Don´t get me wrong. I am not a hypochondriac.  But sometimes, I look around and start wondering about all the unhealthy habits people have in Argentina. Things that few people seem worried about. I drink coffee at work now. Every single day.  As I look down at our white mugs stained permanently brown, all I can think is what it must be doing to my teeth and feel the urgent need to go and brush them.  I watch people sip mate (see my other post, ¨The Uruguayan Obsession¨) all day long, and while there isn’t the obesity problem we have back home, all I think about is how many spoonfuls of sugar are being consumed and how it is that half this population isn’t on their way to diabetes. I watch my coworkers down a 2.5 liter bottle of regular Coke before noon and almost everyone around me put what must be a week’s worth of salt on things, from salad to fries to crackers, to pizza.

Safety standard differences are another thing. In Argentina I´m not sure there even is a standard.   Read the rest of this entry »


My favorite street in Buenos Aires

November 15th was officially my one-year anniversary in Buenos Aires.  I wanted to write a special post that day but I couldn’t think of anything good to say.  It was one of those oh-my-god-time-has-totally-flown-by moments when I had to sit and think if I had anything noteworthy to write about one year later, sort of like the feeling you have on New Year’s day when you reflect back on your resolutions from the year before and if you accomplished any.

So what have I learned since I got here?

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Sometimes living in another country, despite all the excitement of the new experience, has its ups and downs being an outsider. Today while riding home with two co-workers, one of them asked me about my visa situation how it was going.  Somehow that led into a discussion about getting a visa to visit or live in the U.S. and how unfair it can be for an outsider.  I couldn’t agree more, and it’s actually one of the more shocking things I have discovered throughout my travel experiences.  How difficult the U.S. government and its agencies make it for foreigners to visit the U.S., even just on holiday. I find few people back home are even remotely aware of these policies.

My coworkers made the point that it seems only fair that Argentina give the same treatment to its outsiders.  As of December of last year, Argentina began charging U.S. citizens $140 USD to enter the country as part of a reciprocity treatment.  I have no problem with that.  My point in our conversation, however was that there is a relevant reason why the U.S. is so strict with foreign visitors given the level of people around the world who want to work in the U.S., legally or illegally, and earn U.S. dollars. Read the rest of this entry »

The scene at Plaza de Mayo

Last Wednesday, a day that was supposed to be a relaxing do-nothing day since the entire city shut down for the 2010 National Census ended up being anything but that.   Néstor Kurchner, the husband of the current president and a former president himself during 2003-2007, passed away from a heart attack.  I woke up at noon, having overslept the census brigade who came by, and when I heard the news I didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of how big a deal it would be to the country.   It also seemed like such a coincidence, his death on a day the entire nation was at home with nothing better to do than watch TV all day.  After a few hours watching the news and seeing people hysterically crying, at times unable to talk, it was finally time to leave the house for a walk.  The whole city felt gloomy despite the sunny day it turned out to be.  By early evening, I found myself at the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada (the equivalent of the White House), unable to resist a visit to this historic plaza to witness Argentina mourn the loss of, what I was slowly coming to realize, a very important former leader. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m at the Continental gate in Ezeiza airport, confident I am at the right gate without double-checking given the five people I see typing furiously away on their iPads. I begin arguing in Spanish at length with the gate attendant. After forcing everyone through yet another bag check before boarding the plane, they find three large tubs of dulce de leche in my bag and tell me it’s considered a gel. I am livid since conveniently there is no hope of putting any of it in my checked bag. Every time I travel I seem to become increasingly frustrated by the inconsistencies of various American air transport companies, and this is the last straw.

A friend of mine has done me a favor and organized a car to pick me up through her company’s account and has put the car in the name of an employee. A woman is standing to greet me when I step off the plane and as we wait for my bags to arrive she begins asking me about my flight…in Spanish. I am jet-legged and half asleep so at first it doesn’t occur to me how weird it is to be back in the U.S. and speaking Spanish again. Then I realize the name of the employee my friend has used is Latin and my driver based on her accent is obviously from either PR or DR. I am still trying to figure it out as the luggage carousel begins to move, thinking how unlikely it was for her to think I was from either of those places given how ghostly-white skin and my Porteña accent. Once in the car she explains that her company had told her that I was from Argentina and didn’t speak much English, but she tells me she suspects I do!  I begin to laugh.

My first day back after 10 months in Buenos Aires, I never have felt so short walking the streets in Manhattan.  At first I can’t figure out if it is just that I have forgotten how tall people are in North America and how much more I blend in being almost 5’8, or if something is actually different.  A few days later it occurs to me that I have arrived just in time for fashion week and that this year for the first time it is taking place only a few blocks from my parents Columbus Circle apartment.  I hope I won’t feel so  midget-like for long.

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I just read a really inspiring NY Times article, “But Will It Make You Happ?” about living with less and being happier, and it’s got me thinking.  It’s a story that begins with a couple who got rid of their two-bedroom apartment, two cars, and $30,000 in debt, while cutting down their personal items to just 100 things.  They now live happier in a 400-square-foot studio and one of them is able to work from home.

I have had many periods of genuine happiness living in Buenos Aires, and after reading this article I can’t help but think that some of the forced pairing down of “things” as a result of my move here has been part of the reason.   Long ago, when I started my clothing addiction my mom warned me that the upkeep of all these clothes was going to become exhausting.  Buying higher quality and fewer nicer items would keep me looking good but with less effort, she cautioned.  To this day, I don’t think I have fully taken her advice but moving my life to Buenos Aires has taught me a lot about living with less.

In New York I lived in a really tiny studio apartment and was shocked to learn just how much stuff I had managed to acquire in that small space when I was forced to package everything I owned in a box to put into storage.  Read the rest of this entry »

“Cierre!” I hear the man yell and I feel a big push from the people behind me as the doors slam shut.  Somehow we have all made it inside before the driver has lost his patience and left passengers stranded on the sidewalk, as I have seen happen many times before.  All of a sudden, in mere seconds, I am conscious that we are moving at super-sonic speed and I seem to be in perfect position to make this my last ride – smashed up against the front windshield.  “Uno veinte” I say to the driver.  He grumbles something and I am forced to repeat myself.  I am convinced not a single driver has ever understood me on the first try, but part of me also thinks it’s on purpose.

I move forward, gripping the handrail so tight that my knuckles turn white and my fingers go numb.  At times I am forced to grasp the handrail with both hands and there are many moments when we go so fast around a bend that I genuinely feel as if we might flip over.  If I thought the buses moved fast in Brazil I was kidding myself.  I stare in amazement at the people around me who seem not to budge an inch though they hold onto nothing.  As locals they are masters of this balancing skill. We reach the next stop and I watch as an old man about to board the bus hoists his frail wife in catapult-style up the steps.  The awful beeping noise of the air assist and sixty seconds you curse for slowing your journey down on a New York City bus doesn’t exist here, but somehow the old people just deal. I grow frustrated and nervous when I notice none of the seated young boys offer to get up for the elderly couple.

Minutes later I take my iPod earphones out and realize reggaetone is blaring from the radio. Read the rest of this entry »