05 August 2008

Why Did I walk A 108 Blocks Today? And Why Are People Harassing Me?

I know this sounds like an exaggeration but I think I actually walked a 108 blocks today. Here's the ridiculous fucking calculus for teaching English in Buenos Aires, at least for me:

1. Walk 8 blocks from our apartment in Palermo to Bulnes and then hop on the D-line Subte to Tribunales.

2. From there I walked 5 blocks to Avenida M.T. Alvear where I taught for an hour after haggling with yet another security guard about who I was and why I was there. It seems really hard for them to understand that I'm not going to have a National ID or an Argentine Driver's License because, contrary to public perception and my impeccable accent (as if), I'm not Argentine.

3. Then I walked 6 blocks south to Avenida Corrientes before walking the wrong way for a good 10 blocks and then being harassed by a man who stopped me while I was looking at a Subte Map for the 12th time that day. For some reason, he wanted to know where I was from, then started speaking to me in French, Spanish, and for some damn reason, German. When I spoke back to him in French, he started frothing at the mouth a little bit before telling me my French was good. But the weird thing was, he kept asking me in both Spanish and French: Where are you from? Chicago, I'd say. No, he said, but where are you living now? Buenos Aires, I said. No, where did you used to live? He asked. Chicago, I said. But what part of Chicago, he asked. West Chicago. Oak Park. Humboldt Park. But where were you born? He asked. Where? I asked. Yes, where? I'm sorry if this is strange, just tell me where you were born. The truth: Traverse City, Michigan. What I said because I knew he didn't know small town Michigan: Chicago. Then he patted on the shoulder and said:

Bye. And walked away. It was really bizarre. And now back to the chronometer:

4. Once I'd take another Subte, ironically, the D line again, this time, all the way to Congreso de Tucuman, then I walked 12 blocks to Ave. Libertador, arriving an hour early. So then my next mission was to find a park to eat my lunch. But I kept walking and walking and I couldn't find a public park anywhere on Libertador Avenue. My Guía showed that there were plenty of parks in that area, but they were all private parks. I'd never heard of a private park. That's an oxymoron in the US. Parks are the only thing not privatized in America. Finally after 6 blocks, I found the Club Ciudad de Buenos Aires
but it's for members only. Of course. So I talked to the guard and he said, oh, you need to get a ticket in that booth over there. So next I walk into this little house, talk to the woman, show her my passport, fill out a form, she gives me a ticket, I go back to the guard, he takes my ticket, tells me to leave through the same entrance I entered and finally, finally I got to eat my lunch.

It occurs to me that most Argentines don't bring their lunches with them to eat. They go out. When I was done, I walked another 6 blocks back from Ave. Crisologo Larralde to Calle Ibera where I saw a group of deaf Indian athletes signing on the street corner. How do I know they were Indian? Because they were wearing matching track suits that said "INDIA" on their back. For a second I was definitely like: where the fuck am I? Anyway, once I'd made it back to work, that security guard gave me shit too for not owning Argentine ID but this time I brought my passport, so she calls up but no one comes down to get me. And then we ride the elevator together and I walk through the office with this security guard like I'm in trouble and she caught me doing something I wasn't supposed to do, like I just ran off with a Plasma Screen or something. Meanwhile, she looks for the two employees I'm supposed to be teaching and I have absolutely no idea where I'm supposed to stand. Everyone's looking at me from their cubicles. Am I criminal? A rockstar in my hip grey jacket? A lost Yanqui? Their faces seemed to say. Anyway, once she finally found the guys I was supposed to teach, she said goodbye, gave us warning and then I taught 3 hours of English to two separate groups (Andrés, Vicky & Carolina and Santiago and Boris) before walking another 12 blocks back to the Subte station.

5. By the time the subway arrived at the José Hernández stop, the conductor informed us that the train was now out of service so everyone got out, grumbling. And by the time the next train arrived, there were twice as many people trying to cram their bodies into half the space available. Seriously, I've never been so tightly packed in my entire life. One old woman scrambled out of the train clutching her chest, unable to breathe while some passengers came close to wobbling to the ground, and I kept getting pushed, my pelvis first rubbing against this woman's back, and then later, against this middle-aged woman's thighs. It felt incestuous really. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had one guy's hand pretty much in my ass, a woman's knee in my crotch, a boy's elbow in my stomach, and another woman's butt bouncing against my belt line and I tried to pretend I didn't notice, even though there was something so dreadful and primal and sexual about the way everyone's bodies were touching each other's. Of course I say that but the truth is, I heard a number of women in their 80's groaning as their bodies were slowly grounded into human powder by two colliding glaciers, which was definitely not a pleasure groan at all. Anyway, then I had to ride the whole way like that until I got to Diagonal Norte until I transfered to the C Line. Ah yes, fun times. But wait, it's not over!

6. From 9 de Julio I walk to Moreno (1 block) and then 8 blocks East to Avenida Paseo Colon, and then 5 blocks south to Ave. Independencia. Then I kick it at a cafe for an hour and a half, eat some medialunas, drink some mineral water. And then when I walk to Accenture for my 6:00pm job, the secretary tells me that Señorita M.L. Márquez had a meeting. When I looked super-irritated, she told me in English (why, I don't know): she said Mrs. Márques had called and told someone. Oh well, then it must be true, I mean if it's someone. When I got home, there were no messages on my phone and no new email messages and my coordinator never mentioned anything either. So it's total shit. Finally, I walked 12 blocks to Florida and 3 blocks to Corrientes where I took my fourth Subte ride today. And finally I walked the normal 8 blocks from Medrano to our little home. I must have looked either really pissed off or really pretty cuz women were staring at me as I sped-walked back home like I was some well-dressed lunatic. And maybe I was. A lunatic, I mean.

