Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Just a Rich College Kid

Being from the middle class of the United States, everyone has a chance to go to college, tech school, vocational school, etc, and go out there and make something of themselves. It might be expensive, but you just take out your loans, do your schooling, and one day, pay them off.

I can't help but feel like some rich college kid, just spending some time in Buenos Aires; partying, drinking, learning Spanish, etc. I'm currently staying with a friend who's house-sitting a nice house in the suburbs right now. I've been talking with the maid, which every middle class and higher family has, and just chatting. She was a teacher in Peru, but moved to Buenos Aires to be with her siblings, who moved here, and to find better work...she's currently a maid. Maids, on average, make about $6 pesos/hour here. That's around US $2/hour. I'm going to be spending a month in Colombia pretty soon, and I'm sure I'll be spending around US$1,500. That's an unbelievably large amount of money here...and I'm just going to Colombia to hang out and travel. When I'd talk with the maid at my homestay(I've moved out now), it was hard to talk about the stuff I was planning on doing, and the places I wanted to see. I'd talk about jet setting to Colombia, or spending a weekend in Mendoza in the wine country, and she would just happily listen and smile. I could financially afford all of them, but the 55 year old maid can't financially fathom spending ARG $300 for a bus ticket, which is CHEAP to Americans. She's helping support her family on US $2/hr, and I'm out blowing a week's worth of her salary in one night drinking with my friends...and not even batting an eye. It's saddening. I don't know if I should feel lucky being from the US and having the opportunity to do this, or sick because I'm doing things, at 21 years old, that the majority of this country can't even imagine.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Anonymous said...

this is exactly why you are studying abroad! to see things from a different perspective!!


Anonymous said...

it's great that you're starting to see how things really are. farm workers here that work all day long, weeding the fields of sugar cane by hand, applying pesticide by hand for 8-10 hours, make $5-6/DAY! and that is a good salary. they are lucky if they find a job that pays that. and i know this b/c that's how much a very close friend's family pays their workers.

i must say that my biggest concern about you in BA (as opposed to some no-name small city) was that you would just be living the big city life with other rich kids, partying, drinking... as if you never left minneapolis. and it's sounds like that's exactly what you're doing.

when you get back from colombia, te lo ruego, volunteer at an orphanage, volunteer with church groups (they do lots of good humanitarian projects), volunteer with poor kids to read with them, do some kind of community project to get interacting with how 99% of the world lives, and not your rich kid bubble. talk with the people, ask your maid if she has electricity all day, every day at her home. ask if she has clean water, find out how long she ride the city bus for to get into the city.

ask how old she was when she started working, how many kids she has, if they have kids, do they work? did they graduate middle school, high school?

i'm really happy you made this post. really happy. now you will start opening your eyes.


Anonymous said...

Good post Patrick. Colombia will be a good eye opener for you...remember when we talked about culture shock...It will be nice.

Love you