Some Observations in Argentina

You will have to be a bit patient with me this time. There is so much I want to write and could write, but it will probably have to wait until future posts as there are other folks waiting to use the computer. So, I´m gonna try to keep this simple using a list format. First, let me say that I DID get on my Aerolineas Argentinas flight as scheduled and it would have left right on time if the seat directly in front of me had not been broken and they had not spent a solid hour trying to fix it. (You should have seen the poor maintenance guy — he was sweating all over my seat as he worked as quickly as he could and still could not manage to fix the darn thing!) In the end, all they had to do was move the woman who was sitting there to Business Class where they had one spare seat, but I guess that was a real last resort. I mean, god forbid they should upgrade anyone because they had not bothered to maintain their cabin seats properly! Right. Whatever.  So, we left just ONE hour late. My bag got to Ushuaia with me, no problem. (Note to self: When speaking to future Antarctica travellers, don´t describe tribulations in graphic detail. It will just worry them more. Some things are beyond our control and so sometimes we should NOT be told about them in advance.)

So, on to the good stuff. Here´s my list of observations about Argentines and Argentina which I´ve compiled since my arrival just4 days ago (so, it´s not like I´m jumping to conclusions or creating stereotypes or anything — I mean, I am a real insider now with 4 whole days of observation time under my belt… she said sarcastically). Oh, come on — you know you want to hear these. (DISCLAIMER: These observations do not necessarily describe ALL Argentines or even pertain to ALL parts of Argentina — just those I´ve visited… which have been just two so far!) Small sample size aside… here we go!

Observation #1: I´ve been trying to figure out how Argentines manage to stay in shape and relatively thin despite the fact that they eat so late at night and consume meals full of meat. Well, here´s what I´ve come up with. They WALK everywhere… although I guess some of them don´t because there IS traffic 24-7… at least in Buenos Aires (B.A.). In addition, they talk incessantly which must be burning some calories. These are the MOST social butterflies I´ve ever seen. However, here´s the most important factor. It stays light for 17-20 hours a day in these parts (at least at this time of the year). In fact, we are coming up on their longest day of the year, December 21, I believe (and I´ll still be here).  So, more hours of daylight = more hours of activity = more calories burned. Argentineans don´t eat until at least 9 PM and don´t seem to go to sleep until after MIDNIGHT. Honestly, I don´t know how they get by on such little sleep because there isn´t a hard and fast siesta rule here as there is in Spain for the most part. So, when DO they rest??? I have an answer… which gets us to observation #2…

#2:  Argentines would have to be WIRED on the coffee they consume all day long. They must be addicts. I´ve never seen a country with more cafes and bars where you can sit and down cup after aromatic cup of the brown caffeinated stuff. It´s crazy. And did I mention that the coffee really is delicious? Even their decaf (which is the only stuff I drink) is great. So, that´s saying something, I think.

#3:  If we shopped as much as Argentines shop (at least in cities like B.A. and Ushuaia), we´d have a bloody strong economy and plenty of jobs for everyone in all the stores that would pop up. No kidding — I was out in Palermo Soho, a rather hip section of B.A. a couple of nights ago for dinner and as I walked down the street I realized that all the shops were still open at 8 pm at night. Not only were they open, but they were FULL of people shopping — men and women alike. Even in Ushuaia, it´s the same way. Yesterday, as I sat munching my lovely grilled vegetable sandwich and sipping the local (rather tasty to me anyway) yerba mate tea, I noted that every person who walked into the restaurant at that time of the night was carrying shopping bags full of their latest purchases. Very impressive. I believe Argentines could out-shop just about anyone… except perhaps Paris Hilton, but she´d work up quite a sweat first.

#4:  The most southerly city in the world, Ushuaia, is not only beautiful with its snow-capped, jagged, Patagonian peaks — it is also the perfect place for solo women travellers to feel perfectly safe no matter the time of day. Of course, this town is quite touristy, however, it feels a lot like Tahoe, Big Bear, Vail, or any other nice ski resort town. The mains street, San Martin, is lined with shops — both for souvenirs and for really nice, refined fashion. The street is crowded any time of the day. So, there are always folks around in case you need help. Add to this the fact that you can walk around in broad daylight as if it´s 4 pm… right up until about 10 pm at night… and you have the perfect safe travel destination. No worrying about being out after dark. No watching your back as you take a wrong turn down a dark alley. It´s great.

