La Cinacina and the Gauchos
(July 12 - August 8, 1998)

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Nothing very exciting this week.  We had dinner during the week with an Argentine colleague, Eugenio Piotrowski, and his wife, Claudia.  He worked with our team in Paris in April 1996 and Claudia was there with him.  She spoke little English at the time, so she was happy that Diane showed her around Paris.  She was glad to see Diane again and took a morning off from work on Thursday to spend it with Diane and show her around Buenos Aires and have lunch.  She has been taking English lessons and speaks rather well now.  We ate dinner at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, Rodizio, where they brought the food to your table on long skewers and then sliced it and put a piece on your plate.  There was lots of beef and some chicken, a salad bar, dessert and, of course, wine.  All the food was fixed price at $20 (what a deal).

On Saturday, a heavy fog rolled in off the river in the morning and the city sort of disappeared.  It cleared up by noon, so Diane and I went out and walked around the city until about 5 PM, returned to the hotel and went to dinner over at Puerto Madero (the refurbished warehouses).  It seems like every restaurant over there is top notch.  We have eaten there four times and have never been disappointed.  Last night is was a place called Happening.  These are very big restaurants and they all have a different, but great, ambiance.  It still sort
of amazes me that the restaurants are pretty empty when we arrive and by the time we leave between 9-10 PM, they are filling up rapidly.  Argentinians do eat late.  The one thing this place has going for it continues to be the beef and the red wine.

Sunday we all went to an estancia (gaucho ranch), La Cinacina in San Antonio de Areco, for the day.  There were six of us plus lots of people from other hotels.  The ranch was out on the pampas, which means 'flat land'.  We were picked up at the hotel and driven out to the estancia, about two hours from the city.  It was a full day with LOTS of food, all beef.  They greeted us as we arrived with an emanada (meat pie) as we got off the bus, along with soft drinks or red wine.  There was sausage (both regular, which I ate, and 'blood',
which I passed), tripe (which I tried and found it actually wasn't too bad....for those of you who don't know what tripe is, it is the intestines of the cow), a sirloin, a tenderloin, etc etc.  A little bit of each of those.  We also had the opportunity to ride horses - SLOWLY!  It had been more than 30 years since I was on a horse.  For Diane, it was her FIRST TIME EVER on a horse.  It was fun.  There was a short musical show and then some horsemanship demos by the gauchos.  They played a game where they tried to pick off a ring from a piece of leather hanging from a crossbar under which they rode.  What they used to try to pick off the ring was something that resembled a long pencil.  Some of them were quite adept and they were riding at full speed.  Then a couple of 2 man races and pictures and a tour of the museum and then home.  Fun day.

It continues to be an experience to see the way they drive here as we do our 30 minute taxi ride out to the IBM site in Martinez.  The Buenos Aires city 'black and yellows' aren't any better.  These drivers continue to amaze me with their aggressiveness, yet there aren't many accidents in the city or out on the highways.  If these guys were to drive like this in Atlanta, traffic would be at a standstill every day (and Atlanta traffic is bad enough as it is).  I have been here for three weeks now and have yet to see a traffic snarl caused by an
accident.  We chatted about it and we figure the difference is that almost EVERYONE drives aggressively whereas in the USA only some people are aggressive and it's probably the non-aggressive folks who think they have a right to be in the 'fast lane' because they are doing the speed limit that actually CAUSE the accidents.  It does take some 'getting used to' to SHARE a lane with another car (or bus or truck).  Also, right turn from left lane? - sure, why not.  Don't agree with a red light? - no problem, just go through it.  No room to pass in the marked lanes? - well, then just use the shoulders.  The road is not wide enough at 2-3 lanes? - ok, just temporarily widen it by sharing a lane with another vehicle.

Pedestrians have absolutely NO rights in BA.  There are crosswalks and lights for pedestrians and that is about the ONLY time you have 'some' rights, but even then one must be careful because the cars will weave through a crowd of people rather than wait for the last person to cross.  And if you are brave enough to cross against a light, you better make sure there are NO cars in sight.  If a driver sees you crossing against a light he'll bear down on you to scare the living hell out of you.  All of this seems to be accepted as a way of life on the streets.  Every evening when we arrive at the hotel, there are rush hour walkers heading to the train station across the plaza.  These pedestrians know that they better stop and let the taxis up the hotel driveway.  I have seen the driver almost hit people a few times when someone didn't yield to the taxi.  I haven't been in NYC in many many years, but can NYC be as bad as this? 

We have one more week left here and then on to Caracas.  I had asked about whether it would be safe for Diane to go to Caracas with me, I was asked if she stayed in the hotel or walked around.  When I told my contact in Caracas that she likes to go off on her own and roam around the cities we visit, he suggested that it would not be safe for her to do that in Caracas.   So, sadly,
Diane will be heading home to Atlanta.

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