So…I am supposed to be at Migraciones right now freezing my ass off and waiting in line to get my visa. I even woke up at 6:30 AM after 5 hours of poor sleep to go and renounce my illegal immigrant status (which is how I currently roll…) but of course, TIA. Argentina is still not quite sure if I’m a criminal and they have yet to tell me their final decision on that. They promised me they’d decide in 5 days (which should have been 4 days ago…) but apparently I’m still being reviewed and I should check back later. Maybe I shouldn’t have jaywalked that one time.
It’s wildly unfair because the caffeine of my morning Nescafe has already began to block adenosine receptors in my brain and organs, slowing down my cellular activity and stimulating my nerve cells to release epinephrine. This hormone, better known as adrenaline, is now increasing my heart rate, my blood pressure, and blood flow to my muscles, which control my fingers as I type. These symptoms are contradictory to sleep. If you’re experiencing something similar this morning I’ll leave you this dandy final addition to my mini-series of little things that remind me I’m not in the USA to enjoy 🙂 Don’t forget to check out the first, second, and third parts first.
76. Open any girl’s purse in the USA (if you dare) and you’re 80% guaranteed to find at least one tube of lip gloss. I’m not sure many of my Argentine girl friends have even heard of the stuff and I’ve yet to see anything but lipstick or chap stick on the shelves in Farmacity here. I’ve concluded that, while it can probably be found somewhere in china town, along with bacon flavored jam and soy whale liver, Argentina’s lips remain largely unglossed.
77. Argentine ice cream was churned and cooled (or whatever magic they do to make ice cream) in heaven.
78. There is a shortage of change here so everyone is stingy with their monedas. Stores usually round up a few cents when handing you your change back, so that’s nice, but they’ll almost always ask you, “¿Tenés cincuenta centavos?” (Do you have fifty cents?) and grumble when you apologize for being coinless. Olvidate if you only carry around cien pesos.
79. This kind of goes with the last one but because the stores try and hoard coins they’ll ask you if you want to donate 17 centavos, or however much is easy to round off your bill to, to the Starving Fireman’s International Ice Cream Fund. Or the like.
80. If you’ve never heard of the things before, you might think that Argentines go to the bathroom in pairs. It’s a myth. There’s just this crazy-weird butt-rinsing machine next to the toilet that they copy-catted from France. It’s called a bidet.
81. Books are really expensive here because of import taxes and other factors (see #64)–text books included. Apparently copyright laws are only suggestions though because you’ll get most of your university texts as photocopies in a bookstore. They’ve found cute little loopholes through the copyright laws but what’s the big deal if they blatantly disregard them too? Shhh…don’t tell.
^^My management textbook, which is a compilation of select chapters and articles from other books (loophole)
82. I am often shocked by the influence of English here. Everyone says it’s the “universal language” (maybe that’s why we don’t seem too interested in teaching other languages in the USA) and many prioritize the teaching and learning of it. Many English words have made their way into everyday Argentine speak as well. For example, when I used to say that I was studying Business Marketing here, I would simply say “marketing.” I took a class called “Fundamentos de Marketing” and we talked all about what “marketing” was, etc. To market something would often be referred to as “hacer marketing de un producto“–literally, to do marketing of a product….
83. Water and plastic utensils are not free: let me diverge for a moment to tell you my spoon story.
So I bought a bunch of food from a chino for lunch one day–some chips, the makings for a sandwich, and a yogurt–and brought it back to the university to eat in peace and pretend to catch up on my reading for Social Movements (we already know how that worked out…) I sat down outside the cafeteria (you aren’t allowed to go in unless you buy something…bah humbug…) and set everything out in front of me like I used to in Elementary school all proud and excited at the prospect of filling my tummy, when I realized I didn’t have a spoon with which to eat my yogurt. In Elementary school that wouldn’t have mattered. I’d eaten my fair share of liquidy substances with the foil tops of their containers to the awe and admiration of my tablemates. Having no spoon couldn’t stop me back in the day!!! But, realizing that a woman of 20 years should probably be a bit more sophisticated and use utensils, I entered the treacherous environment that is the cafeteria and tip-toed to the line where they sometimes buy things. After I spent a sufficient enough time looking like I’d bought something, I went over to a different counter to ask for a spoon.
–“¿Tenés una cuchara, por favor?” Do you have a spoon please?
