July 2, 2013 by Caroline Leland
This is the story of how I ran out of money in Argentina.
Because of my mostly-failed attempt to get cash in Uruguay, I came home with my pockets much lighter than I had been banking on (no pun intended…?). Going on empty, in fact: I had to hand over to Léa most of the money I withdrew in Uruguay, because I owed her host family for buying my bus tickets to Córdoba and Mendoza. When I got home Sunday night, I realized I had exactly 12 pesos left: the equivalent of US$1.60. Not much to live on, eh?
I didn’t have time to go to Xoom for cash until today. So I borrowed 200 pesos from my landlady to pay my Spanish tutor (I owed him for last week, too) and carefully conserved the little bit of food I had in the fridge at home. I’m lucky that I did have food at home, because it was plenty to get by on for two days. But it made me stop and think about people who aren’t that lucky.
Not only do I have food in my fridge, I have friends to spot me and who can safely assume I’ll repay them. I also have a credit card, expensive as it might be to use it, that will always be there as a fallback. It was uncomfortable to walk through the streets unable to buy even a candy bar because my pockets were literally empty. I realized with a shock that what was an inconvenience to me for two days, was a challenge that much of the world faces every day. This thought was humbling to me. Yet another reminder of my incredible undeserved privilege, and how much I take for granted.
And then I went to Xoom and picked up my money and casually walked home with thousands of pesos stuffed in my boots and my bra. Stopping by the grocery store to buy a bottle of Malbec, of course, after stepping around the beggars lying on the sidewalk. Because that’s what people with privilege do, right?