This week has been interesting and as I now sit here to write and put things together, it hits me how surreal it all is. You get used to all this, its parts of your daily routine to see this things, avoid roadblocks, avoid the conflict and places where protests and looting are taking place. It does wear you out though, imagine wanting to go home after a hard day’s work only to find this in your train station, closed until further notice.
Looting and Rioting
This happened in Constitucion train station yesterday after the service was canceled because of another group of protesters blocking the railroad, and therefore forcing the service to be canceled. I used to take this train to work and this happened more often than you’d think. Man, I don’t miss that train.
We’ve also been experiencing a squatters boom. All over the country squatters are taking over land for themselves, hurrying in building brick and mortar structures to consolidate their position. The news only reported the most notorious ones that took place in the capital district, but this situation is wide spread and much worse in the suburbs and country.
How does it look when they take over land and start dividing the land among them? It looks like this.
No, not pretty at all. Imagine waking up one day and seeing this in the public park in front of your house. Those orange brick buildings that can be seen in the background, some 3 levels high, they build those in a matter of HOURS. In no time you have a favela or shanty town built in your neighborhood. The price of your nice house plumbs and the neighborhood itself become no man’s land a few days later.
What happens when neighbors are fed up with squatters and take matters into their own hands because the liberal government simply wont stop them from squatting in public and private property? It looks like this:
This last week has been pretty hot as well. The smog and general tropical humidity aren’t helping either.
Blackouts have become widespread all over Buenos Aires. My grandmother and aunt, they both live in different locations along Buenos Aires and they both spent yesterday without power. It went out yesterday around 10Am and came back today at around 12 AM. Power has gone down again now. Its clear that the power infrastructure has collapsed and an interesting summer awaits us. Thank God I haven’t lost power once yet, but everyone I talk to seems to have rolling blackouts this past week.
My cousin just got divorced and arrived here yesterday from Chile. She was there during the earthquake but what she saw when she came here depressed her a lot. As she arrived, she was welcomed by mad traffic because the traffic lights weren’t working because of the blackouts. To make matters worse there’s all sorts of roadblocks and protests, either because of squatters or neighbors demanding a solution to the power problem.
As she arrived to my aunt’s house her little kids asked her to please turn on the lights, and they asked why they were using candles instead. Seems that other than the earthquake, blackouts don’t occur often in Chile.
Empty ATMs and Sudden Bank Holiday
Because of inflation we are experiencing a particular problem as well. There’s just not enough cash to go around. The government doesn’t want to print much needed 500 peso bills because they said it would be admitting an inflation “That doesn’t exist!!” . Add to the rampant inflation the fact that people don’t trust banks much and prefer to use cash instead, this only makes matters worse.
In my case my bank has customer exclusive ATMs along with general public ones. The ATM for general public has a line that went for half a block and was quickly running out of cash, the ones for clients were empty. I tried to avoid the poisonous stares as I quickly went to the client’s ATM, got the cash and left in less than a minute while the other guys waited for hours.
Retired people waited yesterday under the burning sun to get their much needed cash. Banks said they would open today but at 7 PM yesterday they announced they wouldn’t open the following day. Today, banks are closed in spite of having announced the entire week that people could count on them being opened the 24th. Banks lying to people, big news.
It’s a nice warm feeling to know that I have enough cash at hand and I don’t have to go nuts if ATMs go empty, and that the entire country’s banking system can go to hell… again, and my account wont be affected. Have backups to your financial planning guys.
What would you do if they don’t accept plastic any more because of blackouts or some other reason? What would you do if ATMs run empty and banks close? These things happen, its just that people prefer not to think about these things.
In terms of crime, my wife told me about a new crime she heard while in the beauty salon that I just couldn’t believe.
You are a young woman walking in Buenos Aires. All of a sudden everything turns white, there’s a flash and you go down to the floor. Someone just hit you in the head. As you go down the reaction many women have in Argentina is grabbing their purses, but not this time. This time you feel someone pulling your hair… and scissors cutting it…
Because hair extensions have become popular, there’s a prime price for nice long human hair! These scum bags are cutting off women’s hair, specially if its nice and already arranged in an easy to cut pony tail. A long pony tail sells for 300 pesos. If the pony tail is 12” long, it sells for up to 900 pesos, that’s almost USD 250. As crazy as it sounds this salon alone has heard of such a thing several times, a couple of their clients already becoming victims. Here’s an article explaining this crime,(sorry, its in Spanish) In times of lawlessness and desperation the most absurd incidents take place.
Take care folks, have a Merry Christmas!
PS- Please say Merry Christmas to everyone today, specially if they work at places that have Happy X-Mas signs ;-)