We only have two days before our formal tour starts, so we are trying to make the most of every minute in this beautiful city.

But for the first morning, we woke up at at 10; blackout curtains are great. It’s going to be hot again, so we steel ourselves for the humidity, get a quick croissant for breakfast and rush to Teatro Colon, where we think the English tour is at 11. Turns out it’s at noon, so we get a second breakfast (elevensees?) at their swank café. I have a coffee with amaro and a salad Cesar con langostinos, and enjoy the complimentary wifi and air conditioning.

The theatre is pretty spectacular, and I wish we’d been thought to get tickets to Tosca, which ended the night before. But we got to sit in the best box and watch the crew strike the stage. We also admired the delicate marble floor tiling, and are considering recreating it for our next bathroom renovation project.

Then we took the metro to a block replete with fabric stores to get supplies for craft projects on the ship. We walked through five, and then back to our favorite which sold exclusively natural fibers. I told them I am going to try to crochet a pinguino, and then we all laughed. The saleswomen were very helpful with color selection, and told me not to forget a bit of yellow for the beak.

We decided the cash discount is worth getting, so we went back to get a passport which is required for Western Union. I walked to a small kiosk we saw before, but it turns out it’s permanently closed. I went five more blocks through a pedestrian mall on Florida street, by men yelling “cambio, cambio” to change funds on the ever increasing rate. I’d like to exchange $1000 more to cover the hotel and a fancy dinner or two. This will be 335,000 pesos at the current rate, although it was only 320,000 this morning. I had already done the credit card transaction on my phone, so I knew the funds were available and the rate locked, but stood in line with a hundred Argentines to get funds sent from abroad. This is a cash society, and even real estate transactions require hard currency.

I got to the front of the line eventually, showed the agent my passport and transfer number, and then he produced a stack of cash ten inches high. He didn’t have the larger 1000 notes, just 500s so it’s twice as much volume as I expected. I hadn’t brought a backpack, because I am trying to blend in and follow the instructions of the lady yesterday. I asked if he has una bolsa in my broken spanish, and he says curtly no. So I moved my phone and wallet to my back pockets, stuff the wrapped bill stacks in front and jam my hands in after them. I walk back by the line looking like a great robbery target, and wonder how I am going to make it back to the hotel.

Luckily, we are right next to a stationary store, so I ducked to buy a plain paper bag. It’s only 250 pesos, and I had over 600 notes of 500 pesos in my pockets. I gingerly slide one out to ask if they can break it. They could not, so I retrieved my wallet from the back pocket and get two hundred notes (worth about 50 cents each), then fill the bag with my begotten currency.

Now that I had an inconspicuous carrier, I didn’t feel so immediately at risk. I walked briskly but confidently back, keeping the bag on my side away from the street lanes, remembering stories of tourists in Vietnam being dragged into the road by armed thieves on motorcycles.

When I got back to the hotel, Ruth told me we have reservations at an amazing place for dinner, and they even offer a 10% discount for cash payment. Good thing we have enough.