Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Thursday, April 26, 2007

89. Last days in BA (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

So my van finally sold, for less than what I was hoping, but for only $500 pesos less than what I'd bought it for a year before. As I said earlier, because of inflation it had actually increased in value! With the van sold I was able to buy our tickets to NZ.

My last month in BA has been lazy. The weather's been crazy - lots of rain and flooding, but also plenty of sunny days, yet it's been constantly humid. I've had lots to do before going to NZ but have struggled to get much of it done.

Rosedal - 16 - Vero Ruth Matt Martin bicis
Biking in Palermo

I've noticed a few changes around BA since I was last living here almost a year ago. The inflation is what's surprised me the most. I'd noticed everything seemed more expensive when I was in Bariloche, and I assumed that it was expensive Patagonian prices, but when we got back to BA things were almost as expensive. Everything - groceries, internet, rent. The only thing that's the same price as before is the colectivos (local buses), but supposedly they're also due for a price increase.

Around BA - 07 - Puerto Madero
Count 'em - five cranes in Puerto Madero

However, although everything's now more expensive (and prices are due to keep rising), it feels like people are now more prepared (or resigned) to the price increases. When I first got here, it seemed like every week people were taking to the streets to protest price increases in meat or bread or milk. Since then many have had a salary increase, albeit a token one, so perhaps they're more prepared for price increases. Or maybe they've given up. Something's changed anyway. When I arrived in 05 the country was still feeling the effects of the economic crisis, now in 2007 many people have moved on and it feels like the economy has recovered. It feels better off now. Public spending is noticeably up, with lots of old buildings being restored. Derelict buildings are being cleaned up and converted into offices or apartments. More towers are being constructed around the place, especially Puerto Madero. Speaking of Puerto Madero, even it's rusty cranes have had a paint job. So has the Casa Rosada! Proudly pink, no longer is it a faded metaphor of the Argentine economy.

Around BA - 05 - Puerto Madero Grua

Around BA - 06 - Puerto Madero Gruas
and after the paint job

88. (Cheap) housing in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

I've stayed in a lot of places since I've been here, from pensiones to hotel rooms to apartments, but always at the low end of the market. In this post I'm going to post my observations on the accommodation I've encountered here.

In Buenos Aires, the city is mostly apartments or duplexes. Houses with lawns aren't common - but they do exist in other towns and outside the capital. Many apartments are only 1 bedroom or even no bedroom (monoambiente).

Kitchens here are always with gas stoves and ovens - never electric. Microwaves are rare. So are electric toasters and kettles - they'll use the gas stove for toasting and boiling water too. I've never seen a dishwasher here. For a country where big family cooked meals on Sundays are part of the culture, it's surprising that even in large houses the kitchens are usually small and poky.

What I call the sausage pillowcase is common on double beds here. It's a long double pillowcase in which both pillows go. Mattresses are either of the inner-sprung, old and musty type, or foam and worn out in the middle. 90% of the beds I've slept in have been sunken in the middle, so one's feet and head are higher than the hips, much like sleeping in a hammock.

I've never had the luxury of a washing machine or a dryer. Which means it's either hand washing in the kitchen sink, or sending the clothes off to the laundromat. Some nicer houses have a laundry.

Here is where you'll see the most differences. Next to the toilet there's often a small basket for throwing used toilet paper, as in many houses the plumbing is prone to blocking if toilet paper is thrown down the toilet. Also alongside the toilet there's often a bidet, for washing one's privates. For those that don't know, the drill is you wipe with paper as usual, throw the used paper in the bin, then soap up a hand and use that to wash yourself down below, and then dry off with a towel. For this reason if you visit someone's house you wouldn't use their bidet since you wouldn't want to use their ass-towel.
I've yet to see a standalone shower in Argentina. The shower head is usually just on a wall of the (very small) bathroom, so when you shower the toilet, basin, floor, everything gets wet. So after you shower you have to mop the floor - usually with a squeegee. Some nicer houses have a bathtub with the shower head above that.
Girls here usually wash their underwear in the shower, and then leave them hanging in the bathroom to dry. They wouldn't usually send their panties off to the laundromat. Don't ask me why.

What else?
Carpet is practically non-existent, so floors are wooden floorboards or tiles. Vacuum cleaners are thus unneeded, since a broom will do. Stringy mops aren't used, instead a squeegee with a rag is used for cleaning the floor.

The good
Many houses have a parilla somewhere. This is a huge, good old traditional wood burning BBQ. They kick the ass of gas burning BBQs which now dominate the rest of the world. Unfortunately, none of the houses I lived in had a parilla...

That's about all I can think of for now. I know this post may sound negative, but it's not intended that way. I'm just trying to state the way things are here. Post a comment if you have anything to add...