YOU CAN HATE IT OR LOVE IT
This year, 50 Cent and The Game’s inspiration ballad “Hate It Or Love It” turns 9. Despite its advancing age, I still hear it on the semi-reg, as I live with an ~older man~ who loves to play 90’s and early 00’s rap every single morning to wake me up.
I actually love this song, and once while dually PMSing and prepping for Prom 2008, I almost cried in a tanning bed while listening to it.
Like the Compton referenced in this musical opus, Buenos Aires is hard as fuck. Muggings and murders errday and yet it will still shine until it’s metaphorical heart stops. In the spirit of this beautiful city which I have come to temporarily inhabit, I will share some things which I hate and love about Bs As:
1) Palermo and Recoleta
Palermo, the neighborhood where I live, is split up into a bunch of sub-sections. I reside in Palermo Hollywood, since allegedly there are a lot of movie studios and stuff in the area. I have yet to see one. Palermo Hollywood is a mixture of an older barrio and chic glass high-rises with doormen. Unfortunately my building is part of the former rather than latter, but it is still a great location near parks, restaurants and most importantly, Palermo Soho.
Palermo Soho is the most “downtown” area of Buenos Aires filled with trendy high-heeled Birkenstock wearing portenas taking their Maltese mascotas on a stroll. That said, it is not at all comparable to the real Soho in terms of aesthetics. A lot of parts of Palermo Soho are still pretty dingy and non-gentrified (by American standards), but compared to other barrios there are a plethora of design and clothing stores/trendy bars/fun clubs/~edgy graffiti~. I wish I had paid a little more for an apartment in the heart of Palermo Soho, but luckily, it is only a 10-15 minute walk from my current apartment so I have been spending ample time there.
While Palermo Soho is often cited as the “It” place in Bs As, Recoleta is where you will find the old money honeys toting real LVs and swinging their perfectly highlighted blonde manes. The architecture of Recoleta is amazing… Many of the building materials were imported straight from Paris and commissioned by Parisian architects, so it is easy to feel like you are in the Old World not New. If I were ever to move to Bs As permanently (which I could see happening one day), I would hope to be able to afford an abode here.
2) Shopping In Buenos Aires
If anything, I am very self-aware. I know that I no longer can fit into the size 26 jeans that slid effortlessly over my ass in 2010, and that my face and figure no longer look svelte in selfies. But guess what… I actually do not give a fuck. In lieu of being able to fit into sample sizes, I have an amazing job, enough disposable income to enjoy eating out whenever and wherever I want and a partner who reminds me everyday how attractive he finds me. What I don’t have though is the ability to shop wherever I want for clothes in Buenos Aires. While I may be tipping the scale in one direction, the women of Bs As tip it dangerously in the other direccion. Anyone who does not have a sizeable thigh gap is a gordita, and most boutiques stock clothes which would only fit my 70-pound, 10 year old sister. I have been able to find things to fit me at Zara and a couple of other random stores, but generally, most places consider a size 4 to be XL. Recently, I saw a woman the size of Jennifer Aniston trying on bikinis from the “Large” section. Argentina intentionally sizes clothes smaller than the American norm so that women are pressured to be tiny. The country is tied with Japan for the highest occurrences of anorexia, and plastic surgery procedures are as de rigeur as going to the dentist. I have nothing against plastic surgery and will probably get something done one day, but to have such strong social pressure to be 120 pounds or less or not be able to shop at normal stores is not cool. (Note: Argentina apparently passed a law a few years ago requiring more variety in stores sizes, but it has yet to take effect on a macro-level)
3) The price of life (for an American with USD)
There are two prices in Argentina: the official rate and the blue market rate. The official rate is set by the government and is approximately ~6 pesos to 1 USD. The blue rate varies but when I changed my money, I was able to find someone to give me 9.5 pesos for every 1 USD. This means that the sublime glass of Malbec that I am sipping on right now costs $2.62 USD instead of $4.16 USD. Or that the amazing 1960’s vintage Murano glass necklace which I bought at the San Telmo feria and wore out for NYE was a mere $24.21 USD instead of $38.33 USD. To get a rate like 9.5, you will probably need some basic Spanish skills, but even a monolingual gringo should be able to get 9 or 8 pesos to the USD. Calle Florida proved to be the best place for me to exchange, however there are also many cab drivers, store owners or Bs As friends who will you meet and will be eager for USD. After seeing how much money I save under the blue rate, I really wish I had brought more USD as I am already running low. If I do run out of pesos, I am probably going to try to use Xoom.com, a website which I read about in my favorite guidebook. Xoom lets you send money from your bank account to yourself in Buenos Aires, for a rate somewhere in between the blue rate and offical rate. As of today, it is about 8.8 pesos for each USD.
Getting more money for doing essentially nothing? Gotta say that I heart <333 the blue rate. (Although make sure to do research on what fake bills look like, only exchange with people you trust in places that make you feel safe, etc. because no discount is worth compromising your personal safety!)
In general, I am pretty chill about safety. I have been going to NYC by myself since I was 15, and more than a couple of times have found myself roaming the streets in a state of inebriation. Hell, I even slept at Grand Central in a drunken stupor twice circa 2008. Nothing bad has ever happened to me.
However, Buenos Aires is far more dangerous than NYC. Every single time that I leave my apartment, I have to take inventory of all of my belongings and decide if they are absolutely necessary to bring out to the street. Would I be devastated if I lost 500 pesos and my new Lazaro bag? No, but definitely annoyed. Would I be devastated if I lost my Prada bag, iPad, computer and second iPhone of the trip? Absolutely, so I won’t bring any of them out. Getting robbed in Buenos Aires is essentially a rite of passage. It happens to 95% of everyone with anything worth coveting. Most girls in Bs As I’ve met who own smart phones don’t even bring them out to the street, since they are way more expensive here and constantly at risk. They just have their friends leave messages with their doorman or communicate via Facebook. Everytime I Instagram with my iPhone outdoors, I am essentially being Evel Knievel (so more of you motherf’ers should like my pics as there is high risk involved…)
Recoleta is the only place where I have seen girls with designer bags and accessories out in the open. I am lucky that most of the designer items I brought here (Chloe, Stella McCartney) aren’t as recognizable by the masses as LV or Chanel or I am sure they would already be gone.