SKETCHY MONEY EXCHANGE ON THE STREETS
After the city tour I found myself in the company of Bex and Adam (my two British friends), Usher (a Scotsman), Hank (a polish guy) and his Argentinian girlfriend whose name escapes me now. We needed to change money and this was my first experience with the “blue dollar rate.” I had already been warned about the dollar situation in Argentina. There is the official dollar exchange rate and the “blue dollar rate.” When I was in Argentina the difference in rates between the two was quite high – almost 30%. As such I had carried as many dollars as I could from Brazil, Bolivia and Chile in order to benefit from 30% more cash when I changed the dollars in the back alleys of Buenos Aires. Today was the day of reckoning – the day for me to find that back alley and get my money. Together with my new friends we went to find one particular street that was said to have the best rates. On this street several people stood leaning on lamp-posts pretending to listen to their i-pods whispered as you passed them “Dollars, dollars!” With the one Argentinian in our midst we picked a person who looked legitimate (as legitimate as one can look selling dollars on the black market on the backstreets of Buenos Aires.) We negotiated with the young man and he took us to the building where the transfer was to take place. I was nervous as we got into the building “Do we really need to do this exchange in a building? Why can’t we just do it on the streets where one can’t murder us?” My friend, “Uuh, they don’t exchange on the streets. The cops will see us.” Anyway I am happy to report that we went into the building with US dollars and came out alive and well with Argentine pesos.
AFTER THE TOUR
We went to a steak restaurant down the road that turned out to have one of the worst steaks I’ve eaten in my life. Of course we were all upset – it’s Argentina – how can you serve us bad steak? We complained and were given a discount.
We heard about a bar called Gibraltar that was said to have a great happy hour. We searched and searched and an hour later we actually found it. We had a fun night out where we made so many new friends. I remember meeting two Argentinian girls who told me that Argentinians love tourists, and this is something I got to see during my stay there. People were so welcoming and helpful, especially when they knew you were from elsewhere. I did not sense any xenophobia in my time there- just lots of xenophilia.
Getting home the next morning after partying was quite a funny trial. My friend’s told me of getting on a bus that only accepted Argentinian coins and realizing they did not have any. In their inebriated sense, they tried stuffing British pennies into the machine. The irritated bus driver finally let them on free. For me I stayed out all night and trying to get home on the next morning – Easter morning – involved walking for hours as I couldn’t find a bus or subway. It was all worth it though:-).