–“¿Emmm…compraste algo?” Did you buy something? You could see the suspicion in the cook´s eyes right away, like a dog who thinks he’s heard his master’s car in the driveway, instantly on alert.
–“Uhh…¿qué?…¿tenés una cucharita?” Umm…huh?…do you have a little spoon?
–“¿Compraste algo? ¿Qué compraste?” Did you buy something? What did you buy?
–(Realizing he would not part with his plastic spoons without my buying something and not really wanting to have to use my foil spoon method, I spoke in my most beautifulest yankee-est accent): “YO-guuur, sí, compro YO-guuuurrrr. ¿Tenés coochawwruh?” YO-gurt, yes, I buy YO-gurt. Do you have spoon? For emphasis I make a shoveling motion into my mouth.
–“Y lo compraste acá?” And you bought it here?
–Tilting my head sideways slightly like a little baby bird, “¿Coochawruh?” Spoon? More shoveling motions, this time more desperately and faster—if there were real yogurt on my imaginary spoon it would be all over the stingy cook’s floor.
There is a pregnant pause as the cook gives me a judgmental, unsure look. Then he tentatively grabs the blessed plastic spoon from a tray full of them. He starts handing it to me but snatches it back and gives me another doubtful inspection. I return his gaze with my best feigned innocence and puppy eyes—it’s more effective because technically I didn’t lie about anything. I did buy yogurt, just not from his overpriced, monopolistic university cafe. And I do want a spoon.
After a little more language volleying in which I expertly imitated a stupid gringa, he eventually parts with it. I slide out of the cafeteria with my new plastic spoon clutched tight against my chest like Gollum and the ring, hop away to my stash outside the door of the cafeteria, gather my reserves in the chino plastic bag, and take the stairs two at a time to settle two floors up and eat in peace with my stolen spoon. Nothing is free, and I swear he gave me a dirty look the next time I went in the cafeteria that same week with a friend and had magically-improved Spanish ten levels. I keep the spoon in my purse now, just in case I am left without one again.
84. Most people here seem to think that we curse like sailors in the USA. Personally, I think they curse like sailors. Probably, sailors don’t even curse that much.
85. As if to prove the last point, I constantly see clothing, as I am forced to window shop daily walking down my street, that cracks me up. I highly doubt that these types of displays would last anywhere in Fort Collins, or even bigger cities in the USA. Besides the picture below, I have quite recently seen a flowy tank top bejeweled with the F-word, and a Black T-shirt proclaiming that “God is the new black”…whatever that means.
86. If you watched my first video way back in August, you will have seen my elevator here. Most elevators are like that one, tiny little things with two doors that you have to pull shut. I loved them then and still do now. I’m not meaning to be demeaning when I say that they make me feel like I’m in the 20’s. They actually are pretty sweet, I’m serious.
87. Probably just a city thing but you have to buzz up to someone’s apartment here. I had a buzzer back in Fort Collins but only because my apartments were seriously weird. I know it’s not that common, at least in Foco, but here EVERYONE has them, even if they live in a house. It’s like a doorbell but it makes an delightfully awful buzzing noise. Then the people in the apartment pick up a little telephone and talk to you downstairs.
88. Security is a major concern here. Upon hearing your voice through the telephone in the above point, it is very unlikely that your friend’s will just buzz you up (press the button that unlocks the door.) They will instead make a point of coming down to get you just to make sure you aren’t a thief in disguise or something, I don’t know. Video cameras are also common, as is changing the locks when you lose your keys (which I have done twice 😦 ) I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I’m just not used to it coming from a place where it’s not a big deal if you forget to lock your doors.
89. This picture:
90. This is hard to explain but the idea of what types of foods make you fat is different here. In the USA, when we diet, the first thing that we commonly “unfriend” is sugar. Here, the idea that “sugar doesn’t make you fat” is quite common. Instead, greasy and salty foods do (although they eat both regularly 🙂 )
91. Portion sizes at restaurants. I mean, where do I even begin?! My first week I was constantly starving, partly because I was burning so many more calories than usual with all the newness and lack of sleep, but also because Statians just eat HUGE portions and Argentines don’t. I think if I got a Qdoba burrito today I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I would be so excited that I’d dive right in but feel full to the brim after half of it. I could eat a burrito the size of my head back in the day before I came to Argentina. Now I’ve learned that humans really don’t need all that much at once…
92. I am going to miss the Fourth of July this year but it’s ok because we got fireworks on Christmas 😛 With the seasons being switched, Christmas is during the summer, which is just plain strange…
93. Coupled with mayonnaise obsession is the mysterious salsa golf. It’s basically just mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together. At first, I was revolted but now I won’t dip my french fries in anything else.
