Life on the Road – 38 days around Argentina

Reflections on our epic Argentine road trip. I can’t believe this was 8 months ago already…


On the Road!
On the Road! You can see Franca’s reflection in the back seat mirror.

We did it!

38 days away from home. 6100 km (3800 miles) driven. One car. Two adults & two little girls.

11 hotels/apartments/houses
10 cities.

A circle around the center of Argentina.

One incredible adventure.

Day 1, Pilar: On January 24th, we left on a spectacular road trip that would circle us around the midsection of Argentina. In a tour like nothing we’ve ever done before (okay, there was the Chilean road trip 3 years ago, but given the geography of Chile, that was one way and not a ROUND trip. We were moving from Bariloche to Cordoba via Chile, but I digress.) Starting on January 24th, 2014, we had our car all packed and drove 6.5 hours, through Rosario, to get to our friends house in Pilar, just northwest of Buenos Aires. We stayed there, met his pet pig named Peppa (a pet at that time, which since has been made into dinner) and had a lovely tour of Pilar, along with ice cream and sushi.
Brad and Franca watching Geneva and Delfina in the waves.
Brad and Franca watching Geneva and Delfina in the waves.
Days 2-4, Mar Chiquita: Heading out the next day, we drove south along the coast to Mar Chiquita, a sleepy coastal village just north of Mar del Plata. We stayed a gorgeous three nights with Brad’s cousin, her Argentine husband and their daughter. They  split time between the Northeast USA and coastal Argentina. Their daughter is 1-1/2 years older than our oldest  daughter and  they were fast friends. We loved the freedom that a constant playmate afforded us. Aaaah…. The food here was incredible. The lifestyle here was even better. I could really get used to living as a beach bum!
Sea Lion colony in Mar Del Plata.
Sea Lion colony in Mar Del Plata.
On our way out of town, we swung through Mar del Plata. Crazy. I do not want to EVER stay there during high season. Wow. We had driven through a few days earlier to see the sea lions and knew what we were getting ourselves into.
A quick stop at a street market to pick up a very special loaf of bread and other random snacks that were recommended to us and we were off! Again.
Day 5-6, Bahia Blanca: Heading south further. Very hot. Saw the movie Frozen with our older daughter here. Franca, the toddler,  fell in the park and scraped her nose. Now she has a perfect stripe up her face and looks a little chipmunk-esque. We stayed at the Hotel Argos, and were lucky enough to get an updated king corner suite. It was really lovely and since the girls are small, we all curled up in one king-sized bed together. :) We won’t be able to do that for too much longer!
Walking along the beach in Las Grutas during low tide.
Walking along the brach in Las Grutas
Days 7-9, Las Grutas:  After a meandering drive southwest, we made an unplanned detour to Las Grutas. We rented a great apartment on the beach. Again, we drove up to see it, ran back to the car to tell Brad and the girls, then ran back to reserve it. Not many vacancies during high season! We had some gasoline drama here- the only gas station in town was empty and waiting for a tanker truck to fill up- and had been for days. We didn’t have enough gas to get back to the next bigger city. Luckily we didn’t have to drive anywhere for a few days and could have always taken a taxi 12 km to get a can of gasoline if needed. On our last planned day there, the station got a fill-up and so did we.
The beach was beautiful with “pools” cut out of the stone that you could access during low tide. It was a great sandy beach with high cliffs leading to the town up above. On the very end of town there was even a water slide (Geneva thoroughly enjoyed this) and cabañas and carpas (tents) along the length of beach that you can rent to stay out of the sun.
Day 10, Neuquen: A quick stop for the night, then taking off the next morning. We stayed at Casino Magic Hotel for a bit of luxury.
This is the only place we stayed at for only one night- but also the only place we stayed at twice (once down and once on our way back). Since it was such a quick stop, we ate at the hotel restaurant where we were one of three families there when it opened at 8:30 PM. Beautiful rooms, pool and public spaces. The restaurant was good, but not exceptional.
Standing in front of Volcan Lanin. Junin de los Andes, Argentina.
Standing in front of Volcan Lanin. Junin de los Andes, Argentina.
Days 11-12, Junin de los Andes: Snore…. Hotel was blech but grounds were amazing. We booked it that morning, just hours before we arrived, so beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Unfortunately the weather was freezing cold and very windy. We had to buy more clothes for Daughter #1 to keep warm!! This was our jumping off point to see the spectacular  Volcán Lanín outside of town.
Days 13-17, San Martin de los Andes: Oh, what a beautiful little town! Shopping was crazy expensive and there were a ton of people blanketing the town but we still enjoyed it. We drove into town and straight to the tourism office to try to find a place to stay. After a few doozies, we found an apartment that was cute and adequate for a 5 night stay. Mexican food at Viva Zapata was unbelievable. We hiked to the lookout above town and then drove some trecherous gravel cliffs to other lookout. LOOOOOOng drive to volcano. Freezing still but I purchased 2 meters of fleece to wrap Franca. We also drive to Chapelco Mountain/Ski Resort where Brad and Geneva went down the alpine slide and later Geneva climbed the lakeside rock wall. San Martin was great little town that I definitely want to visit again!
Almost took a wrong turn to Chile on the way to Villa la Angostura. Stopped at an overlook and asked a tour bus driver. Turn around!!!
Days 18-19, Villa La Angostura: When we arrived, we had some time before check-in, so we stopped for a really beautiful lunch and I cried. I cried over my lamb because it was so good and our lives are so amazing!!! Geneva was asking about our engagement over dinner and wanted daddy to propose to me again, so we got re-engaged over dinner. Geneva lost a tooth the next night at dinner. I Bought an overpriced but beautiful Columbia jacket for myself. It was an eventful few days! We spent 2 nights, two different rooms in a great hotel but with a terribly bumpy and rutted dirt access road.
Days 20-24, Bariloche 1:  We found a little Apart-Hotel off of Av. de los Pioneros, close to downtown. This was a very different perspective from being so close to Llao Llao when we were previously living in Bariloche from Sept 2010-Feb 2011. The apartment was old and not the prettiest, but for a walk-up (no reservation again), we couldn’t be too picky.
"Our" house in Bariloche.
“Our” house in Bariloche.
Days 25-34, Bariloche 2: We are HOME- well, our old home!!! Back to the same house where we lived for 5 months in 2010- 2011. Geneva had her 3rd birthday in this house, we celebrated Christmas, Brad’s birthday and we also decided here that we wanted another baby once we settled in Cordoba. Needless to say, this house is very significant to us, even if we were only here for 5 months.
We had nine days here again this time and it was paradise. There were some great updates to the place and we wanted to soak up every second of it. We also buried our dog’s ashes in the beautiful yard. He loved the yard so much and Pablo, along with our other dog, Paloma, stayed in Bariloche for an additional 3 months (from Feb 2011- to May) while we were getting settled in Cordoba before they joined us via plane. We are all happy that he is there forever now. Cue the tears.
Ready for the Zip Line Canopy Tour!!
Ready for the Zip Line Canopy Tour!!
We did some of the tourist things as well as re-visiting some of our favorite places: Hotel Llao Llao for coffee. Cau Cau boat trip, Bellevue Casita de Te (twice!), Canopy zip-line for Geneva and Brad. Incredible drive to El Bolson (the furthest South we visited- almost as far as Puerto Madryn, but on the other side of the country.)
Alas, all good things must come to an end. We leave and head north to Neuquen once again. It is a spectacular drive north out of the city.
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Days 35-36, Neuquen- a second time: The only city where we stopped twice. We even stayed at the same hotel. Head to the Museum, check out downtown.
Day 37, Villa Mercedes: After discovering that we had an incredibly smooth, straight, beautiful hiway drive, we drove like the wind and kept on for 8 hours until we got to Villa Mercedes. Booked the hotel at a gas station/lunch stop with Wifi along the way.
Day 38, Cordoba!!! Home! We completed the incredible circuit, heading east from Cordoba to the coast of Argentina, down along the coast and across to the west, then straight up the middle of the country back home again.
The girls were wonderful- with the worst of the driving days being the first (getting accustomed to it) and the last (great anticipation of home).
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Tips to Remember :
  • Never tell your 6 year old when you will be getting home. Just show up. We spent several hours driving from Villa Mercedes with Ms.-Super-Crabby-Pants in the back seat. Pulling out the infamous “Are we there yet??” every few minutes. Never. Again.
  • No matter how much you pack, you are packing too much. We had one duffel bag of clothes  shared between all of us and it was too much. I would cut the clothes drastically next time. We were traveling between climates (hot and beach for our first 4 stops, then super chilly for 2 stops, moderate temps for the rest) so I packed for everything, or so I thought. We all had clothes we didn’t use and Daughter #1 needed two warmer pieces that we purchased along the way.
  • Plan surprises along the way for the kids. Little toys packed, activity books, unexpected stops- even if just to a beautiful lookout. It is worth it.
  • Get gas /petrol/nafta- whatever you call it- get it WHENEVER you can! We got stuck in Las Grutas with very little gas, the only gas station in town was awaiting a fill (and had been waiting for days) and the next nearest gas station was 20 km away. Not cool, but there are worse places to be stuck, for sure :)

