My classes continue at la escuela: Mundo Español.
My other life continues as well, my life of shopping and cooking and trips to the market, of casual friendly meetings with Argentines and ex-patriots and other students and other tourists.
In San Telmo, I take a special pleasure in my trips to my local shops and old covered market.
Even the local supermarket pleases me. It is run by a family of Argentine-Chineese, it is scruffy and basic but possesses character. So much preferable to the cold, mundane yuck of Tescos on Baggot Street (although I like the kindly staff there) or the financial rape that is Donnybrook (un)Fair.
The market is wonderful, a smaller quaint version of the famous Bocaria market on the Ramblas of Barcelona- giving it a special nostalgic pang for me.
I buy my fruit and vegetables here in the San Telmo market, from a stall run by a plump Peruvian woman, who was friendly to me on my first day here.
I buy a lot of lettuce and cucumbers and tomatoes, because I make a lot of salads, partly in a forlorn attempt to loose weight. Besides, it is often too hot to eat anything else.
In the evenings, when it cools, I write, sitting out on the little terracotta terrace at home just outside my bedroom. (there is another terrace up on the flat roof ).
On other evenings I set up my laptop in the lovely old Bar Poesia, the former haunt of Argentine literary greats.
Jorge Luis Borges himself used to take coffee here.
I wait for genius to impart itself, through the varnish of the old wooden chairs.
Preferably the dazzling erudite genius of Borges, that blind librarian, that incredible spinner of images and ideas.
The man who could take an idea like infinity, or a garden maze or a simple sphere then play with it, riff on a theme, whizzing through half the references and connected notions from the great literature of the world in eight different languages and across centuries of time- from Ptolemy to Shakespeare, from Jonathan Swift; across Plato to James Joyce, via Herman Melville and the Koran.
Yes, some Borges imparted genius would be nice.
But I’ll take any genius going. Beggars can’t be choosers.
I generally sit downstairs in Bar Poesia, to try and get one of the three tables with a plug nearby.
The battery on this old laptop is not up to much, although I consider myself lucky to have a laptop here at all. But one does need access to a plug.
One of the waitresses at Bar Poesia is very attractive young woman from somewhere in Venezuela. There are huge amounts of young people in this city from all over the rest of Latin America.
Most are students, universities here being at least as good as anywhere else in South America, yet both easier to get into and significantly more economical.
The bars are stuffed, staffed I mean, with and by Brazilians, and, in particular with Columbians.
There are in fact so many Columbians that one I meet (in the bar of a hotel) tells me she calls this city Bogotá-Aires. Everyone I meet tells me Columbia is a wonderful place with some of the nicest people and best beaches in the world. I make a mental note to visit.
The pretty Venezuelan is studying animation.
One meets all sorts of interesting people at the Bar Poesia.
One Wednesday evening after school I chat with an Australian zoologist. She is returning home from a three-month stint as volunteer at two remote sounding nature reserves or animal sanctuaries, high in the forested mountains of darkest Peru.
In the second place she used to take a jaguar for a walk, on a lead, through the forest paths every day. And look after a baby Boa. The jaguar had been rescued from some horrible little private zoo. Its eye was injured when some idiot painted its tiny cage, without moving the jaguar first.
In the other place, she cared for a Spectacle Bear. Or was that a Spectacled Bear? I’m annoyed I don’t know. I consider myself good at animals.
Either way, I reflect, Paddington must have been a Spectacle/Spectacled Bear. At one stage of my childhood he was a much-loved figure. My mother bought me several books and once even a small Paddington from Hameley’s.
Whether Spectacle or Spectacled, Paddington was definitely from darkest Peru. I do remember that much.
On the walls of the small mezzanine upstairs in Bar Poesia hangs a collection of framed, mostly Black and White photographs, of the novelists, poets, journalists and others who have graced this small bar-café for the last hundred years or so.
One of them, the picture taken in the late 70s or early 80s, is of an Argentine columnist with an Irish name, Walsh.
He was crusading journalist for democracy and he was murdered by the Junta.
I remind myself I must go to the Plaza de Mayo some Thursday soon, to see the mothers of the disappeared. How long have they been marking their vigil now? It must be thirty years. Then again, when would anybody stop mourning a murdered child or asking for the truth?
Nobody will ever know the exact figure for certain but most estimates suggest the Junta “disappeared” – murdered- in the region of twenty-two thousand Argentine people. International attention and disgust was focused when they also murdered some foreigners, a group of French nuns and a separate group of Irish priests in particular.
This country bears deep scars.
Another source of very current pain is the poverty everywhere. The deep contrast between rich and poor is both evident and stark here. It has always been thus in Latin America, famously so, although the whole region is developing in prosperity.
Nonetheless the financial collapse here in 2001 wiped out huge amounts of money. There are homeless people everywhere, sleeping rough in doorways. I wonder where they go in winter. Many, both old and young trawl through bins looking for cardboard or aluminium they can sell as scrap.
Once again, I recall that in 1929 Argentina was the fourth richest country in the world. Argentines I ask reply Yes, this level homelessness is something quite new for the country.
To cheer myself up, I resolve that soon I will launch myself into the world of Tango.
It seems inevitable. Once one has witnessed a Sunday evening at the Glorietta de Belgrano… well, it has to be done.
One thought on “2 weeks of school, life and La Bar Poesia. Monday 13th – Thursday 24th.”
I must get your Paddington bear out of Aunt Vivienne’s attic so he get join the welcome party on your return to Dublin. Mum, Maud and me miss you xox