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Shannon Zimmerman
New member
Username: Shannon29

Post Number: 1
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - 12:56 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My husband and I are from Florida. We're both high school English teachers and we're going to Cordoba for the month of July to teach little children. We are paying an organization to have this experience (same as cost of vacationing there) because we want to have experience teaching overseas so that we can do that more permanently after we finish grad school.

We scheduled our "experience" for July. In talking to classmates and friends we've become afraid. We've been told that since we don't speak Spanish and don't know our way around that we will be mugged and ripped off every time we use public transportation. (We will have to use the buses each day to get to our jobs.) We were told that the areas are extremely dangerous and we could lose our passports and have a nightmare experience.

It's not too late for us to back out. Are we too ignorant to travel over there and do this? Is there truth to what we're being told? How can we be more safe?
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Roberto
Board Administrator
Username: Admin

Post Number: 1593
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - 1:49 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Welcome, Shannon!

A general rule of thumb is that argentines living in inland states are more hospitable and trustworthy than those from the city of Buenos Aires. The chances of abuse do exist but I really can't see this happening to the extent it was described to you. No way. However, you should learn -if not spanish- a few things that will be important when it comes to avoiding rip offs. For example,

...bus fares, bus schedules, driving times, some sense of location within the city... and becoming familiar with your neighborhood and perhaps neighbors (panaderias, cafeterias), all of which can be learned in a matter of days. This might be more important than knowing how to say "hello" in spanish.

Would you mind posting information about the organization that is offering this interesting opportunity?

(Message edited by admin on March 18, 2008)
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Geoff Pearson
Junior Member
Username: Gpearson

Post Number: 34
Registered: 9-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - 5:02 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Shannon,

Have your friends actually been to Argentina? or, are their opinions based on visits to some other country in Latin America?

Because, they are way off the mark here. My wife & I have now spent two extended holidays in Argentina, mostly in Bs As but also a couple of forays to the hinterland, & we have never experienced or witnessed anything like that. Both of us have very limited Spanish (I am severely hearing impaired), we used taxis, the subte & buses extensively.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth! We regularly walked the streets of Palermo in the early hours, mingled with the locals, & never once felt threatened in any way. The usual, obvious, commonsense caveats do of course apply... don't put yourself in harm's way.

I might add that we have also had extended stays elsewhere in Latin America, particularly in Panama, without any of the problems that you mention. Some of our friends were horrified when we told them that we were going to explore Panama on our own for 6-weeks but our experience at least, is that Argentina & Panama are in reality safer than our home country. It's a brave man that will walk the streets of central Auckland at night these days even though we are a supposedly safe tourist destination.

HTH

Geoff Pearson
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Gary Dawson
New member
Username: Gary_d

Post Number: 8
Registered: 8-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - 7:47 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Shannon,
If I may be so bold as to offer some comment/advice. I have, in my younger years, hitchhiked many places in the US, Canada, and Mexico. I spent the better part of 10 years in periodic itinerancy and my experience is that one will always hear horror stories, and stories of wonder and amazement. Both are probably true to some extent, but with some common sense measures, you can most definitely avoid the horrors. In my experience, people everywhere are mostly willing to help, only very few will intentionally attempt to rip you off. In fact, during a phase of extreme culture shock that I experience during an extended stay in Mexico, within which I could have been easily taken advantage, I was taken in by a group of students that nurtured me back into mental health. They went way, I mean WAY out of their way, with patience and understanding to help me.

So some tips…make a copy of your passport, keep it in a secure place and carry the copy if necessary. When on the road, and you must carry your passport, buy or make a thin wallet that can be worn under your clothing. These are available at REI or other outdoor suppliers. I have one from REI that is made of silk or some silk-like material so that it is barely felt when worn under clothing. Don’t flash money…don’t get stupid drunk…and respect the fact that you are in another culture. You don’t have to “go native”, in fact that, if acted out in an extreme manner, can work against you, but try to fit into the culture in which you are immersed, rather than impose your culture on your surroundings. You are outnumbered in that regard. And remember that’s why you are there!

I can’t speak of Argentina, so far I only dream of going there…I will someday. But I do know people, and mostly, people are kind if you give them a chance to be so. If you take fear and trepidation with you…fear and trepidation will be reflected back to you. If you take an open mind and a willingness to meet people on their own terms, (and don’t act foolish,) you will be ok.

