Week 5: Ciao, Córdoba!

This week was a whirlwind of trying to pack in everything I hadn’t gotten to in Córdoba. It’s amazing what limited time will do for motivation: I got to see so much of the city and be really productive at work. (A word on work: things are starting to get really busy as I pick up a new assignment. For the next few months, I’ll be covering for a woman at Undertone who is going on maternity leave, and whose job is essentially to project manage all of our major product launches. I’m excited to try my hand at something new and learn even more about the process!)  At first, I thought a month in each place would be way too short, but I’m already seeing a lot of benefit in how little time we get in each place. It forces us to be thoughtful about prioritizing and doesn’t leave any room for laziness.

I took it easy on Monday: I stopped by Spanish school to say bye to our lovely teacher and give her a bottle of wine, went to yoga, and got some rest in preparation for Tuesday. Tuesday evening, we went to the Argentina v. Bolivia fútbol match at the main stadium in Córdoba. It was awesome to see Lionel Messi play, though the game wasn’t terribly exciting since Argentina won by so much. I finally got an Argentina jersey from a vendor outside the stadium, something I’d regretted not getting back in 2008 when I was in Buenos Aires. We had seats in the popular section, but ended up standing near gates with a great view of the field. The match wasn’t nearly as crazy as I had expected – people told us later to check out a Boca Juniors match in Buenos Aires for a true taste of crazy soccer fans here…

On Wednesday, I finally made it to a Museum Wednesday at Ferreyra Palace, the fine arts museum. (On Wednesdays, museums in Córdoba are free, so the group has been going weekly. I haven’t been able to make it because they’ve been during the workday or conflicted with Spanish class, but was excited to make this one. Our walking tour guide from a few weeks ago had said this was his favorite museum.) The best part of this museum is that it’s in a mansion. People used to live there, pretty recently! A lot of the décor has been maintained, and the walls, floors, lighting details are truly beautiful. The staircase was fully covered in cowhide, just to give an example of the splendor. As for the art, there was one exhibit in particular that spoke to me: a room of sketches of half-nude women being taken or tortured by anonymous authoritative-looking men. The room was all about the disappearances of the 70s-80s during the military dictatorship, and evoked the feelings of helplessness and disarray that tore through the country.

Thursday night was our farewell to Córdoba party. We had an organized dinner at El Arrabal, where some of us had taken tango classes, and a full out tango show. The singers and dancers were flashy, engaging and so fun! The best part was when a few of our regular tango dancers got asked up on stage, and one guy from our group aggressively cut in (on his roommate!) to dance with the tango teacher. It was amazing to see.

On Friday, I finally made it to the Museum of Memories, an exhibit in Plaza San Martin dedicated in memory of the victims of the military dictatorship. I had no idea, but the exhibit is in the location of a former prison, where many were taken to, questioned, and tortured. I had the chance to walk around some of the holding rooms, one of which was in a basement, and still had a certain smell of despair. The most moving room was one with hundreds of photographs of the victims, some of which continue to have the status of “disappeared.” These were real people, with lives, families, passion. Some of the language used, like “enemy of the state,” hit close to home and reminded me of the Stalin era in the Soviet Union, and all those who perished during that time. It’s unfortunate that a Museum of Memories doesn’t exist there, so many decades later, when Argentina is honest and humble enough to admit its wrongdoings. One of the most striking aspects of the museum is the setting: in the main square, right next to the Cathedral. One of the survivors recounted that sometimes, the church bells were the only indication the prisoners had of their location.

After the museum, I wandered around Plaza San Martin a bit, saying goodbye to the city center, and headed to tennis.

That night, a group of us went back to Late, where Anabelle’s local friends joined us. They brought their adorable 8-month old, Manu, and I had the pleasure of getting in some baby time! We were best of friends until the water bottle he was playing with fell on the floor and hysterical crying ensued. Dinner was great – I had Thai Pad, which at Late is basically fried rice, but still delicious. We then headed to Milk Bar, though it was torrentially downpouring (the streets looked like rivers), so we got a quick ride with Anabelle’s friends. Milk was chill as usual, and a few of us decided to go to Jet Lag, a club nearby. We walked there, got in for a third of the cover charge (50 pesos, or around $3), and started enjoying the music. Interestingly, though the club was full, all the girls were generally congregating on one side and all the guys on the other. It doesn’t seem like they go out in mixed groups as much here as in the US. After a couple of hours, things were more intermingled, we had gotten all of our dance moves out, and decided to call it a night – at the early hour of 2:30am. (Seriously. They get to the club around 2:30 here…)

I spent my last day in Córdoba pretty gloriously. I met up with Miranda for brunch at Hotel, a really cute café with a hidden patio. We then wandered around a bit, and I slowly headed to my last tennis class. I’ve been playing tennis for about a year, and I would call myself an advanced beginner. My serve is the weakest part of my game since it’s my least practiced shot. So, when my coach Gero set up a target for me to serve to in our previous class, I didn’t have very high expectations. On Saturday, in a momentous occasion, I hit my target on one of my last serves! Screams and high fives ensued. Gero also gave me a gift: his Boca Juniors jersey. It was such a sweet gesture that I actually cried (though I pretended I was just sweating.. from my eyes). After the class, I stayed by the courts for another hour at the birthday party of the guy who runs the courts. I had brought him a little cake, and his family and friends welcomed me to enjoy empanadas, cake, and their beautiful singing. They sang Argentine songs and the whole family got really into it. I noted how the teenagers didn’t pull their cell phones out once during the hour I was there. They were simply present.

After packing (and realizing how much stuff I have that I don’t need), I met up with some of our group at Mercado Central, one of the last great restaurants that I hadn’t tried yet. We enjoyed our meals and walked to the Muy Guemes galería, which I hadn’t walked through yet. It was so charming! We wanted to stay for a drink, but there wasn’t space, so we went across the street to a rooftop bar called Chabacano. We only had one drink, but it felt like a great close to our time in Córdoba.

I’m writing this from our super comfortable bus to Buenos Aires (almost fully reclining, two seats per person…), and we are just arriving! Despite a few delays and a 12-hour day, I am pretty well-rested and so excited to be back in BA! I can’t wait to reunite with this great city, and share it with all of you.

Final thoughts on Córdoba: this was an amazing start to our year-long journey. Córdoba is super under-the-radar, especially from the standpoint of international tourism, and is a little gem in the middle of South America. I had no expectations about this city, but its dining, nightlife, and most of all, people, have impressed me to no end. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back, which makes it that much more precious of an experience, but I encourage anyone doing a tour of South America to add this stop to their itinerary.

Ciao, Córdoba!

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