This is one of the most spectacular, if not /the/ most spectacular, bookstores I've ever been into. It's called El Ateneo and is on Avenida Santa Fe in Buenos Aires' Barrio Norte. It is actually not a bookstore at all, but an over-the-top multi-level 1920s theatre. Cameras are flashing all around me - this is a place in tourists' guide books. It's that kind of a big deal.
I decided that it was time to get out of the apartment today and spend some time working in a fresh location. El Ateneo is only a few blocks from the apartment so I've come here to try out their lounge/stage/restaurant.
They should stick to books.
After waiting for about 20 minutes before being able to flag the attention of a waiter I was then able to communicate that I wanted something (a drink? a menu?!). I always begin by asking whether they speak any English, just incase, which this chap did not, and he looked more than a little befuddled when I tried to explain that I speak "Ingles. I speak Inglessss!!!". Nope. Nada. No intiendo. You'd think that, sitting down in a restaurant there would only be one of a few things that I might be asking for by vigourously gesturing and charading around with my hands as though I were reading something. After an awkward exchange and a further awkward silence he evaporated off into the back somewhere and eventually returned with a menu.
I ordered sparkling water, which is commonly served here, and a caesar salad. Those are safe enough, I thought, and this place looks nice enough... ? No...? No!! When he returned, he presented me with sparkling water and a salad (at least this mission was not a complete failure).
I've had worse salads than this, but not many.
The croutons.. I think if they were to have served me neat oil there would have been less oil than is on these croutons. As a special surprise, there was also chicken ("pollo") in the salad. And special chicken it was too - this chicken contained parts of a chicken that I don't believe any chicken actually has. And thanks to the oiliness of the croutons, it was sticking to both them as well as the cheese. I decided that it wasn't worth trying to explain to the waiter that the menu hadn't mentioned anything about pollo at all, and that the pollo that he had presenting me with was causing me to experience a mild gag reflex.
I don't expect to get anything out of writing about this, or turning anyone away from the place. I'm frustrated is all. If you happen to be in Buenos Aires at some point though, definitely go here for the books and the pizazz.
And right now I smell something burning, so I'm going to power down my notebook and leave.
The first flight of my second round-the-world trip in as many years (I can't believe it either) was Johannesburg to Sao Paulo. I have spent a lot of time flying but was still more than a little surprised to recognize the flight attendants on this flight. They appeared to recognize me too: at one point I asked one if she'd mind if I had some tea, and she said "Sure, help yourself" and directed me into the attendant's galley where I helped myself.
But not without feeling very odd about it.
So far I've found the service on South African Airways flights to be very friendly and helpful, I'd recommend them on that basis. The admin side of this flight was a different story though. Dealing with SAA Voyager, for example is absolutely atrocious and makes me think that actually, reporting an incident at the South African Police maybe isn't as bad as I'd thought.
My flight was not a proper connecting flight (different carriers. And I'd like to say right now, again, that I am not impressed with the SAA call centre. NOT impressed.). This meant I had to go through passport control, clear customs and be re-frisked. I was very glad that South Africans can enter Brazil without a visa or else I'd have had a big shopping to do when I get into Argentina, because I wouldn't have been able to collect my luggage - one has to clear through passport control before you can do any luggage collection!
I'm sitting in the Sao Paulo airport now at my gate killing time until its time to go to Buenos Aires. A guy looking exactly like Andre Ellis has just walked past and weirded me out again. It's 19h08 and the sun is still in the sky, and I'm sipping a fruit smoothie that tastes like drips of heaven. Aaaaah :)
I don't really have any expectations for this trip beyond chilling out a lot. I'm so looking forward to it..
For all the months that it's taken me to get any of this online I've been thinking about what might be worth mentioning and always one thing comes to to front of my mind: People in New York fall down!
It's something I've told to all the people I've spoken to back home so far. For the first week that I was in New York City, PEOPLE FELL DOWN! Right in front of me! At least one person every day. And not the usual little barely-noticeable loss of composure petit-trip. I'm talking olympic standard falling down. They fall down stairs, across the pavement, UP the pavement. I have never seen anything like it in my life. These are the things I'm traveling to learn about though, no?
My new New York friend claims never to have witnessed the thing that I'm talking about. It must be me.
The first leg of my round-the-world trip was an SAA flight which turned out to travel via Senegal. I was a bit confused at the stop and still freshly irate at having had my dry underarm dry-stick deodorant confiscated. Dove (symbol of peace!) - they feared that I might bring down this Boeing with it. I suppose the terrorists might charge at the pilots of the plane with just such a dry stick as what I had had confiscated, and rub it in their eyes so that they wouldn't be able to see clearly where they were going for 24 hours (only the best dry stick would do for this cause) causing them to crash the plane and kill us all.
When we landed in Senegal I asked the air hostess whether we would be leaving the plane at all. She laughed and said, "Don't be mad - if we did that we'd surely return find the wheels stolen from the plane.".
I had been told all sorts of terrifying stories about arrivals in New York about power-tripping officials that made my skin crawl. And I was expecting to be cavity-searched. A full cavity search may have been more pleasant than what I actually got: a greasy official at passport control called Ramos (I am unsure whether this was his first, last, or /only/ name) hitting on me. After inspecting all my documentation, scanning my important bits (eyes and fingertips) he yelled across passport control to his friend: "HEY, check this out! From South Africa traveling alone around the world!". The friend came over, they both looked me up and down and paged through my passport, and Ramos offered his sevices to me as a bodyguard. Since i was not officially through passport control yet, I held back on my urge to hiss and cuss at the guy, and forced a smile, snatched back my passport and left.
Finally in New York City. First time in the United States! Such a muddle of thoughts and feelings: excited and overwhelmed, exhausted (and feeling kind of icky due to confiscation of dry stick), a little lonely and a lot confused. The start of the most massive adventure of my whole life.