Saturday, October 24, 2009

deudas y prestados.

Rick Steves says the only thing that means anything when travelling is the people-- you can buy a ticket to Dubai, Dublin, or Fez and if you never meet a new person or hear a new story, you aren't really travelling because your mindset hasn't been altered at all. Conversely, you can cross the street and hear a new story from your neighbor and consider that travelling.

So interesting people and their stories are most of the appeal in clicking "purchase" on a shiny new plane ticket. Our first was the gorgeous blonde sitting next to us on the plane from DC, an Argentinian who used to work for the World Bank (I suppose I knew that people from all over the world work for the World Bank-- it makes sense, right? But it also surprises me when people from Latin America admit to it!). So I had to ask her how socially acceptable it was for her to admit to such employment. She laughed a little.

"Right, well I think the thing is that most people don't know that the World Bank and IMF are sister organizations. Argentina's default on their IMF loan in 2001 caused massive discontent and in the public mentality, the IMF was just the devil. Just terrible. But since most people didn't know how closely connected the two organizations are, it wasn't an issue for me. And also I was running with the international finance crowd in DC for most of that, anyway."

Unfortunately our plane landed before I could ask her more. I wondered if she really thought that the IMF truly knew better than Argentinians on the issue of national economy. And if she didn't, how did she feel to be gainfully employed by what is essentially the same organization that was causing such economic chaos for her country? I laughed to myself when I thought of Argentina telling the IMF to take a hike.

Last night, after wandering down the Avenida 9 de Julio (supposedly the largest street in the world-- and learning how to walk on it is a lesson in putting your life on the line), we found a cafe in the shadow of the Obelisk. As usual when Marlo and I start laughing really hard, we found new friends, and in this case it was the owner of the bar. Howard spent a long time in California and likes speaking English because he's "so hard-headed." He wanted to help us find an apartment and insisted we come back in the morning, "but not before ten! Americans work too hard; it's part of the reason I came back here. Let's enjoy life more and work less, ok?"

Don't have to tell us twice!

So having early afternoon cafe con leche at the cafe today found us in the middle of businessman lunch hour. A bearded accountant started chatting with us from an outside table and I couldn't resist asking a little more about the economic woes of his country. After throwing up his hands in frustration at the "six presidents in five days" and "inflation that just wouldn't get under control" and the way the president just can't seem to get a grasp on things, the conversation turned to America, and this man and I had a little disagreement (Conversation paraphrased. My business Spanish could use some brushing up).

"America is so GREAT! You can have anything you want!" he gushed, looking a little weary after recounting the last decade of Argentine economic insecurity.
I snorted. "De veras? Is that really such a blessing? It's fake money we're using, and I don't see how having massive credit crises on an individual level is any better than having it happen with the government, because people have nothing to fall back on."
"No no, it's not the same. How old are you? At 25, Americans can have a house, a car, a spouse and kids, no problem. It's not like that here. The peso used to be pegged to the dollar at a one-to-one rate. Now, no one your age could even think about getting a house, because one day the peso is worth a dollar, the next it's worth four. How can we rely on a system like that?"

So what do we think about this? I have to admit that despite the skewed and selfish way most Americans view money (and our right to have material items), the mentality of freedom with money, based on the reliability of knowing your dollar will still buy the same thing tomorrow morning, is unparalleled in most places. But is it worth it, in light of what this past year has shown?

PS. Marlo's blog is a lot funnier than mine. She can be found at telling jokes about the people in our hostel who are a total grab-bag of randos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

chica i love ur blog, keep it coming!!!! :) GIO