From Libertado San Martin, Entre Rios, Argentina
March 16, 2010
Greetings from Ed and Edith
We arrived here on February 27th at Libertador San Martin to visit our radio friend Mario and
family. Mario's English is superb and he had a bungalow lined up for us to stay that is next door
and he had dental appointments set up for Edith and I, more on that later. Mario works for the
city and Ana works at the bus station as an information officer. There daugher Ivana is studying
to be a dentist and is in her third year. They have a son Alex who I believe will soon be a teen ager.
Mario also fixes wash machines because with the daughter is dental school money is tight.
Well yesterday I finally got the problem of the Travelogues not going out solved and have devised
a method where by I can determine the travelogue really went out. I will send another travelogue
from Costa Rica before we leave for South Dakota. Thanks again to Bill N0ARU of Mitchell who was
the one who tipped me off about the travelogue problem.
One of the things we wanted to accomplish on this trip was to get our dental work done here in
Libertador San Martin which was completed yesterday. We had a lot of work done with 4 root
canals, a bridge of 5 teeth. 4 crowns and some fillings for Edith and I. According to a quote I got
about a year ago in Salem the saving was very substantial costing 38% of what it would have there.
I suppose there may of been some price increase in the last year which would make the saving
greater. Anyway the savings more than paid for our airplane tickets down and back.
The dentist office is very modern and the work is very good. There is only one "catch" and that it is
99.9% Spanish. Our friend Mario was there the first night and helped with the Spanish to English
but since then we have been on our own. I had my work done on March 2 and 3 and Edith had hers
on March 3rd and then the following Wednesday, March 10th. We then had to wait until March 15th
for the bridge and crowns to be made from the impressions. We are going to be sure everything
is fine with the teeth tomorrow and then leave on Wedesday. We will take about 3 days to get to
Santiago Chile and have two extra days in case of a missed connection, etc. We will fly to San
Jose, Costa Rica the morning of March 22nd and arrive at around 3:30 pm.
Liberador San Martin is a Seventh Day Aventist town with a very good college and hospital. There
Saboth is sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night. The town has about 7000 people and when
the students are here that adds about 3000 for a total of 10000. We were here in 2007 while my
broken leg and ankle healed up. This time we are able to see the town and I walk a special trail
they have south along the highway that is 4000 meters long. It is about 2000 meters from our
bungalow so it amounts to about 3.6 miles and we usually walk a couple of other places so it
totals about 4 miles a day.
Fall will start here on March 21st. A few days have been in the 90's and a few nights have
stayed warmer than we like but a number of days have been in the 80's and a few nights have
been nice and cool. The past Sunday we visited the local Museum as Mario and Ana cleaned it. It
is the home of the first doctor here that started the hospital. It was quite interesting with
a description of everything in Spanish. Mario and Anna showed and explained several special
things. I can read quite a bit of Spanish which helped. Back to the seasons Mario says it was colder when
he was young and quite often they got frost but it basically never snows here. For the last 20
years it has gotten more tropical and it does not freeze so the trees don't lose there leaves
and things grow the year around. Mario typically starts a fall garden when it cools down more.
The had a drought in 2007-2009 but 2010 has been to wet. The big crop here is soybeans. This
is big time farming country and looks like SD, IA or Minnesota with it being flat or rolling
hills. There is some real big machinery and there is a Rural Ag channel on TV and things are
very progressive. They have credit and lots of test plots and things are very progressive.
There biggest challenge is government taxes and of course the weather.
For a rural area there seems to be more problems with crime than in the midwest in the USA. It is
better here because most people here are Christians. People in town seem to all have walls and
fences for security. Mario says it is for security as they were not here 30 years ago. In a lot
of areas in South and Central America we have been I think it is more of a cultural thing for privacy as much as security.
