We`re moving on! It`s nearly time to catch the bus so we are busy preparing, taking up our roles.
Darragh is our student, reader and illustrator. He draws maps of Argentina, sketching our route south from latitude 35 to latitude 54. To Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel and Magellan Straits. To the end of the world, last stop before Antarctica.
Nan is our researcher, planner. Tracking penguins in Tierra del Fuego, plotting treks on Perito Moreno Glacier and walks through Torres Del Paine National Park.
The plan is set; we know where were going. Nan`s spent weeks studying accommodation, routes and buses.
I study buses too, dreamily sipping coffee outside Tolon on Coronel Diaz y Santa Fe.
I love Buenos Aires buses. There are so many of them, colourfully skulking the streets. Nan and Darragh laugh and think I`m cracked when I say they remind me of prehistoric creatures prowling the avenues of Capital Federal.
My head is still in Buenos Aires; I have threatened to stay. Jokingly of course but I have really loved it here and am reluctant to leave. It’s such an interesting place.
My responsibility is the family budget, figuring out costs, making sure we`ve enough to get us home.
Managing finance in Argentina reminds me of Shelley`s Ozymandias
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Don`t worry family, we`re not broke but Argentina is. It’s a financial wasteland and Prat Gay, newly appointed Minister for Finance, has a huge challenge ahead. He`s a very highly regarded past pupil and parent of our school here; I wish him well but don`t envy his task. He will be a key member of,fellow Newman past pupil, Presidente Macri`s team.
It’s really difficult to figure out costs here, a trip on my beloved 152 bus from Palermo to Boca costs 3.50 pesos. Using the official euro rate, this costs about 33 cent or 22 cent with the parallel blue rate. Buses are heavily subsidised at the moment but no doubt prices will soon rise rapidly. Porteños won`t like that.
Presidente Macri is being inaugurated tomorrow and has committed to introducing a single rate for the dollar from his very first day of office, so no one knows how much things will cost.
For us booking accommodation for the new year down south is totally confusing as we don`t know the most cost effective way of paying. Do we change euro to pesos now or next week or pay by credit card?
My Argentinian friends nod knowingly and laugh at me when I ask their advice. This is their life; they live with inflation and financial uncertainty. Unable to access loans and buy homes.
They tell me about hyperinflation, when they shopped not knowing how much things would cost on a day to day basis. Waiting at tills, hoping they would have enough money, deciding in their minds what could be left behind. Baby’s diapers were the first to go; they’re imported and very expensive. Most switched to cloth or relied on friends bringing them in from Chile.
I have a new found respect for my Argentinian friends.Since it’s impossible for them to plan with financial certainty, they have developed impressive skills; they`re resourceful, innovative and able to react quickly to emerging situations. They look at problems from a variety of angles, finding solutions I would never have considered.
My friends have spent weeks looking at the developing economic situation. A currency devaluation looks likely, so they are carefully making decisions such as whether to buy new tyres for their cars or stock up on provisions.
Argentina is on the road again and I hope Presidente Macri has a good team with him.
Jim Collins’ brilliant book on Leadership, ‘From Good to Great’, states that people assume great bus drivers( leaders) begin by announcing to people on the bus where they`re going,setting a new direction and vision. But Collins says good leaders don`t start with ‘where’ but ‘who’. They get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people on the right seats’
Let’s hope the right people are on the bus. For me, it’s time to move on from Buenos Aires and turn my attention south.