The plan was for two weeks of intensive Spanish course and then get started on the real trip, but that was not how it worked out in the end. Before arriving, I had booked 2 weeks of Spanish classes with 20 weekly hours of class in a small group and 6 weekly hours of private lessons. When the classes started, it turned out to actually be fun. This was a pleasant surprise as I had not been looking forward to this part of my trip at all and had seen it as something that I needed to do before I could start. However, being in a class with 9 other travelers and a teacher who really likes what she’s doing makes for a completely different experience than my Spanish class in high school 14 years ago.
The schedule was set up with group class from 9 to 13, Gaby as a teacher, and no one speaking English (or any other language), then homework and 2 hours of private lessons some days in the afternoon.
As I finished my first week of classes I came to the conclusion that only 2 weeks of lessons probably weren’t enough and I decided to stay another week. This was also because I really enjoyed both the school and Buenos Aires.
It’s a fun environment that forms in a language school like this. Everyone there is someone who decides to go halfway around the world and take Spanish classes. Most of us were starting a long trip around South America and started off the trip with 1, 2, or 3 weeks of Spanish classes. Some came just to go to school for a few weeks, before going back home, while others stay for several months to really learn Spanish.
Most of the students were from Europe, with some Brazilians and Americans mixed in, and with most of the Europeans coming from Switzerland and Germany. It’s a lot of fun to hear about all the different travel plans and what people want to do on their long trips. I, for example, spend 3 weeks with a Swiss couple who built a car, shipped it to Montevideo (the capital city of Uruguay) and are planning to drive around Latin America for a year.
I ended up extending my stay in Buenos Aires for a fourth week as I felt by the end of my third week that it would be good to get the basic of the past tense form before setting off and having to study for myself. This meant that I ended up being the only one left from the class I started out with the first week. And even though every week there were 4 – 5 people leaving the class, it was filled back up to 10 people on Monday.
For my whole 4 weeks in Buenos Aries, I was lucky enough to stay with a friend I met through couch surfing. Florencia stayed with me a couple of years ago in Copenhagen and her and her boyfriend were nice enough to let me stay in their spare room for the full 4 weeks – unbelievable hospitality.
Their apartment is in Belgrano – an area a little north of the city center – which meant that I had to take public transportation every day to and from the language school as cycling in Buenos Aires doesn’t seem very safe in rush hours. They have a very well-functioning public transportation system with both metro, busses, and trains. It’s very cheap too, costing less than 10 pesos (roughly 60 US Cents). The only drawback is that it’s extremely crowded and if you take the metro in rush hour there is a good chance that you won’t be able to get on a metro as they are squeezed completely full. Similarly, buses get very full in rush hour. This has led to a queue culture to get on the bus, so when you get to the bus stop you get in line and wait until there is a bus that has room for you.
Buenos Aires is a really interesting city and I could easily have spent more time there. Even though I was there for 4 weeks I didn’t actually do a lot of sightseeing but instead got caught up studying Spanish and meeting interesting people, both locals and other travelers. I would definitely like to go back again and spend some more time and see some of the things I didn’t make it to this time around.
Now I have arrived in Ushuaia where it’s cold and snowing, quite the change from the 25 degrees and sunshine I had been getting used to in Buenos Aires. My plan is to stay a few days here getting my bike ready, everything packed up, and see some sights before I start cycling towards Punta Arena.