When in Rome

Buenos Aires can be an extremely frustrating place to live.

Sometimes these frustrations, for a transient resident blessed with a student existence, can amount to nothing more than amusing anecdotes to send home. However at times they do a Ronseal and are frankly nothing but frustrating. I can feel myself becoming increasingly porteña as I occasionally assume the outlook of a true city dweller, primed at any moment to take another chunk out of good old BsAs. The government and police are corrupt, the public university is falling apart, inflation increases at an incredible rate, petty crime is rife; Argentina is not the golden child it once was and the list of grievances of its citizens goes on.

An example of how things tend to pass here. We are currently (taking seemingly forever in) progressing from spring to summer and, as many a nation across the world, Argentina was all systems go for winding the clocks back an hour. That was until the day before when, well, they decided they didn’t really want to. I should probably note here that even apart from this indecision, Argentina is never technically in line with international time zones, instead choosing to reside in one of its own creation. This epiomises the porteño existence. Nevertheless, apart from a few confused laptops and a couple of extremely early students on campus come Monday morning, no harm done.

Another characteristic of Buenos Aires living that actually does have a considerable impact on my day to day living is the incessant struggle for monedas. Alas, this is not some city wide government sponsored game show but the peculiar custom of hoarding change. I’m talking extreme hoarding. Nobody gives it up without a fight (or at least a lot of eye rolling and sighing). It would be fine, except that buses only take monedas and I catch one twice a day, at least three times a week. This often leaves me in the position of already being late for university, stood in a kiosko (corner shop-esque seller of snacks and drinks) trying to work out what combination of items, that I don’t actually require, will provide me with the change I need. There are certain porteño cynicism filled theories doing the rounds as to how such a situation arises, the main one being that the bus companies hold back the coins from circulation only to sell them back at more than their face value (and that said companies’ owners are also linked with prominent politicians; there’s nothing like a good scandal).

One final woe to compete this sorry tale is the gaping hole a lack of Creamfields left in my life. The annual English imported dance music festival was due to take place last weekend; however, merely a week before the rumour mill began to churn. Obviously catering to fifty thousand odd people, the organisers felt it was fine to leave it until the day before to announce that, as those with their ears to the ground were suggesting, it had been postponed. Thankfully Gay Pride provided equally as colourful entertainment and although I was a soggy (we have become stuck in some kind of sunshine-storm cycle) bundle of sadness going to return my ticket yesterday, I had the memory of waving my friend off on a float of raving transvestites to lift my spirits.

Buenos Aires can be an extremely surreal place to live.

As much as they grumble, porteños are passionate about their city and after nearly six months here (and only five weeks to go) I would count myself among them.

Categories: Argentina

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