This is an email I sent off to friends, family and acquaintences to let them know of my progress, about two months after moving to Buenos Aires.
Unfortunately I don't have any wild stories, honestly. I think Buenos Aires just isn't that kind of place. In my last email I told you a little about my apartment (1 bedroom, 400 sq. ft. $600/month). I've since learned a little more about my neighborhood, Recoleta. The neighborhood is basically Buenos Aires' Upper East Side; dense, rich, old, expensive. It also has a bit of old Times Square thrown in as well. The area surrounding the cemetery, where Evita is buried and just a block from my apartment, is notorious as a zone of high class prostitution. All around the cemetery are flashy discos with names like "Fun Girl," "Top Hat," and, oddly, "Hippopotamus" which are really just fronts for wealthy business executives to shell out $300 for a discrete night of pleasure (I told you Buenos Aires wasn't cheap). Of course, when I mention my address to any porteño (as the local residents are called) they inevitably point this out. I tell them that I am just a poor recent graduate and ask them if they know of more economical prostitutes, perhaps any they can recommend from personal experience. (this is much easier to ask in Spanish as I can just use the verb 'conocer' which means to know, on a personal level)
Today's newspapers were all abuzz with stories about deposed Paraguayan strongman Lino Oviedo. He's taken refuge in Buenos Aires, under the protection of his old buddy Carlos Menem, the president. As Menem is soon to leave office there is pressure mounting to exile Oviedo to Tierra Del Fuego (sounds very 18th century). Oviedo has requested that any decision regarding his fate be delayed for 60 days. His reason: recovery time for a recent face-lift.
I suppose I should mention the oft tossed about fact that Buenos Aires has the highest rate of plastic surgery of any city in the world. While I haven't actually seen this fact verified by a reputable source, I have come across some local data points. A friend of mine causally mentioned having a nose job when he was 15. He seemed very nonchalant about the whole deal. His family's insurance plan covers one operation (of any type) per year. No one needed any work or had any emergencies that year. Why let it go to waste? Besides, his nose was horrendous, so he says.
Some of you have asked what kind of work I have found for myself. Unsurprisingly, I am working for an internet start-up. We are really just in the initial stages, working on a business plan and a beta web site. My boss is a guy named Patricio. He's Argentine but has spent the last three years in Miami selling beef. You know those miniscule ads in the New Yorker for $50 Argentine steaks? Well, his company is probably behind them.
Our website won't be selling beef, or any atoms for that matter. Our idea is to sell Argentina (and Latin America) to the world. In the end this is that different of a business. For someone to shell out $50 for a cut of beef that costs $1.50 here they have to be sold on some image, romantic gauchos, endless pampas grass, etc. Patricio is fond of telling how he gained Balducci's as a client (they sell in inflight magazines). The founder, Mr. Balducci himself was on a tour of Argentina. Patricio took him out to one of the estancias to show him the natural conditions the cows are raised under: no hormones, enhanced genetics, or even grain fed animals, just happy cows munching away on abundant pampas grass. Mr. Balducci, so taken with the natural scene and the happy cows got down on his kneeds, grabbed a clump of grass and started chewing it himself.
Someday, we'll provide that very same experience.over the web =)
chau (which, btw, is spelled correctly if you're saying it in Spanish)
[September 28, 1999]