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Shopping for Clothes in the USA vs Argentina

September 3, 2011

I am 6 foot 5 and living in a land of short people (Argentines are short compared to Americans on average) makes my life difficult for shopping. At first, I used to walk in, browse around, and then see if I could find my size in something I liked. I would usually be shopping for something I needed (as most males do) and therefore not take long… but I got extremely frustrated as I could not find *anything* in my size.

Countless times I have walked into shops in Buenos Aires and I don’t even look at what they have, I just walk up to the people working there and ask if they have anything, any garment whatsoever in my size. Then they say what size are you? And this question nearly led me to yell and several of them. What size am I? I am a) standing right in front of you b) you work in a clothing shop and help people try stuff on for a living and c) I am clearly the biggest!!

In the USA I take nothing less than an XL and in one of my favorite brands, Hurley, I am XXL or XXXL. I have been this size since age 15 or 16 and back then I might be able to take a Large “Tall man”, needing the extra length, which I found a few times in t-shirts especially.

But in Argentina, even in Buenos Aires, a city of 12 million people or so, there is nothing for men my size. No shirts, no shoes and no service. I would have to imagine, given the amount of people alone that there has to be a market for this. Where do other tall Argentines get their clothes? I guess maybe I am overestimating this as I can only see the world from my perspective. Now that I think about it, I have usually been the tallest guy on all the basketball teams I have played on. And those are city league teams with x-pros and young guys who want to be pros.

So I will continue to do all my shopping in the USA for now. 😦

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I Launched My Campaign for President of Argentina

August 30, 2011

In an effort to add some balance to the race between Cristina Kirchner and nobody, I thought I would formally launch my campaign with an ad that I put out on my show BA Cast. It is right up front for those of you who want to listen: http://bacast.com/s2-ep-7-the-ba-slutwalk-and-friendly-unfriendly-piropos/

For those of you who would wonder why I would want to get involved in politics… it’s simple really: there is a clear marketing message that nobody is taking advantage of, and is nearly 100% unique to this city (although I’ve heard that Paris 15 or 20 years ago had the same problem).

What is this problem you ask? Dog shit in the street.

Con toda la mierda de perro que hay en la calle como puede ser que no hay un politico que quiere hacer algo? I say BASTA! It’s so simple on the surface, and on my show you will hear me make fun of the subject quite a bit. But I think that underneath it is really a sad issue. The amount of dog shit on the street shows a lack of respect for public property in addition to a low self esteem on the part of the city (and perhaps nation, although when I go to Mendoza and other provinces I do not see the amount of dog shit on the street there that I do in Buenos Aires).

Isn’t it true that you can tell if a friend of yours is depressed by whether he cleans himself, his apartment and his things? Doesn’t it show a sort of universal depression on the part of dog owners in Argentina (about 90% of the population at my last count… yes I have a representative data sample) that they will literally let their dog take a shit on the front step of your apartment building and let it steam there until someone steps on it?

You tell me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empanada Flavors and New Businesses in Argentina

August 23, 2011

The empanada is a quintessentially Argentine food.

The basic concept is that it is dough wrapped around some sort of filling. There are hundreds of foods that are analogs to the Argentine empanada.

What is striking is that there is so little variance to the empanada. With all sorts of regions doing their own styles of empanadas, it is surprising that one shop has not aggregated all of these into some kind of regional empanada restaurant where one can get flavors from different regions.

What is also surprising is that there are so few variations of the empanada. One of my favorite shops actually has quite a few variations: humita, dried tomato, mushroom, calabresa, capresse, bacon with plum, ham and pineapple and many others. Even a spicy beef! Imagine that a spicy beef empanada. (and yes it is spicy).

Trade Barriers in Argentina

August 18, 2011

If you live in Argentina (Buenos Aires is the best part for what I’m about to talk about, because if you lived in Patagonia it would be much much worse) you can’t get stuff. You can’t get lots of stuff.

Well maybe that’s not entirely true. You can get all the basics. Shelter, water, food.

You can get some great stuff too. Beef (asado), every type of grill you can imagine to cook your beef, dulce de leche, yerba mate, and other typically Argentine things.

What you can’t get is clothing for a person over 6 feet tall. Or for a person over 200 lbs. And when I say you can’t get I mean you literally cannot get it! It does not exist. I honestly don’t know what the huge guys on my basketball team do! I can at least go back to the USA a couple of times per year and stock up on stuff.

But the list doesn’t end with sizes of clothes. Oh no. Its only just beginning.

There are about 50 brands of clothing that do not exist here. Forever 21, Gap, Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer and other huge brand names. The interesting thing is that most of the absolute top brands are in Argentina… its the “really good” ones and the “top out of sight” ones that don’t exist. Top out of sight would be like Jimmy Choo.