Good travels to you!
G
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Gabriela
New member
Username: Gabyrink

Post Number: 3
Registered: 6-2007


Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 12:41 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Everyone!
I am Argentinean though I've been living in the US for almost 30 years. My family still lives in Argentina, so I visit them often. I usually travel with my kids who speak Spanish with a heavy American accent. I think to say that Argentina (in general) is a pretty safe country is very naive and very far from reality. You just have to listen to the local news (I watch "TELEFE" on Direct TV here) or just talk to the locals, to find out that for most Argentineans the number one problem and complain is not the economy (though it's pretty bad) but crime. I have to say that I personally haven't been the victim of crime, but three of my friends who through the years I've traveled with, had. Perhaps is that I don't look or act like a foreigner (something that I also have taught my kids not to do-- to refrain from speaking with each other in English in public, etc)and I am always on guard, but my friends were not so lucky. Fortunately, my friends didn't even realize that they were robbed until way later, but yes, three of my friends, in three different occassions had their passport stolen and yes, it was a nightmare. Being a foreigner puts you at a disadvantage, but I have to tell you that crime is an equal opportunity employer there! And I have to say, that perhaps I was just lucky (as some of the other posters who said nothing had happened to them while vacationing in Argentina)or I didn't spend that much time there. My mom and sister who live there, were victims of a house invasion twice. Both times, right after they had come back from a visit to the states. Both times, they were woken up, tied to the bed and robbed. It is probably true that crime is something that you are bound to encounter in most big cities (I was attacked in Paris a couple of years ago) and I live 20 miles from Manhattan, but the rampant corruption in the police ranks in Argentina coupled with the revolving door policy of the laws, have unfortunately made Argentina a very insecure place to be now. Don't get me wrong, I love my country, and I'd love to be wrong about this, but I am not talking about something someone told me or I read somewhere, it's something that I constantly hear from my friends and family who live there(when my sister comes home from work, she looks around to make sure no one is around. If she sees a stranger loitering around on the sidewalk around our home, she drives around the block until he leaves for fear of being attacked and forced in when she exits her car and enters her home - something very common there) And I have to say, that she doesn't live in a "bad part of town", since lately it doesn't matter where you live. People who live in private and expensive "country clubs" (private gated communities) have experienced the same hardships as everyone else.
Ask any Argentinean if they are afraid to stop at a red light in many places at night, or they afraid of being kidnapped (the latest modality there is the "kidnap express" where they take you hostage for money for a couple of hours or a day)In any case, if you read Spanish (or have a friend who does) read this article about insecurity in one of Buenos Aires' major newspapers which just came up today.

http://www.clarin.com/diario/2008/03/09/sociedad/s -01622643.htm
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WTMendoza.com
Intermediate Member
Username: Welcometomendoza

Post Number: 188
Registered: 7-2007


Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 6:58 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Gabriela,

your input is great, and as far as I am concerned ..expected..for being an Argentine and understandng Spanish. I mean no offense by this, and I don't want to sit here and try to defend Argentina vs. other counties, but I constantly find myself defending Argentina against the very Argentines.

I really don't have my arms around comparable statistics, and probably there is more petty crime in BA , then say, New York , due to the mass relative amounts of low'income folks poverty in BA and surrounding aeas, compared to New York. but I firmly believe one of the factors that create the sensation that there is so much crime in Argentina, is the very reporting of it. Not that this is good or bad, but every expat shares the same opinion about Argentines regarding crime, that they are very paranoid.

My personal opinion is that this comes from newspapers and the news channels that follow crime very intensely..channles like Cronica, who use the theme from "3 cheers for the red, white, and blue" while they sensationalize crime headlines like it's the news of the year. And traffic accidents.

I am convinced that if the USA media covered USA crime, like the Argentines did, there would be mass hysteria.

I think this whole scenario comes from all those years of relatively no crime during the military years, and after 1983, when democracy hit, people are infatuated to cover and listen to crime stories, stories that didn’t even hardly exist before this.

