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Monday, December 05, 2011

Dollars and Sense

Day 961: Argentine PesosImage by Manic Street Preacher via Flickr

Sitting in my financial advisors office in Canada, I felt a deep sigh come from within as a put my signature on the dotted line authorizing a withdrawal from my RRSP savings. Great accomplishments don't come without some form of sacrifice.  And sacrifice would be part of what would be needed to make season 3 of my adventures in Argentina happen.

Looking back now, my very first trip to Argentina in Sept 2009 happened at a very timely moment. When I first landed there, the country was just beginning to climb in its popularity with tourist and travellers. One year later the country's popularity exploded and by then my blogsite had already begun so it feels as if I began life there just before everything happened and me and my blogsite caught a perfectly timed wave that has definitely contributed to all my success. I thank God for the wisdom to have made the life change when I did.

On my first trip, the prices of everything were quite economical and ideal for budget travel. A trip to Iguazú falls including the bus tickets, hostel, admission, food etc came to a total of $300 CDN.  If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and tell my younger self to enjoy indulge in this moment because it wasn't going to last forever.

Reality hit on my 2nd trip when i had my own apartment. My parents would send me a certain amount of food and money from abroad and I would withdraw it from my bank. When you pay your rent, you have the option to pay in dollars or pesos. When I withdrew at the bank, i always got pesos so that is the currency I paid in. The apartment at the time i rented it was $685 USD but because I paid in pesos, sometimes i would owe more pesos than last month due to the fluctuating exchange rate between the US dollar and the Argentine peso. Not to mention that every few months it seems like the prices for food in the grocery would go up 2 or 3 pesos. There was no question that inflation was taking over rapidly and the prices of everything in stores Oct 2010 when I landed for my 2nd trip were worlds apart from the prices that I would see in stores July 2010.

Don't get me wrong, Argentina is still a very good and affordable place to live in comparison to other places in the world. In my english class, I tell my students that although Argentina is getting expensive, its not impossible. They can go to the pharmacy, stop by a kiosk or vendor and pick something to eat. They can buy things for their house like utilities. Its costs money but its not impossible to live. They still really enjoy simple pleasures in day to day life. I told them that in other places in the world, it's almost impossible to do anything other than leave your home and come back due to the cost of living.  Buenos Aires is still an excellent option for living and working, you just have to be creative and resourceful. Things would be cheaper than in places like Europe but it isn't dirt cheap like it once was 10 yrs ago.

Its interesting because I have lived in two different places that are challenging in different ways. Victoria, B.C. and the west coast is challenging because EVERYTHING is expensive. Beer, hand cream and pharmacy products, coffee, haircuts are all high costs. But it is a place that is relatively calm and people have routine. As a result, people on the west coast have adapted to a way of life to help them cope with the high prices. For example, instead of going out to get a hair cut we'll get someone we know to cut our hair if we know someone that can do it well.

This is only an opinion but I think Buenos Aires is the exact opposite. It is not a calm and tranquil city to live in  and there is change day to day. But the prices of items needed for daily living are relatively cheap. People can't afford big expenses but little things like a cup of coffee are no problem at all.....until now. Due to inflation, Argentines have had to quickly adapt to new ways of living. I don't think that things will ever be as expensive as the west coast and I think up to certain extent, Argentines will always be able to buy the little things needed for day to day living. But like the people on the west coast, it wouldn't hurt for the people here to learn to get creative with finances.  I feel really blessed to have learned to adapt to both situations. While in Victoria, B.C. I learned to get creative and resourceful with the high cost of living. And in Buenos Aires, I am able to adapt to change very quickly and go with the flow.

Within the grand scheme of things, the small portion of my savings that I had so carefully hoarded up seemed so miniscule compared to the reality of the resources I need to make life in BA happen. But the truth is that my life in BA is comprised of many little decisions that don't make sense at the time both when I am in BA and outside of BA.  All I knew is that very day I felt I was supposed to meet with my financial advisor and withdraw a certain specified amount that would be the seed of season 3.

Stuff like that doesn't always make sense but there are other decisions that I've made that do make sense.  Like the decision to rent a room in someone's house instead of getting my own rental apartment. Last season I was blessed enough to find an apartment in Boedo for $685 USD per month but even the price of that apartment has gone up. At this point, you would be hard pressed to find a place in BA in a good location for under $700.  Knowing this makes the idea of moving into someone's home for the new year more and more appealing. Details to come....

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas