Tag: Bs As (page 1 of 2)

I have seen more overboard PDA (public displays of affection) in the past six months the than in the past six years. I am all for PDA that would not embarrass a tween, like holding hands or stealing a quick kiss. What I have seen goes beyond that.

imageCouples are making out in parks, on sidewalks, in airplanes, and on public transportation. And they are not trying to hide themselves in the shadows or corners. I’m talking about couples lying on a blanket in the middle of the park next to a family or sitting on the bus stop bench next to other people who also are waiting (like me).

The couples usually appear to be teenagers or people in their 20s, but I’ve seen much older couples going at it too. It seems like even when people are older and presumably living with their partner or spouse, they just continue the habit they developed while they were young.

I took the time to write this post so I could share at least one reason behind this behavior. A Colombian friend confirmed my hypothesis that it is because people usually live with their families until they are married. Thus, the only place they can have some privacy is in public.

Ironic.

Note: Although I came close to snapping photographs of the different couples that prompted this post, I decided to respect their public privacy. I am sure most of you can use your imagination to illustrate the point.

One Way I Feel Safer In Bs As

I was nervous in about 99% of the taxis I took in Bogotá. The drivers there are aggressive and there are no seat belts in the back seats. The worse part was that in almost cab I took, the driver was talking on the phone, and some texted as well. Then there was the one who was watching a YouTube video. Mostly while he was driving.

Occasionally, I said something, but often felt impeded by my poor Spanish. I considered offering to pay drivers more if they would not look at their phones during the trips, but never actually did it.

Taxis in Bs As

Taxis in Bs As

In some ways, the taxi experience in Buenos Aires is similar. The drivers are aggressive, but slightly less so than in Bogotá. The majority of the taxis also do not have seat belts in the back seats.

There is one major difference. The drivers here do not talk on their phones. Because it is prohibited. And people take this prohibition very seriously. The fines are high and it is not worth risking the negative impact on their licenses.

A few have glanced at their phones at red lights. One or two have answered the phone to say that they cannot talk, and those calls were very brief.

I actually feel safer in a taxi in Bs As than I do in DC, even though many intersections here have no traffic lights or stop signs.

When I started writing this, I did not intend to get up on a soapbox and preach about the dangers of distracted driving. But I find myself not wanting to resist the temptation because I know how extremely harmful car accidents can be. And because I do not want you increasing your risk of being hurt, or hurting someone else.

Three quick facts from the Put it Down campaign:

  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
  • Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use.

And, in case you have not seen it yet, take four minutes to watch this and remember that the only thing you should do while driving is drive.

So Are You Fluent Yet?

Today was my last day of Spanish class. And, before you ask, no, I am not fluent. Not even close.

I am significantly more advanced than I was when I arrived in Bogotá six and a half months ago. But I still have a long way to go.

Last day of school!

Last day of school!

Learning in a school for non-native speakers is great, until it isn’t. One reason (among many) that I am not fluent is that the teachers speak slowly, clearly, and using simple language. Most Colombians and Argentines I encounter outside of school do none of these things. The basic task of deciphering the words they are speaking is difficult, and that is before I try to comprehend the meaning.

I still have a hard time speaking fluidly because I stop to consider which verb tense to use (Spanish has many more than English) and then I have to conjugate the verb. For the rest of the sentence, I have to remember so many things: which nouns are feminine and which are masculine (thank goodness nouns in English do not have genders) and adjust the adjectives to agree, which word to use to express “for” (por or para), and which verb to use to express “to be” (ser or estar). Thank goodness my teachers are very patient.

For my Spanish to reach the next level, I would need to immerse myself completely. I could do this by getting a job and/or living in a place where no one speaks English. Another thought is to take classes at a Latin America university.

IMG_4373I also would need to severely limit the amount of time I spend living in English. When I am alone, I pass a lot of my time reading books or online articles and listening to books and podcasts, all in English. I have read a few books (very slowly) in Spanish, which has helped my vocabulary and grammar. But watching the local news and listening to local news radio a little bit each day has not done much to improve my skills.

I am not sure what the next steps are. I need to decide how much time and effort I want to put into maintaining what I have learned and improving upon it. I have lots of grand ideas about continuing to study once I am back in the US. Realistically, most of those ideas will never get off the ground, or if they do, they probably will crash back down quickly.

