In the past 23 years and 19 days of my life, I’ve gotten used to turning people’s heads as they pass by me on the street.
My striking good looks are currently highlighted by a dirty mustache and hair that’s getting longer and shaggier by the day. My attire consistently includes four t-shirts that reek of mildew. I fear that people are no longer tracking my swagger down the street with their jaws-dropped and drooling. Rather, the recent behavior looks like frantically digging through handbags for gas-masks and scanning the streets (and sidewalks) for the closest motorcycle to hop on and zip as far away as possible.
I’m a dirty traveler with a mustache. I’m loving it.
Doing laundry has been a particular challenge for me here in Buenos Aires. Drying your laundry is dependent on sunny weather so that it drys quickly after you hang it outside of your bedroom window. Its been unusually damp and rainy for most of the ten days I’ve been here. I’ve neglected to consult the weather report during my laundry routine. But I’m learning.
Today I swing by Proyecto ‘Ace, the artist residency I’m going to work at in January. It’s a beautiful space, really well put together with an impressive print-making studio, a gallery space, and a small tower studio. There are currently a few South and Central American artists that cycle through there. I’m going to be joined from a young female artist from Turkey who just graduated from Parsons in New York. The roof has an tiled terrace which will be great to catch some sun during the hot summer months. They’ve invited me to come by there and work for three weeks in January. I’m excited to take the influences from my five months of this experience and just have a concentrated period where I’ll be able to make some paintings. It will be exciting to see what it’s like to treat painting as a real job–the studio opens at 9 and closes at 6. After, it’s my impression that all the younger artists get together for food and drinks. Should be fun
The energizer bunny is part Argentinian. These people don’t stop all night long, especially when Clarity is playing. EatSleepRaveRepeat. This Saturday I went to an all night electronic music festival set in the ecological reserve of Buenos Aires. The ecological reserve is an amazing space set aside for wildlife right next to the city. It’s great to go for runs and just escape. Buenos Aires is pretty wild, you can just cross over an avenue and you get to a part of the city that looks distinctly different from every other neighborhood, or barrio.
On Friday, I met Chris, a rugby friend of the Bowdoin Rugby Godfather, Andy Palmer. Andy and Chris went on tour in New Zealand together after they graduated from Bowdoin and Dartmouth, respectively, in the early 90s. Chris picked me up from a Subte (subway stop) a little north of the city and we drove through the city to a bar in the barrio called Palermo. Chris drives the way I imagine he played rugby. He said himself, “if I saw myself driving around Buenos Aires, I would probably be out on the street brawling with him. I drive like a total asshole.” We were weaving in and out of traffic, but getting to where we needed to go with intent and purpose.
Chris owns a couple of businesses down here in Buenos Aires. One of them is a vending company, so we went to a bar that uses his machines. Chris told me a bit about Buenos Aires, highlighting the financial mistakes that the Argentine government is making right now. The government is printing off a lot of money, so the inflation rate is extremely high and Argentines have no incentive to save their earnings. One way to bypass saving is to buy luxury cars and save income in material assets rather than in accounts in the bank. Down here, cars retain about 95% of their value over three or four years. But now, there are hundreds of thousands of more cars on the streets, but no new roads. Congestion is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. This method of savings does not align with environmentalism either.
The government’s monetary controls also messes with US dollar-peso conversion rates. The government exchanges dollars for 5 pesos, but the actual Argentine value of the dollar is about 10 pesos, so if you bring dollars directly into the country, you’re twice as rich. I wish I knew this when I came in.
Chris also mentioned the corruption in Argentina. He told me about one of his factories in the outskirts of the city where the municipal laws conflict with the regional laws with conflict with the national laws. The laws contradict each other and sometimes a certain party needs to be paid off. He told me that school children in Argentina were interviewed about how they felt about stealing or lying to make more money. 65% of them saw no problem with it.
One of his other quotes was “Argentina is the best country in the world with the worst 40 million inhabitants.” It has amazing natural features and boundless resources, but it has a disorganized and corrupt government.
I saw a prime example of how ‘wild, wild west’ it is down here. We parked outside the bar in Palermo and as we exited his VW pick-up, he was approached by a raggedy, seemingly homeless guy telling him to pay 100 pesos for the parking. There was no meter, no parking sticker…nothing. I was confused so I asked what was going on. He told met that the guys there will scratch up your car and steal you hubcaps and maybe even smash some windows if you don’t pay them. They pay a part of their earnings off to the local police so the police turn a blind eye to it.
Buenos Aires, not like home.
Nevertheless, Chris summarized by saying the benefits of living in Buenos Aires outweigh all the nuisances. At the moment, I totally agree. It’s great living in a place so out of my element. People are especially friendly, at the moment, I’m amigos with the fruit, vegetable, and egg vendor down the street, the manager of the cross fit gym, and a guy who sells me empanadas every afternoon close to where I’m taking spanish classes.
It’s wonderful feeling completely at home in a foreign place. I’ve been away from home for quite a long time at this point. My argentine roommate, Maria struggles to believe that I essentially left home at 14 for boarding school. Here in Argentina, it’s common for children to stay at home until 28 or older. Maria just left home three years ago and moved into this apartment around the corner from her parents.
For almost a decade now, I’ve been, and felt, pretty nomadic. My Watson year is adding some sugar to the benefits of quickly adapting and place-making. So, it’s nice building myself a nest in a semi-permanent location.
I’ve gotten into a routine. Working out at a cross fit gym, taking spanish classes, exploring different barrios–conciously not taking any pictures so that I’m not a target to be mugged. Just about every night, I go to this place Freddo for ice cream just about every night. Today, for example, I got 4.4 pounds of ice cream for 13 dollars. #worthit
I’ll start taking the camera out sometime soon and share some shots with you. I hope this pleases those of you who have accused me of being lazy and not keeping up with the blog. Admittedly, yes I’ve been lazy. But life is good. Hope all is well up there.