Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rants and Raves about Argentina

It's a rainy Sunday so I'm catching up on documentation: to-do lists (I have 4), journaling, editing and labeling photos (check Picasa soon!), and of course, blogging.

This is a very random list I have been compiling for months. There is no hierarchy, I just wrote them in the order I thought of them. There are a ton of other things I love and hate about the city and country, but these are just the ones I thought to write down.

Anyone have any to add?



Walking on the sidewalks is like frogger in that you have to avoid the many piles of dog crap as well as guess which tiles will 1) be loose and 2) will have dark murky water hiding under them from rain or that morning's hosedown by a shop owner that, when stepped on, will fill your shoe with filth and send a streak of dirty water shooting up the front or back of your leg.

You also have to avoid the oncoming human traffic. People love to go out of their way to run into you here. Finally, since pedestrians never have the right-of-way - even if there is a 'walk' signal beckoning you across - you have to avoid getting run over by a car at every intersection.

Speaking of sidewalks... trashy

People litter here. A lot. There could be a trash can right under their hands and they'll still throw something into the street. Something that someone happens to pull out of his pocket that could easily be put back into that pocket until getting home and disposing of it there is instead thrown casually to the ground. Also, in a culture of heavy smoking, I especially hate the cigarette butts. I have to stop myself from thinking about just how much water each butt can pollute, or the bird who chews on it or makes her nest with it. So sad! (Don't even get me started on plastic bags.)

Chill out

Argentineans' favorite word to say and my least favorite word to hear is tranquila, or "be calm/chill out." First of all, generally when they say it I am calm but their utterance of the word whips me right out of shape. Second of all, anyone who knows me knows that my normal state of tranquila is, for me, quite chill, but for others not so much. I AM NOT A CALM PERSON, OK??

And what's wrong with being worked up every now and then? It is healthy to express anger and frustration and it does not always need to be shushed or calmed down. I think emotional expression makes locals uncomfortable unless it's boyfriend/girlfriend drama in which case all bets are off.


Inflation is insane here. A cup of coffee that was 6 pesos in October is 9 pesos now. Menus often don't list prices, or have been scratched out or covered with stickers and re-written. They are anticipating another period of hyperinflation soon and I have no idea what the locals will do then. What's an annoyance to me is a desperate situation to many of them.


My constant gripe about Chile holds only too true in Argentina. Attention Southern Cone nations: Stop making out in every cramped public space you can find. It's gross. And rude. Did I mention gross?


Need I say more? I'll trade Seattle's spiders any day for the massive beasts of Buenos Aires (I think they rival New York for quantity and size).


Walking + Transportation

Any city that is flat enough to walk and filled with enough interesting things to keep your walk fascinating is OK in my book. Of course, if you get tired you can jump on any number of buses or subways, or hop in one of the many cabs that circulate for a still-reasonable (though constantly rising, see: inflation) fare.

Urban Living

I could confine myself to 6 square blocks of my apartment and never notice that I was missing anything. Grocery stores, fruit and vegetable stands, butchers, bakeries, locksmiths, cafes and restaurants, pharmacies, movie theaters, and all the shopping I can handle - all within a very short walk. I am so enamored of any dense urban core and constantly lament Seattle's lack of one. I am already thinking about the car I'll need to buy once back, because without it life is much more complicated. Here, life is much more complicated WITH a car. (Same goes for Philadelphia, one of the many reasons I love it there.)


Buenos Aires was modeled after Paris and has countless beautiful buildings adorned with gothic sculpture or art deco details. It truly is a beautiful city, as long as you look up long enough from sidewalk frogger to appreciate it.

Long Distance Buses

They're relatively inexpensive, very comfortable, and come with food and free wine, whiskey, and champagne. I've seen much of Argentina's landscapes, from the red dirt of Misiones in the north to the barren Patagonian pampas in the south, from the comfort of my seat on a double-decker Mercedes bus.

Let's Eat

Although I don't necessarily adore the Argentinean cuisine, I do admire how they go about eating it. Dinner can start as late as 1 am and people will loiter after a meal has finished for hours. None of this eat-and-run 20-minute crap we pull in the states. At 6:00 pm when many American families have finished dinner and are already starting on the dishes, people in Argentina are sitting with friends having cafe con leche at a sidewalk table or drinking yerba mate in a park, not even thinking about dinner yet.

Can't Escape the Beef

I really don't eat a lot of beef in the U.S. but here it's everywhere, and something about their cattle generally being grass-fed makes me feel better for some reason. They also have amazing leather products as a result, and I even bought a pair of earrings carved from cow bone.

I particularly love that the second ingredient in Rex, my favorite cracker brand (they look and taste just like Ritz) is "bovine fat." Awesome. No wonder they're so delicious! Beats transfat any day.


In general I would not consider Buenos Aires a cheap city and certainly not for the people living and working here on pesos. But there are areas where things are remarkably more reasonable than in the U.S. For instance, health care - including the vet - and prescription drugs are, on average, 10% of what they cost in the U.S. TEN PERCENT. You could go to the doctor ten times in Argentina for what you pay in one visit in the states. The 10% rule also holds true for hair cuts, massages, and waxing.

Growing Wild

Some of my favorite houseplants grow wild here, like aloe, the spider plant, Marble Queen philodendron, and Wandering Jew tradescantia. You can go for a walk and see them popping out of the dirt at the base of the large trees that line the streets, thriving even in the city's polluted center.

Storm Central

The thunder and lighting storms here are incredible. Granted, when it rains too hard transit becomes impossible, huge portions of the city flood, and people lose electricity for days, but I just love lightning that wakes me up from behind closed eyes followed immediately by thunder that shakes me out of my bed.


Buenos Aires has the most comprehensive offering off free things to do of any city I've ever been to. My first week living here back in August/September 2008 I went to the International Tango Competition finals, something the U.S. would have charged a pretty penny for; totally free. I've been to movies, concerts, theatrical and art installations, museums, sporting events, and more, all free of charge. What's more, many of these free events will also include free giveaways and/or refreshments. It's just too cool for words.

1 comment:

Momma Archer said...

I'm happy that you have balanced the good with the bad. It's true of any city.

I wish that I had started a blog many years ago. To look back would be so much fun. I'll keep reading yours, even when we are living in the same city!