Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bulletins From BA #20

Bulletins From BA #20
22 diciembre 2013

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.

[Housekeeping Note: Those of you who are new to this mailing list can catch up on previous postings at]
A.J. and I are halfway through our official tour of duty in Buenos Aires, an appropriate time to comment on some things I like about the place and other things, not so much. So, at the risk of redundancy, here are a few quotidian items for your consideration.

Sí - Nuestro Apartamento
We are muy afortunados to have scored a swell apartment. Though not humongous, it is capacious enough to comfortably accommodate us and occasional out-of-towners. All the mechanicals work and the landlady, portero (superintendent), and security guards are muy amable and look out for us. The barrio, Palermo Chico, is one of the safest and most convenient neighborhoods in the city and our balcony overlooks Avenida del Libertador, a 10-lane boulevard lined with large trees and many public parks.

Since the Embassy and all our basic shopping needs are within walking distance, we haven’t needed a car and the attendant headaches. And, we have no green space to mow, trim, rake, groom, or generally waste our time with. (To paraphrase Mary Randolph Carter: “A well tended lawn is the sign of a misspent life.” We do have a plant. We call it “Fred.”)

[Also worth noting… we live one block from an heladería that regularly features 2-for-1 kilos of unreasonably sublime ice cream.]

No - Inflación
Though not as dire as during the depression of 1998-2002, inflation is still a major problem in Argentina. For us, it is particularly noticeable compared to inflation in the United States, which has been at historic lows for years.

Sí - Tango
Tango is not hard to come by más o menos anywhere in the world. But in Buenos Aires, it is permeating: Tango radio, Tango TV, Tango theatre, Tango festivals, Tango turistas, Tango buskers… Tango is everywhere. And, at the risk of lapsing into fluent cliché, Tango really does get to the heart of this city.

No - Comida
It pains me to say this, but the food is Buenos Aires is, well, boring. Not bad, just aburrido. Porteños like what they like and are not particularly adventurous in their dining habits. (In most cafés and restaurants, the only seasoning you find on the table is salt. Period.) There are exceptions, of course, notably lomo (beef tenderloin), chimichuri sauce, and the aforementioned helado (ice cream).

Sí - Taxis
Buenos Aires has a very good public transit system, but we really like being able to hail a taxi at any time. As gringos, we’ve been exploited now and then; but, in general, our experiences with the local taxistas have been positive. I have had many interesting conversations and more than a few downright enjoyable wild rides.

No - La Embajada de E.E.U.U.
The people who work at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires are great, but the building itself is ugly, overcrowded, and unhealthy. And, since Argentina is generally considered a less than high-priority post, we make the best of it.

Sí - Perros
There are few things as entertaining as watching a paseador de perros (dog walker) with a boatload of leashed dogs headed to the park to do their doggie bidness. We especially enjoy the breed-specific packs (e.g., beagles, miniature poodles, labs). Also noted: In eighteen months of walking the streets of Buenos Aires, I have stepped in caca de perro exactly never. It is one of my proudest accomplishments.

Anne and I are now looking forward to our second expat Christmas in BA. So, in the spirit of the season and in consideration of the illusory “War on Christmas” currently being waged on the battlefields of some small caliber minds back home, permit me to proffer a possibly helpful suggestion. When someone wishes you a “(positive adjective followed by specific occasion),” the appropriate response is simplicity itself: “Thanks. And the same to you.”

“Gracias. Igualmente.”

¡ Saludos del Solsticio, Felices Fiestas, Feliz Navidad y un Próspero Año Nuevo!