Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Thursday, March 09, 2006

65. Bureacracy bureacracy (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Well, it's three weeks since my last entry and I'm still in BA sorting out the papers for my business. Little progress has been made since the last entry which is really annoying. I haven't said too much about what I'm gonna be doing, just that it's something to do with tourism. I will say it's in the south of Argentina though - and now that we're in March I've unfortunately missed the January-February high season, thanks to all the paper shuffling I've had to do.

Gaby Roof - 01 - BA pano
Panorama of BA from Consitucion

My deadline for this trip was always my friend Stu's wedding in NZ in April 2006. That's a date I've had in my head since I came to South America, and was always going to be "my return". Obviously now that I'm setting up a business here I intend to come back to Argentina, so I'll only be in NZ for two weeks. I was planning to have my business started before I go back for the wedding but now I'm wondering if it's worth starting before I leave, so maybe I'll wait until I return to Argentina to start it.

Today is March 8 which is Dia de la Mujer or Woman's Day. Yes, as if Valentine's Day and Mother's Day and anniversaries aren't enough, there's also a Woman's Day (edit: and there's a girlfriend's Day too). I guess it's to make those women who aren't married or mothers feel included. I think I've already mentioned that the kids here get birthdays, Christmas, Reyes (Kings), and Dia del Niño (Kid's Day). Once again we blokes get the short straw as I doubt there's a Men's Day included. Still, given the amount of sexual harrasment women here have to put up with even on a day to day basis the least we can do is give them a few special days. Exhibit A:

Around BA - 12 - Gas pump girl
Pump girls at Esso. The pump boys don't have to wear hotpants.

Moving on, this red VW Gol (not a Golf) parks in the street outside my hotel every workday.

Around BA - 04 - Parking
Illegal parking, BA style

Look closely and you will notice two accessories: 1. a bottle sitting on his roof, and 2. a rag hanging out of his boot. These are both deliberately placed there by the owner - can you guess why?
Well, you can't legally park in the streets of San Telmo before 8pm. So both cars in the photo are parked illegally. Instead of giving you a ticket for illegally parking, the police will take a photo of your illegally parked car and mail it to you. The photo is taken from a special police van with a camera system built in. So the rag hanging out of the boot is to cover his licence plate. And it seems the cops are too lazy to get out of the van to actually note down his number plate or move the rag to the side for the photo. Or, perhaps there's only one cop in the special van and he'd need a helper to move the rag while he takes the photo... I can imagine all sorts of photo bloopers involving a solo cop with a timer on his camera who attempts to move the rag only for the photo to be taken too early, or, too late, or for him to forget to apply the handbrake, etc. Whatever, the rag works, since almost everyone who parks their car in the street during work hours has one.
And the bottle on the roof? That's means it's for sale.

BA Motos - 07 - Cop bike
Moto Guzzi cop bike

In the news here... the bank robbery of the century here has largely been solved, and one million of the estimated seven million dollar booty has been recovered. Even the method in how it was solved is perfect for the movie which will someday be made about the crime.
One of the robbers had a girlfriend, Liliana Fernández (30), who also took part in the robbery. After the crime he ditched her and left the country. So another of the robbers, Alberto de La Torre (52) started an affair with her, and intended to ditch his girlfriend and flee the country with Liliana. When Alberto's girlfriend (in her 50s) found out his intentions, she scornfully turned him in to the police, saying "he won't leave me for some kid". Now the other robber's identities are known and many have already been arrested, except for the infamous "Man in the Gray Suit" who led the robbers during the robbery, negotiated the release of hostages for pizzas (to buy time), and even led the robbers in singing "Happy Birthday" to one of the hostages whose birthday it was.

Here's something for architecture nerds:

Around BA - 07 - Twin Towers
BA's twin towers. I had a teaching gig at Prudential in one of them

Around BA - 08 - Building
Another futuristic design near Retiro

Around BA - 10 - Old and New
Modern apartments contrast with older ones in Plaza Congreso

Around BA - 11 - Pigeons
Pigeons swarm for corn in Plaza Congreso... gross

The other weekend on a lazy Saturday afternoon we did a free tour of the Buenos Aires City Government building. I thought we'd be doing a tour of La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) which is the equivalent of the White House here, but those tours are on weekdays. Still, the tour of the City Governement building was worth getting out of bed for at 4pm on Saturday afternoon.

La Prensa - 02 - Founding of BA
The permanent founding of Buenos Ayres by Juan de Garay in 1580


  • What were they thinking?!?! Dumping the girlfriends! Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

    By Blogger miss tango in her eyes, at 6:48 AM  

  • We have to sell one of our cars at the moment (having bought another one) - it'd be interesting to see if anyone would show any interest if we put a bottle on the roof!

    I can't even begin to imagine how such a thing came about - any ideas?

    By Blogger Slag, at 11:55 AM  

  • Dude, no idea on how the bottle on the roof thing started. For ages I just ignored it, until one day I saw about 5 cars parked alongside a busy road with bottles on their roofs. It wasn't until I asked a local what it meant that I found out... before that I thought maybe it meant "my car's broken down, please don't tow it".

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 12:33 PM  

  • Hey Mattyboy,

    The rag on the number plate was correctly explained, however, there's a thing that needs further explanation: the police van is not such thing. It's actually a private, unmarked van belonging to the private company in charge of clamping, towing and giving those vehicles fines who takes the photo.
    As these people don't have any guns or authority, they won't get out of the van to remove the rag or whatever thing covers the plate in case they are attacked by the owner or any other passer by who hates those pseudo authoritarian figures that will give you the fine.
    You surely know how argentines feel about authority and pseudo authority figures.
    The bottle thing is a traditional thing but started with cans. The tradition, many years ago was to put a large empty can or tin with a For Sale sign stuck to it. Second hand car dealers and ordinary owners used that basic advertising method alike. With time, the sign was no longer necessary and the presence of the can in the roof was all that was needed to understand that the car was for sale. Now, it seems that any sort of container will send out the message.
    I like your observations about BA. I was in NZ a few years ago and loved it. Good luck with your business.

    By Blogger Bwana Roberto, at 10:51 PM  

  • Thanks a lot Roberto for clearing up the photo-fine thing and the bottle on the roof thing. Now we know!


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 10:36 PM  

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