We decided to take a walk after dinner, to digest the salty pizza and bottle of wine. Even though D and Kate were tired from a long day of travel from NYC to Santiago to Buenos Aires, they were up for a walk and eager to see the city I am calling home.
It seemed a quiet, uneventful Sunday night in that part of town. I carried our pizza leftovers in a plastic bag on my wrist and we shared stories and laughs, as best friends do. We weren’t ready to stop walking when we got to my street, so we decided to continue on for ice cream. The air was humid but cool and the sky was black, dotted with bright stars as it always seems to be in Buenos Aires.
As we neared the ice cream shop in Almagro, the faint beat of a drum sounded, so we walked towards it, curious. And then, with every step towards Avenida Corrientes, the drumming grew louder and more frenzied. The energy seemed to change and we sped up our pace.
Oh it’s Carnival, I remembered.
Argentina doesn’t boast a Carnival as big as Brazil’s, but it exists. In the previous month I’d randomly seen festivals, parades and late-night celebrations throughout the city. Colorful flags were hung in the streets in my neighborhood and I saw someone get nailed with a water balloon out of a window. But I didn’t know what to expect as we approached the drum.
And then all of sudden the three of us were covered in a bubble-gum smelling foam the consistency of shaving cream. Daniela shrieked. I could barely see because the foam was in my eyes, but I could make out the young boys who were surrounding us three clueless gringas and blanketing us in white. All we could do was laugh and run. The night had taken a sharp turn.
And that’s when we learned about the Carnival tradition of spraying people in the face with foam.
So obviously we pooled our money and bought three tall cans of the fake snow, one for each of us. We wiped off our battle wounds, spit out the toxic foam residue in our mouths and surveyed the scene. And then, without hesitation, we went on a rampage, running around as if we were in a video game, spraying left, spraying right, spraying the innocent and the guilty, the young and the old. The cleaner they were, the better. Kate and I accidentally knocked over a small child, but even his angry mother couldn’t stop us — we had to catch up with Daniela, the fearless leader of our push. She ran through throngs of people spraying her snow wildly on all sides. Heck, I think she even nailed a grandpa in the face. We were covered, literally, head to toe in foam, emptying our cans on as many people as we could. Our stomachs hurt from laughing. Drums banged and music blared in the background.
After our cans were empty, we sat on the sidelines taking a breather, and the foam turned into a translucent, wet, sticky layer on our clothes and skin. We headed home around 3 a.m., me somehow still holding our leftovers, and each took a hot shower before bed.