94. Clothes dryers and dishwashers are rare, but garbage disposals are non-existent. I have yet to see one in my eleven months here in Argentina. I am now sure that garbage disposals were one of the greatest inventions of all time and I just don’t understand whyyyyy they aren’t in all Argentine sinks? I get so grossed out pulling all of the nasty food chunks from the bottom of the sink after washing the dishes and transferring them to the garbage, and then you have to take out the garbage because it gets all stinky and nasty. Garbage disposals are beautiful pieces of art to me now and luxuries one can only dream of. APPRECIATE THEM!
95. It is common to weigh your produce separately at a grocery store and get a sticker on it before checking out.
96. When you walk into a party you are typically expected to greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek. When you leave, you go through the same routine. When you see a friend on the street, in the hallway, or are meeting them for coffee, another kiss. When you meet someone for the first time, etc. I love it though, I think I’m going to feel like everyone thinks I smell when I go back to the USA and people don’t kiss me hello and goodbye.
97. Inflation is so bad in Argentina that it is one of the only countries that will sell a 2013 car for more pesos at the end of the year than at the beginning. This phenomenon has led to the “blue” market value of the US dollar, which keeps me from going over budget here.
98. In Tigre, a community just outside of Buenos Aires where the roads are made of water, there are lancha (boat) colectivos, taxis, and even police and trash services!
99. While the toilet water doesn’t flush the other way, there are weird looking flushers here. Usually, there’s a little button on the side of the toilet, but sometimes you have to pull a string. The standard Statian type of flushers are rare.
100. [Insert something about tango or psychology (read my post Psychoanalyze This) here]
ANDDDD 101. When people think of South America, they generally conjure images of tropical rainforests, tribes of natives playing the drums, and maybe Machu Picchu. Argentina does have some tropical areas, but it is, in reality, a huge country that spans mountains, jungle, desert, and even arctic cold temperatures and glaciers.
Not to be continued because I’m getting bored of these posts :P…
This is a continuation of Part I of my list of things about Argentina. Start there if you haven’t read it yet by clicking on the link 🙂 So, without further ado:
26. You put your picture, gender, race, age, and marital status on your resume (curriculum); if you don’t, employers might think you’re hiding something.
27. Shoe store right next to a fruit/veggie stand right next to an apartment complex—not weird.
28. Someone casually lights a cigarette in the school cafeteria, right next to the “Prohibido Fumar” sign; no one casts a second glance.
29. You panic about a big group project the teacher assigned. No one starts talking about it until the night before it’s due, and nobody does a single bit of work until the morning of. The presentation is bound to crash and burn, but the teacher forgets there was any homework at all. Two weeks later, he remembers, but forgets again the next class period. If you’re interested for future reference, this is a potential method you should consider if you’d like me to die of a heart attack someday. <–This might just be Universidad Belgrano…still investigating.
30. Pigeons are more common than ants on a spilled Slurpee. They’re impossibly uglier too.
32. You think you must have something in your teeth if you get
through the day all the way to the bus stop in the morning without at least six or seven comments of “princesa“, “linda chica“, or “Te acampaño o te persigo?”
Actually, my favorite piropo (these types of comments/pick-up lines) happened to me a couple of weekends ago while I was standing at a bus stop with my friend Marianita outside the city center in Olivos. A little truck with three or four guys, all in their mid-twenties or thirties pulled across the road and into the wrong lane and rolled down their window. “Perdón chicas, pero estoy media perdido,” said the driver (Sorry girls but I’m a little lost), “Me pueden decir como llegar a tus corazónes?” Could you tell me how to get to your hearts? Then he drove away with a wink. I was left a little bit confused, my naive mind calculating how to get to the center of the city exactly from where we were. It clicked within a matter of seconds though and both Marianita and I coughed a little from the cheesiness of it all. I don’t necessarily like the piropos, though.
