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Bits and Pieces
Friday, 16 December 2011

If I wrote in one of my previous posts that I could probably blend with the Buenos Aires population, it definitely was not relevant today. Walking in shorts and a T-shirt I was sticking out like a sore thumb. For the last few days we got showers here, and although previous days remain warm as usual (about 25 to 30 degrees Celsius) the temperature dropped today to below 20 degrees, and of course everybody was dressed much warmer. I wasn't cold but I definitely stood out of the crowd. Besides, in my opinion, Argentines, like other men in South America, generally do not wear shorts. So, if you are walking the streets in shorts here, then you are almost certainly a tourist.

I was asked to not write about shopping and prices, but I have to, sorry. Why? Because I am not getting any free lunch here!!! Whenever I went to Latin America before, I was saving on living expenses. The cost of living in Mexico or Ecuador (the two Latin-American countries that I visited so far) is far below the one of Canada. That is not the case here. Apart from the relatively low cost of the apartment rental, the rest of it is not cheep at all, and in some cases the prices are higher then in Vancouver. It should be noted, though, that apart from the location, my apartment is not that great, and I wouldn't pay much more for it anywhere else in the world. As for the cost of food, the prices are comparable to the ones in Vancouver.

On my walk today, I came across something called Sushi Bar. To my amazement, nobody had any sushi, just standard sandwiches, etc. I looked at the menu and I could not find any sushi or sashimi. Only after an extensive examination of the menu I finally came across a small section of Sushi, Maki, and Sashimi items. Surprise, surprise, the prices where about double the ones in Vancouver! But then again, I have already read somewhere before that supposedly Vancouver is one of the best (if not the best) cities in the world for the variety of international cuisine and low cost of dining out...

One thing that is definitely cheep here is the public transport.  I haven't used any buses yet but the subway, which by the way is called "Subte" (short for "subterráneo" which means  "underground") only cost 1.10 peso a ride,  which is about 25 cents.  I think that the price for a city bus ride is the same.  This is definitely very heavily subsidized service!

If you read anywhere about Buenos Aires you will probably sooner or later come across a statement that the city has a very European feel to it and that the architecture is often “French inspired”. I don't remember much of my visit to Paris but I have to indeed agree with that statement. I generally recognize only two architectural styles:

  1. the one that I like

  2. the one that I do not care about

and so far I have seen a lot of buildings here that fit the first category.

When it comes to similarities between Buenos Aires and Paris, then apart from the architecture there is one more thing that strikes me as worth mentioning. I remember that when I went out in Paris for a walk on Christmas Day I had to pay a lot of attention to where I put my feet so as not to step into.... A DOG SHIT! That's right, Parisians do not pick up after their dogs (or at least they did not do that over 10 years ago) and you have to really watch your step if you decide to stroll the streets when the city cleaners have their day off. The same applies to Buenos Aires.

I mentioned before about some “poor people” picking through the garbage on the street. In the meantime I learned a little more. These people a called “cartoneros” (cardboar collectors) and they are actually organized groups that decided to make sorting of garbage their way of living. They remove recyclables (paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, etc) and turn them into the source of their income. After some past unsuccessful recycling programs, the City of Buenos Aires seems to depend on cartoneros to take care of the recycling while leaving this group of self-employed informal workers out of taxation.

It seems that most of the garbage that people put away onto the streets (the black bags) is recyclable goods. This cartonero opens each black bag of garbage, takes out all recyclables and sorts them into three different big grey bags of paper, cartons, and plastic.

A cartonero delivering his daily harvest to the recycling depot.

Posted byJ23


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