#5:  Being at the end of the world makes everyone feel a little closer. That is, we´ve all come this far and there´s really no where else further south to go (unless you count Antarctica, but not everyone is able to go there for obvious reasons $$), so everyone is pretty tolerant of each other. Folks are friendly and have a certain air about them — like, wow, I guess I made it all the way to the ¨end of the world¨ (as they call it). You get all types — the Antarctica adventurers waiting for their ships to depart, the Patagonian hikers and naturalists who just want to commune with nature or challenge themselves physically with some outdoor activities, and the passing foreign traveller making his or her way around the continent month after month (there are lots of these folks in my hostel right now). In addition, there are LOADS of Argentines here… which is a good sign. I mean, their economy must be starting to come back since the peso got totally deflated in 2001, because they can somehow afford to travel. At least, that´s what I thought until I asked a girl who´s been travelling here a long time and she told me, ¨no, they just charge everything and are heavily in debt¨. But then, if that were the case, Argentines would have to be the most heavily in-denial folks I´ve ever seen because they seem quite happy and go about their shopping like it´s no problem. So, I´m not sure that this chick was correct in her appraisal of the situation. I´ll have to do a bit more research on this.

Well, I´ll have to end my observations there and just jump ahead and tell you what I´ve seen since I last wrote.

In B.A.: 

The Jardin Zoologico (zoo) — which left me IMpressed at first with the naturalistic, mixed species exhibits as you enter the zoo, but then DEpressed me as soon as I saw the polar bear passed out in the sun… and then all the patrons feeding the elephants and various other animals. The Zoo actually promotes this by selling Animal Food at stands throughout the zoo. In addition, the staff knew noth¡ng about the animals they exhibit which was very sad.

The Botanical Gardens — really more like a park — just across from the Zoo.

The much more tranquil Jardin Japones (Japanese Gardens) which gives you a zen-like fix for the day at least.

Palermo: Serano Plaza is pretty cool and full of good restaurants. You can even eat outside on the sidewalks (as I did) and people-watch. I found a good bead store here as well.

In Ushuaia:

Tierra del Fuego National Park — where we saw lots of various birds as well as the introduced and rather destructive rabbits. Gorgeous landscapes and lakes. Visited Bahia Ensenada, Lago Roca, and Bahia Lapataia where you find the end of the highway 3 which starts in Alaska or Canada and runs all the way down through the Americas to this final end point. Very dramatic and there´s a sign available for those photos to mark your visit.

Museo del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Museum) — good general exhibit on Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego´s history.

Museo Yamana — small but excellent museum on the Yamana and other indigenous cultures in this area. Gives some background on the glaciology of the region as well. Very cool.

So, tomorrow I board my ship at 4 pm and we´ll set sail by 6 pm. I won´t be in contact for the next 11 days while on the ship because there´s not actual internet connection. However, I´ll try to post something once I get back to Ushuaia on the 19th… or during my final couple of days in B.A. before I fly home on December 21 in the evening.

Well, that´s it for now. I´m all typed out. Ciao.

Explore posts in the same categories: Antarctica & Argentina, My Travels

3 Comments on “Some Observations in Argentina”

  1. June Colton Says:

    Dear Laurel,
    You can’t imagine how much I enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for taking the time & energy to do this. I’m printing out your comments & mailing them to Lane & Helen wants a copy too.
    Have a great cruise & happy landings & luck with the photo/videos.
    Sending all our love…Mum, Africa & Tashi

  2. Harold Cook Says:

    Dear Laurel;
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I look forward to sharing this website and your blogs with Courtney and Katlin when I get home. I love the perspective and the editiorials you include as well.

    Lots of love – Cousin Harold

  3. Ed Colton Says:

    Laurel, you make us feel like we are there. And when do you have time for writing all this stuff-maybe you should look into writing about travel exploits for those travel magazines. Sounds like everything is going well. Have fun. Ed and Sue Colton

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