Not quite the average life

DSCF1863 What do you do in an average week? Here in Buenos Aires, my average weeks are rather peaceful. I take three tango classes with Ariel (one hour each), maybe go out dancing with Carlos three or four nights, go to one afternoon Milonga ‘sola’ and maybe have a long day out at the weekend, or a few walks in the park… Life is tranquil: plenty of time for ‘cafe con leche’ and medialunas on street corners, plenty of time for Carlos to cook me yummy dinners, plenty of time to watch rented movies on my laptop in the dark (the latest was Infame and I loved it). But the last two weeks have no way been average. No way.

I’ve been playing tour guide. I’m showing off my new home city to my visiting friends and although I am exhausted as a result, I’m discovering why I love this place so much, all over again. I feel like I can give my friends the perfect gift day after day, but it costs me nothing, other than time and energy. But that I do have. And so I give it. In return, not only to I get to enjoy their company, but I get a shot of love in my arm for my life… the perfect present for me too.

So what have we been up to? Maybe you’ll want to try these experiences when you get to Buenos Aires, if I whet your appetite a little. Here are five of the things we’ve done that you could try:

  • Betting with the locals at the Argentine equivalent of the UK Derby.  The ‘caballos’  (horses) were beautiful, the jockeys were tiny, and we lost every peso we staked. But the Hipodromo Palermo was a stunning place to spend an afternoon. The blue and white balloons and flowers reminded me that I live in Argentina, and to hear the Argentines softly singing their national anthem before the big race: a privilege.
  • Tapping our feet to Otros Aires electronic Milonga Sentimental as they made a little piece of their own history: the group played in an Argentine theatre for the first time, in honour of launching their latest disc and before commencing their latest European Tour. Before now, although they have played in theatres around the world, in Buenos Aires they have only ever performed in the Milongas. Their lead singer announced this fact proudly, thanked the audience for sharing the experience and took videos of us waving back at him.
  • Eating ‘choripan’ (Argentine sausage sandwiches), ‘locro’ (bean and pig stew… well there was a pig’s trotter in it) and ‘chico guaya’ (a delicious cake of maize, sweetcorn, onion and cheese) in the packed square of the Feria de Mataderos. That was before watching the gauchos ride their horses at high speed down the street in their attempts to capture on a small stick, the tiny silver ring hanging high above their heads. And it was after buying trousers perfect for tango and yoga: the stall holder proudly demonstrated how the wrap around design could be worn in five different ways, and at only $15 pesos a pair they were the best bargain I have found since I got here. Going back on Sunday to buy up the stall…
  • Sinking into the velvet sofas in Comme il Faut. My mission was to choose a pair of their divine tango shoes for a tanguera in England and to advise my visiting friends. For about 30 minutes I stayed focused and successfully chose  the perfect pair for my English tanguera. I gave my opinions to my friends. They deliberated over their choices. I had time on my hands. Fatal. My eyes started wandering, rifling through the open boxes surrounding other women’s feet. Doubly fatal. How did I manage to leave the shop with a pair of metallic pink and acid yellow tango shoes, ‘for summer’? All too easily, girls. All too easily.
  • Sharing coffee and cakes and all sorts of other wicked food delights, with some much loved fellow writers, in the majestic surroundings of Las Violetas. While we were there, there was a crazy woman in an orange sweater, who looked like she was bursting with happiness, posing for photos on the balcony. Unbelievably I think it was me.

And I have not mentioned any of the Milongas with their live orchestras, any of the walks, any of the tango classes, any of the meals out, any of the sightseeing bus rides… We have packed our hours with activity and dancing. I have done things I might have done alone but also some things that I wouldn’t have done without my friends here. And at last I have relaxed. I have found out that I can enjoy the experience of sharing. I wrote some time ago that I was anxious about the arrival of the English, and how it might affect the status quo of my new life. Now I am in a position to look back and reflect on this part of my journey. I would be lying if I said it had been plain sailing. No it has not. Rather, I have been through a process:

Fear: that the arrival of people from my previous life would have a negative impact on my new one, upset Carlos, upset me, encourage my old behaviours to return, unsettle me in my quest to follow my dreams.

Anger (I am ashamed to say): that I have had to share my new life at all. At times I have wanted to keep it for myself.

Effort: when I have not felt like sharing, I have shared anyway and I have tried to do it with good grace and a smile. I have kept some time for myself, and some other time for Carlos and me, but I have tried to give other times and my experience, freely and with an open heart.

Learning: that it is impossible to leave a past life behind because the world is small; that I need to find a way to be comfortable with myself wherever I am and whoever is with me; that sharing my life doesn’t have to take anything away from me and my dreams, because my dreams are strong enough to sparkle, no matter what; that I can draw on the delight of others who share in my new way of life and so increase my own gratitude for it, and my determination to continue it; that to give really can be to receive.

