Archive for the ‘random musings’ Category

Blog Action Day – Poverty

October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day totally snuck up on me this year (it was yesterday), but I figure late is better than never. I haven’t given a lot of thought to what I want to write about (the theme this year is poverty), so this is kind of off the cuff. Having lived in many different urban areas and traveled extensively over the last 15 years, I’ve seen many different forms of poverty, from homeless people sleeping on the streets to beggars on the subway to cartoneros going through the trash to the most basic/squalid living conditions in both rural areas and in the middle of huge cities.

Here’s what I often see (and experience myself): When we walk past the same people sleeping in the same doorway night after night, they become part of the scenery and we hardly notice them anymore. Because if we do notice them, we have to acknowledge them, which might then require doing something – which might inconvenience us in some way, or cause these people to then expect something in the future. And it’s not just this one man in this one doorway, but all the people sleeping outside around the city, around the world. What makes this one person more deserving of help? How can we help them all? And don’t we often wonder if they’ll just go buy drugs if we give them money? So instead, we think maybe it’s better to not help anyone. Every now and then we might have some leftovers from a dinner out and find someone to give them to, or might decide we’re in the mood to hand over a few coins, or even participate in a food drive or other charity event, but we have very few consistent plans to help. We’re too busy, too caught up in our own worlds, too overwhelmed by all the people who need help.

The interesting thing is that I’ve noticed the above scenario is much more common in the U.S. Although people in other countries (I’m mostly talking about developing countries here) might be less likely to get involved in volunteer programs or charity events like hunger walks, from what I’ve seen they are much more likely to give money to people on the street, or those selling tissues, pencils, or stickers on the subway – those more direct interactions with the people who really need help. I remember being at a bus station in Honduras where a guy missing a leg was kind of directing people onto their buses, then before we departed he came down the aisle of our bus with his metal cup. I was sitting near the back and figured I wouldn’t give him any money (and assumed that would be the common reaction). I was really surprised to see that nearly every Honduran in front of me dropped a few coins in his cup – no matter how poor they looked themselves. In Buenos Aires, a fair number of people buy things from people on the street or on the subway, or might give them money even if they don’t want what they’re selling. In a city with a significant coin shortage, a 1-peso coin (about 30 cents) is really much more valuable – you can only pay for the bus with coins – so it’s especially impressive to see anyone giving coins away.

One reason I suspect these people are more likely to help is that they have seen how short a slide it can be from a comfortable lifestyle to a life of poverty. There’s a greater sense that “it could happen to me” and they hope someone would do the same for them – or their parents, or their children – if tough times hit. I think most Americans are much more disconnected, and can’t imagine that could ever be them sleeping on the streets. Perhaps the current economic situation might just wake us up and encourage us to be a little more compassionate towards those on whom hard times are hardest.

Life Is Good

September 17, 2008

I have just over two weeks left until the end of the 1,001 days designated for doing these 101 things. When I saw the date approaching on my calendar I started thinking back over the list, and then read over the list today, and was kind of bummed at some of the things that remain unfinished. But I know that’s kind of silly, considering that many of the things haven’t been a possibility because I’ve been busy doing other awesome things, and because my life has changed way more than I anticipated back when the 1,001 days began January 5, 2006. If things like Move to another country, Meet lots of interesting people, and Experience something new every day had been on the list, they would have been checked off with ease.

I’ve been really busy – working most days, squeezing in some exercise and maybe a little knitting, and going out many nights a week – and when I have a rare quiet night at home I relish every minute. Quality-of-life and productivity gurus often say that if you’re “too busy” you need to assess your commitments and make sure you’re not saying yes to things you don’t want to do. But it’s pretty unusual that I find myself doing something I don’t want to do – it’s just that there are so many amazing opportunities and activities going on that I don’t want to pass up! These are just some of the things I’ve done so far this month: numerous nights playing games at various friend’s houses, a friend’s birthday dinner and salsa dancing, cooking dinner with friends several times, tango music concert and another show, weekly massages, dinners out with roommates and friends, several goodbye parties, a waterdance workshop with people from Couchsurfing, salsa dance class, Couchsurfing movie afternoon, and Peruvian cuisine cooking classes… and coming up in the next week a night at the theater, a voice yoga class, and being a model for a photographer friend’s photo shoot. Even though none of these things is on The List, how can I go wrong?

More Random Buenos Aires

August 26, 2008

From my vantage point from the treadmill on the second (U.S. third) floor of my neighborhood gym, I’ve seen the following things out on the street this week (and much more): a very bald man walking a very tiny dog (twice); look-alike golden retrievers with look-alike owners; more than one truck carrying bottles of water and soda; lots of cars parked in the “no parking” bike lane; a horse-drawn cart full of cardboard; one guy carrying some long boards get really annoyed when his partner dropped the other end because she was on the phone; a dumptruck full of fatty scraps from the butcher.

Random Buenos Aires

August 19, 2008

Random experience of the day… (Maybe this should be a new feature on the Nomad Chronicles? Weird stuff certainly happens here all the time.)

On the bus today, going to meet my friend C. for lunch at our (my?) fave pizza place (Romario, for those in the know), there was a guy singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Singing it over and over (he seemed to only know the chorus and part of a verse, which, to be fair, is more than I know), and loud enough that I could hear him, and recognize the song, from a few feet away. Besides the fact that singing out loud on the bus is generally a little odd, I also found his choice of song rather strange. I couldn’t quite tell what anyone else’s reaction was, but I have heard that Argentines don’t generally like the Evita musical, so I assumed they weren’t too into it. Lucky for me, we got off the bus at the same stop, and for a few blocks he was walking the same direction as I was (or following me?!) and I got to “enjoy” his singing a little longer. And then while I was waiting for C. outside the restaurant, another guy walked past, singing out loud – but the words were indistinguishable, and he had headphones on, which somehow made the activity seem a bit more reasonable.

