Today one of my friends called me from the grocery store. "No puedo creer." he tells me. "No compre nada." (I can't believe it, I bought nothing.) He figured I was the sympathetic ear. He went shopping and had a budget to buy groceries. He ended up putting back several items.
A friend who had been here two years ago sent me his budget for his upcoming vacation here in October. He was allowing himself $15 a day for food. "You got to be kidding." I wrote him back. "That will cover maybe 1 meal." He was shocked. Two years ago you could find a restaurant special for lunch - main course, drink, dessert or coffee for 12 - 15 pesos. That same meal is now 25 - 30 pesos. Coffee con leche with 3 medialunas was 5 pesos now it is 10 to 12. Most entrees in restaurants are 25 to 30 pesos now. You have to wonder where it will end. Every time I go to one of my favorite restaurants, the prices are higher.
My friend told me he would just not eat out. He remembered how we bought almost a counter full of fruits and vegetables for 20 pesos. "Sorry" I wrote him. It is not just the restaurants that have gone up in price. 2 years ago tomatoes were 2 kilos for 3.50 pesos, this weekend they were 1 kilo for 6 pesos. Strawberries are now a luxury. At one time I paid 2.50 pesos for 2 kilos. Now they are crazy.
It's a good thing I don't eat meat.
The streets of Buenos Aires are empty at night. The rising prices are keeping people home. It is getting too expensive for people to go out. It used to be there were always people on the street. Now you don't see all that many people. Taxis have gone up twice this year. More people are taking the bus, and many people do not want to take buses dressed up late at night.
Taxis drivers are happy for fares late at night. "No hay mucha movida" they tell me. The taxi from Gricel now costs 17 pesos. 2 years ago it cost 11. I hardly take taxis anymore. On Saturday night even Sandra needed little persuading to take the bus out to Las Glorias Argentinas. 1 peso against 35 was a no brainer.
The milongas are interesting these days. During the week they are "muy flojo." Not very many people. Definitely very few tourists. Not normal for this time of year. The milongas where the locals go on weekends are still well attended. I understand that the tourist milongas are empty.
Understandable. Look at what is happening in the U.S. The country is a mess. The mess made by greed. And now the government expects the taxpayer to pay for the greed and mess made by Wall Street. The House rejected the 700 billion dollar package. Of which taxpayers would have gotten to pay for, but receive nothing in return. The financial problems of the U.S. ripple throughout the world. Here our tourism is down.
In a way the milongas are like they were when I first came here. Mostly Argentines. Someone commented to me on Friday night that it was nice to have our milongas back. I am sure that will change in October. Tourists will begin to come again. It is not always a bad thing.
I walk the streets in my barrio and I sit in cafes. I meet some of the few tourists who are here. They amaze me. They complain about Buenos Aires not being cheap enough. American tourists. I know things are bad. They tell me how they are afraid of losing their jobs, but the trip was planned. They tell me how things are so unstable in the U.S. They tell me how the U.S. dollar is not worth much these days, so that is why they came to Argentina. It was supposed to be cheap. They can't afford Europe.
How dare Argentina not be cheap. Or as cheap as they thought it would be. And they complain. I am wondering where in the U.S. they can get a 3 course meal for $8 - 10 that is as good as the ones here. The 17 peso taxi ride from Gricel is $5 for them. They complain. "Please go home." I want to tell them. While our economy may not be perfect, we are not causing a world wide bank default.
Don't get me wrong. I feel bad my birth country is a mess. It must be terrible to be there now. But don't come to my adopted country expecting to live it up and not be able to. It used to be cheap here. While it might be cheaper than a lot of places, it is no longer that big bargain it used to be.
It's funny. During the Argentine crisis, the U.S. government was largely critical of Argentina. Argentines were criticized for wanting to live beyond their means. They were criticized for not wanting to pay taxes. They were criticized for defaulting on 142 billion dollars worth of loans.
Here were are - flash forward. Better be careful of what you say, because you never know when it will come back to haunt you....to the tune of $700 billon.