatterers. Pretty much without exception they will say how good a dancer you are, that you must have been dancing for many years, that you must have learned in Buenos Aires … you name it. Several have told me they will be back at the same place on such-and-such a day, so this is clearly a way to try to pre-book tandas!

Tina’s experience of the leaders was … more mixed. There was one leader so bad I could see from the far side of the room that he appeared to have confused dancing with steering a bus. Fortunately there was great music in the next tanda, so we were able to have a truly lovely dance to erase the experience.

I was continuing my double-time experiments. The specific pattern Diego had suggested as a gentle intro was still feeling like it required too much thought (much more home drilling needed to get to the point where my brain is not required), but in the walk, it finally felt smooth and controlled!

Something else: I’d struggled a bit with clockwise giros, finding they felt more awkward. Yet now they are working absolutely beautifully! They feel incredibly fluid for the first time ever, and there’s no uncertainty on the part of followers. I have no idea how this happened, as I haven’t really been giving it much conscious attention, but I couldn’t be happier!

We stayed until 12.30, by which time the room was pretty empty, then headed home.

Arriving home was officially time for …

The Great Malbec Experiment: Parte Tres!

The £8 Malbec was now but a memory, so it was finally time to open the 90p one!

After the £2 bottle at La Maria, I was rather fearful. My trepidation didn’t decrease when the corkscrew struggled to get a purchase in the uber-cheap cork. Finally I succeeded, and it was time for the test to begin.

I put my nose to the bottle, paused a moment, then breathed in. A few seconds later, I was still alive, conscious and my eyes weren’t watering.

I poured a glass, and again breathed in the aroma. Nothing encouraging, but nor was it discouraging.

I took a sip. My first impression was that it was sweet but pretty harsh. I took another sip. It seemed bad but less than lethal. I decided to let it breathe for a while to see what, if anything, happened.

Twenty minutes later, another sip. Not quite trusting my taste buds, I took another sip. Something very unlikely was happening. It had softened considerably in that time.

Another ten minutes, another sip. Bloody hell. This stuff is actually perfectly drinkable! I mean, I’m not planning on buying a case to bring home or anything, but at 2am after a milonga, it was a viable way to wind down. Leagues better than yesterday’s £2 bottle.

Argentina: every day, a fresh surprise.

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