AJ reminded me of a post I've been meaning to write. After we arrived back in the States a few weeks ago, there were some things I definitely noticed about this place that are so different from Argentina:
- Leaving Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, I noticed all the cars around us on the freeway were shiny and new. Seriously, every car seemed to be 5 yrs old or newer.
- All the cars around us seemed to be on autopilot, smoothly driving in straight, almost pre-determined paths down the wide lanes of freeway asphalt. No crazy weaving, cutting off, lack of turn signals, etc.; no cars recklessly speeding past or others barely sputtering as we passed.
- Everything seemed clean, expansive and well maintained: the freeway, the desert beyond, the shopping centers visible off the exits.
- There is just so much room here, everything is spread out and big. I think the fact that it's Arizona is a factor, as things are much more cramped back in VA/DC.
- People are SO FRIENDLY here!!!! It is a widely known fact that Argentines (or at least Porteños (people of Buenos Aires)) have no concept of customer service. This is no secret; they openly admit it themselves. In contrast, I am really impressed being here and walking into a store, restaurant, etc. and being greeted and welcomed with a SMILE and asked if I need any help. WhaaT?!?! Nice! And then checked up on and receiving polite, helpful responses to any questions I might have.
- Which reminds me -- I don't feel paranoid driving or riding in a car. I don't have to lock the doors when I get in or hide my purse under the seat.
I never told you about this -- I like to paint a pretty picture of Buenos Aires, because it is 99% amazing. But petty theft, often with brandishing of firearms, is EXTREMELY common there. You have to lock your car doors and hide your purse, or you will definitely be targeted for robbery. "Smash and grab" robberies are really common: One day on my drive home from work down a main, 4-lane highway, I was at a stoplight and two guys on a moped, the classic smash and grab m.o., rode by slowly, between the lanes. The guy on the back was casually looking in the windows of the cars they passed. It immediately raised my suspicions. At the next stoplight, I heard a "CRASH!!!" sound coming from my right and then a woman screaming. I looked a couple lanes over and behind me, and there was a lady in a nice pearl-white SUV in a tug-of-war with the aforementioned moped passenger over her white designer purse. He had seen her alone in her car, apparently with her purse on the passenger seat and he had smashed her window to grab the purse. Cars all around us were honking their horns, but nobody got out; these guys likely have guns. The lady ended up wresting the purse from him, but he had her cell phone. He jumped on the back of the moped and while the light was still red, they sped to the front of the four lanes of cars and cut across all the lanes of traffic to turn left and get away up a side street. My last image of them was the guy on the back examining the cell phone with an evil, evil grin on his face. I was shaken and angry that those things happen and drivers are just like sitting ducks for these violent robbers. I was vigilant with safety and security measures before, but it made me more paranoid after. Many people have their windows tinted almost black so robbers can't see in; I am going to get that done to my car when we get back. You also have to watch for that kind of thing just walking down the street in certain areas. So it is nice being here where I can relax and let my guard down a bit.
- People here in AZ seem to have an obsession with the new: There are constantly new housing developments and shopping centers going up because people want a house that's newer than 5 or 10 years old. The sad thing is that there are a lot of shopping centers that look new and nice enough but that are vacant and abandoned because business has moved on to the newest, latest shopping center; the vacancies also show that the growth has exceeded its ability to be supported by the local economy. So it's sad seeing the effects of the economic situation here.
- You can hear a lot of variety on the radio station. I know ClearChannel is the Devil, but catchy pop beats are more fun and perilously addictive than all '80s, all the time, which is what you get in Buenos Aires.
- Stores have insane variety, quality and freshness of products. And good prices!
- I get bored at night because nothing is open late and there is nothing going on.