The overall topography includes wide river valleys irrigated by big hydraulic projects directing the copious Andean runoff, separated by semi-arid, desertified stretches resembling the American Southwest. The long transit from Rioja to Belen impressed me with the vast open empty spaces that exist between the major cities. In some respects, the Western part of this country is like my home state of Arizona at about 1950 writ very large. The desert looks very much like the Sonoran desert, with a bit more precipitation. There are analogues to Mesquite, Palo Verde and Creosote Bush. Goats, sheep, cattle are in the unirrigated regions. The farmland irrigated by the rivers is reminiscent of the agricultural areas around Phoenix.
The people are gracious, friendly and proud. I've had no inappropriate requests for money at any of the police checkpoints. They seem to be focused on the many very old, tiny little cars from the 1950's that are still on the road. Those old cars and the ubiquitous motorbikes make driving very hazardous, although the highways are maintained to the US standard. No potholes on state or federal highways.
There are a few noticeable negatives to living in Argentina that I have identified: It appears that property crimes are endemic. Bars on windows and barbed-wire (or broken glass!) topped walls are a commonplace.
Other features I have noticed:
1. There are distinct cultural differences. Immediately noticeable is the openness of people to socialize and be generous and helpful. National pride is a subtext. Even strangers will kiss you on the cheeks.
2. English speakers are rare outside BA. (Needless to say, I need to refresh my Spanish after 40 years of neglect.)
3. Imported goods are not as common as in the US.
4 There is apparently a moderate state subsidy for diesel—approximately 75 cents per gallon, and
5. Business hours are approximately 8:00 am to 12:30, closed until 4:00 or 4:30 then open until 8 pm. Restaurants start serving dinner about 8:30 or 9:00 pm and go till midnight.
In sum, this is a wonderful country, particularly if you have facility in Spanish, and don’t need to be deeply integrated into the local social scene. Reports from people who’ve immigrated here a decade ago can be summarized: beyond the overall friendliness, the process of developing a familial level of closeness with the locals is slow.
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