Wednesday 21 November 2012

The Buenos Aires Trip

Starting point Humberside International Airport. This is how international airports should be. Small, relaxed and friendly. Someone leaves their transparent bag of liquids at the x-ray machine. Instead of a Tannoy announcement, a guy strolls round and simply raises his voice, catching the attention of those waiting for the eight destinations on the board.
Then the words ‘delayed’ and ‘on hold’ pop up on the list. There is fog in Amsterdam and we can’t take off until we have a landing slot. For a while it looks as though fog in Amsterdam will delay my arrival in Buenos Aires by 12 hours, but in the end it's fine. One of the other delayed destinations is Neptune*. I think maybe there’s fog on Mars, too.

Cutting a long long journey short, I arrive in the middle of the night (though at the time I'm not sure which night) and in one of the most torrential rain storms I've ever seen. Don’t get wet though because a guy on the plane has commandeered three of us: me and a couple going back-packing, to share an airport car. Expensive for one but not between four. It takes us door to door.

The hotel room has no tea (this isn't England after all), no desk, not a lot of room, but I don’t care. I fall into bed and am asleep in seconds. I sleep so well I'm up at dawn for breakfast.
So many dire warnings not to carry handbags, not to display iPhones, that I end up not taking many pics to start with, though I take a short video from the roof terrace where we have coffee.

The warnings are not for nothing. Three laptops and a wallet disappear from a meeting the first day, while their owners are still in the room. It’s almost sleight of hand, a slick operation to hit hard and fast before anyone's guard is properly up. By the night of the gala dinner at the yacht club, so many people have been robbed that the official speaker feels obliged to mention it and apologize.

Nonetheless, it’s an amazing place. A huge city that we don’t have the time to explore properly. 
A taxi driver takes us on an hour’s trip around parts of the city, but it isn't long enough. Ideally, we'd stay on and explore more of the country.
Flying in at night shows that the city is built on blocks like New York. No shortcuts, but things easy to find. Even so, we are warned several times not to venture into certain areas. La Boca is mentioned in hushed tones. ‘You want to go to La Boca? Find another cab driver’.

Oddly enough we can’t get on a tourist bus because they've sold out of tickets. The odd bit is that as we travel the city, we see many of the tourist buses and none of them has more than 3 people on. We even try to board one of the empty buses, but despite a hastily convened conference of the driver, guide and various others, the consensus is that they can't let us on without a ticket. I get the impression they'd like to fill their empty seats but some bureaucratic tangle won't allow it.

Our taxi driver gives a commentary as he takes us round. It's just about audible on the videos.

I meet a Spanish guy whose wife is Argentinian. They live in London but have bought land in Uruguay.  

I ask why Uruguay. He tells me that the places in the Americas with the least corruption are Canada and Uruguay. Other people tell me the same – about Uruguay anyway. 

The conference is less than pleased with Canada whose government has decided that educational writers should write educational material purely for love. 

We hear some disturbing tales at the International Authors Forum of the things writers are asked to accept in the digital age.

Our own government in the UK flirted with the idea of shafting educational writers, which is a shame when the quality of UK educational writing is so good. Great way to save money for schools. Stop paying the writers. I wonder why it’s OK to ask writers to work for nothing but not the companies who provide the computers or the plumbers who keep the sanitation systems working.

The gala dinner: We are herded onto buses and taken to the river bank where small boats take us half a dozen at a time across to the yacht club. The landing stages are flat wooden affairs with no rails. What will happen at the other end of the night when people wander out awash with the wine that always flows at these events? Surely we’ll be fishing copyright experts out of the river into the small hours.

Then I realize that those who champion copyright in these turbulent times are used to being in deep water and there’s no need to worry. Indeed, everyone makes it home safely.

*I assume it's an oil rig


  1. Thanks for some fascinating glimpses of Argentina - in words, pictures and video. I am amazed at the government feeling it doesn't need to pay educational writers anymore. Would MPs agree for us not to pay them?

  2. I'm sure MPs in all countries would be first to volunteer for salary cuts to help out the economy. Ha ha ha.

  3. Smashing piece, Penny. Shame about the thefts: we had the same experience (of warning signs, that is) in Paris. Seems modern cities are places thieves find irresistible. The attitude of governments about writers is no surprise; they are a talentless bunch of unimaginative, self-serving cretins by and large. Glad you had a good time, though. And I enjoyed the videos.

  4. I certainly agree with that view of government bods in many (far too many) cases, but to be fair there are those who dive into that world with the express view of trying to make things better. The sad thing is that they tend to get overtaken by endemic problems. Just look at the UK expenses scandal - all those brand new MPs who really really should have known better, indeed who did know better, but ended up getting sucked in anyway 'because everyone's doing it' and 'the rules allow'. And what happens to those who genuinely maintain their integrity? I think on the whole they're sidelined or, if they cause trouble, they're trashed by a carefully orchestrated campaign. It's a sad world in many ways. And today it's an extremely wet one.

  5. As I have said before, my opinion of politicians is that they are lower on the food chain than cowpats. Argentina sounded fun, though. Glad you had a good trip.