Final Total
108 Fucking Blocks!

And I did this all for 112 pesos! That's almost a peso a block. God, how depressing.


miss tango said...

Well, at least your culo will not be heading south anytime soon.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Wait, huh? You mean to Bariloche? Or did you mean my culo won't being go below someone's waste. Wait, I'm confused. Miss Tango: I need a clarification!

miss tango said...

Well if you go to Bariloche, your ass will definitely head south from all the chocolate.

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

At least you are not converting into dollars and then you will really be depressed.

Sounds like the good old days when I first started exploring the city.

I get to relive it through your blog.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Oh, that's what you meant Miss Tango. I see. Well, if I had a real chocolate fear, it would be that it makes me ass head west and east. And no one wants a bicoastal ass the last time I checked.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Thanks Frank,

I really appreciate hearing that.

Robert Evans said...

Ouch! Talk about the suckage. I wonder if the job will get better? Is it worth the trouble when you have your writing?

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Hey Robert,

Yeah, me too. The good thing is that I don't walk as much as I used now that I know where I'm going. The bad thing is that I'll still have to pretend I'm in New York City again. The good things is that I have a shuffle jam-packed with good music. The bad thing is that I'll have to wait 2 months to get paid because of bureaucracy. One thing I've decided is that in 8-12 months I'm going to sit down and see how I feel about it, and if I've had enough then it might be time for translation work. We'll see.

Angela said...

Hey Jackson... I've finally got the time to catch up with you. So, 108 blocks and loads of harassment. Rough day. I always speak Arabic to people who stop me for no reason. "Mish kellam esbani," I don't speak Spanish, I say. Then, "Ana kellam arabi." When they think I speak Arabic they don't know what to say anymore. I don't know why they'd believe me though. I pretty fair and blond. Still, it works.

Maybe you should also post on Craigslist or in the Buenos Aires Herald that you teach private lessons. This way you can have your students come to you and pay you right away. It might take a while to get students, but if you have a good price I bet there would be a lot of takers.

I've enjoyed looking at all your pictures. I like how they document your experiences. Hope we can meet up soon.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Hi Angela, just imagining you speaking Arabic is strange. I know you speak it, I just can't imagine it. Really, they're just shocked that they just met an Arab with blond hair! That would be enough to shut me up--and it takes a lot. Anyway, I'd love to get together sometime. Let me know what your schedule is like. Anytime between Thursday-Sunday works for me. One perk of my job is that I get off at 3pm on Thursday and I get Friday and the rest of the weekend off. That part I like very much. . .

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

I had to get that out of my system as well when I first started working down here. I quickly got over it and put out an ad in the Herald.

In other words, take Angela´s advice. You will make better use of your time. Also, make your student´s pay you at each class.

You will make more than at any agency this way.

Lover of Nature said...

are you working as an ESL teacher in BA? I did that in Asia while I was there, money was pretty good, but not something I would try again.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Dear LON and Frank,

Yes, you're probably both right. Right now I'm going to stick with it. I get paid $25 an hour which I think is decent for now. And in two months, when I finally get paid for the first time, if I'm not happy, then I'll tell them I quit. Of course I love the idea of teaching English to people on my own schedule, being able to sleep in, meeting in a place that's actually convenient for me for once. And if I do drop this gig, it will be for those reasons. Frank, how much does it cost to place an ad in the paper, and how many students did you get once you did? Lover of Nature, I feel like TEFL is a bad drug because every time I do it is always supposed to be the last time, and then suddenly it's not anymore. Thanks guys for your input.

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

That was so long ago... I can´t remember what it cost, but if I did it really wouldn´t have been comparable. Back then the peso was pegged to the dollar so one peso equaled one dollar. I charged about $25 per hour back then and it was in my home. It was also a minimum of one hour and some classes I had for 1.5 hours.

I remember having about 3 to 4 students a day. Most students came by once a week and some would come twice a week.

I also remember those students being much more enthusiastic about learning than the ones I had at the agencies in general.

I was much more up for it as well. I would use DVD´s, material from magazines, on-line Newspapers, Websites, etc.

I also remember that I managed to recoup the cost of the add by the second week.

One other thing I did was help students with their grad school application essays. That was a lot of fun. That one I did work at an agency though and I had to invoice that agency in order to get paid.

Robert Evans said...

Don't mean to sound like a know it all jerk but you seem like an open minded fellow so here goes.

IMO, you are essentially working for free at this point and your peso is loosing purchasing power due to inflation. That is to say, a peso today will purchase more than a tomorrow's peso will. To make this concrete, at an annual rate of 30%, a single peso will have 5% less purchasing power in two months. To make things worse, the 30% figure is considered low by some analysts. More like 40%, they say.

You also have no guarantee that you'll ever be paid. Two months is a long time in Argentina and even the best of people can be forced to suffer the indignity of stiffing an employee, supplier or even family when business conditions turn sour.

In the event that you don't get paid, you'll likely not have recourse either.

I'm just saying... ;-)