Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random thoughts on my life here in Buenos Aires (Dr. Joel Horowitz)

Everything takes place much later here. I have two dinner invitations coming up and both start at nine in the evening. I went to a talk the other night, which started at seven in the evening, and then everyone, including me, went home to eat dinner. I have been eating dinner at between 8:30 and 9:00, which is relatively early. How people do it, I am not quite sure, as I got an e-mail this morning from one of my friends at whose house I am going to arrive at 9, dated 5:30 in the morning.
The number of people who have dogs is very large. A great side feature is the dog walkers. These are people who get hired to walk dogs. Sometimes they have about ten dogs of all different sizes and breeds and they seem to get along quite well. The other morning I passed two dog walkers who seemed to be going somewhere together and it was a real sight to see the twenty or so animals peacefully trotting down the sidewalk. The large number of dogs does mean that one does have to watch carefully where one walks, as people are not necessarily good about picking up after their pets.

It is a city of cafes. People frequently meet people there and sit and drink coffee. It often comes with water and small cookies. People often eat things like medialunas which are sort of like croissants. Coffee tends to be somewhat expensive, since one is essentially renting a table. It is frequently hard to flag down a waiter when one wants to pay. (The last few years has seen the invasion of Starbucks which means all the strange things that pass as coffee at that institution and also of course much more coffee per serving. Traditionally coffee here comes in a small cup, which however carries quite a jolt.)
There seem to be many more evangelic Protestant churches than before. They are frequently housed in old movie houses and the like. Whether the increase is really as great as it appears to me, I am not sure, since I have been looking for them since I first noticed the apparent increase. One of my friends did confirm my impression.
There is a presidential election coming up shortly and no one seems to be paying much attention. This is a country where people usually pay a great deal of attention to politics. Why? This year the country tried a system of open primaries. The president, Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner, won the open primary so easily that everyone seems to have given up. Most, though not all, of my friends, are not very fond of her. They along with other people would explain her success by pointing to the economy and the fact that the opposition candidates are and were numerous and weak and were unable to mount strong campaigns. This is a historic problem. Argentina has rarely been able to maintain strong opposition parties. La presidenta is in part lucky—good luck is always useful. So long as China and India keep buying soy beans at high prices, Argentina should do pretty well. The question is should Argentina be doing better and how?
Just in case anyone is worried that I am spending all of my life in libraries reading, taking photos with a digital camera and waiting for the volumes to arrive, I have not been. (Libraries here are almost all run on the European system of having to ask for books and then waiting). Last Sunday I spent the day on a friend’s sailboat sailing the river and seeing the city’s new towers from the river. It was different and it was also a very Argentine experience, as lunch was empanadas (meat pies or in this case chicken) red wine and fruit. We talked about Argentine politics and society. I also had to answer the questions that I have been getting from everyone, which is what is going on in the U.S. No one seems to be able to grasp the reasons for the rise of the far right in the US and why Obama is in such political trouble. The US is very important for Argentines and they care what happens, if only at times, because what happens in the US will impact them.

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