It has been a long time since I was a student for more than an afternoon workshop. I can look back and see the process and progress—things built on each other and connected. I have challenged myself and my brain in new ways. I have put effort into expressing my thoughts and ideas. And hopefully I have accrued some of the benefits that research shows multi-lingual people have.

Do I wish I had more mastery? Of course.  But regardless of what happens with my Spanish abilities in the future, I think the time has been well spent.

My experience by the numbers:

  • Different schools I attended: 3
  • Total weeks studying: 19
  • Total class hours: 374
  • Beginning level: A2
  • Ending level: C2
  • Verb tenses learned: 14

Far From Home For The Holidays

I have been missing home lately, a feeling that intensified as the Jewish High Holidays approached. For seven years, I lived far from any family and scrambled every year to find a “home” for the holidays. Since 2002, I have been fortunate to live near close family with whom to celebrate. When I planned this trip in early 2015, I worried about what I would do when the holidays arrived.

rosh-hashanaIt turns out any time I spent worrying was wasted. I knew one couple in Buenos Aires before arriving. She’s originally from here, but lived in the US for many years and ended up in Washington, DC, where she met him, who is American, at a potluck Shabbat dinner (that I also was at, and is how I met them both). This is the couple that took me out to eat on my first night in town, introducing me to the hours people in Bs As keep.

They invited me to join them on Sunday night as the holiday began. They belong to a Conservative synagogue; I grew up in the Reform movement. If I were to attend a Conservative service in the US, I probably would not know the tunes for the prayers and there probably would be more Hebrew than I am accustomed to. I was thinking about these differences being added to the fact that the normally English part of the service would be in Spanish, and expected to feel glad I was in synagogue but unsettled because it was unfamiliar.

Once again, the time I spent worrying was wasted. Most of the experience was just like being at home. The atmosphere felt familiar: people greeting each other, kids running around, and me mentally noting who was dressed inappropriately. Almost all of the tunes were familiar, and they used the special High Holiday version* frequently. I understood as much of the sermon here as I usually do at home. But unlike at home, I didn’t fall asleep once here.

The differences were Argentine. The 7.00 service started just before 7.30; most people didn’t even arrive until close to 7.15. The service was a little more than an hour, after which we had to walk home and feed the children. Therefore, we sat down for the adult’s dinner at about 10.15, and I got home at 1.15 am.

The food was homemade, traditional, and delicious, including a stuffed challah (which seems to be the trend this year based on Facebook posts), matzo ball soup, chicken, and apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year. Basically everything a Jewish girl far from home could ask for.

To all who celebrate: L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi, May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

 

*If you follow the link to listen, I’m referring to the tune under the heading “High Holiday melody.” In the service, there was a choir and organ in addition to the cantor, just like at home.

My Care Package

The best part about my care package is that my dad delivered it in person. The only thing that would have made it better is if my mom could have been part of the delivery team too. However, she had (successful) back surgery in the spring and is not cleared yet for 11+ hour flights.

August 2015 weather

August 2015 weather in Bs As

About dad’s trip

The best part of my dad’s trip? Having him here. I have “seen” my parents quite a bit while I have been in South America thanks to FaceTime. I saw them in person the weekend before I left the US. Living in different states, we often go months without an in-person visit so this separation is not a noticeable difference in my life. But spending time together is better than communicating electronically.

The worst part my dad’s trip? The weather. Seriously. Look at the graphic. He was here for the coldest days of August. And the image fails to show that it was gray and raining most of Monday-Friday. For his birthday, I bought him a winter hat (that he left with me and, that, thank goodness, I took with me on my very cold trip to the north and wore almost every day for two weeks).

Dad sporting his new hat

Dad sporting his new hat

I was nervous about being the hostess for my first visitor of this whole experience. (I spent a few days with two former co-workers who came to Colombia for a project, but they did not travel to visit me and had practically no free time that I needed to fill.)

I had lists of things we could do and places to eat, but was nervous about committing to much before my dad arrived because I wanted to make sure we did things he was interested in. At his request, I set up a full-day walking tour covering the key sites and history of Buenos Aires with the addition of a Jewish focus. Luckily, I happened to schedule it for the only sunny weekday.

I also bought tickets for the Philharmonic at the legendary Teatro Colón so we could hear a Beethoven program (but somehow the program that night was something I do not remember and Scheherazade, a piece we both love, especially since it is often used in figure skating).

