New bus shelters ruined

All over the city, nice new bus shelters have been put in. They are great for everybody – for the older people who want to sit down on the bench, for all of us who want shelter from the rain, and because they give clear information on the bus routes. They are nicely designed as well and a week ago they were put up all over my neighborhood. I was really happy! Then, on Friday, I noticed that every single one of them had been covered in large posters for La Patriada, which is a list presenting candidates to the local elections in Comuna 15, under the Frente para la Victoria umbrella (i.e. pro-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.) Comuna 15 includes Villa Crespo – Paternal – Agronomía – Villa Ortuzar – Chacarita – Parque Chas.

I got SO angry! I am still fuming. I know that lack of respect for property is rampant here, both public and private, but I found it both heartbreaking and infuriating that something SO new, and SO useful to all of us, had been defaced by none other than pro-government forces. (The city is run by the opposition – I am personally a huge fan – and the president really, really hates the mayor, Mauricio Macri.) They even put the posters all over the actual paid ads, that finances part of this investment… Boy, I think my blood pressure is going up as I write. Time to calm down. But it makes me so, so sad.

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Daily life, Politics, Villa Crespo | 6 Comments

Statistics: My most read posts

I think it is quite interesting to check the statistics to see what posts are read the most. Last week’s write-up about my visit to the Racing stadium has already gotten lots and lots of views, and has definitely drawn new readers. I guess football really sells!

Not counting the pages, the posts that have been read the most are:

1. Cañuelas: I found this very surprising, because it is a very short post I wrote even before moving to Argentina. I guess there isn’t a whole lot of info on Cañuelas on the Internet. Maybe I need to write more – but there really isn’t all that much to say…

2. Norge og jøder, og viktigheten av jødiske stemmer i offentligheten: This is my second most read post and also the most commented. It is a long post in Norwegian where I express my exasperation with the increasing anti-semittism in Norway and also the lack of knowledge about Judaism and Jewish culture and traditions.

3. Driving While White (in Argentina): Third most read, second most commented. This is all about white privilege (specifically how I live it here in Argentina) and about how white people really, really need to listen more to others.

4. Norwegians in Argentina – History: Also written before I left, also very short. I should write something new on this!

5. Nordmenn i Argentina – oppdatering: A post in Norwegian about Norwegians in Argentina. It was supposed to be an update on what I had written earlier but is really just a super short post about me meeting Norwegians! Another one that needs updating. This post is probably more useful still.

6. Housing for foreigners in Buenos Aires: This is part of a series of detailed write-ups with practical information about living here. I actually think it is one of my best because it describes clearly the different housing options for foreigners. It is also one of the few posts I will share (i.e. push) with others. I wrote similar ones on health insurance, working, and random tips.

7. Screaming & Yelling: #EstoNoEsNoruega: Very recent but already top ten! This is how I felt after getting yelled at twice in a week.

8. Film review: El crítico: Adorable film that I saw about a year ago. Surprised it has been read this much…

Lessons learned: 1. I need to update several posts and pages, especially the ones related to Norwegians in Argentina. 2. I should put time and effort into even what I see as unimportant posts, as they get read a lot (i.e. Cañuelas.) 3. Practical information is great and much appreciated. 4. I need to go to more football games and write about them.

Posted in Comunidad noruega, Football, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Personal, Practical info | 3 Comments

“Soy de Racing, es un sentimiento” – Going to a football match in Buenos Aires

IMG_20141019_135706 I think everyone knows that football is VERY important in Argentina, as it is in most of South America. People talk about football, they watch games on TV, they get depressed when their team loses… I knew all of that but going to a game really made me understand the passion on a deeper level. I went to see a game between Racing and Velez Sarsfield back in October so I figured it was time to write about it! (Why Racing: Two reasons. My friend Carlitos the butcher is a HUGE Racing fan, and for the year and a half that I frequented his shop four times a week, I became rather indoctrinated by him and his family. And many other friends are Racing fans as well, so I was sort of a fan. Secondly, my friend wanted to go to check out the atmosphere and because he had heard that the stadium was really nice.)

Practical info: If you are looking to attend a football match here in Buenos Aires, it is easy to get tickets to most teams with the exception of Boca Juniors. (River Plate can be a little bit difficult but not too bad.) Boca has changed their system to where only socios, members, have access to the tickets, so it has become a lot more difficult. It’s probably the one team that it is worth using an operator for. For teams like Racing, you can usually get tickets at a central location. For instance, Racing has a branch of their supporter shop, Locademia, in the center (a play on the nickname of their supportes or hinchas, La Academia), on Lavalle 1650, between Montevideo and Rodriguez Peña. You can buy tickets there a few days before the game; it was very easy. (We did the same thing for a San Lorenzo game but that was a lot less fun!) We went for the platea seats, which are numbered and lets you sit down.