Two days ago, we sat in La Ideal, after dancing with the immaculately turned out gentlemen who are always so delightful to me on a Thursday afternoon. My girlfriend from England turned to me and said with excitement, ‘Oh Sal, this is so beautiful. It is exactly like I thought it would be. I am so happy to be here.’ I felt delight and pride that at least in part I am the reason that she came here at all at this point in time. In being open hearted and welcoming, I helped create this happy situation. I was smiling. And in that moment I remembered –  it hit me again, how very lucky I am. She is returning to England on Tuesday with her memories of this city. Me on the other hand… well, this is my dream, my new life, and it goes on. By sharing I have lost nothing, but I appreciate what I have far, far more.

 See pictures of a ‘not quite the average’ life


7 Responses

  1. Hello Sally – Did you know that you are famous? My sister, Beccy, who is going travelling on Tuesday, heard all about you the other day – not from me! She will be in B.A. for four days at the end of March. Anyway, she was in a taxi in Southampton the other day, telling the taxi driver all about her plans, and he was most excited to hear that she was going to be in B.A. and told her she ought to learn some tango. Of course, she mentioned that I was a tango dancer and he said “Have you heard about Sally? She’s from Southampton and she’s living in B.A. – you should read her blog!”. So there you go – people who don’t know you are being told about you in taxis – you are a celebrity now! I’m not sure what the driver’s name was – think he is from Pilands.

    I will pass all of your recommendations on to Beccy – they are excellent, so thank-you. Beccy also wants to try a tango lesson for beginners – what would you recommend? Is there a decent group class or should she get a private lesson? She is a good dancer – she can salsa, but she’s never really tried tango.

  2. Emily, this is a wonderful little story. Thank you for sharing it because it has helped me to feel good this morning as I wake up.
    On this journey I can sometimes feel I walk a bit of a lonely path. Yesterday was one of those days… fears for the future can occasionally get the better of me. But just knowing that people talk about me like this: with fondness, with enthusiasm for what I do, can make all the difference. Sometimes a little pick me up is all I need to get me back on track again! So thanks to him, and your sister and you I have a wider smile today…

    I would suggest that Beccy take a private class when she comes to BA to get her started with good tango foundations. I am going to send you Ariel’s contact information, by email. If he is around in March, maybe your sister would like to take a class with him. I think he would get her off to a great start. SC

  3. Hey, what a nice and honest post. I think I understand what you mean when saying that you want to keep this new wonderful life you have constructed for yourself, and that you were afraid, at some point, that the sudden intrusion of your “old life” into your “new” one could disrupt you. I’m so glad it has not… I guess it means you are fully your new life, and are now finding out that both can, in some way, “coexist”. Not because you are the old you (or in your old circumstances), but because you are now prepared to bring the best of your old life into your new one. 🙂

    On Las Violetas–oh, that happy, beautiful place. I went there myself, too… and I’d so love to return to it when I go back to BAs (I’m itching with the idea right now, but who knows when I will…) I hope when I do, we’ll share one of those wonderful teas, as well.

  4. Dear Tanguera,

    Yes this is exactly what I have been through. To be honest it has been quite a struggle for me to get to this point, and I think there may still be echoes of the same struggles to come as different people come and go. But, I am hoping now that they will only be echoes because of what I have learned this time round. I love what you say about bringing the best of my old life into my new one. This is a wonderful way to look at things, and I think that it will help me, if I do exactly that, in the future.

    And tea in Las Violetas… it’s a date! SC

  5. Great pictures and a great blog Sally – so good to see your face stripped of all tension, relaxed and happy. You are truly beautiful as well as inspirational! Thought you might be interested in this article which appeared in yesterday’s UK Observer on the influx of tango tourists to BA:,,2213005,00.html
    Love you –
    Jo x

  6. Jo darling, reading your words has made me cry. Do you know what hits me in moments such as this? That I tried so many years to find my place in the world, thinking that there was no place for me. And yet here it was all the time, just waiting for me to get to the point in my life when I was at last ready, and had been through enough… to take a risk and listen to my heart. Yesterday we went back to Feria de Mataderos. Carlos and me danced the Chacarera in the street to the live folk music in the sun under the bright blue Argentine sky. I had tears in my eyes then too. And all these tears are of happiness, that my soul is free of pain at last. You cared for me when I was at my lowest ebb, and that you see my face full of joy now is wonderful. Isn’t it incredible that in the moment that I thought my life was over, it was just beginning?
    My only sadness here is that I am so far away from you, my beautiful family who support me so strongly. But it will not be long before I can hug you all again.
    Thank you my little sister. Thank you. SC

  7. You are such an inspiration to us all, sallycat. And so very very happy in your orange sweater! Keep living that not-so-average life–it seems like a dream come true.

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