Journal

La Boca, Buenos Aires

The next morning, I was the first to wake. Sleeping with six other girls in a room the size of a closet is an experience all on its own. The floor space and bed-tops are in a constant state of chaos, piled high with clothing, backpacks, souvenirs, and complete sets of fly-fishing gear. I tiptoed through our floor collection of plastic bags and clothing piles to the button-sized bathroom. After a quick shower, I walked to a local bakery and picked up an apple strudel before boarding the metro for Plaza de Mayo. The plaza was deserted, as were the next eight blocks down Bolivar to San Telmo market. I made my way back to Centro and bartered for a silver piedra de rosa necklace en route.

Sometime after coffee break number two, four of us boarded bus 152 for 1.25 AR to La Boca junior stadium. Thirty pesos for section six; not even close to claiming a seat. We shuffled through five different ticket checkpoints, surrendered at least one sharpie pen, and worked our way into a sea of swaying soccer aficionados. We shouted, we screamed, we sang. One guy cried. The whole experience was sort of religious. When the crowd spilled out into the streets, we went with it. To Esperanto. All we could devour pizza, empanadas, cerveza and white wine. Then we danced. For forever. We left at five in the morning, and there was a line wrapped around outside, still waiting to get in.

Life in Buenos Aires seems to go something like this: wake up at midnight. Dine and dance until sunrise, take metro to work or school till midday. To bed late afternoon. Wake up at midnight. Repeat.

The day I left Buenos Aires, there were tire fires and political demonstrations taking place on the highway leading out of the city toward the airport. I had been in Argentina for nearly two weeks, and I decided on a departure flight only after promising myself I would return. We darted through traffic in an unmarked taxi while my driver spoke rapid-fire on his cellphone, taking random exits and turning circles before re-merging onto the jammed motorway.

Cars were parked along the stretch at curious stops, some topped with passive onlookers or school-skipping adolescents stealing kisses under the shade. The news that morning confirmed a deadly shooting outside La Boca stadium the night we were there, when the rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate spilled off the field. It was a Monday. I wasn't wearing my seatbelt.