I was driving back home with my son the other day after picking him up from school.
Since we’ve moved to Northern Ireland everything has been going on surprisingly well. You’d expect some adaptation period, maybe not liking a few things, but honestly we just couldn’t be happier.
Kids are different though, so I try to see how he’s adapting to the new friends and school.
“Are you understanding more of what the teacher says?”
“Yes. At first there were some words that I didn’t understand, but now I’m understanding almost everything, today I understood everything the teacher said”.
“That’s good, it will get easier as time goes by. Any kid giving you a hard time?”
“No, kids are nice here”.
“ok, but honestly, how are you liking it here, you know you can tell me anything”.
“I really like it Dad, the teachers are nice, the kids are nice, the school has lots of stuff to do, and besides its like in the movies, kids here walk to school all by themselves.”
Its funny sometimes, the things that strike a nerve. That hit one in me indeed.
It reminded me of this occasion some time ago while still in Argentina, my son asked me why he couldn’t walk to school on his own like Timmy Turner did (cartoon, “Fairy Odd Parents”) since we lived just two blocks away from it. I told him that it was a cartoon and that in reality streets were too dangerous for a child that age to walk all by himself. It was easy to make my point since no responsible parent lets a kid under 14 or so walk on his own. Yet here we were, in a place where ten year olds and younger walk to school, some take their even younger brothers and sisters by the hand. It wasn’t that the cartoon and TV series scene of kids going to school on their own wasn’t a reality, it just wasn’t our reality.
You see, that was something that was denied to us. Walking to school, or riding a bike around the block or go see neighborhood friends on their own. They took that from us by allowing streets to become so dangerous and doing nothing about it, that not only kids but all of us had to live bunkered in, and watch over your back when outside.
I just turned 33, and I remember that we played on the streets without much concern. I remember going to school on my own, buying bags full of firecrackers when I was 13 and lighting them up all across the neighborhood with my friends. Man it was fun to blow stuff up.
Crime still happened but not nearly as serious as it is now. A kid from the other grade got his bike stolen. A couple older punks hit him and took his bike. The poor kid pissed himself during the incident. Even worse, his mother couldn’t keep her mouth shut and everyone heard about it. He was a friend of mine but from that day on I always remembered that incident whenever I was with him. I could tell its one of those things that changed him forever.
Camping and trekking is something we’ve been doing a lot since we arrived here. I loved doing it in Argentina but in the last few years, again, the crime problem was a factor you couldn’t ignore, especially when going with kids. There’s beautiful outdoors in the center west and south of Argentina, places like Mendoza, Neuquen and Rio Negro, but that´s all far away. Within reasonable driving distance from Buenos Aires any of the outdoor places you have are full of trash and often of the two leg walking type as well. Always the danger, always watching over your shoulder checking your back. Given the risk, its just not worth it. There’s several camping sites but they are so dirty they are disgusting. There’s security in numbers in these places but you should see some of the mugs of the people that go there. Certainly not my idea of outdoors quality time. Its ironic to see so much people in the survival community talking about bugging out and relating camping and trekking to survival and SHTF. There’s surprisingly little of that when it’s a real SHTF situation! People can actually do that safely precisely when the shit didn’t hit the fan, other than the other way around.
Yesterday we went to this diner near by, nice family place. I noticed my wife had the strap of her bag across her chest while eating, like you would do in Buenos Aires because of thieves. “Its hard to let go of the old habits, no?”. She looked down at what she was doing. “You know, it really is”.
In the end, what we ended up losing in Argentina was our peace, knowing that something bad happening to you on the streets was so unlikely that you could afford not to worry about it and not pay the consequences. That’s a liberty we haven’t had in Argentina for over a decade.
Just a few days ago, the general degradations in infrastructure and services ended up claiming the lives of 50 people that were going to work one morning in Buenos Aires. In spite of receiving millions in subsidies by the tax payers, the trains in Argentina are in awful condition as I’ve frequently reported. On February 22 , 2012 the train full of people going to work reached Once station and did not stop, crushing one of the wagons like a can of soda, while packed with people on the inside. The train that requires 8 working compressors to fully stop and had already been on the rails with only five, was down to three working compressors alone that day. Three was clearly not enough. Still the authorities of the railroad company decided that was good enough.
Our freedom, our peace of mind, even our lives. That’s what Argentina has claimed.