April 10 – I – Insecurity
Well, today I was faced with a few relevant “I” topics to share in regards to living in Argentina.
First, I thought of my daily plague of Insects – cockroaches (okay, only two in the house, but I was still freaked out), huge butt-biting mosquitos, cidadas, grasshoppers, black bees (who I think are beautiful), wasps (yuck, kill), dragonflies (totally romantic and lovely) and various other creepy crawling creatures, such as the thousands of spiders birthed the other day along the coast and flying into the neighbourhood on wispy tendrils of web (totally freaky). Ah but this blog isn’t about insects!
Then I considered inflation – a serious problem in Argentina, even the cause of a strike today. Inflation has increased an average of 30% this year. Somethings, like a container of yogourt has moved from 2 pesos a year ago to 7.5 pesos today; yogourt is a luxury afterall! But given my issues with math, I thought better than to tackle such a daunting topic with numbers and stats!
Of course, I’m in Argentina and should be talking about the infamous Iguazu Falls in the tropical north of Argentina. But I have yet to get there, so I’ll save that topic for when I actually visit it.
Alas, today as I was unlocking my gate to my house, I came up with a great topic – INSECURITY – the result of crime, drugs, inflation, and poverty! Yes, this is a reality here and a constant topic of conversation amongst Argentinians. Crime rates have escalated here and fear dominates the people’s actions. Now I’m not fresh from the midwest with pigtails and rosy cheeks, I’m well aware of being a cautious traveller, but in Argentina the people live in fear of crime – and the crime exists as a norm where everyone has a story of violation to share.
The lady who cleans our house was held at gun point with her friend, told to get off their motorcycle and give it over – the horror is that this was on her way home from our house at 1:30 in the afternoon on a major street! Another family was held hostage while the house was robbed with threats of their 1 year old being taken if they didn’t shut the child up, the criminal group was accompanied by the house painter who stole a key. Cristian’s sister was robbed of her bag. The list of stories people tell continues to fuel the fear.
I’ve been trained to not carry a purse when out at siesta time – an apparently dangerous time when the streets are quiet, but it is the time I need to pick up the kids from school. Live with the motto – “if I take this, can I afford to lose it?”
Yet, I never feel frightened, insecure or in jeopardy when out and about. People are warm and wonderful! So the paradoxical existence continues, and once you start to let your guard down, another story trickles to re-calibrate the caution!
Our home maintains the calibrated caution – gates and doors always locked. Bars securing the patio doors – although the plethora of window glass doesn’t inspire much confidence, although I LOVE all the light and how they open to the garden patio! Our bedroom windows are secured with bars and garage-like doors that encase the windows ensuring they are closed and secure from light, air, and criminals! Our house even has iron bars – pretty white ones with heart shapes – that lock in place to protect us in the bedroom wing just in case someone gets in through the glass patio windows. And when we leave we also have an alarm to set. Secure, right?
So we do all the right things, and so far – knocking on wood (literally) – we have been safe and secure. But the conversations continue as some city dwellers pack up and move to gated communities in the country where they try to reclaim the sanity and security of the past with their kids running about freely and riding bikes in the street. Others are trying to reclaim their security through vigilante justice of petty thieves who have been lynched in the streets – this is a hot news item right now, but I’ve not heard or seen any such thing directly.
These safety precautions are not unlike some we take in Calgary, but the story of fear is not so permeated and prevalent in Canada! So, I’ll continue to heed the warnings that fuel the INSECURITY while here and be cautiously aware, but not paralyzed in fear.
- April 11 – our nephew Franco was robbed at gunpoint at 12:30 at night with three friends, on their way walking to a bar 10 blocks from home. He only lost his wallet with some money and his national ID card (which was found on the street and returned to him today). His friends lost money and their cell phones.