Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Adapting to Normal Life

I was driving around with my family the other day, talking about places to visit. We’re still in that period of time here in Ireland where everything looks and feels new, as in that point in between living here and being here on vacations. We look up interesting places to visit and keep them in mind for going during the weekends.
“I want to go to Derry” my wife said. “The photos I found on line were beautiful”.
Having read a bit about the place and having kept up with the news for the last few months I told her. “OK, lets go, but keep in mind that it may not be as safe as the places we’ve been seeing lately. The other day I read that someone threw a Molotov bomb at a patrol car during some kind of protest”. She looked at me and said “You´re kidding right? You’re worried about a f!*%$ molotov? You forgot already where we used to live?”. Apparently I had. “I know its no big deal, just letting you know that it might not be as perfectly safe and nice as everything else we’ve been seeing lately”.

When I was living in Argentina there were times when I thought that maybe I was exaggerating things, that life there wasn’t that bad. Now that I’m not living there anymore, I feel the other way around. I don’t understand how we could live that way, with that constant fear, fear based on very real, constant threats. We got used to living in a way no one should ever get used to, no one should ever consider it “normal”. Argentines try to convince themselves that everything is just as bad anywhere you go, that it’s a global problem. Like hell it is.

While my wife talked today with my mother in law yesterday, I overheard some of the conversation. She had gone to the supermarket and came back without many food supplies. There’s a shortage of many food items including cooking oil, and cheese seems to have reached record prices. It reminded me of that time when tomatoes in Argentina had reached a global record, the highest price for tomatoes anywhere in the world. Instead of worrying my mother in law said “oh well, I’m sure they will restock next week”.

Later that day I checked some of the news. There was an article in Clarin website about “Baby” Etchecopar, the guy that I wrote about who was involved in a shooting during a home invasion. He related how violence isn’t just a word, but its screams, it´s crying, it´s your loved one lying in a pool of blood, the smell of gunpowder, your son turning to you and a string of blood squirting out of his chest as he says “I´ve been shot!”, your wife plugging the wound with her finger so as to stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrives. That’s violence. And we are supposed to believe that is normal?

These last few months in Ireland have been the happiest of my life indeed, but we can’t change where we come from, what we lived through. At thirty three there are things that will be part of me for the rest of my life. I’m still careful, I still watch over my shoulder, make sure doors are locked and mind my surroundings, but at the same time I see that there’s not that much of a need to worry. Yes, trouble can happen anywhere, it is always possible, but around here you just don’t see that ruthlessness in people’s faces. In Argentina you could just tell by looking at some people, you could tell that they were predators. Sometimes you would walk past them and you could see in their faces that they would have no remorse in stealing from you and hurting you if they had the chance. You could tell they have done it before, you just feel it, you could almost smell it. I haven’t come across that kind of faces around here, and I would see them every day in the streets of Buenos Aires.

A few days ago, my wife and I, we were checking to make sure the doors were locked before going to bed. Just like you automatically lock the doors of your car when you get out of it, doors in our house are kept locked at all times, we’ve been doing it that way for years since the crime in Buenos Aires allows no mistake in this matter. The stress of living that way is just too much, yet at the same time the risk was so very real. It eventually gets to you, that’s why so many Argentines just give up and leave it all to faith, and believe that if something bad happens to you then its just because your number was up that day. Going nuts over it isn’t living according to them. After checking the front door my wife went to the one that opens to the back yard. She twisted the doorknob and it opened. She looked surprised, then she smiled back at me “We forgot to close it”. And still it was all good.
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gaga said...

I am very happy that you have discovered most of the world is a much better place than Argentina.
Some other countries may have a similar outlook (USA?) but the majority of the world isn't like that. I think it takes a very long, historical period of time for a society to become so fucked up that its people revert to pre-civilised behavior.
Argentina's history and the politicians running the country have instilled a complete lack of respect of other people rights. You have called it socialism; a entitlement culture; in fact what you describe is 'Antisocial Personality Disorder', sociopathic, - its a dangerous mental illness.
Listening to your President re-writing history, reality and common sense to demand the Malvinas (Falklands) be 'returned', her policies on importing/exporting (screw the world, we take..), it really becomes clear that Argentina in one totally, fundamentally fucked up country at its most basic level.

I really happy for you to have moved to a place where you do need to be scared and don't need a gun.
Your old country, however, is a basket case for at least another couple of generations.

DanT said...

Northern Ireland is a glorious place to live as is the rest of Ireland.

The people are hospitable but are not to be crossed, memories are long and the Irish temper can be very quick to rise.

Being an Irishman myself, I know of what I speak.

JoeFromSidney said...

I understand the feeling. Nearly 50 years ago I awoke during the night to find an intruder in my bedroom. Fortunately I had a gun handy. No shooting; he got away before I could get a clear shot. However, I still keep my doors locked. I have a burglar alarm and set it every night. I have a gun stashed in almost every room in the house. I have a concealed carry permit, and I carry. You don't get over things like that. Not easily, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Yes, those of us who have followed your life, as written here over the years, are very happy for you to be out of there. When people who visit Buenos Aires tell me it is a great place, I keep my mouth shut and let them beleive what they wish.


Anonymous said...

It is funny you mention people trying to convince themselves their lives are normal in Argentina. I came from a quiet, small town. Somewhat nearby is a [for us] very violent, poor city with lots of illegal immigrants from Haiti and Central America, Africa, etc. It is not unusual for there to be shoot-outs in the street or dead bodies thrown over a fence, etc.

In my adult life I often have worked with people from this city and whenever something like this happens in their area, they invariably say 'O, well it's like that everywhere.'
They seem like they really believe it, even though they could drive maybe 10 miles and be in a town that hasn't had a murder in 30 years.