Lunch 01-25-13

Sitting here at my last lunch in Buenos Aires this trip. At Lo de Jezus, which I like to translate as From Jesus.

It’s been a great trip, I have to say. In addition to the company, Buenos Aires is a truly rich and impressive city. I’ve already decided to take the same approach to Medellin, that is find a food blog and follow it, although the first one I found includes among its top restaurants “Hooters”. It also has some of the better places I’ve been to in Medellin on there.

This is January, and the hottest month in the city, and it really hasn’t been that bad. One thing I’ve really enjoyed is that since so many Porteños leave for the summer, the city seems much less crowded and even tranquil.

It’s actually pretty nice that I have a day to kill now without a hotel room, I have no excuse to work, and in fact according to a new strategy I’m trying, I’m actually not supposed to do anything today because my productivity was so high for the last two days.

As I’m sitting here eating pâté and waiting for what I expect to be another flat out incredible steak, I’m feeling very good and, if I can say so without being obnoxious, very happy to feel financially rich. Here in BA I happily go to the best restaurants every night, take taxis everywhere, and know that anything I might want to do is well within my means. The steak I’ve just ordered costs about $12 and I expect it to be considerably better than what I could get for $50 in New York.

I’m in a bit of an odd position today because I somehow ended up spending much less than I planned for, and now have stacks of Argentinian bills to spend before I get on the plane tonight. I can save them for my next trip, but based on Argentina’s inflation, they’ll be worth around 20% less when I come back.

Just imagine that – you can’t keep cash or savings in your own currency because they’ll be worth 25% less in a year. How do you keep up with that? You can’t buy dollars or any hard currency because the government controls that sort of thing – if you take a vacation to Miami, they (the government) look at the trip you’ve planned, your finances and all the other information on you they have accumulated, and begrudgingly dole out an allowance from your own accounts of $100 a day, if you’re lucky.

Which explains why there’s such a huge black market for dollars. Right now dollars are in high demand, due to the number of people going on vacation.

My blood sausage has arrived. It is delicious. To me the perfect consistency – crispy on the outside and soft and spreadable in the inside. Wow. I’m going to have to take a break from writing for a minute.

Ok, that’s it, this is the best blood sausage I’ve ever had. Even better than being simply spreadable, it holds its own shape on the outside but crumbles and disintegrates when you bite into it, warm, yielding and flavorful.

So back to the black market – if I go to an ATM right now and withdraw pesos, I get the official rate, which will yield 4.97 pesos to the dollar. This is not a product of markets in free exchange, it is a fiction created by the Argentine government. If I go with my dollars to one of the big pedestrian streets, lined with stores and restaurants and malls and bars and movie theaters and whatever else you might want, there will be many men (and one woman that I’ve seen) leaning against buildings and shouting Cambio! a few times a minute. If I give him my dollars, and he presumably decides to give me real Argentinian bills, I’ll get 7.5 to the dollar. That’s a 50% difference. My $12 steak becomes an $8 steak.

That steak is here, by the way.

The steak is very tasty, though the sauce is completely unnecessary.

Ok that’s done.

So along with the 50% discrepancy between the actual and official exchange rates, there is also a massive difference between actual and official inflation. The official rate is somewhere around 12.5%, whereas the truth is as I said around 25%. And since you can’t legally invest in any instrument to protect the value of the money you have earned, I’m really not clear on what people do – I guess they buy gold. I’d be curious to see the national savings rate here, but I doubt the data would be particularly accurate, given a) the government’s track record for accurately reporting the state of the nation’s economy, and b) people can’t actually legally save money in a way that safeguards its value, so you would have to estimate all the data.

My waitress is gorgeous, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me.

Anyway I just ordered dessert, so I guess I’ll be here a while longer.

Did yoga this morning, which has me feeling a great deal better than usual. I’m going to try to make a habit of it, both because it feels good, and because I have to stretch my hamstrings so that I’ll be better at suspending someone in acro yoga next month at envision.

In the photos you guys have seen, my legs are supposed to be straight, but they’re nowhere close, so the only reason Onamare is staying up is because she’s a professional with incredible balance.

Lunch is just now starting to pick up, at 1:20. One of the waitresses is still wearing what appear to be pajama bottoms.

It’s several hours later now, and I’m a few blocks away, having wandered around shooting graffiti until I found a bookstore and have been sitting reading 100 Years of Solitude (in English).

Posted on by Brandon Green in Long, Uncategorized

About Brandon Green

Brandon is a former investment banker who now travels the world full time. Brandon is on twitter @brandonbrucegreen and on Google +.