Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Caffeine, cocaine, and scowling waitresses

September 5, 2011
This weekend, we did some exploring, hunted for apartments online, watched several episodes of The Wire, and perfected our caipirinha recipe. Today we're going out to find realtors in Palermo and figure out the cellular situation.

After I mentioned the other day that I was going to make a list of cellular-related vocab, my friend Josh did it for me on Facebook. But getting a cellular plan with data is complicated here - the network is over-saturated (like everywhere in the world?) so data plans have become more restricted and more expensive - and a contract plan requires a residence ID. We'll write more about this once we figure it out.

The phone in our apartment wasn't working when we arrived, so the landlord called the phone company, which sent a repairman today. He diagnosed the problem as a faulty splitter and replaced it. I didn't understand most of what he said - as with most complex conversations here so far, I'm glad Steph is fluent - but I was impressed with his work. I would grade our first interaction with public utilities in Argentina with an A.

We have yet to find a good brand of coffee in the supermarket. The coffee in the cafés (all espresso-based) has been superb, but our apartment came with a French press, and the brand we bought is pretty awful. It is slightly less awful when made super-strong like Turkish coffee, but for two caffeine addicts like us, that's not going to fly.

On the subject of caffeine: our guide books say Argentine national beverage is maté, a tea made from locally grown herbs. From the descriptions, you'd think it's served on every corner. The craft fair was full of maté gourds. Yet when I walked into a café and asked if they served maté, the waitress gave me a look like I had asked for cocaine. I guess we'll have to make some friends to figure this one out.

It's difficult for foreigners to open bank accounts, so we're relying on U.S. accounts with good foreign exchange rates and ATMs. After lunch at a fantastic restaurant yesterday, we were a few pesos short. So Steph went out in search of an ATM and I stayed as a hostage for la cuenta (the bill)... the restaurant was closing, but I assumed an ATM was around the corner. After fifteen minutes of (possibly imagined) glares from the waitresses, I was about to pay in dollars and go find her. Turns out ATMs aren't always easy to find. A good lesson.

- Ben

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