Kayaking and cultural tidbits
First time KAYAKING!
I don’t have a whole lot of updates on what I’ve been doing, but a week ago I went kayaking for the first time ever! It was soooo beautiful. We went to a city an hour away by train outside of the main Buenos Aires called Tigre. A really cool thing about Tigre is that it’s a city built on top of a delta, so it’s this cluster of islands. The part we kayaked through (I would assume most of the rest of the city would be similar) was full of gorgeous, colorful houses, gardens, wooded plots of land. The style of a lot of the houses was reminiscent of something you’d expect to find in Central America (as opposed to South America, or Argentina), so I really appreciated the change in scenery. I was the only student in a group of 12 of us who had never been kayaking before. We were put into 3-person kayaks, and as the virgin kayaker, they put me up front, since the back people do more steering. It was really hard to maneuver at first, but after about 40 minutes we finally got the hang of it as a group. We stopped for lunch at this super cute restaurant in the middle of all this water and had choripan (which is really similar to a Mexican torta, but it’s a lot smaller, without all the extra toppings, and chorizo is a completely different thing here. But it’s still really good!). We were all soaked from kayaking, and before we took off we left all our things behind in a locker so I wasn’t able to take any pictures. Our guide from IFSA had brought along his digital, not waterproof camera, and had been taking pictures of our group, but then he accidentally dropped it in the water. He managed to find it and tried to dry it out, but now it’s sort of up in the air if we’ll be able to see those pictures ever. We then continued to kayak for another 50 minutes, and were happy to be done since all of our arms were in massive pain. It had never even occurred to me to put on sunscreen so now I’m sporting some great tan lines, and I paid all this week with some gross sunburn on my face.
I thought I would write about some interesting things I’ve encountered.
Politics and the Presidential Debate
My host mom, Silvia, is always talking about politics. When I say always, I mean ALWAYS. Just about every comment I make she can find a way to lead the discussion to the Argentine government and how corrupt it is. Even when her adult children come over for lunch on Sundays, it’s not much small talk about how their weeks have been, what projects they have going on, instead they all passionately yell about politics the entire lunch and then afterward until they leave. It’s definitely more interesting during these lunches because when it’s just me and Silvia I have no input. During these 4 person discussions, they don’t always agree on things so I get to watch them hash it out. But they do make a lot of comparisons to the US government. And sometimes they bring me into it and ask me my opinion on so and so in US politics.
One of the first interesting comparisons that was brought upon me was when they asked how many rich people (I think more specifically they may have asked about millionaires) are in the US. I told them we have a lot, that there are quite a few people who become entrepreneurs and quickly become millionaires. That it’s more impressive to reach billionaire and above status, and told them a bit about the Occupy Wall Street movement. And they brought up an interesting point; that the richest people here, in Argentina, are politicians. While our richest people tend to be people who invest their money in companies, oil, etc. They are at least making their money (assumedly) in a legal way, it may not always be an ethical way, but it’s legal. This is opposed to their richest persons, who, becoming rich after achieving their political status, they assume are stealing it from government funds. Just thought it was a good reflection.
Next interesting point: I, as many others, Silvia included, tuned into the presidential debate the other night. The next morning Silvia asked me what I thought of it. I told her my response to some of what was discussed and she gave me her response. That despite what may have been said; she looked at it in a more simple way. She saw two men being respectful to each other and having a debate about policy and government as part of the process for presidential elections. She remorsefully told me that here they have never had such a thing happen. The candidates for their presidency would never enter the same room and have a civil debate for the world to see. She was also impressed by how the candidates were able to count off a number of promises they have fulfilled during their terms. Silvia yelled quite angrily how the candidates here never seem to fulfill their promises, instead stealing their money. But something to take away from this is, yes, some people may not agree with one candidate or the other, or things the government is doing, and we should always strive for the best, for improvement, but we should also be thankful for what we have established. We should be thankful to have a stable government, a (relatively) strong currency that is used in a great number of other countries (including Argentina, when they save large amounts of money, or make large purchases, such as homes, they do so in American Dollars, because they have so little faith in the Argentine peso’s stability), there are such big profound things that don’t seem so profound until you experience something else.
Something really cool I’ve been noticing on a lot of advertisements have been disclaimers at the bottom saying something to the effect of “The pictures of people in this advertisement have been altered or enhanced artificially”, essentially admitting that the person in the ad has had their image photoshopped. I think about all the times that locals here have thrown in my face that Argentina is a third-world country, that they aren’t developed, and I’m never sure how to respond to that. But then I see things like this, a statement at the bottom of an advertisement admitting that they have retouched the models’ photos, and it makes me think that the US still has a long way to go to, just in different aspects. There are so many campaigns against bombarding our media with images of flawlessness and perfection that can hurt people’s self-esteem because they could never be that way, which the models aren’t even that way to begin with since they get photoshopped. I just think it’s really great that here, they at least admit to when they have enhanced photos.
Using the bus
The everyday task of riding the bus actually took a while to get used to. One of the first steps I took was obtaining a Sube card. This relatively new system gives each card a debit account that you use to pay for rides on the buses and subways. The subway costs a flat AR$2.50 per trip, so about 50 cents in US $. The buses cost a flat $2 if you pay in coins, with the Sube card, you get charged according to how far you are going to travel. Typically you tell the bus driver which stop you want and they decide how much to charge: AR$1.10 for a short trip, AR$1.20 for a medium length trip, AR$1.25 for long trips. So a ride on the bus won’t cost more than approx. 27 cents in US$. Nice and cheap.
When navigating the bus system there is this extremely useful booklet called the Guia”T”, it has maps of pretty much everywhere in the capital city of Buenos Aires, and it has graphs that let you know what buses pass through where. The tricky part is finding the where the bus stops are. Once you find the bus stop, you either start the line or wait in it. Yes, one thing I truly appreciate here is that people line up for the bus. Back home we create a mob around the bus stop and when the bus arrives, it’s a mad dash to squeeze in. With this, it goes much smoother and you will get a turn. To actually get the bus to stop, you must hail it, like you would a taxi. If they don’t see anybody with their arm out, they won’t stop (unless one of the passengers is getting off, but then they don’t open the front door). It increases efficiency all around.
Thanks for reading!