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Anybody but the most hardcore of backpackers would be happy to enjoy a little bit of urban comfort after three months of cheap hostels, scorching deserts, mountain hikes in thin air, mosquito-infested jungle rides, and the crossing of the out-worldly Altiplano. So when we got to Buenos Aires and moved into our rented studio near Plaza San Martin, I finally felt like my old yuppie self again.
Renting an apartment - as opposed to staying in a hotel - offers a couple of advantages to the weary traveler, starting with that minute but important psychological change: it feels like a home. And for us, wandering bums carrying all our belongings from place to place in two huge backpacks, this made quite a difference. To be able to cook your meal if you want or to have a room that looks more homelike than the average impersonal hotel room is quite good, but for me, the most important is not to have to go through a reception area as I leave the building. And the fact that we don't have to be paranoid about the valuables left in the room when we go out...
For the last few days all we did was a lot of walking and a lot of eating. The weather is quite cold but bearable and it only rained once so far.
All big cities have something about them that makes them look, in a sense, identical. The vibrancy of the streets, the cars following one another like disciplined armies of ants, the legions of people buzzing around chaotically guided by an unknown and mysterious purpose, the businessmen in suits having lunches at sidewalk cafes, the glitzy windows of downtown boutiques - it all makes my head spin as with the effect of a wonderful, adrenaline-releasing drug. There are small-town people an big-town people - I belong to the latter category; whenever I get to a place like this I wish I could live here. Seattle has always been too small a town for me...
But urban living comes at a price: we quickly got tired and somehow ashamed of walking around and going to restaurants dressed in our grubby backpacker clothes - the bulky Keen hiking shoes, the all-too-sporty Marmot windbreaker - and it only got worse when I left my jeans at the laundry and had to wear the "jungle-pants" for one day... so we went shopping. This was understandable and expected coming from Angela, but from me and my stance of "I don't need to buy anything" it's nothing short of a religious conversion. I got myself a leather jacket, a sweater and black, city shoes. Angela got much more, I won't mention it all here, but it starts with a leather jacket as well... All those things we bought are practically bargains (my jacket would be about US$140, which is quite a steal at home) but they quickly add up so we stopped horrified after a while, before our bank account got into a coma... We'll have to get rid of it all and ship it home before we leave Argentina, but at least, for the next two weeks... we'll look good! Even I!
And as a bonus, I found the elusive item I've been chasing through all of Central and South America: a circular polarizing filter for my camera. It was quite expensive - about US$30 - but what the hell, I wasn't going to let this opportunity slip away. So if anything, my pictures should improve. If they don't, I only have my skills to blame, not the technology.