Buenos Aires – I miss good sushi, bagels, and marjoram. I don’t know why there’s no marjoram in Buenos Aires, it’s available in Uruguay across the river. It’s grown in Mendoza on the opposite side of the country. It’s my favorite herb. This shall be my new quest.
I don’t miss this year’s New York summer – which a friend just described to me on IM as “hot fog.”
I love delivery service here. Everything is available for delivery. Even a cup of coffee – and not in a styrofoam cup. In the mornings you see delivery guys headed into office buildings with single cups of coffee, in a real cup, and maybe a pastry on a real plate, on a covered tray. They return maybe ten minutes later with empty cup and plate. That’s delivery service. In fact, after “cash or credit” (when appropriate), the first thing you get asked at almost any kind of store is “para enviar?” – “for delivery?”
Phone service is odd here – local calls are all inclusive in your monthly phone bill, which is not particularly expensive. Calling to or from a cellphone is extra, and can cost as much as international long distance. Direct dial of these numbers doesn’t seem to exist, or must be very expensive. In general, you call a local number that then tells you to enter the cell or international number you want to call – then that connects you to whomever you are calling. Everyone text messages because the cellphone (movil) companies offer packages on text – like 50 text messages for 2 pesos (70 cents) – which is basically the same as one or two minutes of actual talk time costs.
Apartment building doors are locked. From both sides. You can’t get in or out without a key. Very few buildings have working “buzzers” to buzz someone in, as it’s considered unsafe. The locked doors were apparently started a few years back when there were major problems with thieves – the theory being that it prevents them from leaving with your stuff. It also prevents you from leaving in a fire if you forget to grab your keys. And, umm, if a thief breaks in rather than gets buzzed in, he can probably get out the same way. Plus he could take your keys. Or if you have a working buzzer, a pair of thieves could buzz one another out…the possiblities are endless.
The subway is extraordinarily easy to get around on and covers the core of Buenos Aires. It unfortunately only runs until 11 p.m. It costs 70 centavos (a quarter). For some odd reason the subway maps aren’t oriented with north to the top of the map (I could even understand south at the top given the hemisphere – and some maps are oriented that way). It’s oriented so that the routes run horizontally across the map… so sort of east-northeast at the top. Or sometimes they’re oriented so the lines are vertical… By the way, that south at the top thing threw me for a loop when I first got here. Before I realized some maps were laid out that way I’d go the opposite direction of where I needed to go when someone said “head west.”
The bus system covers everywhere, but is very complicated. Many stops aren’t marked, and when they are, it is solely with the line number. No route information is available, you basically have to know. There is a booklet, called the Guia T that covers all the bus routes. The busses are listed just with the series of streets that they go down, you have to sort of follow the route on a map and figure out if it goes where you want. The booklet works by looking up where you are and where you want to go. Each page has a map with coordinates on it. The facing page has boxes that cover the same coordinates. Within each box is a listing of bus line numbers that pass through that coordinate on the map. Not exactly where, just that is passes through that box. You look for two matching numbers (you may have to look in surrounding boxes as well), and then look up the route. Then you follow the route and figure out where it actually stops at each end. They cost roughly 80 centavos, though it can be variable if you’re going a longer or shorter distance.
Taxis run all the time, they’re clean and relatively inexpensive.
The hibermercado, or hypermarket. It’s the next step up from the supermarket. There’s one a few blocks from me – it’s the size of the typical supermarket, doubled, on two levels. Not only a massive grocery store (with far better selection than most supermarkets), but also sells wine and liquor, has a butcher shop, a fish store, appliances, electronics, housewares, linens, pretty much everything you’d find in the typical “department store”, except clothes. Or maybe I just didn’t see the clothing section.
You have to pack your own bags at the supermarket/hypermarket. If you only have a couple of items they ask if you even want a bag. I can’t decide if I like that or not. On top of that, many smaller markets charge for bags – true only 5 centavos, or 2 cents, but still…