On the other days we picked items off my list and visited a handful of museums, took a driving tour of different parts of the city, and, once the weather improved, traveled to nearby Tigre for the day. We ate good food. A lot of good food. My dad loved the long, leisurely dinners Buenos Aires-style: lasting 3-4 hours and keeping us out late (one night we got home at 1.00 am).

It was  fun to see the city through his eyes. To him, it is modern, rather European, cosmopolitan and sprawling.  Fortunately, the dog shit was not as prevalent as usual (probably was washed away by the rain). He asked a lot of questions about politics and how Argentina works (is there a program like Social Security? since it is mandatory, what happens if people do not vote?). My knowledge about most of these topics is limited. Our guides and my friends answered some questions; the rest remain unanswered.

He was very impressed with my Spanish. Of course, since he does not speak it, he did know if what I was saying made any sense or if my translations to English were accurate.

Here’s the full photo album from the trip, captions included.

About the care package

I won’t lie. I was almost as excited for my care package to arrive as I was to see my dad.

The most important category was, “Items I cannot find here.” The most important things in this category were curly hair products.  It seems like no one in Buenos Aires has hair like mine. It later was explained to me that anyone “unfortunate” enough to be born with curly hair straightens it. Also, I did not realize how much I enjoy a shower pouf until I could not buy one. The woman I am staying with has a special love for cinnamon Altoids, so the delivery included packs for her.

The second category was, “Items I could buy here but would not want to because the quality is not the same.” For example, I bought a bottle of a name-brand lotion. After a few weeks, it separated and no amount of shaking the bottle will mix the ingredients again, so I was using handfuls of watery liquid that left my skin just as dry as it was before I applied the lotion. Similarly, I bought some gum and it just wasn’t the same.

My care package!

My care package!

The final category was, “Items that are available here but I would not want to buy because they are outrageously expensive.” There was only one thing in this category: quinoa.

In a bit of an irony, my dad brought to Argentina quinoa that had been imported to the US from South America. And, he paid less for it than I would have paid for a package half that size. This means I have more quinoa and more pesos.

A side note: Having more pesos is important because money for foreigners works differently in Argentina than in most countries, especially for people with access to US dollars or Euros. There is an official exchange rate and then there is the “blue rate.” (Here is a detailed explanation or short explanation). I am living an entirely cash life, which I have never done before, and am thinking about my money differently because getting more is not just a trip to an ATM or swipe of a credit card.

Another side note: Mothers sometimes go overboard in showing how much care they about their children. You might notice the inordinate amount of Trident in the photo (do not overlook the 12-pack leaning against the wall) and think I chew gum 24/7. Not even close. I requested two packs of gum. Just two.

My So-Called Exciting Life

I wrote this post a few weeks ago but have been hesitant to publish it because I do not want to burst any bubbles, rain on any parades, or disappoint anyone with the harsh light of reality.

Despite the glamor of the idea of living overseas and exploring new worlds, my life has been pretty unremarkable most days of the past six months.

In both Bogotá and Buenos Aires, I developed a routine for my weeks around Spanish school. In Bogotá, my school offered activities three afternoons per week from museum visits or tejo, to a weekly dance and cooking class. (This is when we didn’t have to make up classes after school was closed on a Monday because Colombia has a gazillion national holidays—seriously, I think national productivity suffers because of this calendar.) More often than not, groups of us would go out to lunch before the activity.

Spanish tools-my phone and notebook are most important

Spanish tools-my phone and notebook are most important

My school in Buenos Aires offers short workshops after class on topics such as spotting counterfeit money and the culture of mate, and shows Argentine movies on Thursdays. Going out for lunch after class also is a given, although there are fewer students here so I have eaten alone a lot more often. The school is in Palermo, a trendy area with a ton of restaurants, so whenever I can, I take my preferred approach of trying somewhere new. I also have spent some afternoons doing touristy things like the graffiti and street art tours in Bogotá and Bs As (photos from both coming soon).

Pretty exciting, right?

Afternoons without activities, or post activities, are usually a combination of naps (hey, learning a language is tiring!), homework or self-study, reading, writing these blog posts, planning future travel, or cooking dinner. I have gone through some Netflix-watching phases, especially when I was sick, but I always use Spanish subtitles, so that sort of counts as studying.

Add in time on email and Facebook, and that’s a day. About once a week I am astonished at how quickly the time flies.

In Bogotá, I often ate dinner with the couple I lived with and liked to go to a salsa dance class on Wednesday nights. In Bs As, Wednesday nights are for the school-organized happy hours.

