Following Strangers in Buenos Aires
Sometimes I think I’m only equipped to give people advice on things not to do while traveling. On a number of occasions I’ve found myself in places or around people I shouldn’t be. Many times these type of situations are accidents, but I seem to almost actively navigate towards them even when red flags start to pop up in my head. When traveling with someone else, it is one thing, but wandering around alone as a solo female and doing things like striking up conversations with and following strangers is highly inadvisable. I know it is, but for some reason I still do it… and have done so on multiple other occasions to arrive at varying degrees of becoming extremely uncomfortable. The other day a friend told me I don’t recognize danger. Maybe he is right, but we wouldn’t be friends if I hadn’t done something stupid the night we first met (though here I equally blame my friend Gabe who I was traveling with at the time). But let’s say for the sake of learning, here’s the progression of events from today.
Don’t Talk (Too Much) to Strangers
Ok, this is relatively harmless. I was walking around San Telmo today, taking photos of the area, some of the graffiti, and people who were around when a guy walked by and wanted his photo taken. Locals in Buenos Aires are, for some reason I don’t quite understand, super eager to have their photos taken. Sometimes I consent and sometimes I just shrug them off. In this case I took a photo and then he wanted another and then he wanted to see it and then we started talking a bit. It’s all the usual questions… where are you from? what are you doing? Maybe this is where knowing some Spanish hurts me because I can–and do–actually answer back (however horrible my accent is) and then start asking my own questions. There is no problem in talking to strangers; I think it’s quite a worthwhile experience. But before you know it, he was walking beside me (or following me as he was now going in the opposite direction from where he had previously been heading) and suggesting that we go get a beer.
Don’t Go and Drink with Strangers
Guilty. Of course, I said yes, sure, I don’t mind. Drinking a beer with a stranger is also a relatively harmless activity, but it is slightly less harmless than just talking to them. Also, keep in mind that I’m doing all this while I have $2000 of camera equipment on me, my iPhone, and that I’m me: a small female, all alone. So we go around the corner to the closest kiosco and he buys a beer. I let him buy it because he invited me. Then I follow him towards a park to drink it. This makes the activity I’ve agreed to safer, or course, so if you’re going to be dumb like me at least do it in public. Well we finish the beer and start walking and suddenly he wants to go drink a mate (a drink Argentinians are crazy about).
Don’t Go with Strangers to their House
Suddenly my little conversation and a friendly drink turned into an absolute you should not do this, but I followed him the couple blocks to his house while all the protests of all my friends dance around in my head. I said I would wait outside for him, though this probably wouldn’t be any safer, but he protested enough and promised nothing would happen. Like that is supposed to mean something? With the voices of my friends now screaming in my head, I follow him into the building and up to his flat.
Well, if you’re curious nothing happened. He did want a kiss at some point, which I respectfully declined. We finished the mate and then went back out onto the street and continued walking around. He showed me a number of places to take photos and we talked about Argentina, the US, politics, and other things. All told, nothing bad happened, but I put myself in a progressively worse situation which, fortunately, worked out. What’s odd is that at no point during this encounter did I not understand that I was acting stupid and yet I continued to make my situation worse. If this happens you should make up an excuse to leave, whether it’s meeting a friend or going to and event, just don’t let the other person choose where you are going.
Don’t do what I do! You might not be as lucky as me…
I could beat Stephen Colbert in Lord of the Rings trivia, though, no matter how many stupid things I do.