A fresh look at San Telmo

IMGP7165This weekend I needed air and sunshine. Last week was a stressful one. My progress towards buying a more permanent home in Buenos Aires has not exactly been smooth. Weekends are a welcome respite from talking to banks: they are not open, so I can’t visit them, and I know they won’t be calling me with any more bad news.

The last time I visited San Telmo was back in March with Gabriella. The sun was hot that day. We sweated as we sought bargains among the many craft stalls. This time the sun was equally as beautiful, but the temperature was significantly lower. I have struggled to accept the fact that winter is really quite cold here – and it has been unusually so with snow falling in Buenos Aires this July for the first time in eighty years. I hate the idea that I have a wardrobe in England stuffed with wasted warm coats and jackets. I keep layering clothes more suitable for spring or autumn and resisting the temptation to splash cash on quality winter gear. I need to save the money for my tango lessons, the home I am trying to buy, and traveling to Uruguay to get a new visa.  I know that clothes are relatively cheap in BA and it is true that I have a bad cold to prove my insanity but spring must be round the corner, surely…

San Telmo is an interesting place to wander on a Sunday if, like me, you love window shopping crafts, antiques, clothes, music and all manner of accessories.  It’s also fun to watch the buskers who perform mind-boggling acts, or to listen to the live orchestras and bands. I love observing and searching for anything I have never seen before. And this Sunday I found a special treasure. To find it I walked for a couple of hours in the colourful streets that were packed with many tourists – why do so many of them insist on speaking loud English to Spanish speakers without so much as a ‘gracias’ or ‘por favor’? I know I might be classed as a tourist too, but honestly I can’t help wanting to distance myself from this type of behaviour.

On my walk I bought two tiny items and spent $7 pesos in total: $2 pesos on shoe laces for my Fabio practice shoes and $5 pesos on a hand woven macrame bracelet.  My Fabio shoes are well worn now, the laces have started to disintegrate, and I just fancied some pink for a change. The macrame bracelet I have added to the other five on my left wrist. I collect these from every place I visit here. They are only ever between $3 and $5 pesos and each is unique. I have one from Tigre, one from Feria de Mataderos, one from the market in Avenida Cordoba where I often get off the 109 or 106 bus, one from Plaza Francia. The final one was actually the first and it is not from Argentina at all. My best friend in England gave it to me before I left and unknowingly started this beautiful little collection of memories woven in thread.

I found my treasure in Plaza Dorrego. This plaza is at the heart of the San Telmo attraction. Its cafes and ‘tango show restaurants’ fringe the antique market which hides the ‘dance floor’.  On Sunday afternoon I negotiated the maze of stands to reach the centre and stopped for a while to watch the show. Indio was there doing a great job of entertaining the day trippers with tango and tales of the Argentine gauchos. As I wandered around the plaza I looked up. I always look up. I love the history and stories that sit above the shops and cafes: the beautiful architecture, the people watching the activity in the street, the sky, the sun, the trees. And on Sunday unexpectedly, it was a tree that caught my eye.

IMGP7187 This tree towered above me. Its structure strove to reach the clear sky. And on its branches, to my delight, were the freshest, tiniest leaves that unmistakably shouted SPRING!

I danced a little tango in my heart.

Of course I was happy to think that I might not be needing to ship those winter coats out here after all, but in truth the tree meant much more to me than a change in the weather. In the moment that I saw it I understood the depth of the fresh start I am making: a new country, a new people, a new language, a new home. I took this photograph of the tree to remind me that I have come far.

A year ago I had just returned from Mongolia to my English village home, single for the first time after many years of marriage, and the word tango had just been whispered into my ear. I had not taken a class. I had not danced a step. I had not even heard a single beat of tango music. And yet, here I am now in the tango capital of the world, with spring leaves opening in every area of my life.

What treasure I have found.

See pictures of what I saw this Sunday in San Telmo


2 Responses

  1. Buen di, Sally. I hope this comment finds you in higher spirits and that your nose is allowing you to breathe easier.

    I have never been in BsAs in the winter and snow in July…brrrr! That is cold!

    Anywhoo, it is 2AM here and I will need to go to work in 5 hours…not used to sleeping early as my head is still in tango-land back in Seattle.

    On my last night of the Festival, we danced outside at a pavilion. So dull of me, I forgot to take a photo of it and ALL the people. It was a salmon bake milonga and I had a huge 2/3 of a king salmon. The food was all worth it and the dancing was just icing on the cake. It was a gorgeous and warm evening in the low 70s Fahrenheit.

    The pavilion had a cement dance floor coated with chalk so you could still dance…lucky for me, my Buenos Aires shoes can be used for dancing on the cobblestones of San Telmo or inside a wooden pista. So I didn’t have to worry about ruining my shoes. *grin*

    I had a blast and made many acquaintances and 2 new gal friends whom I plan on keeping in contact with. Sad to say, I was not able to find Gabriella.

    Every night I searched for her…I told my friends I was looking for her…and yet…we kept missing each other.

    I thought I saw her a few times dancing, but upon closer inspection, I was never really sure…and, of course, when I realized that I could have just asked Negracha and Diego who she was (since they were at every milonga), I was already at home thinking back—“yes, we have mutual friends in common”. *chuckle* Ahhhh, hindsight is always so clear.

    Se la vie, eh? I hope there will be another opportunity to meet the lovely Gabriella Stein.

    Anywhoo, I will make an update in Facebook later this week. I forgot to take a lot of photos, but I got a photo with all the teachers I enjoyed their classes from.

    Wishing you lots of {{{{ Positive }}}} energy, Sally-Sweetie.

    Much love and hugs, “Sly” 🙂

  2. I get a shiver down my spine and goosebumps when I read all of this! 🙂

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