Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Take On Doing The Unemployment Thing In Buenos Aires

Que tal chicas y chicos! I'm back in the wheeling, dealing, global, commercial economy of America and enjoying the spoils: highspeed internet, an iPhone, a DVD player and lighting that doesn't short out every other day. The question that comes to mind is: Is this really all that better? Especially as an unemployed gal struggling to live in this country? Uh... yeaaah.

Ok... Maybe.

Yes, America feeds my addiction for advanced technology and satisfies my multi-tasking nature...a deep rooted beast that needs to read, listen to my iPod and eat at the same time. YES--I like to download a video and upload a photo and post a blog at the same time... is that so wrong? Does it matter that I overwork and overspend and feed myself latenight movies and Craigslist purchases at all hours?

I can't say Buenos Aires was exactly relaxing or low-cost either. It's like New York intensity and image consciousness mixed with South American inefficiency mixed with cigarettes and eating disorders and soot. Let's weigh out the pro's and con's: I drank less and smoked more. I watched less TV and did less work. I bought fewer things and bought more clothes (the fashion is great). I spoke more Spanish and spoke less Spanish (if I didn't mention it before, the portenos speak Castellano, which means they turn every double-L into an "sh" sound and throw in a lot of slang... can't use that anywhere else!) You can live there quite well if you have foreign money, but it would be very hard to live off any money you make while you're there.
In fact, it's quite a severe economic situation, as the city is quite full of money but urban slums hug the city perimeter... then foreigners live it up in the city like they have a hotel on Boardwalk and the locals hike up the prices to get some good tourist dough. Of course, is this any different from anywhere else? Not really, eh?

Plus, t
here are quite a few local artists, musicians, filmmakers and people just kind of moving from one job to the next with gaps in-between, jobless, artsy, stying out late during the week. What do they do for money? It is very easy to live on very little, I imagne, especially outside of the city. Plus, Argentina tends to lean towards funding more social programs, such as unemployment benefits, education and health coverage across the board. And they have a very political culture (we saw a protest nearly every day on Avenida de Mayo) with many unions and social networks. It's nice.

I may enjoy my capitalism, but there is something so right about 3 hour meals, tea time in the afternoon, long walks in the park and late nights. The moral of the story is: Could I live and do my semi-work thing in another country and find a little more tranquility or a lot less? Not sure. My verdict on Buenos Aires is still up in the air. Next stop: New Orleans!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Los Cartoneros-Street barbage collectors

Ever since the economic crisis of 2001, a group of people called cartoneros have pillaged garbage bags laid on the streets in search of paper, plastics and glass to recycle. The primary motivation was money--they could earn quite a bit with large quantities and everyone was out of cash. Now it seems they serve as the city's only recycling vehicle. The only problem is that bags of garbage are torn open and trash is everywhere. I heard that there was an attempt by the government to create an organized system for the cartoneros... they asked citizens to simply place recyclables in separate bags to place on the street. Didn't work. I plan to separate my recyclables and make an offering to a cartonero and see what more I can learn about this interesting phenomenon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Get Some Raid, It Kills Them Good

this is what we were told today by the real-estate agent when we told her we had cochroaches. Oh, Argentina, oh South America.

Dulce de Leche--Best Food Ever

I've eaten my share of dulce de leche thanks to Dolcezza in Georgetown, but never like this before. In the spirit of “When in Rome,” I have grown into what my friend NM has penned as an “alfajore”. Alfajores are an argentine sweet—dulce de leche sandwiched between two sugar cookies that one must eat after every meal. Dulce de leche is cream and sugar heated into an awesome, delicious, creamy paste that is often mistaken for caramel but is much, much better. At Dolcezza, you can enjoy in three forms: Churros, Alfajores and gelato (of course). Here, you can have it on everything, in everything, as any meal so long as you breath. This food is a gift from heaven—truly… it's the most pure and sinful of milk-meets-sugar bliss—but, as you can imagine, if eaten every three hours, it goes straight to the middle region and results in the partaker having a cookie-like appearance. Ergo, I am now an alfajore. Add bottles of red wine to this diet and we have a massive caloric dilemma. How can I resist the local cuisine when in a foreign country for a limited amount of time? My only hope is to head straight to zy-oga (yoga) tomorrow morning until I leave or stop eating dulce de leche. Since I don't plan to do the latter, zy-oga it is. No one said temporarily adopting a culture was easy. NM will buy a whole tub of it from the supermercado and attempt to eat the whole thing with a spoon. Quite the cultural and nutritional experiment that I plan to document from first bite through painful completion... stay tuned.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obeying the Argi's sense of time

In the span of one week, I turned old, finished a short video and moved to Argentina. I had been told that as a freelancer, I should forget planning two months ahead of time because that "now" moment might move you to another country for three weeks. the key, I gathered, was to go with it... who knows if I'll be able to take that other trip I was planning in May anyway? what if I'm working then, what if I'm dead?

I planned to post from my lovely, adoptive city --a sort of jobless on assignment-- but let me tell you a little something about the porteno (the term for the Buenos Aires city dwellers) and their sense of time. In five days, I've progressively stayed out later at tango milongas, began to eat after midnight, avoided (or conveniently forgot) the most obvious of errands (getting a new set of keys), and am now sleeping until noon. Lunches take two hours and if my friend and I are not going to order desert, we should be sure to show our regrets to avoid that "Americans" look.

I've come to Buenos Aires before, but for work, and with all the American comforts of my swank hotel--highspeed internet, good food, air conditioning, a shower basin... yup, our shower is a curtain and a drain in the floor next to the toilet. Of course, I never thought of the these items as comforts, but standards, right? Not quite so. For highspeed internet--which my friend has worked to get set up for two weeks--we've got to be willing to haul a laptop to a corner cafe (it's not exactly a good idea to walk around with a mac laptop) and wait for the battery to run out before a full day's work is complete. So I think, why work?... let's go have a te... because that is so easy to do. Work is definitely not encouraged, and I'm going to say it's outright frowned upon. Seriously... it's like swimming against the current! Well... I could get used to this. And with the exchange rate as good as it is here, this is a jobless haven. It's true... I've met tons of jobless ex-pats. I must be in the jobless capital of the world!

More on assignment from Buenos Aires... next time I can get an internet connect.