Saturday, December 15, 2007

Field Notes Buenos Aires: Safety

One of the biggest warnings we heard before we came to Buenos Aires was: be careful. Keep a close hold on your purse. Call a taxi rather than hail a random one. Make sure you are not followed after using the ATM. Etc., etc.

Yes, it's true. There is a lot of petty crime here in Buenos Aires (and some violent crime as well), and possibly more than in some big cities because the recent economic collapse has created more desperate people. It is wise to be careful. But not enjoyable to be paranoid.

Paranoia can slip in easily in an unfamiliar city, especially when you don't understand what people are saying around you, and you don't know what the signals are that let you know you are in danger. Strange noises keep you awake at night, and your heart will start racing when walking after dark. We are afraid of the unknown.

As I have become more familiar with the area I live in, the paranoia has started to subside. Yes, I watch my purse. But I also notice how many parents are walking with their children, how many women are comfortable walking alone, how the delivery guys at the restaurant next door recognize me and say hello.

Looked at with a wide-angle lens, it is a big, scary city. But zoom in closer, and it is a collection of neighborhoods, each one its own community. The neighborhood I live in is one of the safest. The longer I live here, the chances are greater that someone might steal my purse, and the truth is, as long as I don't carry credit cards with me, they will get about $300 U.S. But as long as I don't do anything stupid, I don't fear for my physical safety.

There's a balance between being aware enough to feel safe without feeling paranoid, and I'm starting to strike the balance.

1 comment:

Bona said...

Interesting to know.