Things I May or May Not Miss About Buenos Aires

Trip Start Dec 19, 2008
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Trip End Mar 11, 2009


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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So, as of today, I have been here 1 month. I kind of can't believe it!  Yep, I've done lots of thinking and stuff since my last entry, and I have some pictures, but today I feel like listing the things that make Buenos Aires--and my time here-- unique.  What follows is my list of things (that I may like, or not) that I may, or may not, miss when I leave.  Perhaps you will learn something.  And, they are in no particular order.

1)  Change--as in coins.  This is really hilarious.  Most of the world just 'throws' these away.  Here people hoard coins.  There is actually a black-market for them-- you can sell 100 pesos worth of coins for no less than 110 pesos!  No joke.  See, rumor has it that the government is not issuing more coins.  And the only way you can take a bus is to have coins.  The bus system is integral to Buenos Aires-- and no, there are no 'fast pass' cards you can swipe (although there is a recent movement to introduce those on some routes in the next 90 days).  Okay, so, you know those "take a penny, leave a penny" jars by cash registers sometimes?  Cashiers here just skip that, and if it is convenient for them to say I gave them $50.01 pesos (when I only gave them $50), that's what they do.  And it goes the other way too-- if my change is $25.02, they'll give me $25.  And those are the nice cashiers.  I got lucky and found a store that didn't mind giving me coins as change.  My first week here, I was going to the cashiers from hell.  They would freak out if I  had a bill-- literally, and I'm not kidding here, they had to call the manager for 'cambio' (change)--complete with blinking lane light and all!  So, the manager comes over, and the cashier asks for change, the manager glares at me (I stand there looking as pitiful and helpless a foreigner as I could) and then goes over to the SAFE (I'm not making this up), and takes out about 4 pesos worth of coins and returns.  That is the equivalent of a little over $1 USD.  Did you see the part about the safe?  Yea, I don't go to that store any more. 
2)  Bidets no one uses.  They are everywhere.  But I don't know anyone who uses them.  And they aren't the fancy, high-tech kinds like in Japan.  Although, I have heard from different people that you can use them to wash your feet.  I prefer the tub for that.
3)  Hand washing clothes.  I am so so so tired of this.  True, I don't have to hand wash my clothes, and it is my choice to do so.  But here's the deal.  There are many 'lavanderias' around, where you can take your clothes to be washed, dried, folded in a matter of hours (some classmates drop their clothes off before class and pick them up after) all for about $9 pesos a load (~$3USD).  Not bad, but I don't want my clothes dried in a dryer, and I don't want people to mess my clothes up.  I kind of need them, and I don't need them to shrink.  So I play control-freak and wash my clothes in a bucket by hand.  Yea... but that's not too uncommon here.  A lot of detergents are meant for that.  Even the washing machines are semi-automatic.  I can not wait to go home and dump my clothes into the washer and just walk away.  Sigh...  Although, BA is so hot, that my clothes do dry really quickly when I hang them up (inside, of course).  So, that's good, I guess...right?
4)  Starting the night at 2AM.  This is actually pretty cool, you can chill out from work/school, even take a nap before going out to party.  I kind of like it.  Although, it conflicts with my need to get up early to run.  That's a bit of a pain.  But in the States, it's easy to go straight from a long day to happy hour to dinner to out that night-- and by the time you get home, you've been gone for 16 hours, and are in desperate need of a chance to 'freshen up'-- no worries with that one when you don't go out at 10PM (when you are getting sleepy anyway) but at 2 AM.  Hellloooo second wind!
5)  Ending the night at 6AM--or later.  I am so proud of myself for this.  Transportation home--even walking-- is safer when it's light out.  Enough said. 
6)  Eating like at Ruth Chris' and Paying like at Quizno's.  This is pretty cool.  Thank you exchange-rate.  So, Argentina is known for its beef.  It's pretty good.  I can go buy beef enough for dinner for 3-4 days and pay about $4.5 pesos (~$1.5 USD).  CRAZY.  I'm not going to be anemic here.  That's for sure!! But, go out and order bife chizoro or bife lomo-- and get a GINORMOUS hunk of steak with fries for about $30 pesos-- thats a little under $10 USD.  That's just kind of cool.
7) Cheap cab rides.  Exchange rate again.  The flag falls at $3.10 pesos--just a little under $1USD.  Share a cab and your entire ride may be ~$3USD.
8)  Professional Dog Walkers.  They are everywhere.  Everyone seems to have a dog in this city, so they hire dog walkers-- you see these people with about 10 dogs on leashes following them.  Some of them are very ingenious and tie all the leashes to a backpack they wear and then walk down the street.  It's interesting.  And, yes, there is always dog crap on the sidewalk.
9)  Litter.  This is everywhere.  People don't really care.  I've seen people drop things out of bus windows, car windows, regular street windows, drop things walking down the street... the concept of trash can just doesn't apply.  And streets are dirty.  Its just disgusting.
10)  Kiosks.  All 600 of them.  These are little candy/cigarette/coke stores on the side of the street--probably several per block. Some sell other things too--like minutes to recharge your phone, or magazines or something.  They are EVERYWHERE.  There are many more than 600-- there may be 600 in 20 blocks.  There is no official count, but a classmate 'guesstimated' that there were 600 in Buenos Aires.  Yea, we will not let her forget that one.  These kiosks are colorful and just interesting.
11) Neighbor who must teach tango lessons.  How else could you explain the blaring Argentine music at the oddest hours of the day?
12)  Tiny Elevators.  Think Europe.  Yep, two doors, you close them, the size of a tiny closet. 
13)  Shoplifting Detectors at the Grocery Store.  Not kidding.  I got stopped the other day because my package of 6 slices of ham had a little sticker on it that set off the detector.  Of course I don't know that this is it, and the security guard starts going through my groceries looking for something--and I have no idea what!-- and I'm trying to help her, pulling out random things, to which she shakes her head 'no'.  So, finally, she finds the ham-- and there it is, the sticker!  Just bizarre.
14)  Helado (ice cream).  It's yummy here.  Argentina has European routes--significant influence from Italy, and as such has yummy gelato-like ice cream.  There are artesanal ice cream shops on the street, but you can even buy yummy ice cream at the grocery store. 
15)  Mate.  This is truly authentic Argentinean.  How people can drink hot tea when it's over 90F outside, I'll never know.  But they do!  And, on top of it, it's a communal thing. So, you pass it around--not for the germ-o-phobes!
16)  Alfajores.  They are really yummy when done right.  Two cookies + dulce de leche+ coating.  Not bad.
17)  Spanish.  They speak it here.  But it's different from what they speak elsewhere (duh!).  Argentines say 'vos' for 'you' and they pronounce "y" and "ll" as "sh".  Makes a difference.
18)  Blogs.  Check this one out, its kept by one of my classmates (from Kellogg) here in BA, its got some GREAT pictures and a nice controlling metaphor:  www.looseinthemusic.blogspot.com

So, I'm ready to go home.  Yep, I'm done.  I've learned what I'm going to learn, seen what I'm going to see.  I'm ready to head back to the States.  I must be at the bottom of the culture-shock curve now.  That must be it...
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