Most are harmless enough and the guys in the truck made me smile at least, but sometimes they’re just gross and disgusting. I don’t think it’s common to have this happen to you, but last Tuesday I was walking by myself on Santa Fe coming back from the gym at around 10 PM (still dinner-time-ish) and a young guy around my age followed me for about a block asking for a kiss and actually grabbed me. I whirled around telling him to go away in more explicit language and raised my arm when he got close to me again… The streets were strangely empty but a watching doorman pulled him away from me, made sure I was ok and told me to continue before I got a chance to slap the jerk harassing me. I shouldn’t have spoken English to tell him to go away, but the words that come out of my mouth in those situations aren’t necessarily well thought out. He’d effectively pissed me off though. Anyhow, I don’t think it’s a really common experience to have and the guy seemed drugged or drunk
33. You’re a shark and seats on the bus are the minnows.
34. You have a separate bag for your mate supplies and a mental map of refill stations throughout the day so you don’t run out of hot water (or at least for some Argentines.)
35. By the end of the day your purse is full of ads for learning English, painting your baby’s bedroom, pizza delivery, and various other promos you were too polite to refuse on your five block walk home.
36. Empanadas, dulce de leche, and medialunas all have their own food groups, here’s my personal food pyramid:
37. Two pieces of bread with jam and a single half mug of Nescafe fills you up like a regular meal used to in the United States.
38. A little girl comes up to you in a restaurant where you and your amigos are morfando una pizza and asks you for a slice. She won’t leave until you oblige, and then she goes outside and eats it in front of the window. She’s not homeless or anything (she’s wearing a private school uniform…), only craving pizza and feeling bold.
39. Pizza is delicious (as proved the little girl in #38), but delicious in Argentina for a more gourmet reason than the United States (still miss my Papa John’s Special Garlic Dipping Sauce: aka butter mixed with a bit of cream and powdered garlic for use on already artery-hostile pizza.)
40. Someone puts a pair of socks on your lap on the colectivo with tape across them spelling out “ADDIDAS.” He follows with a presentation involving tying the socks to the bus seats and comically stretching them as far as possible to prove that they are sturdy before emphatically announcing that they are offered for a limited time and ONLY FIFTEEN PESOS FOR NOT ONE, BUT TWO, that’s TWO durable pairs!!!
41. Red lights outside of the city center are just suggestions.
42. Almost all of the cars are manuals. For this reason the lights go from green–yellow–red–yellow–green.
43. It no longer surprises me when my bus driver gets road rage, slamming on the brakes and calling a fellow driver an “hijo de puta” with a characteristically Italian shake of the fist.
44. Mayonnaise obsession. Seriously, a whole aisle in the grocery store is devoted to mayonnaise. Since ranch dressing is virtually nonexistant, guess what the choice topping for salads here is? Not kidding. I used to think this was weird and gross. Now I don’t know what a meal is like without mayonnaise.
45. I may have mentioned this before but milk is usually purchased in bags like the ones below. Yes, they do have cartons (although they’re square and weird), but I’ve yet to see a typical plastic bottle or translucent jug like the ones so common to the USA.
46. When I order a whiskey/7Up I don’t get 7Up with whiskey, I get whiskey with a couple shots of 7Up. Sometimes they give me the can too just in case I want to dilute my drink after the first shocking sips.
47. You have to light the oven and the stove with matches, a task which took me many fortnights to master. I still fear lighting the pilot light on the oven, actually….
48. The doormen water the sidewalks early in the morning just in case the grass decides to peek through the cement surface one day. These porteros will be there to tenderly care for such growth when it comes, I’m sure. Maybe it’s a city thing, or maybe it’s a preemptive strike against the dog poop that is seeming to invade the city, qué sé yo…
49. Everyday one plays a life-size version of Minesweeper walking along the streets of Buenos Aires. Ironically, the parks seem to be eerily clear of feces, but the same cannot be said of the sidewalks. Walking in heels is quite the feat among the cracked, uneven tiles with the occasional sneaky bomb of dog poo that make up Buenos Aires’ sidewalks. I guess when you’re a dog walker with 20 dogs in tow you might find it a bit tedious to bag it ALLLLLL (see #5.)
50. Electronics are insanely expensive because of import taxes. I bought my Droid Razr (which got stolen a few weeks ago 😦 ) in February of 2012. It came out sometime in 2011 I think. Right now in the US, you can get one brand new without a contract for about $200 (free with a contract.) This one pictured here is the equivalent of $520 WITH a new or renewed contract. I hate to think of what it would be unlocked!
To be continued…