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Day 14 - Errands in Buenos Aires - March 12, 2013

Today was going to be busy.  Starting with our first American-style breakfast in a couple of weeks - eggs, veggies, mushrooms, salsa - delicious and full of protein!  Then we needed to go back to the cell phone place and have the SIM repaired or replaced, check for a new teakettle (the one in the apartment was too far past its prime), pick up some black pepper, some wine, a can opener, and a couple of more pillows for the bed.  The bed had two nice pillows, but the others were all decorative only - not for sleeping.  Also had to get over to Puerto Madero to meet Sebastián by 9PM, a comrade in a battle against a medical disorder that we share.  Had to do a bit of research to find that the only department store in the city was Fallabella, a Chilean chain.  They have 3 locations on Calle Florida, the famous pedestrian street where the arbolitos (money changers) are said to hang out.  We walked over to the nearby mall first and into the phone store.  There was one young woman inside, with striking red hair and high fashion, also with the music cranked to maximum and texting away on her mobile.  It was clear right away that our intrusion was unwelcome.  I asked in Spanish if she spoke English.  The answer was a firm no, with a substantial escalation in the hostility level.  "No problema," I responded, and explained in halting "Cave Man" Spanish that the SIM chip had no signal after 20 hours.  She angrily told us to go back to the place we bought it.  We told her, "Esta aqui"  (we bought it here).  With this she slammed down her mobile, pushed back her chair, and stomped over to the service counter.  She held out her hand, and I gave her the phone.  She glared at me and handed it back - she wanted it unlocked.  I obliged.  This continued for some time, with her snapping at us and us trying to comply with various demands.  I muttered to K, "This chica is such a bitch, I really want to mess with her.  But I won't."  K agreed that would be best if we wanted the phone to work.  We continued to be pleasant, ignoring her attitude.  Eventually she put the chip in another phone, made a call, wiped it down, and put it back in my phone.  Then she made me power it down and up again.  Success!  By this time she understood that our problem was real, and not just stupidity, and the hatred was dialed back from mega-bitch to normal bitch.  With the signal now present and the phone activated, we made our escape.  I pity the fool who is her boyfriend. 

Next to the kitchen store to price teakettle and can opener.  They had some nice ones, and we noted the prices.  Then a longish walk to the subway, and back to Calle Florida.  Compared with the night before the place was a madhouse.  Jammed with people, all businesses open, and construction down the middle of the street adding to the crush of people.  We gingerly picked our way down the street, noting the money-changers conspicuously lounging against the buildings on both sides, one every 50 feet or so, chanting clearly "Cambio, cambio, cambio!" with various intonations.  I questioned several about the rates and got answers ranging from 7.6 to 7.65.  Not too bad.  We ignored them for the moment and found Falabella, where two pillows would cost us about $28.  Kind of high, but few alternatives within walking distance.  Next we found the LAN airline office and inquired about airfare to Mendoza.  Sadly, US citizens pay a higher price than any other nation, for reasons they could not really explain.  Each ticket would cost $273 rather than $210 for others.  Fortunately the dolarblue would enable us to buy pesos to purchase the tickets, bringing the effective price down to $182 if we paid in ARS pesos.  Such a deal!

This is a photo from the internet.  It was warmer, more crowded, and sunny when we were there. But way too crowded to whip out a camera!

We next found one of the "Cambio" barkers that did not seem too intimidating.  About 18 years old, thin, and wearing very tight jeans and t-shirt - I knew I could handle this guy if there were any problems.  We had avoided the guy with the better rate because he was unpleasant and looked like a mobster.  This kid offered 7.6:1 and I said OK.  He led us into a nearby building, down a narrow hallway, and into a tiny elevator.  Up one floor, then down another unmarked hallway into a waiting room.  There he stopped us to check ahead, but there were other people in the queue ahead of us.  A couple of minutes later 2 young locals came out, ignoring us, and went back down the hall.  We went inside another narrow corridor, ending in an alcove with a bank teller's window.  Our guide explained our request ($200 US) and the rate (7.6:1) and the arbolito nodded.  I handed him four brand new US$50 bills, and he quickly counted out ARS $1520.  I quickly scanned them for watermarks and mylar strips, while our guide merely smiled and said "All real."  And so they were.  Our business completed, we returned to Falabella, purchased the pillows, and made our way back to the subway.  Exiting into the daylight, we found ourselves hot, tired, and hungry, so we stopped into a cafe for another 1 liter Stella Artois and a tuna, cheese, and tomato sandwich. 

In the cafe we checked our emails on the free wi-fi (it's ubiquitous and free, just have to ask the password in most places) and called to see how my mother was doing.  She was doing extremely well, already having walked around the bed (with assistance) less than 24 hours after surgery.  She talked at length to each of us, and expressed her hope that she would be able to return home on Wednesday rather than Friday or Saturday.  She had a self-controlled unit for pain medication, and she hardly was using it at all.  Very good news all around!

Walking to the apartment we stopped in several shops, managing to acquire some black pepper (rare here) and a couple of bottles of Malbec along the way.  Then we retired to the apartment to relax, refresh, and prepare for tonight's dinner with my friend Sebastián.   

P.S.  There is a nice (and expensive) mall off of Calle Florida, converted from an old train station.  Check it out...


  1. Glad to hear that your mother is doing well. I think I would want a liter of beer as well after dealing with that charming employee at the phone shop.

  2. LOL. Well she was very attractive, so she will get away with this behavior. For a few more years anyway...


  3. She was like a caricature from a movie or commercial. How annoying. I'm proud of you for the "more flies with honey" approach. Not sure I would have been as gracious.