IMG_20141019_135433Racing is located in Avellaneda, which is just south of the city, in the Province of Buenos Aires. We took the 24 bus which took us all the way there for 4 pesos. On the way back we got a cab which was 120 pesos or so. (San Lorenzo was technically closer but it is more dangerous as it is right next to a large informal neighborhood, Villa 1.11.14.)

IMG_20141019_155538Racing is known for its hardcore fan and it was 100% true. They were insane! For instance, they had a banner that covered the entire 65,000 person stadium. (Sometimes you wonder what this country would be like if people put that same passion into other things…) But at the same time it felt really family friendly and there were no fights or anything like that. Lots of fathers came with their sons (this must be where they learn all the swear words.) I should add that for the last few years, all games in the upper four divisions are played with only home team supporters, to avoid confrontations. So if there are fights, they are between the supporters of the same team. People sang basically through the entire game, it was a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Football, Noruega en Argentina, Personal, Practical info, Travel | 8 Comments

The joys of Buenos Aires

All it took to feel better about Buenos Aires was a lazy afternoon at the Feria de los Mataderos, one of my favorite tourist things to do in Buenos Aires. Lots of locals go as well. I wrote a photo-heavy post about it a few months ago, with much nicer pictures than what I took with my phone yesterday, but I wanted to share a shot anyway. My favorite part is the sortija, the horse game, but it is also wonderful just to sit and enjoy some asado with friends, try new cheeses and of course watch older folks dancing chacarera, a popular Argentinean folk dance, on the plaza.

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Posted in Buenos Aires, Campo, Travel | 1 Comment

The joys of Buenos Aires customer service

There seems to be a general consensus among both locals, foreigners living here, and tourists that customer service in this great city is anything but great. (Paris of the south in this way, too, maybe?) We joke that an amazing business idea in Buenos Aires is to simply do any kind of service with a smile. And I remember clearly how impressed people were with the service at the hotel where I worked; they simply were not expecting it. I try not to complain too much because nobody is forcing me to live here, but sometimes it is just really annoying.

I needed to replace some Norwegian books that I had lost (left in a taxi, I think) last week. They belong to the institute where I teach on Saturdays so I wanted to replace them as quickly as I could. I called the copyshop where they sell them (yes, they are copies) on Monday, told them clearly which book and what edition (the old one) and they promised to have them by Wednesday. I specified that I needed the old edition as they have just started selling a newer one. Wednesday I was not able to go, so I called today on my way to the city center. The sales clerk said he didn’t have a record of my order (while at the same time saying I hadn’t specified that I wanted the old version – weird) but that he could have them ready in one hour. So I hung out for a while, then got on the metro (Friday afternoon, it was full even going in to the center) and went to the shop.

Once I was there, the clerk apologized and said he no longer has those books because they are selling the new version now, so he didn’t have the old originals to copy. So I went all the way there to pick up the books that they had twice, on two different occassions, assured me that they would have for me. I asked why he didn’t tell me on the phone and he said the other people didn’t know. I asked why they didn’t call – he said they hadn’t asked for my number. All phone these days can see the last number called, so that was a pretty bad excuse.

Oh well! Just another 90 minutes lost in the lovely maze that is porteño efficiency… :)

Posted in Buenos Aires, Daily life, Personal, Practical info | 1 Comment

Screaming & Yelling: #EstoNoEsNoruega

Last week I had two separate being-yelled-at incidents. Definitely not the way we get our frustration out in Norway; we are more of a passive-aggressive bunch.

Incident 1: I am working quietly at home one morning when there is a knock on the door. I ask who it is, and it is Maria Rosa, an older lady in the building. I open, not sure what to expect. I had heard from others that she could be a little aggressive, but had so far only exchanged hallway greetings with her. This turned out to be something different… She marches in and starts yelling at me about the bedroom air conditioner and how it drips on the balcony of the lady on the ground floor. First I am perplexed by why she would come to complain about someone else’s problem, but I have come to realize that she just gets involved in everything. She is yelling and almost foaming at the mouth. “You sure use the AC a lot!!” I tell her calmly that the neighbour in question has come to talk to me before, she specifically asked me not to use the AC on weekend days, because it drips on her balcony (I am on the sixth floor, she is on the ground floor.) She wants me to fix it, but I have passed the issue on to my landlady. I pay I steep premium for this being a temporary rental, and I very much feel that it is not my responsibility. The landlady in turn tells me to use the AC all I want, and she says she is trying to get someone but that it is difficult. Hm… How hard can it be to get an AC repair guy? Anyway, I do use the AC every night, because my apartment is sweltering. I feel kind of bad about it, but interestingly, all my Argentine friends think I am in the right.

Mrs. Self-appointed building manager then went on to yell to me about giving the key to someone else. As with all non-doorman buildings in Buenos Aires, there is no way to buzz people in – you need to go downstairs to let them in AND to let them out. So if I have friends visiting, either just for a meal or to stay for a few days, I do give them the key if they need to go get something. It gets really old to let people in and out from the sixth floor! Anyway, apparently that was a huge faux pas and she thought that she would be robbed by my friends. Dear Lord! As a good Norwegian I really just got tongue tied and apologized profusely. If I had been a good porteña I would have yelled back but I don’t have it in me  yet!