We were able to go to church on two Saturdays and the services are just like in Salem except
of course it all is in Spanish. Our Spanish is a lot better than it was but it is a challenge. For me the
hardest is understanding people. There is a vast difference in what it sounds like when people
speak rapidly rather than at a reasonable speed. I don't know if I will ever be able to under
stand the real rapid Spanish. It is like two different languages. The "Castellano" Spanish
I feel I can eventually understand quite well. Of course each country and even area uses some
different words and pronunciations so one always is going to have trouble when going from one
area to another. Of course there are lots of differences in accents as well and a lot of slang
just like English. I know somewhere around 1700 words of Spanish but I am convinced in reality
the one needs to know about 3000=4000 words to really carry on a conversation and understand what
is being spoken. Reading and speaking is tricky because verbs are so much difference than in
English and the structure often is reverse to what we are used to. A simple example is agua frio
which is water cold. That is not a problem but when you have a total sentence structure that
way it is a long ways from a word for word translation!!! The other problem is lack of instant
recognition which is always a problem with any language but with the rapid speaking if you don't
have instant recall you just don't get it. There are basically only a handful of people who
can speak English here. There are a lot than can speak German. The bottom line is every where
you go you have to be able to speak and understand Spanish or resort to other means of
communication such as sign language.
The cost of living here is quite low which is fortunate as a lot of people do not make a lot
of money. Inflation is a constant problem for people here and the governments here seem to
alway be corrupt and the taxes are high. We rent a three room bugalow with a kitchen for about
$30 a day. Groceries, especially fruit and vegatable are very reasonable and meat prices have
went up but in comparison to Salem are much cheaper but there is not nearly the selection. One
thing that is really nice is the grocery store has bulk items of about everything you can imagine.
There must be 50 items of cereals, nuts, trail mix, dates, all sorts of seeds and the list goes
on and on. You name it and it is there. Things seem high priced as they are sold by the kilogram which
is approximately 2.2 pounds so you see a price of about 7.50 for peaches which seems like $7.50
but of course it is not. First for rough figuring you can cut that price in half to get to a little
more than a pound so no you are at $3.25 and then a US dollar is worth about 3.85 peso's so
again for rough figuring you can divide by 4 so that gives you about 81 cents. Of course over time
you grasp what is a reasonable price per kilo but for awhile you need to make the conversion.
Everything is metric and the temperature is Celcius. Measurment is in meters and of course
a lot of times things are in centimeters or millimeters which is easy once you can conceptualize
it in your head as to how long they are. Of course liters and milliliters are very common in the
USA so that is easy. Gas and diesel, etc. are sold by the liter. Construction things and
material are sold by the square meter which is not a lot bigger than a square yard if you are
not familiar with that.
One we notice here and in SA which I think they have even a greater problem than we do is with
the consumption of soft drinks! However you don't see very many over-weight people but this may
change. People are active here and I am sure on average do a lot more walking and exercise.
There are a lot of good cars here but there are also a lot of junkers and way, way more motor bikes but
of course they make a lot more sense here as you can ride them the year around where is SD it is
only about 5 months. For travel to the nearest big towns buses are used. There are at least 10 buses and more like 15 a day
that stop at the bus station. The cost is very reasonable. Mario has an older F-150 that he
tries not to use much. He had to get two new tires as the old ones were about 15 years old. The
new tires cost 800 peso's of which a lot of it is tax. The tax is built in the price here. It
is basically 3.8 peso's per $1.00 US. As you can see the price of a tire is horrible here. I
seen a used car for $9000 that should sell for half of that or less in the USA so some things
are much more reasonable here and some things are very high priced; especially since the
wages are nearly always less. There are some people who live here that have lots of money and
have very nice houses. Because of two very bad economic crises here and horrible inflation a couple
of times people who had money lost it all so those who have kept there wealth had to really
be wise and very much on top of things. I don't know for sure but I think one way they maintained
there wealth was through ownership of assets like land and other things that worked with the
inflation so they kept there money together.
As we see all over Mexico, Central America and SA they really struggle with there infastructure
and in a large sense it has deteriated horribly and it is hard to imagine where the money will
ever be found to really significantly rebuild it. If there is a lesson to be learned here it
to not live off the deteriation of your infastructure because once it deteriates badly it seems
like it is ever going to be possible to have the money to rebuilt it.
One thing all over Mexico, Central and SA is the siesta time. We really have noticed it in SA
this trip. Basically everything closes from about 12:30 to 3:30 but it varies and is usually
posted on the door. It can be as late as 5 pm. They then open up again and that varies but
8 pm is a common time for closing. One thing that this causes is that people have a light, late noon meal
and a very late supper. The siesta is a passion as we see many cars parked along the streets and along
the highway in the shade sleeping during this time. They often are on a bench and I even have seen a couple
of hammocks hung between two trees which after the siesta thay pack up in the car and keep on
traveling. The closing is almost universal, I would say at least 95% here in San Martin. In some
cases with the Saboth things close at sunset on FridaY night and do not open until Monday morning
although quite a number of places are open on Sunday here. On Saturday virtually everything
is closed and everyone is home other than a few young people, ie boy and girl friends.
