The weather is fine when we leave Santiago, but the pilot warns that it is going to be a bumpy ride when we land in Buenos Aires. And it is. But we arrive ahead of schedule; presumably there is some slack in a flight time which can be cashed in when the pilot is heading into bad weather. In the terminal, we are fortunate that most of the arriving passengers are from South American countries and have to queue in the Mercosur line while we join the much shorter queue for locals and others. But customs is slow. Every bag is x-rayed and most are searched. On the customs declaration form you are supposed to detail every item purchased abroad and even specify the make and model of your own personal mobile phone. Presumably all the others you are carrying will be confiscated as contraband. It is apparent that, given Argentina’s economic situation, smuggling from neighbouring countries is common. But nobody is interested in our luggage or our declaration form and there hadn’t been the same procedure when we arrived in Buenos Aires from the Middle East a week earlier.

The taxi whisks us in to town. We are staying at the Lola House Boutique Hotel (*) on Avenida Castro Barros in the barrio of Boedo. It is a rainy night and we are off the tourist grid here. A street walker approaches the car at the lights. At the hotel, the driver waits until we are safely inside. But things quickly pick up. After unpacking, a quick dash across the street to the grocery store opposite secures a bottle of wine and some snacks. The shutters are coming down but Arturo, the hotel’s overnight desk, holas across the road and they wait for me. Arturo supplies the glasses and a corkscrew and we find a channel on the television showing a couple of episodes of a US medical drama. The story is about the aftermath of a plane crash.


At the weekend our local cinema ran a short season of Argentinean films. We managed to get to a couple of them.

La Cámara Oscura (The Camera Obscura -2009) is a film by Maria Victoria Menis based on a short story by Argentinean writer Angélica Gorodischer, set in the last 18th and early 19th century ago among Jewish immigrants escaping the pogroms in Europe.

Gertrudis, the principal character, is a woman who has almost disappeared from her own life. Largely unspeaking, her inner life is conveyed to us in animated sequences, and by reflection in her appreciation of the beauty of the countryside, her flower garden, her daughters’ dresses, the food she prepares, and her table settings. Her son only realizes she is gone because the table from the night before has not been cleared.