Monday, February 4


I'm beginning to get settled here in Buenos Aires.

My original plan was to take a trip down to the southern areas of the country and into Chile before coming back to the capital city in March to look for work. Now, I find that I'm getting comfortable here. I'd prefer to spend February getting to know the city before I start working when the school year starts next month. Plus, I've been getting a steady stream of interviews, so I should be able to find a better job if I spend the next couple of weeks searching.

Here are a few of my impressions of the city so far...

Everything is very European. The city reminds me of Spain or the south of France. The sidewalk to the architecture, the weather, the layout of the shops and kiosks, the charges for phone services, the look of payphones, and even the amount of dog crap on the sidewalks is all similar to the Mediterranean.

Argentines are some of the most beautiful people in the world. People here are very well proportioned. Unfortunately, this comes with a heavy price. Anorexia is very common here, to the point where it's considered almost normal for people to have eating disorders. Friends and family get a bit worried, but it doesn't generate anywhere near the concern that it would in North America. Also, plastic surgery is _very_ accepted. Breast surgery tops the list, but having a nose job or having your lips done are very common for the women here. The bar is much lower for men. It's important to stay in reasonable shape, and to keep your hair neat, but beyond that there aren't so many expectations.

Also, soft core porn is present pretty much everywhere. There are about 3 kiosks per block, and all have prominent displays of such magazines. This obviously contributes to the obsession with body image.

The people here are very nice. I've already made many friends, mostly through Internet sites like or The best part of all of this is that all of the people that I've met are locals, which has done wonders for my Spanish.

My living situation has also been great for my language skills. I've been living with Maria Teresa, the mother-in-law of Sofia, a friend of mine who immigrated to Montreal last year. Also in the house are Maria Teresa's daughter Laura, and Laura's cat. The cat (I don't know it's name, as it's always referred to as El Gato, which is Spanish for, well, cat.) was found on the street as a kitten, almost dead from starvation. As a consequence, it's still extremely skinny, and it's eyes didn't form properly, being very sunken in it's head. It also has no killer instinct at all, only eating dry cat food, with no interest whatsoever in meat. Still, it's very friendly. If it only had enough sense to not get under people's feet (and hence get stepped on), it's life might be a bit less painful.

The area where I live is in the suburbs, quieter (and cleaner) than the main city. It's called Martinez, a wealthier neighborhood. Plus, the train to get into the city center takes about 30 minutes, less than the time it takes people who live in the residential neighborhoods of Buenos Aires proper.

Everything here is very cheap. For instance, the bus costs between 25 to 50 cents, depending on where you're going. My haircut cost 3 dollars, and clothing that I bought was also much less than in Canada. A pair of jeans costs between 15 and 25 dollars. Of course, you can always find trendier (and more expensive) styles, most of which are clustered in neighborhoods populated by Americans. In fact, the hip clothing costs more than in North America, with specialty shops charging upwards of 150 bucks for pants that are pre-torn.

Salaries are proportional. Most people working average jobs make between three and four dollars an hour. Languages being in higher demand, I should be able to pull in between five and seven.

Although the beer here is a bit bland, the wine is excellent, and again very cheap. There are many Wineries, and if you're feeling classy, you can pick up an excellent bottle for less than 15 dollars.

One more comment about the pollution here. There's definitely a problem with smog, as there are no emission limits or laws to keep the exhaust from cars relatively clean. Still, it's to be expected. What's a bit sad is how polluted the harbour is. It literally stinks. It's a shame, because it should be quite beautiful. But it's full of sludge, tires, bottles, and many other things that are more difficult to identify. I tried to take a walk along the waterfront, but the stench overpowered me, and I had to hop on the first bus that came by. I sometimes wonder what the governments were thinking (bribes?) when they allowed this to happen. It's destroyed what should have been one of the nicest parts of the city.


Anonymous (cr)Dave said...

Wonderful post as usual! I am supposed to take vacation by the end of February and I have been thinking of Argentina as one of possible destinations. Have you met Alexander, by the way, the Russian guy who was staying in my place? He is supposed to be in Buenos Aires by now, staying 'till mid-March!

12:05 p.m.  

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