What’s going on down here

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:

Av. Juan B Justo & Av. Santa Fe

(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)


I’m going to Argentina in January!   I’ll be living there for six months, working for Habitat for Humanity, learning the Vos form, and eating lots of beef.  More updates (and pictures) soon to follow. 

Keepin’ it real

This week in diplomatic awesomeness:   the king of Spain puts the smackdown on the bratty Hugo Chavez at the Ibero-American summit. Ceremonial monarchy: 1; Socialism: 0.

Translation: “Why don’t you shut up?!” [This part comes at the end; the rest is pretty self-explanatory.]

The SCHIP entry- and a contest too!

Well, Bush has now officially vetoed  the extension of SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program), which would expand coverage to 10 million children from the 6.6 million covered now.  This should seem pretty appalling, but it just doesn’t seem right to blindly back an expensive bill because it sounds good and, oh, a bipartisan majority in Congress voted for it.  So, as an intellectual exercise, I searched the internet for cogent arguments against SCHIP. I looked through a lot of pages of Google News Search results, looked for editorials at newspapers with conservative managing boards (The Washington Times and Wall Street Journal), and even took a look at the policy statements at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

 So, what did I find?

Nothing, really.  It was hard enough to find anti-SCHIP editorials in major papers in the first place, save for the Journal (the editorial staff of the Washington Times seems to be too busy delivering spittle-flecked anti-immigration tirades to cover this issue).  To summarize, the talking points of Bush and other who oppose the bill are:

  • The specter of government-run health care– Call it HillaryCare, socialism, or what have you, but I don’t find this too alarming.  If a sign that the wealthiest nation in the world is striving to take care of every child is seen as a stumble towards socialism, then something is not right.
  • The fact that Republicans are being too bipartisan in supporting this bill– this showed up a few times in the Journal, where editorials alleged that the Republicans are loosening their commitment to fiscal restraint by backing this bill. Compared with the newest spending bill for the war in Iraq, $35 billion over a few years doesn’t seem all that bad.   
  • That big, ugly $83,000 number– This is the centerpiece of OMB’s pathetic 1.5 paragraph statement of administration policy on SCHIP. Let me quote: “[The bill]… turns a program meant to help low-income children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.” Bush himself said in his speech today that that “doesn’t sound to poor to me.” This is little more than an appeal to the most callous and willingly ignorant of his supporters. Yes, that figure does sound pretty bad if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to think about things for more than 5 seconds at a time. If you’re not, you might take the time to find out that this is the highest income cap for those who meet certain criteria, such as having four children and living in states with a very high cost of living, circumstances in which a household income of $83,000 might not go all that far.

So, here’s the fun part.  The last anti-SCHIP point seems to be part of a long tradition of attacking a government aid bill by fomenting resentment toward those who would seem to benefit undeservedly from it; e.g., those lazy middle-class parents who will probably use SCHIP to pay for Timmy’s stitches when he slips in their outdoor, in-ground hot tub (because, you know, people who make $83,000 a year are rich enough to afford that stuff).  One of the best ways to fuel this resentment is with a short, nasty epithet– think of the Reagan-era gem “welfare queen.”  So, I’d like to challenge all 5 of my reader base to come up with a new anti-SCHIP epithet.  I’m looking for something that will crystallize all the resentment that bush is trying to drum up towards the illusion of smug, sort-of-wealthy middle class families who gain a free ride off the government with this new entitlement.  I’m not very creative, but I’ll give it a go just to have an example:

  •  Cruise-SCHIP families (or, those who get a free ride on the cruise SCHIP)
  • Paging Dr. Taxpayer, your freeloader is here to see you

Okay, those are pretty bad.  Got any better ideas?  Please comment.

(Bored bourg bloggers is already taken.)


This just in…

So, I’ve gotten wind of a hot rumor that MTV’s Rock the Vote is going to set up its Washington DC bureau for 2008 in my own neighborhood- Columbia Heights.  Okay, this isn’t all that hot, since I saw it in the Blog Log in the Express while riding the metro yesterday, but it’s still in the early stages of development since repeated Googling and news searches have turned up nothing (either that, or it just isn’t true). Allegedly, MTV will be setting up camp at 11th and Park. 

 At first glance, this seems almost as disgusting as $400K 2-bedroom “lofts” (Dear developers: We know that a loft isn’t some magical, roomy boho art studio. It’s an apartment.  With an unfinished ceiling.)  and malls named by 5-year-olds, but perhaps I’m being premature.  I’m hoping to find out more soon. 

Econo-Girl: MTV in Columbia Heights  


So, I’ve been busy this summer, for more reasons that I’d care to enumerate.  However, there are a few very positive things among them that deserve a mention: 

  • I had my tenure at work extended not once, but twice.  This means I’ll be working for the government (and finding some time to write about it, I hope)  until the end of December.
  • I’ve expanded my horizons for my upcoming adventure beyond Peru, by applying to a program run by Habitat for Humanity International in Costa Rica.  More on that later– and as part of this application, I have a couple of interviews in Spanish, so if you know any native Spanish speakers willing to practice with an out-of-practice gringo a couple of times a week, let me know.

Also, my inability to write over the summer has inspired me to make a few changes to the way I post.  The great discourses on work and life that had been among the reasons I started this blog are still languishing as drafts in my WordPress dashboard, though they’re still percolating, I promise.  However, its time for a change in format. In the model of friends like Jon (who manages to keep a blog despite being a 1L in law school) I’m aiming to write more, shorter posts with links to things that are interesting, relevant, or just funny.  And I’ll stop this navelgazing starting… now.