On the road in Argentina

Cathy is still on the road and will post again when she has an internet connection, maybe in a day or two. Following are  impressions of my time there.

Truth in advertising doesn’t exist in Argentina. Banks that have no cash in their ATMs. Petrol stations that have no gas. There are huge billboards showing historic Route 66 in the US and the website www.Route66.com.ar. It’s a line of clothing. On holidays the 24-hour pharmacies and convenience stores close up tight.

There is a shortage of cash in Argentina. One day we went to four banks ATMs and got nothing. Two people in the line in front of us at one bank got money before it ran out. At another we were fourth in line. Bank of France restricted cash to only their customers. Inflation is a concern there. Official exchange rate was a little under four pesos per dollar. Several restaurants and stores had signs on the door offering 4.3 pesos/US$. Argentina subcontracted the printing of pesos to a company in Brazil, who ran into problems and didn’t deliver. Lack of pesos is a real problem in a cash centric economy.

Somebody is striking everyday in Argentina. One day it’s the dock workers, another it’s the gasoline truck drivers. This is how they show displeasure with their current president.

Like Morocco, speeds on the road are arbitrary. Cars are in better shape and burn their headlights in the rain. One of the most popular models on the road is Ford Falcons, which look like the ones made in the US in the sixties. Ford of Argentina manufactured Falcons from 1962 until 1991, but they seemed to keep the original design.

Like all big cities Buenos Aires has poverty and crime. Steel curtails were closed over most store windows at night. Crowded streets attracted pickpockets. Security guards were posted in unlikely places. After businesses closed, they would put their trash in big black plastic bags in dumpsters for nightly pickup. People would empty the dumpsters onto the sidewalk and pick through the trash. We saw people taking half-eaten sandwiches and slices of pizza from the bags and putting it in their mouth. Christmas was sad because businesses were closed and one source of food was not available to the poor.

Self-service is rare. Hardware stores have long counters just inside the front door. One section is for plumbing, another for tools and a third for plumbing supplies. Take-a-number dispensers provide some order to the chaos. Show or tell them what you want, they disappear for a while and return with what they understood you wanted. Sometimes the process is iterative. Most every business is labor intensive. People with brooms sweep the streets and pick up litter. Folks are hired to recruit customers into businesses.

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