Thursday, March 27, 2008

Es lo que hay

I got glasses today. Everything is so clear now. A little too clear. The city looked better without the glasses.

If you need glasses in Buenos Aires, I highly recommend Optica LMS on Rio de Janeiro 616.

* * *

Things are happening faster than I could hope to blog about them. The farmers strike means that at least one supermarket on my block closed altogether, while the others are limping along with serious shortages.

We've now had fifteen days of the strike and now two nights of cacerolazos — loud protests where people take to the streets banging pots and pans. Protestors of the government's agriculture policy clashed with the traditional working class supporters of the Peronist administration, mob vs. mob.

Food prices have gone up 10%, 20%, 30% from two weeks ago. Absolutely everyone is talking about the strike.

I went to a restaurant yesterday for lunch and asked for a Mediterranean salad.

The waitress came back a minute later to say: "I'm sorry, we can't do the Mediterranean salad . . . or any of the salads actually. We're out of lettuce."

This is not Argentina at its best.

But it makes the civility of daily life — even if it's rote — even more surprising.

Today I asked a guy at a newspaper stand if he could tell me where the No. 65 bus to Belgrano stopped.

"A block and a half that way," he said. "Then turn and go up half a block."

"OK. Thanks."

"¡No! ¡Al contrario!" he said with a smile.

I mean, really . . . how often do you get thanked for asking for directions?

* * *

There's so little time left that some of the things I've always wondered about will continue to be mysteries to me even after I'm gone. Like the lady who works at the produce stand around the corner . . . and then on some evenings sets up cardboard boxes on the sidewalk and sells underwear by the fruit displays.

I guess I could ask her about it. But what's my question? "Why are you selling underwear?" I'm pretty sure no question would lead to an answer I would find satisfactory.

* * *

I've mentioned the "por las dudas" ("just in case") and "es lo que hay" ("that's all we got") mentality here and rarely has this come into sharper focus than in the current food crisis. You go to the store and see that there's no beef, very little chicken and milk only if you're lucky? Well, it might not be what you want, but es lo que hay. Better stock up while you can. You know, por las dudas.


Esteban said...

Maybe the government could throw down a 50% tax on all pots and pans. They might be able to silence the next generation, anyway.

Incidentally, now that there's no food left, it seems like you picked a good time to leave the country. I mean, without any milk, you can't even make café con leche or ice cream. How's an expat blogger to pass the days then?

Dan said...

Mmm... It might work, but more likely you'd just add another complicated rule to the national sport: tax evasion.

As far as the food, you're right on. I can just tell people I stayed here till there wasn't any beef or ice cream left and then, obviously, I got the hell out.