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Punch the Sucker

amanda gary By amanda gary Published on November 17, 2015

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I shall introduce myself in small pieces, cut to chew, because nobody likes a pity-steak shoved whole in their mouth. This first post shall be a brief summary of my last eight years to get you up to speed: I settled in Buenos Aires by accident, having acquired two english friends, and a bed & breakfast after intending to stay only for six weeks and learn Spanish for work. The house is a 120-year old colonial mansion in the "historic helmet” of Buenos Aires, as the google translation says.

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Upon closing escrow, these gentlemen used the key they still had (a gesture of friendship) to steal my new couch by lowering it out the second-story window. An Argentine friend came to work for me after hearing what happened. She said she wanted to help and had studied tourism and loved talking with foreigners. Three months later, while I was away working as a guide (my former job), she robbed the cash-box and tried to blame it on my new boyfriend. When I didn’t believe her, she sued me using the legal argument that foreigners are bad for Argentina.  We settled.

I closed the house for a few months to do a massive renovation, during which a painter twisted his ankle on his first day. I paid for his hospital visit and three months of salary though he had been contracted for ten days, and when that ran out he sued me for more than the house was worth. Against the advice of my lawyers, we are still in negotiations six years later because I continue to insist that I am not in fact the head of a multi-national construction company, as he claims.  A tyrannical snob, I apparently exploited him as the “Chief Executive Officer of Paint Maintenance” and he was fed up of  working 72 hours a week to rigorously maintain the condition of my imperial home.  Who can blame him?  Despite said mistreatment, he did propose in court that we work together taking tourists to see soccer games at the Boca stadium. Because we're both in the same business and we understand each other.  I declined and he drove away from the courthouse in his brand new car.

Meanwhile I hired a Vietnamese hairdresser to take over for me who, it turned out, didn’t like to speak or smile before 1pm. His employment lasted five weeks and I paid for his ticket back to the northern hemisphere.  Short on new solutions, I continued embracing hospitality for three more years, dedicating my very expensive college education to price comparison shopping for toilet paper and yogurt. Finally I rented the b&b out to someone else who wanted to build a small boutique empire and I, too soon, assumed salvation.

A couple months later, the Argentine government passed a sort of dollar embargo. All of a sudden you could not have dollars, buy dollars or sell dollars depending on your income (for the few who actually report their income), and so a black market was born (blacker than black in the words of Spinal Tap). That meant becoming more of a slumlord than a landlord, since the rental contract was in dollars (as all were at the time), and now my tenant was keen on keeping the difference for herself of the newly peso-fied rent.

What better to complement my new role as a debt-collector than learning a martial art, the art of peace no less. I started taking aikido classes at a place nearby while searching for a new career.  Chiropractic came up as an option, since I'm a friendly sort and I suffer chronic neck pain and I even went to see a school in Barcelona. But then i decided it best to become a seamstress (despite not knowing how to sew) and single-handedly mass-produce artesanal shoe bags for tango, with fabrics bought in the US in dollars and the final product sold in pesos for a quarter of the price. Shockingly, given such natural business acumen, my subsequent application for an Executive MBA at the Berkeley Columbia program did not “knock it out of the park.”

Right around then, my brother came down to Buenos Aires to give it a go in the far south, and during this stint took me to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with him. Upon getting repeatedly strangled and then left off to the side like the boiled carrots a kid doesn't like, I asked myself why I was the only female there and what I could do to find some sisters. And so was born the idea of the first ever female martial arts school in Argentina, to which I have feverishly applied my natural business acumen ever since.   


photo credit : Ron Zak

A punching bag for the absurd. A fresh-faced Californian when I set my backpack down in Buenos Aires eight years ago, now a seasoned expat who speaks fluent "you must be kidding." After a ... Show More

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