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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What are you going to do?

I participate in a virtual group called Buenos Aires Newcomers Group. This group was started by an American expat in Buenos Aires. She started this group as a sort of support group for expats moving to Argentina. With this group the expats can share their experiences and knowledge of their new temporary home. This group has mushroomed into more than 1,600 members!

There was a recent surge in messages around the topic of dog shit on the sidewalks of Buenos Aires. I can’t remember how exactly it got started this time (there are several topics that rise every once in a while like the tides in the ocean and this is one of them). What I did find interesting was the different reactions from both locals and foreigners that participated. One expat actually created a flyer, and has the flyers inserted in the newspapers in her neighborhood. The reactions went from people saying that as a foreigner we should not try to change the local habits to various levels of support for this type of initiative. One other person also chimed in with the idea of giving your local homeless person the job of cleaning up the block in exchange for some pay.

My reaction to this situation, speaking as an expat who has adopted this country or has been adopted by it however you want to look at it, is that this one falls under the category of changeable habits. I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with complaining about this one and definitely nothing wrong with being proactive like the person who went out with flyers informing everyone about the negative impact dog shit has on the community. I mean they have been able to change the smoking experience here, why wouldn’t it be possible to change this one as well? I think it can be done.

I was coming home one day and there was this woman walking her dog and the dog and the woman stopped right in front of my door and the dog proceeded to do its thing….right in front of my door….in front of me. No readers, I did not loose my head this time like the poor dope who decided to play bumper cars with my car. This time it was a combination of me being tired, wanting to go home, and facing a cultural difference at this time just was not on the top of my priority list. I did shake my head and made a face at her. She got off easy.

I had a friend of mine visit once and we were walking home and I happened to step on some dog do. I cleaned most of it on the sidewalk and curb. When I got home I did separate the shoes and asked our maid to clean the rest of the shoes. We do periodically have our shoes cleaned. However, my friend started to ride me about the shoes and proclaimed that he would hate to be my maid. It was much funnier the way he put it but that was ages ago. Now I hardly ever step on it because I have mastered the art of walking and always scanning the sidewalk ahead. No I do not walk with my head looking down gingerly stepping around all the land mines. I feel like a local now being able to walk down the street, talking on the phone, being a little late sometimes to where I need to go and being able to sidestep the dog shit on the sidewalks and streets.

So, in the end it’s your call people; you, as in visitors, and locals. The ones who don’t mind the dog shit on the sidewalks, well that’s easy, you don’t have to do anything.

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