This reminded me of a woman I was sitting across from at a cafĂ© last year, who appeared perfectly “normal” except that she was laughing and muttering to herself. I realized that her behavior made me feel uncomfortable, then wondered if it wasn’t actually kind of sad that society generally believes that the person sitting quietly, acting serious and “put together,” is better off than the one laughing and having a good time, even if they’re all alone. Why is it that singing in the shower is “okay” and singing on the bus isn’t?

I Love the Nightlife

August 16, 2008

As I walked home tonight at 2 a.m., I thought about all the things I love about this city, and supposed that the late-night schedule is something perhaps only a true night owl can love. Walking past middle-aged men walking dogs, police on watch, teenagers huddled around a kiosco buying snacks, beer, who knows what, guys flagging down taxis for a night on the town, mothers with children, stray cats, etc., I felt like one of the few people on my way home – for those headed out to the nightclubs, things were just getting started.

Today was pretty mellow for me, but still exemplifies the kind of schedule that I’ve gotten accustomed to here – and I like it just fine, luckily. I got up around 9:45 (not bad considering I went to bed around 2:45, after a mellowish, earlyish belated birthday for me at a friend’s house, and after texting several other friends who decided to go home after dinner out instead of heading out to a bar). I did some cleaning and organizing, ate, and finally started working around 2 p.m. Finished work around 8, went to the gym, then got cleaned up and arrived at a friend’s house for dinner around 10:45. While we watched the olympics after dinner we debated whether we should go out to meet some other friends at a bar, and in the end I opted to go home, another earlyish night so I will be ready for tomorrow night, when I head off to a going-away party that starts at midnight. I’m not exactly bred for this like the Argentines, who take their kids out to dinner at midnight, but my parents’ more-nocturnal-than-most habits surely helped!

Zero to Sixty – Or, Still Not Blogging

August 7, 2008

I’ve been on vacation for a month, which has meant much less computer time for me, and lots of time for hanging out with family and friends both in the States and Argentina – since I last wrote this has included highlights such as a wonderful extended birthday celebration, a road trip to see friends in Maine and Massachusetts with a stop in Westchester County NY on the return, a brief jaunt into NYC, a great time with a friend from Chicago who came to visit me in Buenos Aires, and a trip with her to the northwest of this amazing country.

My guest left yesterday, and though it was sad to say goodbye I’m eager to get back to “real” life – join the gym again, finally finish unpacking, restart my Spanish studies, and get back to work! And back to work with a vengeance, it seems. I’m suddenly super-booked for the month of August, and happy to get back into the swing of things (hopefully the transition won’t be too hard!). Lots of work is also the perfect excuse to be antisocial for a while – all the visiting has been wonderful but I’m very ready for a little downtime, a little “me” time.

Ho Hum

July 7, 2008

I don’t really have much to say… My time in the States feels like it’s already winding down, even though I have almost two weeks left, and two key visits are still coming up this week, including the birthday weekend extravaganza that really got the ball rolling on this whole trip to begin with. Am trying to get done all of the “to do” stuff yet still relax! Thankfully, no more work scheduled while I’m home, and I got some organizing and buying done today. Off to start packing!

How somewhat not strange.

June 16, 2008

I suppose you’re all dying to know what I’ve been up to since landing stateside, and what I think of this huge crazy country. Or maybe you’ve forgotten about me altogether. Fair enough.

First, the strangest thing about being back is how not strange it is. Sometimes, being back at Mom and Dad’s, I almost forget that I already went to Argentina – things feel an awful lot like they did a year ago! But then I talk about Argentina, or think of my friends there, or chat on IM in Spanish, and I remember how much has happened in the last year, how happy I am that I took the leap, and how glad I am that I’m going back. I also keep looking in awe at my books – and that’s just the ones on the shelves, say nothing of all those lurking in boxes! I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with my good taste. :) It’s been very hard deciding what to read with such luxury of choice (I can’t believe how many books I have that I haven’t read!).

The food has been great thus far, though there are still plenty of things on my “list,” mostly of the restaurant variety – a reuben sandwich, cheddar and sausage omelet (with home fries!), as many burritos and other Mexican items as possible, lots of spicy Thai and Vietnamese dishes, etc. I was also swooning over the beer selection at the liquor store yesterday – it was very hard to decide what to buy (in case you’re wondering, I started with Magic Hat #9 and Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA).

Playing cards with the family is lots of fun, as usual, and catching up with everyone is a bit of a whirlwind but worth every minute. And it’s such a novelty for this city girl to be hanging out in such quiet surroundings on the back porch, picking strawberries in Pennsylvania, hiking nearby with Dad on Father’s Day, helping in the garden – I feel like a Fresh Air kid!

In short, I’m having fun, and appreciating all of the pieces that make up my life – I have history, friends, family (or almost-family), a “home,” and varied possessions in two hemispheres, in a huge range of different worlds and lifestyles, and they’re all important to me (well, except for some of the random stuff in boxes, maybe!). Thanks for being a part of it.

I’m alive

May 9, 2008

… and other things to be thankful for:
there’s no rain in the forecast
a sunny terrrace
fabulous, caring, helpful roommates
local friends to look out for me

I’ve got a lot going on right now, but just wanted to check in and say hello, and I’m okay!
More soon…

Tech Vote

February 6, 2008

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, and the efforts of Democrats Abroad, I got to vote online in the primary! Pretty cool. Unfortunately I still have to vote the old-fashioned way via absentee ballot in November, but I’m really excited that people are finding ways to use technology for stuff like this.