Friday, October 14, 2011

Mobs, how to handle them and traveling light

Hello Ferfal,

I just returned from a visit to Argentina (and Chile) and wrapped up the whole trip in Buenos Aires.  I felt rather safe in Buenos Aires and found the people rather friendly, despite the "gringo tax" I paid a few times.  I especially enjoyed wine country with my girlfriend AND finding the Buller Brewery near the cemetery.  She's the wine snob and i'm the beer snob.

In regards to your blog I wanted to reflect my experiences leaving Buenos Aires via the EZE airport.

Miles and miles away from the airport I was caught in a traffic jam like I had never seen before.  Luckily the owner of the Bed and Breakfast where I stayed suugested we leave 3 hours before the flight.  Good thing she told us.  Apparently the students or a union was upset about something and had blocked the toll booth entrance to the airport.  When i saw the throng of people I was pretty furious over the mayhem they were creating.

As an American these things just don't happen here.  It brought up a lot of thoughts of how to respond and react in this situation using information I found on your blog.  I hope you can work these in to one of your posts to help other people that may be in a similar position.

---Talk with and make friends with your taxi driver.  Be as friendly as possible regardless if you speak the language.  Tip generously.  These guys KNOW the area and how to stay out of trouble.  Tip generously and make sure they know you are generous.  Consider it a small insurance policy.
---DO NOT travel with suitcases.  Travel light with a backpack. If it weren't for that backpack I would have been stuck in an unpassable hoard of protestors or I would have been trying to lug around an easily stolen suitcase.  With my backpack, I looked like a poor tourist and was able to walk to the airport after ditching the taxi in the traffic jam.
---LIE LIE and LIE about how much you support whatever the hoard is protesting.  Talk to the first person you see in the crowd and greet them with a big smile.  Engage that person in sincere interest in their cause.  Grab a sign and jump and cheer with the crowd as you make your way through it.  You are in an unfriendly powder keg of anger and you better make sure you are one of them or you will find yourself in trouble.  You're on their turf.  It was definately stupid to leave the taxi but I had a plane to catch for an international flight.  The crowd did not look violent and there was a strong police presence.  They just wanted to make sure NO ONE made it to the airport.  Being a "useful idiot" to their cause allowed me to walk to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

This situation did get me thinking about what would happen if this crowd turned violent.  As much as I hate to say it the safest thing for me to do would be to jump out of the cab and join the hoard.  As much as i would love to say I would take the high road and say I would stand my ground I would be facing a HUGE crowd of violence.  The first order of business would be survival, second would be getting as far away as possible as soon as I could.  Sitting as a helpless tourist in a taxi would not be the way to do that.  Another thing I would do is learn a few phrases in a language OTHER than English.  I know Czech and German.  Call me paranoid but I would rather greet an angry protestor with a few words in Czech than USA English.

These are just some random thoughts about a situation in which I have never been.  Luckily, I was only inconvenienced.  After the fat it was easy to see how a situation like this could turn very very dangerous.

Thanks for everything.

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1 comment:

Andrew. Virginia. USA said...

Very good advice! I will have to remember