I also walk a lot. In Bogotá, it took me about 35-40 minutes to walk to and from class; in Bs As, it is 25-30 minutes. In the afternoons and on weekends, I also walk to and from as many places as I can because this is the only exercise I get. And since I usually have the time, why not walk? (Unless it is too cold or raining, which it often was in July in Bs As.)

With my dad’s recent visit and longer trips around Argentina, the last few weeks of my time in South America are going to be different, probably closer to the exciting life people imagine I am leading. But honestly, my daily life usually has been less than amazing. And that is fine with me.

TOL: My First Time Seeking Medical Care

I am so appreciative of Argentina’s medical system right now. I have been sick seven different times during my five-month trip. Six of these times were stomach-related issues, and only one was severe enough to make me consider seeking medical attention (but I did not).

I also have developed a skill that I would like to undevelop—a knack for timing these illnesses with travel.

This sixth illness has been totally different. For three days, I have been fighting what I labeled a cold. Unfortunately, this did put a bit of a damper on the last two days of my dad’s visit as my energy and appetite diminshed.

I went to a pharmacy late Saturday and was told to see a doctor so I could get a prescription for antibiotics. But, I was smarter than that! At the advice of my fantastic nurse practitioner at home, I brought a bottle of Cipro with me to South America, so I started taking those. Also, I was nervous about figuing out where to find a doctor, how to navigate the system, etc, and happily avoided the uncomfortable situation by prescribing myself the medicine I already had (but missed an opportunity to work on original goal #1.)

The nature of my cold changed and I felt like I was improving slowly. However, on the third night, when the woman in whose guest room I am living came home at 1.30 am, I was noticeably worse. At her suggestion, we went to a clinic around the corner from the apartment.

As she noted, I had a 7.30 am flight but could not travel in my condition.

Samples to last seven days

Samples to last seven days

I had to pay $44 upfront to see the doctor. No argument from me. A mere 20 minutes later, I had been diagnosed as having a 38.3 F/100.9 C fever and a bacterial infection, informed Cipro is not the appropriate drug for treating it (no wonder I was not significantly better after three days), given a shot of the appropriate medicine, and handed a sufficient supply of free samples of the same medicine. The shot cost me about another $4.

The clinic reminded me of the urgent care centers and drugstore-based clinics that are proliferating in many parts the US. However, the fees here sure are better! I do not know if my insurance will reimburse the $48 (there’s probably a high deductible I have not met yet*), but even if not, it was money well spent!

And, just in case you were wondering, I am DONE being sick—every kind. I am tired of missing out on outings and meals because I am unable to leave the house. Enough already! Basta ya!

*For those of you who live in countries where the phrase “a high deductible I have not met yet” does not make sense, do not spend time trying to understand it. Just be thankful.

TOL: When An Airport Crowd Is As Jubilant As A Fútbol Crowd

Cultural practice observed: a crowd at the airport can cheer as loudly as the crowd at a fútbol match. I have been on airplanes where people cheer when we land safely; I have never been in a terminal where the crowd cheers after an announcement that a flight will soon board.

And this was not just a little clapping or a little cheering. This was full-on rhythmic clapping followed by cheering for over 1.5 minutes. I missed the clapping-only part in the video.

What earned this?  A typical (for many frequent travelers) not-so-fun airline experience.

Buenos Aires experienced torrential downpours Wednesday night and Thursday morning. All of the early morning flights were canceled, but my 11.10 am flight kept its “on time” status all the way up to, and past, 11.10 am. We did not even have a gate assignment until 11.45. (I still do not understand why airplane/train/bus terminals only post gates at the last minute—I find it hard to believe they do not know which gate each flight/train/bus is going to use until 20 minutes before it leaves.)

Even after the storms dissipated, we had to wait because it was dangerous (or had been too dangerous) to fuel the planes. After a two-delay, we took a bus out to the aircraft and climbed into a very hot airplane.

After everyone was seated, the captain announced that the crew had exceeded their allowable work hours so we had to wait for the buses to come back, deplane, and wait two more hours in the terminal.

Excuse me?!? I fully support limiting the number of hours airline crews work for safety reasons. But, really?!? How did they not know this when they started the boarding process? Or, if there was a chance that we could take off if all of the passengers were on the plane before a certain time, why didn’t they tell us so everyone could move a little more quickly? After waiting around for a few hours—which many people spent sitting on the floor—I am sure everyone would have hustled a little if they knew that there was a deadline.

