My favorite conversations with cabbies in BA:
Almost every cabdriver I´ve met:
Cabdriver – So, who do you like in the election– Hillary or Osama?
Me -You mean Obama?
-Yeah, the black guy.
Or, one guy in particular:
Me- So, I was thinking of going to Bolivia and Peru when I´m done with Argentina.
Cabdriver- Oh no, dont go there, those places are really poor.
– Oh really?
-Yeah, theyre like giant slums. Youll get robbed as soon as you get off the plane.
-Yeah, its not even third world. It´s the fifth world. People still live like the flintstones there. You should go someplace nice– like Holland. Or Canada.
-Good idea. You sound like you must be a traveler yourself.
-Yeah, I read a lot. Just don´t go to Peru and Bolivia. There´s nothing to see there.
There are a lot of foreigners blogging in Buenos Aires, with a correspondingly broad range in the quality of their output. Of all these, my favorites by far are Ian Mount and Cintra Scott, two journalists living in BA whose writing shows up frequently in places like Gridskipper and the New York Times. GoodAirs is a joint project between them, and it’s balanced, eloquent, and usually quite funny. It usually covers Argentine current events and the accompanying hubbub in the local press– everything from the just-renewed farm strike to the (former president) Juan D. Perón Institute throwing a tantrum over an episode of The Simpsons.
The latest entry covers the 200-ton fruit avalanche that stopped traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio (the huge 16-lane avenue that you see in pictures of BA) for several hours and the brawl that almost ensued. The youtube video is something to see (especially the guy who almost gets run over fleeing the lemons.)
MS-13: El Salvador, Fairfax County, and now- Argentina.(from a street in Palermo, Buenos Aires)
As of today, it’s been raining intermittently for the past week in greater Buenos Aires, and the citizens are really starting to feel the consequences. While the storms haven’t been constant, they’ve been strong, much stronger than the city’s infrastructure can handle. On Thursday, about 2.4 inches of rain fell in the space of three hours. While that may not seem like all that much, the city’s drainage system can handle about half that, and within a few hours, the drainage channels that run underneath the city’s biggest avenues had started to overflow, creating scenes like this:
(picture from clarin.com) That’s the corner of Avenida Santa Fe and Avenida Juan B Justo, which is right by the center– and subway station– of Palermo, a large, fashionable neighborhood where most of the ex-pats living in BA seem to live. In Villa Crespo, another neighborhood, water was so high that it was flooding in through car windows. About half of the subway lines and commuter trains had to close for part of the day, and over 170 stoplights went out (having been an occasional pedestrian in Buenos Aires , I can assure you that this is terrifying). In total, about a third of neighborhoods were affected. Things seem to be improving, but they may well get worse again, since the rain is predicted to last through Sunday.
So what does this mean to me? Here in Lujan, 40 miles outside of the city, we certainly don’t have a massive infrastructure to worry about. However, when you work with an organization that does the brunt of its work on a construction site, it makes it hard to get anything done. One of the most important sources of labor for Habitat is the more-or-less-weekly flow of volunteer brigades who show up to build on Saturdays. My job is to prepare all of the logistical details in advance– create a work plan with the mason, make sure the work site has helmets, water, and safety supplies, etc. While this is a routine I don’t mind doing, it feels pointless to do knowing that the brigade will most likely be canceled, as was the case last week and will probably be the case tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and wait to see what kind of quilombo the worksite has become. (That’s some Argentine slang for “a big mess,” although the literal translation is more fun.)
Link to the newspaper article where I got the photos and information:
Tres horas de fuertes lluvias volvieron a paralizar la Ciudad
Finally- Buenos Aires. First, allow me to apologize for the mess of scattered thoughts that will pass for a first entry. There have been a lot of things on my mind which I hope will develop into facets of understanding of Argentine life (and reported in a more coherent form on this blog, maybe).
I arrived just about 3 days ago and and I’m just starting to grapple my way out of the “completely overwhelmed” phase. Those three days thus far have consisted of this routine: endure “actividades de capacitación” until five, take a train into Buenos Aires, walk around until it gets dark or I get lost, come home exhausted, and repeat. I’m living in a garage-cum-apartment at the Habitat for Humanity office in the suburb of Acassuso, which is a 30-minute train ride out of the city. My relationships with the office staff and my orientation supervisor, who is another American volunteer, are generally off to a great start, although I’ve learned that this much can be said for taking orders from someone who hasn’t yet held a real-world job out of college: it gets old fast.
Since it’s late and I’m feeling too lazy to write down anything else, I’ll take the easy way out and use pictures to tell the story:
First Impressions of BA (on Flickr)