the daily column

South America: Part the First

When I first thought about a trip to South America, I had some ideas in my head about how things were – I knew it was no longer the place of the past decades, when some revolution or another would push one government out for another, be it from democracy to communist or military junta, or indeed vice versa. Hell, Brazil is right on the list of economies challenging the developed nations.

I do admit though there’s a little part of me that clung to the notion so deeply instilled by the Tin Tin comics, of all things, where one dictator was replaced by another only to himself be thrown out at the end of the day. It’d be a hell of a thing of it did happen, but let’s just say I wouldn’t mind Tin Tin’s role :-)

With this kind of context in mind, getting into Buenos Aires, I first felt a shock of the new – Ezezia Airport is very new and nicely fitted out – and then the polar opposite as we approached our hotel. In an ostensibly decent neighborhood, there was a feeling that you were in a place you didn’t necessarily want to hang out at night, judging by the sidewalks and the graffiti, which was ubiquitous. I felt a perverse thrill that perhaps trouble was bubbling under the surface…

So what did we do after putting our stuff down at 10pm? Naturally we wandered outside, assured by the nearby lights, late night pharmacy, McDonalds… And it turns out appearances are deceptive, because this was the kind of neighborhood where people were out with their kids at 11 in the evening, as others strolled to restaurants to get started on their meal.