In a nice gesture, LAN issued vouchers for lunch. In a poor execution of this nice gesture, people swarmed the two gate agents who had to go through the time-consuming process of filling out three lines of information on each voucher. For 168 passengers. The ensuing mad house defied the stereotype that Argentines like to line up; it was chaos. I then used my hard-won voucher to purchase the absolute worst meal I have eaten in my five weeks here.

The two-hour delay turned into more than three. When they finally announced that we would be boarding soon, the applause and cheering broke out.

BTW, it was another 20 minutes before they started clearing us to board the buses again. Those of us who had printed boarding passes at home no longer had them since the they kept them when we boarded the first time. Other people did not have their boarding pass stubs handy. So everyone pulled out an ID. One gate agent read names off the IDs while another crossed names off a paper list—that I am pretty sure was organized by seat number. It took an hour to get everyone out to the plane.

On the bright side, I was not in a hurry—my tours of Iguazu Falls did not begin until the next day, so I was not missing anything. I was not traveling with multiple cranky children by myself. I had a lot of articles and a new book to read. We were treated to a beautiful sunset during the flight. And the snacks were much better than in the US: cheese crackers. lemon-filled cookie sandwich, and chocolate alfajores, the Argentine national dessert.

LAN snacks in Argentina

LAN snacks in Argentina

Sunset from the plane

Sunset from the plane

I Touched The Water

I went to Colonia, Uruguay, for the day with another student taking lessons at Vamos Spanish. Because, why not go to another country if you can, right? Especially if it is only an hour ferry ride away.

Other reasons we were told we should go:

  1. It is a cute, historic town and strolling the streets is fun.
  2. One can get US dollars, which are important to have here because of the blue market (you can read about it in a detailed explanation or short explanation).
  3. One gets a new 90-day tourist visa for Argentina.

How this turned out:

1. The town: While Colonia is a cute town, it turns out there isn’t a whole lot to do there. We took a walking tour to learn more about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Short summary: Founded by the Portuguese in 1680. Because it is strategically located, disputed ownership with Spain for a century until Spain won. Only major city in the area not designed in a grid as required by the town planning section of Spain’s “Laws of the Indies.”)

Chivito platter for two

Chivito platter for two

We did get to eat chivito for lunch, a traditional Uruguayan sandwich. Chivito means “little goat,” which has nothing to do with the sandwich contents: sliced steak, ham, cheese, and mayonnaise topped with a fried egg. Ours also may have had bacon. It was served over french fries instead of on bread, and came with lettuce, tomatoes, hearts of palm and a very mayonnaisey potato salad on the side. I could not finish my half.

After lunch we wanted to go to museums, especially because the day got colder as it went on, but learned that unlike every other business in Colonia, including the street vendors selling jewelry, t-shirts, etc, they only accept local currency. Oh, and it was 2:40 and all of the museums closed at 4:00. Skip that.

Instead we climbed the lighthouse and then went to touch the water of the Rio de la Plata. This is the furthest south I’ve ever touched water. It was cold and wet. Of course. Photos below.

2. The money: We spent about an hour trying to get dollars from various ATMs. At the first, we learned that the maximum withdrawal was only $300. Maybe we could have gotten $300 from multiple machines, but we could not find a machine that would dispense any dollars. The generic “We are unable to process your request” messages left me unclear why we could not get money. My friend had what I thought was a brilliant idea of trying inside the casino, but they just directed us to the bank across the street.

3. The visa: The other reason for me to go is that I needed a new visa at some point. Tourists from the U.S. usually get a 90- day visa for Argentina upon arrival, which I did. But I am going to be here a total of 93 days (because I used points to buy my ticket I had to fly when flights were available). So I knew I needed to leave and reenter the country at some point, or else go to some office here and deal with paperwork to get a new visa. Mission accomplished.

In what turned out to be a cold, windy, grey day, we did have some fun taking photos. So here you go.

From the top of the lighthouse

From the top of the lighthouse

View from the lighthouse

View from the lighthouse

Southern water!

Southern water!

It's tiring running everywhere

It is tiring running everywhere

Second First Impressions Of Buenos Aires

Here are some of my other initial impressions of Buenos Aires—two are sort of personal, two are sort of general. If you missed it, my first impression was “What A Shitty City.”

