Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blogging from Argentina (Dr. Joel Horowitz)

I left Olean on Thursday September 1 and arrived the next morning in Buenos Aires after changing planes in Atlanta. All flights to Buenos Aires seem to go over night which is not fun unless you have the rare ability to be able to sleep soundly on airplanes. I lack that ability.
The apartment which I am renting is in a newly fashionable sector of the city which is absolutely bustling. I am living on what the Argentines say is the sixth floor but which we call the seventh (they along with most European countries do not count the ground floor). It is a highly modern apartment. I have internet connection and a microwave etc. Unlike most US cities the ground floors of many buildings have stores—ranging from food stores of many types to all sorts of different stores. One can eat unbelievably well in Argentina as great pasta, fruits, vegetables and meats are easily available. Within a couple of block radius of where I live, there are several small supermarkets (some of which are part of international chains) as well as many individual stores. Most interesting are the self-service stores, as they are called, which are owned by Chinese immigrants and sell everything except fruits and vegetables. Frequently these are sold in the front of the store by Bolivian immigrants and are a separate business. How exactly that works I am not sure.

It is going into spring. In the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed. Saturday and Sunday the weather was rather raw and overcast but Monday and Tuesday were extraordinarily pleasant. It is fun to see how some people bundle up in weather which for Olean is quite pleasant. Today I saw a dog wearing a coat and a mother putting up the hood on a baby. It should—with any luck—be getting warmer soon.
Argentina is growing extremely quickly, as it has for most of the years since 2003. This is most obvious in the amount of construction that is going on. Today I walked by two wonderful old buildings that I was admiring, when I realized that there was a large poster on them showing the large apartment buildings that was going to replace them. On Saturday I visited an old friend in a neighborhood that I know well. The principal change seems to be the towers that are going up. (The inflation that is occurring and the wide gap between rich and poor is not yet obvious but one knows it is there. The inflation and the slowly changing exchange rate make Buenos Aires fairly expensive for people with incomes in US dollars).
All types of culture are widely available. For example on Saturday evening I met another old friend for coffee and then we went to the museum of decorative arts, which is in an old mansion which is filled with European furniture etc. In a room with decorations from the renaissance we heard a free concert (sponsored by the municipality of Buenos Aires) of seventeen century Baroque music from Venice and played on period instruments and it was wonderful. Somewhere near my apartment is some kind of a night club which on Friday and Saturday night the music seemed to start about 3 am and I am not sure when exactly it ended. Exactly what type of modern dance music it was, I am not at all sure, but if I were forty years younger I am sure that I would know and would have heard similar stuff in the states.
While I am giving three talks here and have been asked to give a fourth which I believe I am going to turn down, my main goal is to do research. I have spent the last two days working away in the Biblioteca Nacional, the country’s main library. It is a fairly recent building, finished in the 1980s but while some think it is a master piece, I think it is ugly and uncomfortable to work in. Still it is fun to see material that is not available in the states. Like any historical research it is slow going and a will be a product of time. I am planning to continue working in that library for some days and I also will be attending a number of academic talks.

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