This morning in getting organized to travel to Santiago, Chile we discovered that our Costa Rica
money was not to be found. We finally figured out we had put it in the binocular case which was
in the red bag that was stolen so we can add about $700 to our loss. The lesson to be learned
here is to keep all cash, credit cards, ATM cards, passport, yellow health card and things of
that nature in a body pouch, money belt or your shoe. We have always done a good job in regards to
this but from now on it will be an absolute rule!!!
One thing we are looking into is a back pack that has wire mesh so it can not be cut and that
can be locked closed with a combination pad lock and has a steel cable that is a part of the
lock that you can put around a pipe in your room or the luggage rack in a bus so some one can
not run off with it. We have been and from now on we will take our bags with us off the bus unless
we can get one like I have discribed. our experience has been that things are not very dangerous
where we have traveled as long as you use common sense and check with the locals where not to go
but there definitely can be a problem with opportunity theft. Armed robbery can happen but
we have not found anyone who has been a victim of that but we have talked to several who have
been victims of opportunity theft. Is it worse here than in the US? If it is, it certainly
is not much worse. Given how poor a lot of people are I can see where there would be a huge
temptation. On the other hand we have had several back packers tell us of leaving a camera or
cell phone at say a cafe, etc. and going back an hour later and the store has it.
We can say in southern Chile and Argentina, Australia and New Zealand and in most places
in the USA the people are extremely honest and you could leave a bag unattended and it is very
likely will not be stolen. We have been told the same is true in western Europe. In the bigger
towns in other places in SA and Central America the chances of it being stolen are much greater. I think one thing that
holds this down in the USA is the airport security and the fact that there is little travel by
bus. We know one has to hold on to things in a lot of places in Africa and Asia but again all we
know of are opportunity theft. I have read of accounts of a team effort of people running a
business with tipping off others of things that can be stolen but we have not talked to anyone
personally that have had this happen.
We have traveled for 10 years and many of these places are reported as not being safe an but in our
opinion there is not a problem with safety as long as you use common sense. We have been robbed
twice, once in Tucson AZ and this time in the Arica, Chile bus station. In Tucson the F-350 was broken into
by punching out the lock where the key goes and using a wire and someone slipped away with our
bag while we were distracted filling out immigration papers. The stolen bag was right beside
our feet but it was the one the fartherest away. As I have said you need to put you foot through a
strap or tie them together, etc. so they can not be slipped away without you noticing it. It is not at all uncommon for someone to be very
nice or use all sort of distraction techniques while someone else takes something from you. They
can often be mothers and children so you need to always hold on to you stuff. Another valuable
tip is to have a zipper and velcro flap on a pocket to protect against pick pockets and distraction.
The bugs and mosquitoes have been fairly bad here! Not nearly as bad as South Dakota but some of
the worst we have run into in our travels other than northern Canada and Alaska. I would say
Alaska was about like SD but northern Canada was very, very, very bad in the summer!!!
We just can not resist talking about cell phones. People seem to have an obcesson with them and
they may not have enough money to keep food oh the table but they all seem to have a cell phone. Here
as in most parts of the world you only get charged when you make a call and not when you get
a call. The USA companies pulled a faST ONE ON US here. The other thing is in grass huts in
Africa and Asia, shacks in South America and all over the world no matter how poor people are they seem to have a color TV.
I was talking to a ham radio operator in Panama yesterday and he said he had to leave to answer
the door. A while later he came back and said it was the Indians from down the road who are
terrible poor but they stop by quite often to ask to use his plug in so they can charge their
cell phone. Yesterday they had an electic clippers they wanted to plug in so they could give
each other some hair cuts. People in SA do a lot of texting to save money.
More another time! We should be in Sioux Falls the afternoon of March 31st. I know there are
a few mispelled words and grammar errors but my spell check is not working and I of course
make some typo's so you get what you get!
Don't forget to check www.w0sd.com and scroll down to the 2010 trip for some great pictures of
the trip through Uruguay as well as a lot of written information.
Ed and Edith