Incredibly, this is the Buenos Aires home of their water department. Built in 1894, it contains offices, some large water tanks, and a toilet museum. The country that commissioned this palace to house their water utility over a century ago today can’t deliver or track the delivery of even a hearing aid, the bureaucratic quagmire is so dense.
On a recent Friday, Puerto Limon Hostel where I reside in Buenos Aires got a phone call asking if I was a resident there. They asked for my passport number and said they had received a small package addressed to me from the U.S. The package contained a replacement hearing aid from the Audibel hearing aid organization in Florida. As part of my warranty on their product, they had agreed to replace the hearing aid I had lost, and put on the bill of lading a value of $2 because zero was not acceptable. The following Monday, a Fed Ex driver stopped by the Hostel, not to deliver the package, but to drop off two pages of confusing instructions, in Spanish, about how to pay customs charges of U.S. $121 and an additional AR $250 for my free package. I had heard horror stories about package delivery in Argentina, but being the eternal optimist, I was ready to find out for myself. I do not visit a country to become its critic, and after five months of residence here, I loved Buenos Aires and learned more every day. I even entertained notions of using this experience to deepen my understanding of how customs worked, and how the values were determined.
So I set about with one of the receptionists here, who tried to translate the written instructions. Eventually she gave up and called the local Fed Ex office. They explained what I would owe, which I thought was ridiculous. After all, a comparable hearing aid was simply not available in Argentina, and why would they punish a handicapped person (not being able to hear IS a handicap) by making a replacement as difficult and as expensive as possible? It’s not as if they could repair or replace it from an Argentine provider. The following is what happened next to me and Erika, my assistant and interpreter, who was helping me on her precious day off work:
I am a 67-year-old retired businessman who has been an accidental writer all his life, and who now devotes his swan-song years to freelance travel, food, wine and cultural writing. Recently I liquidated all of my belongings except my beloved books, downsized to a backpack, and bought a plane ticket to Buenos Aires, with a two-night reservation at a hostel recommended to me by my vagabonding daughter Allison, who stayed here last year. In my first week I applied for permanent residency to be followed by dual citizenship. I write these words on my laptop from its makeshift perch atop a decaying wooden speaker that is the perfect desktop height as I sit hunched forward in the worn and tattered vinyl overstuffed chair that is ridiculously comfortable—all this in the community room of Puerto Limon where life is just beginning to stir at 7:30 a.m. Argentina time. I am preparing for months of extended travel throughout Argentina and other parts of South America, to be closely followed next summer by more of the same in the Far North of the Arctic region. I chose the hostel method of accommodation because it fosters interaction with other guests from all parts of the world; it puts me close to where I will learn the most. I seek far more than the tourist experience.
What will you do about healthcare?
In the process of getting here, some difficult questions needed to be asked and answered. At my age of course, one of the first such questions is what will I do about health care? Coming from a North American culture obsessed with longevity and denial of the inevitable, this is, or should be, of paramount importance. What will be the quality of health care in a third world nation, what will it cost without the infrastructure and safety nets provided by the world’s most recent empire? My recent health care experiences in Port Richey, FL however, were a revelation.