Monday, June 23, 2008

¿Qué sé yo?

Wow. I've really lost my touch with this blog. Here's a promise to myself to not let that happen again.

Lately. I've been extremely busy tending to the finalization of my academic life in Buenos Aires. In the last couple of weeks I've had 3 tests, 4 papers and lots of very interesting and frankly quite exhilarating reading. As much as I enjoy spending my life in the basement of the coffee shop around the corner from my house perusing my notes, I'd prefer that this part of my life here end as quickly as possible. I should be done with school not this week, but the next. If I did well on one of my tests I'll be done the 2nd of July, if not, I'll have to take the final for the class on the 4th of July. I don't know why they would schedule a test on Independence Day, but they tend to do things a bit strangely here.

Outside of trying not to die studying in the last couple of weeks, I've done a little exploring around Buenos Aires, gone to a couple soccer games, and played a little too. Last Sunday I had the opportunity to see Argentina's national soccer team play. This was a huge deal for me as I've been a fan of Argentine for quite a while, and it did not disappoint. Though the two teams tied, it was still an awesome game to watch. Unfortunately Argentina had to scrap by with a tie against the much lesser Ecuador, achieved by an exciting goal stoppage time of the second half. Tonight I went to a Boca Juniors game. Don't tell mom but we sat in the común section, or the cheapest seats. I was a little nervous, but it ended up okay, it seems like they have two común sections; one for the touristy types and another for the diehards. Our side was a little bit less rowdy with the exception of two pretty loud and unidentifiable explosions during halftime. Boca won the game 6-2 so it was definitely a very fun high powered offense game. The Friday before the Argentina-Ecuador game, I played 5v5 indoor soccer with some Americans against Argentines. Once again the American team pretty much killed. Don't know why that has worked out for me the two times I've played here, but what can you do?

Another big event in Buenos Aires has been the continuation of the strike by the farmers. The strike reached a new high this last week around the 100th continuous day of the strike. The strikers had been demanding once again for dialogues with the government, and last weekend the vice president made an announcement that they would think about opening dialogues. Yes, the vice president. Who knows where the always tactful Mrs. Kristina Kirchner was. Once again thousands and thousands of people took to the streets again last Monday night banging on their pots and pans in support of the farmers. The banging continued again on Tuesday night and then the government decided to set up a rally to address the public in front of the Casa Rosada. The rally was meant for all supporters of the government (try not to think too much about Kirchner's approval rating hovering at a measly 25%) and in fears of some sort of violent outbreak, the banks and schools decided to close early. Everyone at my internship left the office around noon and my commute home felt a lot more like rush hour than a typical mid-day commute. Kirchner came out and addressed the crowd mid afternoon that day in front of a crowded Plaza de Mayo full of "supporters" of her regime (sorry, I felt it necessary to use the word). The government is notorious for paying people to march in support of them and it's basically assumed that the vast majority of those in the Plaza de Mayo that day were being paid. One such paid marcher was killed by a falling lamp. The death was unrelated to the gathering and the lamp likely would have fallen off of its post march or not. It was sad to hear his story, however. He was a 20 year old man from a province in north central Argentina called Tucumán and had gotten on a bus the night before with a promise of 100 pesos (33 US) to ride the all night and support the government then return home that same day. The speech went relatively uneventfully in terms of violence though Kirchner made sure to make a few slanderous remarks against those striking calling them undemocratic and going so far as to accuse them of Nazi practices. Leave it to a politician to start the name calling in place of trying to solve the issue at hand.

This whole situation blows my mind. I see both sides of the argument and in all essence it seems like things need to be laid down for now in light of this crucial moment in the rising costs of food. I read somewhere the other day that as a result of this strike Argentina has lost something like $1.5 billion. The country has had one of the fastest growing economies since its fall in 2001 and much of the growth has been attributed to good decisions in the agriculture sector. Now, however, with the current president and her husband and the disagreements in the ag sector Argentina has been listed as one of a handful of economies worldwide that are expected to default within the next few years. This fact is a little bit shocking and in my opinion if Argentina were to default again it would be close to impossible to pull them out. In this sense, this strike is absurd. I realize Kirchner is trying to tax upwards of 45% of these peoples income, but sometimes people need to think in the wellbeing of the economy as a whole. Kirchner is being incredibly immature about the whole process and seems completely incapable of solving this problem; the first major one in her 6 months of presidency. With the rising costs of food worldwide this is an absolutely key time for Argentina and this strike and incompetent government are putting the country at a pretty grave risk. The Congress has decided to weigh the benefits of lowering the tax, and the farmers have agreed to temporarily take up their road blocks. They have very directly said that the strikes will continue if the Congress does not act.

Enough of that. It's hard to believe I'm almost at the end of this semester. I still love every minute of this experience, and I might go as far as to say I'm enjoying it now more than ever. I love living with my host mother and she has been so incredibly hospitable and kind this entire time. I really do feel like I'm at home here. Disregard any notion I made a while back about not having changed; I've learned an incredible amount about myself in this journey, but perhaps I'll leave that for another post.

I'm going to bed. I WILL update again soon, I promise. Hope everyone is well!



Friday, June 13, 2008

Menos mal...

I just wanted to update just so someone aside from the few I talk to a couple times a week might know I'm still alive . Everything is going good, I've started my internship and I'm doing that about 15-18 hours a week on top of class. The only concrete thing I can show you that I've been doing is the company's newsletter, which I put together with a little help from my advisor. Click here for the link to that. It's been a bit rough as on Monday and Tuesday I leave for the office at 9 AM and don't get home until 10:30 that night, but it could be worse.

A few things on the agenda:
I'm going to San Antonio de Areco tomorrow, which is like the gaucho capital of Argentina and still maintains much of its early 18th century architecture. Sunday is the World Cup qualifying game between Argentina and Ecuador. I bought tickets yesterday and I cannot even begin to relay how incredibly excited I am about the game. I've been a huge fan of Argentina's national team for quite some time and it's going to be an absolute joy to get to see them play. Doesn't hurt that they're currently ranked as the best team in the world right now either. After that, it looks like alot of studying and writing. I have a test Tuesday and two papers due next week; one of them being 10-15 pages long. I should be done with class around the 26th of June if all goes well (as in I pass all of my finals and don't have to take the retests...eek). Theres a MINUTE possibility I may backpack up to northern Argentina into Bolivia and ultimately Machu Picchu in July but thats in the earliest stages of preparation right now.

That said, I changed my plane ticket today and instead of coming back the 12th of July, I will be leaving Buenos Aires on the 31st of July to return to Lubbock the morning of August 1st. It feels like I've been here forever and another month and a half seems like an eternity, but this has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I don't want to return home without having pushed it to its limits and squeezed if for everything I imagined I possibly could.

Anyway, that'll suffice as a quick update. Being the talented procrastinator that I am, I'll probably update next week amidst my bottomless hole of work about the events of the weekend with photos included.