Bienvenidos a Argentina!

I’ve only been in Argentina for three days — four if you count our 14 hour travel day on Saturday — but I can feel the difference from Bolivia immediately.  Granted Tupiza is a tiny town with no license for wifi and no more than 3 stoplights, so the difference between town and city is apparent as well, but the cultural and physical differences are more than obvious the second  you cross the border.

  • I’m back in the proximity of the first world. Signs are informative, posted hours are accurate, credit cards are widely accepted, and common courtesy exchanges are expected everywhere. Salta is very clearly a South American city, but it seems more similar to an American city than a Bolivian one.
  • With that proximity comes shockingly high prices. In Tupiza, it was 80 cents for two of the best mangos I’ve ever eaten, but yesterday I paid $3 for an average Dole-stickered mango and two unripe kiwis. The teleferico (cable car ride) we took cost $7 a person, whereas I paid 50 cents each way in Cochabamba. A 1.5 liter bottle of water is 11 pesos here, more than $2, and more than twice what I paid for a 2 liter bottle in La Paz. I nearly let my jaw drop at the bus station when the man told me tickets to Cordoba are 450 pesos — $90 for a 12 hour bus ride, which would have cost me $35 in Peru. Hostels and taxis seem exorbitant, even though the prices are normal, or even cheap, compared to the US. I definitely need to adjust my budget!
  • The sidewalks are horrible. I remember this one from Buenos Aires, but I didn’t realize it would be a problem in other cities as well. My foot is 90% better, but I’ve almost reinjured it a dozen times because of ridiculous holes, cracks, and up-rooted tiles in the sidewalks.
  • Italiano Espanol. Sentences here are sing-songy and higher pitched. Worse, the vocabulary is different, and my brain is struggling to process familiar words.
  • Small change is non-existant. In Peru and Bolivia, people hated breaking big bills, but in Argentina, whether you’re at a street cart or a museum store with a cash register, everyone refuses to give you one peso. When I bought water today, the old lady in front of me had to buy two candies for 50 cents because her coca cola was $3.50 and the shop owner refused to give her a 50 cent piece.
  • The conditioner comes out of my hair all on it’s own. Hot water? Normal water pressure? Wait, the bathroom has a shower curtain?! I’m in heaven!
  • No more hoarding toilet paper. No more squished rolls of TP and antibacterial lotion in my purse everywhere I go. Much fewer one-star, hold-your-nose-and-close-your-eyes bathrooms, and, believe it or not, some establishments even have paper towels.
  • Quilmes tastes worse than Bud Light. Another fact I’d remembered to forget from my time in Buenos Aires several months ago, but the national beer is, actually, terrible. Thankfully, I can stick to delicious local Malbecs instead.
  • The whole world doesn’t shut down for almuerzo. Walk outside in Bolivia between the hours of 12 and 2 and you’d easily be convinced nobody lives in the city. In Salts, the streets bustle at all times of the day, and though businesses close and kids go home for lunch, the city is far from a ghost town.
  • I blend in incredibly well. Argentines look Caucasian. They don’t think I look strange nor do they automatically attempt to speak to me in English. The European immigration is obvious simply in the color of people’s skin.
  • But I get cat-called every five seconds. Sergio left for Chile early this morning, so today was the first day I walked around Salta on my own. In six hours of wandering, I got stared at, whistled at, called out to, honked at, and even begged to stop walking by at least 3 dozen men. Considering I was wearing a high neck t-shirt and knee-length leggings, I certainly don’t think I was asking for it. By hour six, I was ready to pull out some of the nasty Spanish words I’ve learned on the road. Smartly, I refrained and retreated back to my hostel for a siesta instead.