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Traffic jam in Buenos Aires
Traffic jam in Buenos Aires
Pablo Novillo

BUENOS AIRES — Cash-strapped amid a deepening recession but still, in many cases, reluctant to take public transportation, Argentines are turning to car sharing or carpooling to move about.

This relatively environmentally friendly practice is well-established in some U.S. and European cities, but is still embryonic in car-loving Latin America. In Argentina it is catching on as fuel and car maintenance costs rise and public transportation remains defficient. Martín Rubio, one of the creators of SincroPool, a platform which facilitates sharing, says his firm provides companies with "a webpage allowing employees to coordinate their trips. We already have more than 30 firms including Volkswagen, Santander Río and Mercadolibre, with more than 15,000 users."

Some firms are opening pooling to employees of other firms. Mercedes Benz, for example — which created teneslugar.com for its employees — now shares this with Bayer. Its business development chief Verónica Pagniez says that in initial trials "20% of employees used the service daily. We are now open to other firms joining. People share trips to come and go to work and move between the main office and one of the car plants."

"Time is needed for Argentines to make the cultural change, but young people are responding well and we even have directors offering their cars," she said. Argentines between 25 and 35-years-old are responding best, preferring a "non-committal" style of sharing — nobody gets upset if a trip is cancelled and people agree on costs.

While sharing is usually between colleagues, often for security reasons, there are also more public networks like Vayamos Juntos. One of its creators Alejandro Van Morlegan says they have "60,000 users and while some share their daily commuting, many now get in touch for weekends and even for holidays."

Who is to say the love of your life isn't about to get into your car?

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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