It's all in the details.
"I mean, I guess I can just shit in a bucket on the rooftop."
My arm was up to the elbow in toilet water; as luck would have it, the Airbnb's toilet decided our stay would be the time for it to clog up, and fight with all of its might to stay that way. No amount of plunging or pouring 5 litres of water from a large vessel would alleviate the situation, and the ache in my gut told me it was a fight or flight situation - stay and fight, or retreat to a cafe to use their facilities.
When Anthony's attempts drew silt and a piece of ceramic piping, I was sure that we had broken it, once and for all. Scenarios ran through my head - we would have to escape the country to avoid the wrath of an angry host, or, we would use the muriatic acid under the kitchen sink incorrectly and end up with life-long scars to remind us of this horror.
Defeated, we left the apartment in search of a baño to relieve ourselves. It was a humbling morning - in foreign lands, with no language to communicate our challenge, and not sure what we were to do about the situation if our host didn't reply to our emails... we were very far from home.
We've had a busy week, walking upwards of 15km per day, exploring the character and quirks of this beautiful city of Buenos Aires, retiring home by 9pm at the earliest to begin cooking some dinner. Our first 'tourist' experience here was entering the gates of the Cementerio de la Recoleta, losing our sense of North and South within its alleyways and mini-streets, formed by towering mausoleums (above). Peering curiously through broken panes of windows we caught glimpses of coffins, layer upon layer, dug deeply below ground.
As morbid as it sounds - most of these final-resting-sites of bourgeois-society's elite, are beautiful, shrine-like structures, a fascinating take on death. Behind each locked door rests one or more souls from a single family-line (I counted at least 30 in one), with a stairwell allowing mourning relatives access below the surface - in this chamber there might be 20 or so coffins stacked neatly against the walls. Occasionally a further trap-door hints to even more chambers below; it's a confronting epitome of life vs. death - a city of the living above ground, a city of deceased below.
'Menú del Día' and 'menu ejecutivo' are two phrases we eagerly seek at lunch time, hand-written on chalkboards adjacent to their respective restaurant - the 'Menu of the Day', a.k.a. the best bargain under the sun.
$90-150 Argentine pesos (NZD $7-$12) will buy you a set meal, which might include an appetiser, a main meal, a soft-drink, and a coffee. Yesterday, $95 pesos saw us each receive a giant piece of fish crumbed in polenta, a large portion of stir-fried capsicum/eggplant/onions/zucchini, all with a 500ml bottle of 7-up to wash it down. The hardest part of the process, is determining what the Spanish words are describing, although we are getting better at recognising essentials, slowly, yet surely.
Oh yeah - regarding the toilet situation, we were lucky; our host quickly called his brother from San Francisco, and a plumber was organised. Everything was sorted out by the time we had returned from drinking the best flat white I have had in months (yes, including New Zealand!). Phew.