Here is a repot of just one area of Manhattan of New York. Imagine if the news channels covered even 50% of these incidents:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_s tatistics/cspbms.pdf

Looking forward to your feedback….
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jenni b
New member
Username: Charleebrewer

Post Number: 1
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 9:02 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I don't know if you all would like to hear the perspective of a student, but I think my fears before visiting Argentina were similar to those of the original posters. Before arriving to Buenos Aires last year, I was very nervous because I did not speak very much Spanish and I had never traveled outside of the United States. I read websites and got a lot of advice from a study abroad agency to make sure and protect myself to the best of my ability. It worked. I'm alive, was never robbed (although almost pick pocketed twice!) and feel confident about traveling in other countries now.
The best advice that I can give is to do what all of the people around you are doing. On the subway, people often carry backpacks/bags on the front, with their hand over the zipper. I never carried my actual passport when traveling within the country and only carried a copy/student I.D. card. As scary as it may be, I never carried too much money cause I planned on getting robbed. I had several friends that it had happened to. Overall though, people were incredibly nice and helpful. In Bs. As. there is almost always someone around that will speak English to you (if you must), but like someone else said, it makes you more of a target of petty crime.
Maybe I'm naive, but I felt just as safe walking the streets of Bs. As. as I do in New York or Chicago and I recommend that after doing a little precautionary homework, you go to Argentina and make up your own mind.
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Douglas Miller
New member
Username: Douglasseattle

Post Number: 2
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 9:51 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

So what if you do get robbed? It probably won't happen, but if it does it does not need to be a life changing experience. I have been robbed in Cordoba by a guy I trusted. He got my phone and so what?

Do not be so paranoid about it. Make your police report if you need one and get on with whatever you choose to do. Do not make yourself a target with a lot of money or valuables. Thieves typically do not wish to hurt you, but rather, just want what you have.

I was waiting for my Swedish friend I had met in Rio for a dinner date. He was a little late and I asked him what happened. He told me he had been mugged. The guys who robbed him searched him, even in his underwear and socks (guys sometimes put money there and the thieves know it). My friend said they got about $15 and he was hungry, so we left. No big deal.

The advice here is great in this forum. Be smart and do not worry.
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Gabriela
New member
Username: Gabyrink

Post Number: 4
Registered: 6-2007


Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - 6:04 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I do agree that the media (especially sensationalist media like “blood dripping Cronica”) exploits the reporting of crime and traffic accidents, but again, I was not talking about incidents that I’ve read or watched on TV, but rather things that have actually happened to my family and friends. I just mentioned here just a few not because they were isolated incidents, but because I’d monopolize the blog just enumerating the stories of everyone, who I personally know, and who were assaulted, pick pocketed, mugged, robbed at gunpoint, or have been involved in relatively serious traffic accidents. My mom and sister come to visit me to the States often. I live in a quiet little town in Northern New Jersey. I usually joke that in my town, there are more police than people; it’s impossible to drive a block around without running into a police car. We had a few incidents at home (some emergencies and other mishaps like the day my five year old called 911 when he woke up, didn’t see my car, and assumed that we had left him alone at home – my car was in the shop!) In any case, every time we called 911, it didn’t take the police more than five minutes to be here. There is a sense of security here to the point that people leave their cars unlocked in their driveways, leave bicycles outside overnight, and you can come home after 5 pm to find a package outside your front door which was delivered to you in the morning. This sense of security is something which my mom and my sister are impressed by. Is it like that in every place? Is this representative of every town in the US? No, I know it isn’t; just 10 miles from here, where I work, the picture is very different, to the point that some people when I tell them where I work, they think I am either crazy or naïve: it's that dangerous! What I am trying to say is that here, there are distinctive areas which sometimes feel like worlds apart, even when the distance is minimal. But somehow, crime seems to be contained to specific areas, and somehow you can make a conscious choice of avoiding being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am sure that all of you expats have experienced this. Are there quiet little safe towns like this in Argentina? Perhaps! My guess would be not in BA, perhaps in Mendoza or other provinces. I just think that Porteños have lost that sense of security, in part because of the media, but mainly because of a disappearing middle class and consequently rapidly growing poverty levels, widespread corruption among the very ones that are supposed to uphold the law, laws that no one abides by, and a totally inefficient judicial system. Was there no crime back during military rule? Well, without counting the genocide we Argentineans had to endure during their rule, I guess no, it was a pretty “quiet” time.