1. It would be really easy to gain a lot of weight here. There are bakeries on almost every block in the areas where I spend most of my time with incredibly tempting window displays. And, from my experience so far, the tastes live up to the advertising.

Options at Heladeria Jauja

Ice creams at Jauja

Add to this the fact that there are ice cream shops every four blocks selling creamy, intensely flavored deliciousness. Most places offer an amazing range of 30-40 flavors. Most shops offer a “cuarto,” which is a size that allows for three flavors. It is a little large, but I have managed it. Last week, I may have had ice cream four days in a row at four different places. They all were so good that I would not be able to pick a favorite without further testing.

2. I am too old for this. I heard a lot about how late everything happens in Buenos Aires before I got here. Experiencing it is a whole different thing. On my first night in town, I met friends from DC who now live in Bs As. We went to dinner. At 9.00 pm. And the restaurant was only 25% full. When we left about two hours later, every table was full, and more than one included children under the age of 10. Most restaurants do not even open for dinner until 8.00 or 9.00 pm, and they do not really want you to arrive that early.

This week, I left my house after 10.00 pm to meet someone for dinner and drinks. When I arrived, we had the whole lounge area to ourselves (there were diners and people at the bar). It got busy around midnight. I arrived home at 1:30 am. Me! The early bird! (P.S. I had a very hard time in class the next day.)

Although I have not experienced it yet, this is how typical Saturday nights work. People meet for dinner around 10 pm. When they finish, they go to someone’s apartment for “la previa,” which is drinks, talking, and maybe a card game or something. No one leaves for a club before 2.00 am, and it is normal to get home at sunrise. If I ever manage to pull this off, I will let you know.

From what I can tell, businesses do not open that much later here to accommodate for the fact that people stay up so much later. Basically, I think people here are just exhausted all of the time.

3. Crossing the street is dangerous. In Bogotá, crossing the street was dangerous because I could not see the traffic light to know what color it was. Buenos Aires takes this to a whole different level. I do not have to cannot worry about seeing the traffic lights because often there are not any. As in, there are numerous intersections that have no traffic guidance. At all. No traffic lights. No stop signs.

This means that cars and people both are risking bodily harm when they venture into the intersection. I honestly do not understand how cars are supposed to know who has the right of way. I have stood on some corners watching the traffic, and while cars slow down as they approach, they do not come close to a complete stop before looking to see if it safe to proceed. Somehow it seems to work most of the time, but I don’t trust it.

4. People love their locks. In a way that is dangerous. 

The situation: You are always locked in or out. People here lock their apartment doors from the inside. With keys. After they locked themselves inside their buildings. With locks that require the use of a key to get out. I believe that in the US, most states require that exit doors open without a key.

Safe deadbolts

Safe deadbolts

In Colombia, my three-week homestay also had us locked into the house and into the property with a padlocked gate. I moved to an apartment where the deadbolt operated with a thumb turn on the inside (phew).

However, we were locked into the building. The only keys were held by the three “porteros” (doormen), who were on duty 24 hours. We could get in or out at any time (unless the portero was opening the garage gates or in the bathroom). None of us had keys to the front door, so if there had been an emergency, I sure hope he would have unlocked the door before running. Porteros do not seem to be as common in Bs As so I have a key to the front door of my building. I am not sure which is safer.

The reasoning(?): It was explained to me that people do this for security. I also have been told that since most buildings in both countries are made of concrete, fires are rare and I should not worry. Oh, ok.

Inconvenience: There is a huge inconvenience factor. When a visitor comes, you cannot buzz them in. You physically have to go downstairs to let them in, and physically go downstairs to let them out. If you are meeting up with someone at their apartment before heading out, they would rather not do this up-and-down game so you are left standing on the street while they finish getting ready and come down to meet you. This also means you cannot dash inside to use their bathroom before heading out. (Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.)

Typical Argentine keys

Typical keys in Bs As

Awkward and dangerous situations: What about going on a date? The idea of going to someone’s apartment and relying on them to let me out is uncomfortable. Even more so, this set up is dangerous for anyone who is suffering physical abuse in the home. Through working with domestic violence survivors I have learned how difficult it can be to walk away from an abusive relationship. Here, there is an extra physical barrier to leaving. I think of clients who escaped a violent episode by leaving their apartments or homes and seeking at a neighbor’s who now would be trapped. I also think about other physical abuse that happens in homes towards children and the elderly and their physical inability to get to safety.

Small bright side: In Bs As, at least the keys are interesting.

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