Hello again from your personal Idiot Abroad.
As you may know, the first thing I did on my arrival in Buenos Aires was to make life a bit more interesting by leaving all my most important possessions on the back seat of a taxi.
The second, third and fourth things I did were to freak out, turn an attractive shade of lobster, and look utterly helpless while my host Ignacio Reartes dashed into a telephone booth and donned his Superman outfit.
The incredibly good news is that yesterday, as I was sitting glumly in my room glued to the internet like a virtual heroine junkie, Ignacio knocked on my door to say that my money belt had been found.
The slightly less good news was that I would have to take another taxi to the airport to collect it.
Despite the fact that the disaster was entirely the result of my own stupidity, I had suddenly developed an irrational fear of taxis. So, when the taxi arrived promptly at 19h00 to collect me, I climbed in clutching my bag like a giant limpet clinging to a very small rock.
My taxi driver gave me a big friendly grin and said something in Spanish. We soon established that his name was Marcelo and mine was Alison, that he could speak no English and that I could speak only enough Spanish to confirm that I spoke no Spanish. But, as anyone who has travelled to a foreign country knows, a complete lack of mutual comprehension is often the quickest way to make friends.
I had been warned that my blonde hair (even if fake) would make me particularly attractive to Latino men. Sure enough, within five blocks, I realised that Marcelo was asking me if I had a boyfriend.
For future reference, dear readers, the only correct response to this question is Yes. But, as we already know, I am an Idiot. So naturally, I said No. There followed protracted and increasingly vehement exclamations of disbelief. I think I even detected Marcelo checking to see if I had a hump. He asked my age (36). He pointed out that girls my age are married with children. I confirmed at least 10 times that I didn’t have a husband, boyfriend or child, nor any variation of the combination.
Then I made another mistake. I asked Marcelo his age (37), whether he had a girlfriend (no) and why not. He said he was too busy driving his taxi and that he was ‘muy celoso’. A phrase even I could understand.
One block later, Marcelo had decided that I must be his girlfriend. We stopped at a petrol station and Marcelo politely insisted on buying me a soda and a dulce de leche. (Dulce de leche is a famous Argentinian sweet treat: two soft fudgy cookies with a filling of caramel, coated either in chocolate or icing sugar. Or, in other words, sugar sandwiched between sugar wrapped in sugar.)
By the time we reached the airport, Marcelo wanted to hold my hand. And by the time we were driving back from the airport, Marcelo was suggesting with increasing frequency that, 1. He should stop the car on the side of the freeway so that he could give me a kiss and 2. that instead of returning to my hotel, we should go to his place, or even another hotel, just for ‘an hour or two’.
I asked Marcelo what kind of girl he thought his girlfriend was and insisted that he would only get a kiss when he delivered me to my hotel. Unfortunately my idea of a kiss (a polite peck) wasn’t quite the same as Marcelo’s idea of a kiss (big bear hug plus tongue).
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my second taxi drive. For the first time, I had been forced to try to speak Spanish and understand it. Marcelo had pointed out all the interesting features along the drive, given me an insight into real life in BA, and provided a welcome distraction from the agonising suspense of waiting to find out if my money belt would really materialise. And, apart from the uninvited saliva, there was nothing threatening or unpleasant about Marcelo’s flirtatious behaviour.
As for the money belt, it was returned to me with everything still inside it, down to the last dollar. I can hardly believe my luck and the amazing helpfulness and honesty of the people I have come into contact with in Buenos Aires. Muchos gracias Ignacio! Muchos gracias Argentina!
Spanish Vocabulary, courtesy of Marcelo, Taxi Novio
- Novio – boyfriend
- Novia – girlfriend
- Parejo – partner
- Casado – married
- Chico – child
- Celoso – jealous
- Beso – kiss