Incident 2: This happened only a few days after. I was in a taxi with two participants from a conference I had been contracted to organize. We all sat in the back seat and were chatting away, so I didn’t really pay that much attention. However, after a while I realize the taxi driver is taking us for a ride, in the other sense of the word. People are generally quite sceptical to taxi drivers here, but luckily I have not had those kind of experiences before. Anyway, there had to be a first time! I then comment, gently, that it seems we are going in the wrong direction. The driver goes from 0 to 100 in two seconds and starts yelling and swearing like I have never heard before. I will not repeat it here but he called me all sorts of ugly things and I was just flabbergasted. He then proceeded to abruptly stop the car in the middle of the street, gets out, takes all their luggage from the trunk and throws it on the sidewalk, computers and all, while he continues yelling profanities. I am speechless and while an Argentine would not have let this happen without fighting back, I really just wanted to cry! I, stupidly, even tried to give him money – he took that and threw it in my face and called mea $%·$%$% yet again. Then we were left there on a dark street with the luggage strewn around, looking at each other in disbelief. After a while another taxi comes by and helps us load everything. Then, the car doesn’t start. We assure him we don’t even care, we are happy as long as there is no shouting and cursing! After a while he has to go out and push the car but is able to make it go. I feel horrible that our Mexican friends left Buenos Aires like that… And no, I did not get the license or anything like that, I just didn’t have the presence of mind to write it down or take a photo. Oh well!

Posted in Buenos Aires, Daily life, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Personal | 4 Comments

The Unbanked

In the world of banking, finance and mobile services there is always talk of “the unbanked”, “los no bancarizados.” Basically, it means people who don’t have a bank account and therefore don’t operate within the formal financial system. They might work in the black, in the informal sector, and/or receive their wages in cash. Their transaction costs are always higher, because they cannot rely on internet banking or other quick ways of doing business. In Latin America, at least 50% of the population are outside the banking system. In Africa, mobile services have stepped in here and allowed people to transfer money, pay bills and carry out other transactions using a cell phone. In Latin America, it is still not very common, and many of the mobile financial services that do exist are being used by people who are part of the banking system. There are other services that try to cover the gap, but they don’t necessarily go to the root cause of the problem.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into the life of the unbanked – in this case, me! It is difficult to open a bank account here, even for people who have lived here their whole lives. Even with residency, the banks often want all sorts of proof of income etc. Seems weird, but, what can you do. So while I wait, this is what I do:

Bills: For my health insurance bill, I print it out and take it to a RapiPago, PagoFácil, or Pago24. These are billing payment services that you can use for almost all bills, such as cell phone, medical, gas, electricity and many, many others. You usually find them inside a kiosk. They have huge networks so you can find many of them all over the city. However, there is almost always a line – so go early or try to find one that is less known. These services are of course easier than going to a bank, but they are still time consuming (in many or even most, you line up on the sidewalk to wait) and still require that you go there with your cash. Also, many kiosks need to hire a person, or two, specifically to do payments, and the margins are very low, so it is not always very profitable for the agents.

Cell phone: I usually pay this at the actual Claro store, because it is convenient and there is hardly ever a line. Also, because my cell phone is not in my name, but rather a friend’s name – it was the only way to get a plan without having a DNI, the national ID number.

Rent: To pay rent, I have to go the bank of my landlady and deposit the money into her account. Because it is not a bill, it cannot be payed in non-bank agency. These kinds of deposits, without a bank card from that particular bank, can only be done in the bank opening hours, from 10 to 15. Great! Also, each envelope cannot hold the full amount of the payment, so I have to do two transactions. (The largest denomination is a 100 pesos bill…) There is usually a line but not too bad.

Internet shopping: I don’t really do that here, but at MercadoLibre, which both businesses and individuals use to sell their goods, you can often pay in cash – i.e. you organize with the seller to pay upon pickup. I have used it to find good prices (for instance on a printer) and then simply gone to the store to buy it. That avoids the commission to MercadoLibre as well.

General shopping: I shop less than I did in the US, and one of the reasons is that I never use a card here. So if I want something, I usually have to come back with cash later on.

Security: For big purchases, I use a money belt – may seem excessive but works for me. I never carry large sums of cash in my purse, and never keep much cash at home.

I don’t at all claim to know what life is like for the “real” unbanked, because I am simply unbanked right here, but I have acquired a certain understanding of the time wasted, the lack of convenience, and the security issues that they face. Also, Argentina seems rather behind on services for the unbanked. In Brazil, for instance, it is easy to get a pre-paid credit card for someone who doesn’t have a bank account, but not here. Hopefully it will get better soon!

Posted in Buenos Aires, Daily life, Norway in Argentina, Personal, Practical info | 2 Comments