Hola a todos!
Well well, two entries in two days; you lucky people! Which deciphered means, I have failed to upload my photos (due to my camera battery dying during the process) and need to do something so that my trip to the GIC office has not been wholly in vain. Also, I find that there is a lot more to share today... at least, I think there is, besides a general, underlying sense of mounting doom - a combination of lack of funds, lack of Spanish and lack of street-sense perhaps. In any case, my activity category is currently "other" because "Observation" does not come up as an option provided by STA...
There are two things that I want to muse over at this point; perhaps they are inter-related in some sense but, only slightly. They do, however, strike me as being worthy of mention, if only because they have surfaced in my consciousness so frequently during my first ten days in Buenos Aires. So, without further ado...
My first topic of discussion is an important one but, I appreciate that it is also rather vast, so I shall limit myself to my personal experiences thus-far: my apologies if this topic begins to sound like a rant but, it is very important to me and I have felt very disappointed regarding its application so far on my trip. I talk generally of health and sanitation but, specifically here, I refer to diet and nutrition. In general terms, public health in Argentina seems rather sound: malaria and yellow fever levels are very low, tap water is, on the whole, safe to drink in BA at least, there are hospitals and GP surgeries. I agree that this is fairly basic knowledge but, it is all I have garnered at present - thankfully because I have not needed to think about or deal with the topic in any greater detail. In one respect, however, I am shocked and that is diet, here in BA at least.
Firstly, the portenos (natives of Buenos Aires - such as Londoners) are derisive towards desayuno (breakfast) - it might as well exist only in fairy-tales. If one is lucky, a host family may indulge in pasteles (pastries - think croissants etc) y cafe con/sin leche (white or black coffee). I had so far managed to secure a steady flow of naranjas (oranges - one per day) for breakfast but, alas, my supply was depleted yesterday and has yet to be replenished. Other than this, I have managed a glass of agua (water) and the occasional small cracker biscuit (sorry, I have forgotten the Spanish term). Now, I know that I am a growing, hulking male youth and the rest of it but, this is seriously deficient as far as the most important meal of the day goes. I have been here only ten days and already I have noticed a lack of concentration seeping into my studies, a palour to my complexion and an increasingly sloth-like metabolism. In short, I feel rubbish before lunch. Never fear; remedies involving a more independent set-up for breakfast are at hand but, it has been a very interesting personal social experiment these past days and one that has convinced me beyond doubt about the importance of a good feed after a long night´s fast.
By lunch, I am positively famished. This does not bode well because, yep - you guessed it, portenos are rather contemptuous of lunch as well, especially on weekdays (most days then, in fact). My lunch tends to consist of one or two empanadas (pastries resembling cornish pasties but with a much wider multitude of flavours, my favourites being pollo - chicken - and verduras - literally greens but, in most case, spinach). Empanadas are tasty and cheap (about 50p each at my language school) but, they are not particularly nutritious and, where empanada de verdura is absent, severely lacking in helping me towards my five-a-day. In fact, the keenest among you may have noticed that even after lunch, it is possible that I have not achieved a SINGLE fruit or vegetable towards my goal for the day.
Such a state of affairs may not seem overly problematic, as there is still everybody´s considered ace in the hole, namely dinner. Lackaday! Dinner has, until now at least, been just as health-deficient. Pizza, pasta and meat are particular favourites here in BA. Unfortunately, the portenos seem unduly phased by the possibility of anything else sharing the plate, or indeed the meal as a whole. It is not just possible but, for sure, probable that I go an entire day without a single fruit or veg being consumed and I am by no means alone in pursuing this dietary pattern. Portenos are, justly, proud of their dining heritage; I am reasonably informed that bife (beef) and asados (barbeques) in general are fantastic here but, they are given not just pride of place in a meal but SOLE place. Do not misunderstand me, I love meat but, I love veg as well. As an eighteenth century ecologist (I forget his name) once said, "we never know the true value of water until the well is dry". My veg-well is utterly barren.
These problems are, of course, rectifiable but, I find it interesting that a whole culture operates in this way - at least, as far as I have observed until now. Many people here seem thin, yes, but not unhealthy in their aspect. Yet this is clearly anything but healthy. Timing is also a cause for concern. Breakfast is anytime before 10am, lunch finishes between 2-4pm and dinner may not commence until 10pm and in many cases no time before midnight, particularly at the weekend. This leaves huge stretches of time - ripe for unhealthy(?) snacking during the day and amounts to the majority of calorific intake falling at night and just before bed in some cases. All of this seems, again, very foreign to me and potentially harmful - certainly unhealthy - for its practitioners. I shall keep up my observations but, on a fuller stomach from hereonin!
Phew, rant over. I apologise! Really, it is very interesting. My second topic is a little more fun. Dogs. Cats as well but, primarily, dogs - perros (roll those "r"s!). The number of dogs roaming the streets here, apparently without owners, certainly without collars but, equally, without any intimidating aspect of their characters, is substantial. They wander around town, bathing in the standing water after rainfall, sniffing around cafe entrances and in public bins, fouling wherever they please... it is obscene at times and engrossing at others (though never the latter when they are about their private business of course). In some sense, they represent a similar freedom and relaxed state of play as reflected in many inhabitants here but, of course, in others they appear much more bestial, as they should. Today was novel for the fact that I saw a dog - a large dog - on a lead, being taken for a walk by its owner, a rather slight lady. The dog simply refused to behave and the poor woman was being dragged first one way, then another, along the pavement in front of me. It struck me as funny that here, when an attempt was made to control a dog, it misbehaved and yet, when allowed to roam free, the dogs were wholly civil towards fellow pedestrians. Again, perhaps this reflects the nature of people as well as dogs and perhaps especially so here, where people seem so averse to bureaucracy. Of course, it is far from the case that only portenos dispise invasive state measures...
Well, this has certainly been a break from the apparent norm set in my earlier entries but, I have enjoyed myself at least! Perhaps in time my observations of others, other cultures, other peoples, other creatures, will improve - I certainly hope so, for those of you reading this far as well as for myself!
Lots and lots of love to all and, as ever, do stay in touch when you are able!