As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve had a rough start to this trip, health-wise. However, things are starting to look up: my cold is finally gone (Longest. Cold. EVER.) and now all that remains is a raging case of allergies, courtesy of all the springtime pollinators—such as the Platano tree, which is busy spewing its evil spawn into the air even as I write. So far, I’ve made so many visits to the farmacia to seek increasingly stronger medicine that they’re beginning to recognize me. This past week I finally resorted to a steroid nasal spray, which they dispensed without a prescription. God, I love the number of things that are over-the-counter in foreign countries. On the other hand, I imagine that if I were a physician, this amount of freedom is challenging because it encourages people to do more self-diagnosing and prescribing—oh hell, whadoo I care. All I want is to breathe through my nose and taste my food, and let me tell you, those are gifts that should not be taken for granted. Thankfully, the steroid is working where nothing else has and the other night, for the first time in weeks, I was able to sleep without additional decongestant. It’s a little thing, but it felt like a major breakthrough.
Regardless, I haven’t allowed my health to keep me from my normal routine when I’m in a new city, which is similar to the routine I’ve kept on previous digital nomad trips: I have a long, leisurely morning in which to do things like go for a run, discover a new cafe, and pick up groceries, and then I begin working around noon. Thankfully, Buenos Aires is full of beautiful parks, several of which are near my apartment, so I have ample space for my weekday runs and strolls. After the work week is over, I fill my weekends with sightseeing to take in all the European-style architecture, wander around the Costanera Sur eco reserve, and visit the plethora of outdoor street fairs that pop up throughout the city, which are full of art, food, and often Tango demonstrations. The multitude of fairs has been a pleasant surprise. Aside from making a point of visiting San Telmo market—which is Buenos Aires’ most well-known outdoor market—I never intend to visit a street fair, it’s just that there are so many every weekend that you can’t avoid running into one or two. This is one of the many things that I find charming about Buenos Aires. This, and the fact that the heavy European influence means that my coffee experience has been better than on previous trips…and we all know how important that is.
Aside from falling ill immediately upon my arrival, I feel like everything has gone smoothly on this trip so far, without some of the minor hiccups that I’ve experienced in the past. The most challenging things I’ve experienced are the line at the bank and, interestingly enough, finding what I want at the grocery store. The supermarkets are huge here, but seem to be full of more quantity than variety. For example, at the store I visit most often, you can find three aisles of soda, most of which are just repeats of the same few brands and flavors. There are aisles of frozen and fresh beef and pork, but a much smaller space for chicken or turkey—which you can buy whole or cut, but if you want it in the form of ground meat or lunch meat, you’re out of luck. It surprises me that in such a cosmopolitan city, the tastes are still so homogeneous that it’s unprofitable for the supermarkets to offer more variety to accommodate different tastes and purposes. The stores are also organized with a secret logic that evades me. Sure, major things are grouped together, but occasionally you find some real oddities that make you think that if you haven’t found what you’re looking for yet, it’s because you just haven’t cracked the code. For example, I’m sure there’s a reason why it makes sense to have cheese puffs in the produce section or granola bars with the wine, but as a foreigner, the logic that underlies these stocking decisions escapes me and forces me to wander the aisles aimlessly in search of something I will never find.
Yet another interesting fact about supermarkets also ties into my last post regarding the economy and inflation—the cost of food has become so high (relative to a family’s income) that supermarkets advertise payment programs that enable you to pay for your groceries in installments. When I pay for my food at the checkout line, I constantly forget that the total showing on the computer is only the total if you’re not paying in cash. Cash payments receive a discount.
But I digress, as usual. Despite the lack of variety, I am certainly not starving here and after finally discovering Buenos Aires’ tiny four-block Chinatown, I feel like my home-cooked meal repertoire can expand beyond salad and pasta. It’s amazing how excited one can get over a decent bottle of soy sauce.
It’s all about the little things.