(Sorry VTM if I got carried away, but really, thank you for the "exchange" and most of all, for sharing with me a view of Argentina through a foreigner's eye (just like me, here) someone who is at the other side of the spectrum - when you think about it, it's really interesting, isn't it?)
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Jos
New member
Username: Jos

Post Number: 21
Registered: 9-2006
Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2008 - 8:24 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My own two cents (or less, depending on the market). . .

I have been to Argentina (Mendoza) three times, and have never felt safer in my life. Never felt threatened in any way.

Can't wait to go back. . .

Jos
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WTMendoza.com
Intermediate Member
Username: Welcometomendoza

Post Number: 192
Registered: 7-2007


Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2008 - 9:34 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

To Gabriela, yes the other side of the spectrum is very interesting to compare, especially since we have lived the exact opposite of the spectrums in prior times....i guess it's obvious that the biggest difference is the police control and enforcement, no? Bu isn't it fair to say that overall, if you don't count the "malos", the same group of either kids or young criminals that avoid getting justice served properly and roam the streets here, that real people here are SO genuine and good hearted at all costs..well almost all costs...that's my opinion at least...and of course some of this stuff exists where you live also…

Regarding military rule, and crime..I agree that the crimes before 1983 (and some afterwards?) were way above street level done by the some elements of military itself..heck that is documented and sad history...and a positive consequence was the low street crime,,,due to fear of reprisal...the sad part is that I meet people every week thee days who sometimes fantasize that the military would take control of the justice system here, although I must say, that little by little it seems that enforcement is coming more into play.

To Jos, I get to wake up in this fabulous area every day of my life, but I have to remind myself this is a significant tourist area, and with that comes what we have been talking about...thanks the to wood I knock on that the worst that has happened to us is our kid's day-camp backpacks were ripped off on day 18 of our existence here going on 3 years now , from Kilomotro 0 downtown Mendoza city..sort of times square of Mendoza...from a cyber cafe while we were not paying attention,....and there is periodic tourist and street crime every day here for sure just like anywhere..it all depends on you and how you conduct yourself...cheers
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richard cooperman
New member
Username: Eroica38

Post Number: 8
Registered: 6-2007
Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2008 - 11:09 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My wife and I recently spent two weeks in Argentina. That's one week in BA and a week split between Mendoza and Iguasu. We are originally from New York City, Brooklyn, and are very familiar with street crime. At no time during our trip did we feel threatened or concerned. We wandered across BA at all hours, taking buses, cabs and the subte w/o incident. That includes staying out until 3 am too. During the day we walked Recolta, Palermo, San Telmo, Microcenter, Once, etc. We have seen waaay more troubling looking folks in Rome, Paris and London. With normal big city care you will be quite safe. At all times we were casually dressed, showed no jewelry and carefully accessed ATMs. BTW my wife and I speak little spanish and most would consider us senior citizens (sigh).
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MIchael Calero
Member
Username: Michael795

Post Number: 66
Registered: 4-2007
Posted on Friday, March 21, 2008 - 1:22 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I totally agree with Richard. I was born and raised in New York city, also a Retired NYPD Detective so my experience both personal and career wise is when in a big city like Buenos Aires one has to fit in, just sit at a cafe and watch everyone, clothing, body movement, jewelry not shown, backpacked wore in front, etc. etc. I was in Palermo for 48 days in October and November walked all over the place, hailed taxi like in NYC during the day but called Radio Taxis at night. I never had a problem and believe me I was out every night. Just like anywhere just be alert and walk like you own the place (always respectful for you are a visitor)just like the individuals living there. If you start walking around like a lamb then the wolves will spot you and that is when the robbery takes place. During my visit I saw several tourist with their cameras in plain view, white socks, that is a sign that you are a tourist or looking up at the tall buildings, the native individuals living there don't do that, those are signs theives look for in any city.

Buenos Aires has very nice areas and bad ones also just like New York City or any large city. My experiences when I worked in Harlem I found many individuals who were taking a chance with their lives just walking there two blocks during the night, I saw many Columbia University students take the wrong subway and then attempt to walk through Harlem and were robbered during daylight hours. Those are wrong mistakes.

So, My advice make it your business to just sit at a cafe and watch the people and fit in doing the same in some way without not being yourself, Don't over expose yourself as a tourist and you will be much safer. Like the saying goes "Better to be safe than Sorry" Common sense.
Hope that helped.

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