So one of the things I was most excited about in coming Buenos Aires, aside from the summer warmth and delicious food, was the shopping. I always remember the stores having such cool clothes, and gorgeous leather, and beautiful shoes and accessories, etc. So I’ve spent a good part of the last two days wandering from shop to shop to see if I can find any bargains.
Meanwhile, I’ve been hearing all this hype about this “Blue” Dollar for the US Dollar in Argentina. The real exchange rate is about 4 Dollars to the Peso, but for some reason the sale of dollars has been hyper-inflated causing a “blue market” in which the dollar’s value has been raised to about 7.5 USD to 1 ARS (Argentine Peso). That means, in Argentina, the Dollar = the Euro. Which is insane given that really the Euro is significantly stronger than the dollar. So basically having come from Europe, I am getting screwed on the currency exchange
What does this also mean? That the Argentine economy must be completely in the tank. If the dollar is superficially inflated at such a high rate (and you get more discounts in stores if you pay with the dollar since they can create whatever exchange rate they want and still make a profit,) that means that locals probably cannot afford to buy things they need, much less any items they used to import from the U.S.
So today I had my first real reality check from my endless desire to consume when traveling (or just in general.) I’ve been on the hunt for a nice dress, a nice pair of shoes, and maybe a new purse, (because what girl doesn’t need 23 bags?) so needless to say I was thrilled when I found a beautiful dress, (and reluctantly paid the over-inflation rate, plus the extra charge for paying with a credit card – didn’t anyone teach me anything?!) Then I sat down in the food court famished and exhausted from such a long day of sun bathing and shopping, and had a mediocre pizza.
After finishing what I wanted, as I naturally almost always do, I kept picking a bit more and more. Then decided to not even waste time on the crust since I’d rather bite into some cheese or tomatoes. Then I texted with my dad and a friend for a while until I finally got the energy to stand up, hail a taxi, and come back to my apartment.
When I went to stand, I noticed this old man, (he looked about 80,) who had sat down at a table across from me some time before, maybe 20 minutes earlier. He didn’t have any shopping bags, didn’t appear to be eating, and seemed to be alone. I had thought I heard him try to say hello to a little girl that danced past some time before, and smiled to myself because it was so sweet and also a little sad. He stood up at the same time as me and I thought he was going to approach to ask me a question, or was somehow being polite by standing when I stood, since it was too much of a coincidence otherwise. And before I could life my tray to clear it he asked me if I was done. Upon saying yes, he took my seat and sat down to finish the last of the pizza I left behind.
My. Heart. Broke.
Not only was I totally embarrassed for having eaten more than I wanted to anyway, and picking at the remains so that no one would want to touch it after me, I was also embarrassed to be taking good food to the trash, and for not realizing or understanding why the man had been sitting across the way for so long with nothing to do. I felt so awful in that moment and didn’t know if I should go and buy him some fresh food of his own or just leave him in peace as he seemed happy to have some pizza to consume, and didn’t seem bothered at all to be eating it after me. I decided to walk away, mostly out of my embarrassment for not understanding the situation sooner.
This was a good reality check to remind me how lucky I am to be able to afford the life I live and to appreciate the difficulties others face. It’s also a good lesson that all of the material stuff really doesn’t matter at all and that if my biggest problem of the day is whether or not to pay for a dress in cash or credit, I really don’t have any problems worth complaining about. And also, the next time I see that man, or someone looking at me in that same way, I will ask if they are hungry and would like to share some pizza. No harm in asking.
When’s the last time you stepped outside yourself and took a look around for a reality check?