Student Blogs/Peter in Argentina

It has been a couple of months since I have last posted. As time goes, I acquire more knowledge about the life in Argentina. While living abroad, every student has to keep some crucial things in mind in order to minimize the cultural shock and the amount of the inevitable everyday stress.

One of these things is the communication aspect of the study abroad period. As a matter of fact, when there is a miscommunication present, other troubles don’t take long to appear. On one hand, taking in account the degree to which globalization has affected the way we communicate, the time it takes to send one text message from Canada to Argentina is virtually nothing. On the other, when a stable Wi-Fi connection fails to work as it should, it can become a big hassle to do something really basic, like checking your email.

With frequent electricity/water/Internet connection cuts in Argentina, it is important to keep in mind various contingency plans to avoid running around with an angry face and/or giving a hard time to a landlord, who somehow happens to be in another province at that moment. In Argentina, a significant percentage of the population is still on the other side of the Digital Divide and it is common to see apartments without routers or modems. As a solution to a growing demand for Internet, there are many so called “locutorios” which translates to something like “cabinet”. These “locutorios” are as common to encounter as the previously mentioned “kioskos”. Sometimes they come in a bundle with the international call cabins. A good thing to do in the first week is to search for at least two “locutorios” located within a casual walking distance (in pajamas, even) from home. They look something like this:

A small store front for a locutorio in an underground transportation hub

A typical connectivity service bundle in one of the underground transportation hub

The pricing varies, but usually they charge 20 pesos per hour of computer use. You can also sometimes print out documents, but the price in some of the places vary and can depend on how much an administrator likes you.

A whole other story is the use of cell phones in this country. I personally used the “Claro” as my cell phone provider with its prepaid or a “pay as you go” plan. The procedure to acquire the service is quite simple. The first step is to get a prepaid SIM chip at the “kiosko” and there you can also load the same chip with money. The second step would be to call somebody in Spanish to simply share the joy of being connected! In order to top-up the credit on the SIM card, it’s much easier to just write out the number on a piece of paper and show it to the person working at any of the “kioskos” to evade the need to spell a crazy amount of numbers in a situation where people are in a hurry.

A sign telling that a particular “kiosko” has the recharge service is called “Recarga virtual”. Sometimes the recharge can be done using the electronic terminals, just like the “SUBE” card. However, taking in account the tear-worthy state of some of the argentine bills, it is better either load money in the 100 peso increments or do it in person to avoid the game of  inserting the same bill ten times in the machine and still being rejected. To check the balance on the phone, simply text *611# (it could be different for providers like Movistar, etc.) and then the provider’s menu will appear with next steps clearly outlined (in English).

A tattered 2 peso bill that has been taped together

The 2 peso bill after its prolonged monetary workout!

In terms of 3G coverage and the associated plans for data-heavy users, I would personally advise taking an old cell phone down to Argentina. This way, you significantly lower the interest of the pickpockets to your expensive device, while also lowering the phone bill and data plans that require one to be a true Argentine (DNI and all the associated procedures that are beyond reasonable time/need limits). Also, it is a good way to read more books in Spanish instead. Pickpocketing is a sad reality of Buenos Aires. One day, I personally saw an Argentine checking his cellphone in the Subte train and as soon as the train closed the doors and started accelerating, someone somehow bent through the open window, took the guy’s smartphone and took off back through the station. Everything happened in a matter of seconds and was more surprising, rather than shocking. It’s probably in one’s best interest to bring something less sparkly than a brand new iPhone 6 down here.

My last tip is how to get off the paid subscription via SMS for the things one is unlikely to need here. I found that some lottery type advertisement via SMS was consistently charging me 5 pesos per day. The solution for that problem was quite easy; just respond to the next “junk” SMS you receive with a simple text “BAJA”. This way any type of unsolicited promotion will be switched off.

Thursday, September 10, 2015 in , ,
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