Friday, 14 September 2007

Snowy Buenos Aires!

09 Jul 2007

Was it 1918 when it last snowed in Buenos Aires? For those of you who do not live in England and doubt the effect of global warming, now look at what has happened here in South America today.

Early afternoon Av de Mayo. It is snowing. By snowing, I mean real flakes of snow which gather on the roof of the taxis as they wait for the lights to change. Faces are pressed against the cafe windows, people wearing scarves and hats have ventured outside to take photographs on their mobile phones. On man is trying to get the whole of 'Obelisco' in focus covered with snowflakes. And children are running and skipping amongst the flakes as if they have not seen them before....which they won't unless they have travelled down to the south of the country, North America or Europe. Even their grandparents do not remember this. The scene is amusing for those of us who live with snow in the winter. But here, the palms are getting a cover of snow like Christmas trees. And why? A large bus thunders by belching out diesel fumes which results in a settling of carbon on the thin covering of snow at the kerb side. An international flight leaves high above the city for Europe. The heat exchangers have ceased to drip drip their deposit of water onto the pavements as it is cold, but the cold and snow is probably their legacy.

It is another holiday Monday and the city is half asleep. The sort of feeling which you get when Argentina is playing Brazil at football. Few cars are about and even fewer pedestrians. Today San Telmo and Recoleta, Palermo and Puerto Madero are desolate. A few traders have ventured out, regretting their decision as the tourists have stayed in their hotels. A wind whips round the corner of Av 9th Julio into Rivadavia and cuts through the thin coats of the passers by. The street booksellers and magazine stores have covered their displays with plastic sheeting, and even the cartoneros are battening down the hatches with plastic and extra cardboard. The spaces in doorways where there is some warmth are prized by the street people, some of whom will die of hypothermia tonight.

Here in South America, the ozone layer is thin, almost non-existent in parts in the summer, and the winter temperatures have changed so that people comment with concern. What is to be done about it? Al Gore started as a figure of fun, but now a reality is overtaking the image. Hopefully, tomorrow may be different. The sun will be back and the street cafes full of Portenos relaxing with a Cafe con leche. But what of the future?

It was a relief to reach the apartment in Tucuman and escape the cold, the flakes and the wind. The block door clicked purposefully behind me as I entered the large tiled entrance hall and made my way to the lift. Upstairs in the apartment, I closed the shutters for the first time and made fresh coffee which accompanied the wonderful pastry I had bought in Corrientes. Later, with white wine, olives, Parma ham, cream cheese and pimentos I dimmed the lights and danced alone, leaving the city to its own devices for tonight. Hugo Diaz' harmonica provided the music and a feeling of contentment. As I dance I wonder about what lies around me. Maybe you can help me with your thoughts?

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