The Kindness of Strangers

Ironically, once I got to the airport (no small feat finding a car/cab) my flight to BA was easier than going from Brooklyn to Manhattan this week. Thoughts and prayers with those still dealing. I sat next to very nice gentleman on the plane (Morriss, a 70ish Argentine) who in 3 hours (we had about 10 to kill) helped me map out my month; from traveling within Argentina, Chile, Brazil to day trips from BA, his “must do” list, including restaurants (cuts of meat, tipping et al), theater, parks, tours, everything. I had done a lot of reading, he filled in the blanks and provided context. Perfect.

He, like many here, dislikes their “Autocrat” President Cristina Fernandez whom he thinks will be voted out at the next election. Inflation is rampant; he said the Govt. hampers foreign investment as the pricing of debt (Govt. bonds) doesn’t appropriately discount the effects of inflation, corruption. Very interesting conversation. Smart guy.

I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without Victoria Harmon, my dear friend from NYC whose apt. I am renting for the month in Palermo Hollywood from what I can tell, a hip and trendy neighborhood that I need to explore. The apartment is fantastic, bright, airy, and huge, with a wonderful roof deck (see picture).

I was greeted at the apt. by Francesco, my new friend, and only friend for that matter (sniff) within 5,000 miles. He totally set me up, from greeting me with cold, massive bottles of Heineken, to giving me valuable tips (never buy meat in small supermarkets! they unplug their fridges at night! never EVER spend more than 50 pesos ($8) on a bottle of Malbec) he told me Gringo (yes my name is Gringa Laura in his phone) comes from “green go,” meaning in times of war, when you would see the “green” military uniforms, it was time to “go”. Ha! He also hates Cristina Fernandez, and despite her 56% approval rating, he “can’t believe no one hasn’t killed her yet.” He was kind enough to exchange all my money for the month (!) at the blue rate, or 6 pesos/USD instead of the bank rate of ~4.75. Argentines love access to US currency due to inflation. I know it sounds baffling to give someone you just met all of your money, but he came back 2 hours later with a stack of Monopoly money that makes everything I do 30% cheaper than had I gone to a bank. He owns several businesses, and we shared a beer and he explained to me the difficulties of running a business under a corrupted Govt., where anything can be made “illegal” or taxed into extinction at a moment’s notice.

A long first day. I cannot believe how wonderfully helpful and truly kind people have been to me, Gringa Laura. Now I just need a girlfriend to tell me where to get a pedicure. Maybe tomorrow.

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