So one has to wonder why this is. Well basically the country does not allow imports. It is very protectionist and therefore tariffs are extremely high and some products do not get into the country at all. I have a friend who imports wine refrigerators… something that only one company in Argentina does… whose cargo has been sitting in port for over 6 months. Did he have all his papers in order you ask? Yes, according to him he did.

Argentines Play Paddle – Does the USA Have This?

August 10, 2011

When I first came to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I came across a type of mini tennis which I had never seen before. The game is called paddle. I have played tennis my entire life but never had the opportunity to play on any other surface besides hard court. Tennis is very popular in the country and the majority of the courts are clay. I was excited at the opportunity to play on clay and in the few clubs that I went to came across paddle.

If I’m not tasting wine, eating beef, or spending time with friends, I most enjoy playing sports and games. Paddle struck me as a healthy mix between sport and game and easy enough to go play as long as you have a partner. The game is essentially a mix between pickle ball, racquetball, and tennis. It is played on a pickle ball style court, or in other words, a mini tennis court with two squares on each side of the net and a space between the end of the square and the wall. The court is enclosed by walls on each end of the court with a little bit more wall extending out on the side. The rest of the sides are enclosed by fence. Peculiarly thick plastic racquets with holes are used along with tennis balls, not pickle or racquetballs. Scoring is done exactly like tennis with games starting on the right hand side, serving across the net and underhand. The most interesting, exciting, and complicated part of the game is the use of the walls. Once in play, the ball can bounce anywhere on the court as long as it doesn’t hit the wall first. After that point the player can utilize the wall by hitting the ball after it ricochets off, or slamming the ball against the wall so that it makes it to the other side of the net. An interesting and fun spin on commonly known sport, paddle was a pleasant surprise in Argentina.

I suppose we have paddle ball in the USA, yes? I mean I think I’ve heard of it….

How To Make Sour Cream in Buenos Aires

August 4, 2011

Many an expat complains about how few food products exist here in Argentina, making many dishes difficult to make. Many different types of cakes, cheesecakes, quote unquote ethnic foods and so forth are very hard to make because of a lack of ingredients.

One ingredient that is key to cheesecake as well as many mexican dishes is sour cream.

Sour cream, as it exists in the USA, does not exist in Argentina. The most similar thing we have is Casan Creme. Casan Creme is most likened to something that exists in a nether region somewhere between cream cheese and sour cream. It has the consistency of sour cream, more liquid and just barely solid, but more of the flavor of cream cheese. In other words it does not have the sourness of sour cream.

So, in order to make sour cream you will need the following ingredient:

1. Full size container of Casan Creme – 300 grams.

2. The juice of about 1.5 lemons.

3. A teaspoon of salt.

Its super simple! Mix all of this together… you *will* get some separation but just keep mixing. The lemon is going to give the sour flavor so depending on how sour you want it, add more/less lemon.

This adds a whole new level to your ability to cook in Argentina, especially making dishes that are not traditional to Argentina (because of course they do not even know what sour cream is!).

I look forward to hearing your stories about cheesecakes, beef stroganoff, or artichoke dip. Stay tuned for other substitutes and recipes like barbecue sauce and ranch sauce.

Two different restaurants that are doing their own versions of this stuff are The Office and Randall’s, the only two American style eateries with American comfort food that I know of in Buenos Aires. Both do a tremendous job and I highly recommend them.

Mandatory Voting in Argentina

August 1, 2011

Yesterday in Buenos Aires (Capital Federal, or CABA (Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires)) there were mayoral elections. So I got drunk with some friends at a birthday party. YES!

Keep in mind though we had to stock up on alcohol at least 24 hours in advance, and legally speaking we were supposed to stock up nearly 2 days in advance. Why? In Argentina it is technically illegal to sell alcohol from 8pm on the Friday night before the Sunday elections. And I say technically for obvious reasons.

So my friend who had the birthday, invited everyone and thankfully, yours truly – who certainly does not spend all of his time thinking about alcohol (just a large percentage of it) – reminded everyone in a Facebook post to the event wall, that they should stock up on alcohol so as to ensure we have a good time at the party. Yes, fun requires alcohol.

What seems ironic is number one obligatory voting… I’m not sure what the penalties are but its a criminal offense! And number two that you can’t sell alcohol. Meh?

It seems to me that if you have a legal penalty that is enforced if you don’t do something then what the heck does the sale of alcohol have to do with anything? That’s like saying it’s mandatory to wear your seatbelt on Sundays and in order to help enforce the law we are going to ban the sale of alcohol on Saturdays. This connection does not actually exist, it’s totally arbitrary.

What also seems interesting to me is that in a country where nearly everybody thinks the government are crooks and thieves and out to get them, somehow a law got passed which says that you must participate.

As to the merits of whether voting should be obligatory? Well we did a nice piece on this on BA Cast in addition to a whole month of shows on electoral systems in the USA vs Argentina. It should be fun. You can listen here.

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