Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baubled Beauties

I’ve talked to you about the ladies of my hood. Some go out at 2o’clock in the afternoon with enough makeup on to rival RuPaul.

It’s not just the makeup, however. Ladies flout about town bedazzled beyond belief with tons of shiny baubles bejeweling their bodies, skyscraper high shoes with acrylic heels (just saw it last week), and skirts with hemlines as short as a sailor’s haircut.

After living here for a while you start to realize that maybe your sense of style changes. No, it doesn’t mean that I have cut my hair into a mullet, but it does mean I keep letting it grow. Nor does it mean that I’ve picked up a pair of hooker heels to wear to Sunday brunch. Instead, it takes on more subtle things, like wearing makeup (which I barely wear anyway) to lunch or always making sure I’ve got on some earrings or a little something to jazz up my outfit when I go out.

Women here also love jewelry. And I always have too, honestly. Even when I lived in DC, I still managed to gather a collection of little bits of glitter and sparkle to bejewel myself with when I felt like it. DC gals are a bit more, well… conservative in their style than many other places I’ve been or even lived.

But here they take it to whole other heights. For example, there is the flower. We’re not talking a flower on a lovely spring day or for an event. No, we’re talking a plastic flower in the hair for a Friday night drink with the gals. A friend from the US who has lived here for a while even sheepishly admitted to me that she has one and has worn it on occasion. We got a nice belly laugh out of that one.

Maybe it is because women like to fix themselves up. Maybe it is because women equate femininity with the stuff that is seen as “womanly” – jewelry, makeup, etc. Maybe it is because gender roles are a bit more rigid here and women are expected and taught to behave as women were traditionally expected to behave and look. Granted, Buenos Aires is one of the more progressive cities in Latin America, but old habits die hard I guess.

Whatever it is, I have to admit I am affected by it. As long as it’s a little jewelry or a touch of makeup to keep me fresh-faced, that’s fine. But if you see me eying any heels with metal tips… please shoot me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spicy Accent? NOT!

I’ve made fun of my own accent in Spanish. Honestly, it isn’t very hard to do. I sound like a chick from the US trying to speak Spanish. Occasionally, I have gotten comments in other parts of Latin America about my Argentine accent, which is a shhh sound for the ll instead of the y-like sound used outside of Argentina and Uruguay. So calle sounds like ca-shh-e. This was problematic in taxis in Colombia too many times, so now most of the time I say ca-y-e.

In English, I have no real accent. I grew up on the east coast, so I definitely talk quickly but there’s nothing else notable about my twang when I chatter away. I remember as a child, I wished for the clipped tones of a British accent, always thinking it much sexier and interesting. I think it even was what made me love Simon LeBon. But I digress.

I’m not alone in my love for the tarty tone of the Brits. Even here in Argentina, people learn British English and it is always pretty funny to hear an Argentine switch into English and sound like Hugh Grant or Elizabeth Hurley.

This has made me realize a sad fact – a US accent just isn’t sexy or interesting. It’s just a plain ‘ol American accent. The kind from the movies or TV, I am told. In fact, I recall when I first started traveling around Latin America I hung out with a couple of Asian chicks. I was always the spokeswoman for the group; mostly because I knew some Spanish and if not, my English was the kind of English that almost anyone could understand. Useful, yes. Sultry and exotic, no.

Sigh. Oh, the plight of the first world white girl traveling the world!

My spirits were lifted about this sad syllabic state by my Spanish tutor when she told me recently that when I travel to Spain, my Argentine-ish accent will be seen as sexy by some Spaniards, like a British accent to my North American ear. For this, I was stoked. Finally, FINALLY, someone may develop a crush on me because of my accent!!

Eat your heart out, Keira Knightly! As I am sure that’s why all those boys love her.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stick This

It seems fitting to write about this now with what is happening in the states. And while it is not specifically Argentina related, it does have a shit-ton to do with living outside the US and being a first world white girl wandering the world. Beware people: this is a healthcare rant.

I am preparing for my summer in the North, which is likely to include some time in the US, Europe and even a dash of Canada for a dear friend’s wedding. The bottom line is that I need to make sure I have health insurance to take care of me everywhere. I mean, one never knows what can happen and as a US citizen, I am sadly all too aware of the financial cost of just one little incident.

I have asked around, I have searched the internet. I have been on the phone with people in the UK, in the US, even here in Argentina. And this is the sad fact – if I want any coverage in the United States at all for any real period of time, I basically have to pay more than double the premiums. Double!

This problem is unique to those of us from the U.S (my other English speaking first world friends don’t have this problem) where health care costs FOUR TIMES more than anywhere else in the world.

This whole thing reminds me about something that is always on my mind when non-Americans talk about life in the U.S. , which is that there is truly a price for a first-world life, isn’t there? It cost four times more to save your life in an emergency.

Anyway, it is stressing me out beyond belief. And pissing me off. The rest of the fricking world doesn’t put up with this shit. Now for all you fascists who want to rave and bitch about health care that is government run (and I know you are out there), c’mon. The reality is that we will never have a fully government implemented system in the US – there’s just too much money to be made. But what can work is some kind of public-private effort, like you see in most places in the world. Here in Argentina, I have private insurance that is modestly priced by my distorted U.S. standards. The funny part is that all of my friends from other parts of the world complain about how expensive it is!

Here in the Paris of the South, where the health care system seems ok (note, this is based on what I have heard and I can only speak about Buenos Aires, as I imagine it is different outside of the capital) there are two systems – a public one and a private one. While the private one is pretty glam (private rooms in the hospital for example) and the public one less so (old buildings, lots of waiting), there is basic care available for everyone. And if you do have something terrible happen, you are not likely to lose your home, all of your savings and be pushed into bankruptcy.

Anyway, I have no idea if what Congress is plotting and planning will solve the problem. After living and working in DC for over a decade, I am certainly skeptical of a politician’s grip on the real life of most people. And while my life is far from an average one, I am now burdened by what has unfortunately become an entirely average problem in the United States– the obscene cost of health care.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Careful Where You Shake Your Milkshake

In Argentina, there is no shortage of hot dudes. Tall and buff, short and stocky, muscled, skinny, curly haired, long-haired, no haired – they’ve got it all here, ladies. And the men love the chicas. Maybe there’s something in the water, maybe it’s in the famously succulent beef, but whatever it is, you can pretty much guarantee that when you walk down the street, the boys will be in the yard to check out your milkshake.

While all you first world white girls out there are thinking, shit, I am on the next plane, think again girls. With these admiring glances also comes a whole slew of cultural games that one has to be prepared for, particularly the omission of vital information like being married, having children or living with your significant other.

For example, it is common for men not to wear a wedding ring even if they are, in fact, married. I recently met a hunky guy who chased me around for an entire evening only to find out he was married when he friended me on Facebook, his page replete with photos of his wife and children.

Besides the fact that most North American men would wear a wedding ring if they were married, they also probably would at some point reference the ‘ole ball and chain. But not here – you could go out to a party or club on a Saturday night (which here means sometime around 4 am) and spend the night being pursued by a man who has a wife and kids that he kissed goodbye after dinner around 1 am to come out on the prowl.

When I mentioned that I wanted to write something on my blog about this, horror stories quickly piled up from my girlfriends – Argentine and North American alike.

Among my faves:

- The man who dated my friend for a few weeks one summer and when she wanted to see his house he got super nervous. Why? When she got there, there were photos of his wife and kid who were off at the beach for the summer!

- Another friend’s boss revealed that among his 10 closest friends, seven of them had double families! WTF?

Someone remarked to me how ironic it was that a culture that values family so much would be willing to tolerate this violation of “family values”. But maybe that’s the point – could it be that they don’t see one night or even a regular sexual relationship as a violation? Are they just such master compartmentalizers that it doesn’t seem like they are bringing pain onto anyone or even risking their families?

I will never understand it. All I can do is chalk it up to the fine Latin art of not saying what you’re saying while you sort of say it. There, I said it. Or did I?

Cross Post

My dear readers, I just did a post for a lovely blog called Unpaved South America about traveling via bicycle here in BsAs. Check it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seasonal Disconnect

Today is the first day of school. Yes, on March 1st, kids begin school here in Argentina. As I walked along to the gym this morning, I could see the excitement in their eyes as they strolled along hand in hand with their mothers or walked along in their freshly pressed uniforms along the tree lined streets of my barrio.

This realization th
is morning threw me for a loop. It’s summer, isn’t it? I mean, I come here to enjoy the sun and the heat. Could it really be the southern world equivalent of the end of summer?

It’s only March! I want more!

This is something I always struggle with – I never really know what time of year it is in that seasonal sense here in the Southern Hemisphere. In the last few weeks, we have had outrageous rains that have inundated neighborhoods all over town. I was on a bus the other week that got diverted because people were rioting in the streets because they had gone two days with no power. Nice. This brought about some cooler weather that left everyone asking if summer was already over. I blamed the cold (as everyone did) on all of the rain, but I think I may be wrong.

It really started to hit me last night as a friend and I rode out bikes home at about 8 pm, the city was already enveloped in that inky black darkness that comes with days that are shorter, winds that are brisker.

If you know me, you know my thoughts on this. I am a seasonal nomad, so even the slightest idea of cold weather is enough to get me checking out Travelocity. But yes, it is true. March is September in my Northern oriented internal clock, with the first day of fall being March 20th.

Anyway, it appears that summer is over. The children were not the first sign, they were the final sign.