Reflecting on the trip, I can’t believe that we all survived 38 days of family togetherness in a sedan! Our two daughters, ages 6 and 1-1/2 years old, both in car seats. One driver throughout (thank you, Hon, for the safe journey!) What an incredible adventure!!

Expat Feature: George, Part 3 of 3 – The Difficult Transition

This is the final part in George’s Story, if you missed the first parts, you can read Part 1  and Part 2 here.

Jorge Pic 2

 

I arrived in Argentina in June of 2012 and it was freezing! I already knew that when it was spring and summer in the States, it was fall and winter in Argentina but apparently my body was still lagging seasonally.

After arriving at Cordoba’s airport, my spouse and I were greeted by my parents. It was extremely emotional for all of us. After all, when they moved to Argentina seven years earlier, I had made the choice to stay in the States. This produced a fall out and neither of us ever expected to see each other again until now.

My parents were instrumental in helping us through the transition.

I had a home of my own and it was fully furnished. Even the fridge and pantry were flowing with different types of food. They had pretty much thought of everything. We felt a great deal of euphoria in the first few weeks we were here. It was a new country and my spouse and I were eager to explore it but eventually, the new wore-off and we realized we were very far from our friends, family and essentially the only life we had ever known. Soon the euphoria turned into desperation and depression.

There were a couple of tough adjustments; the first being the language. We meant to speak Spanish the whole time but that plan lasted a good ten seconds before we went back to speaking English in the house and on the streets. My spouse was born in Ft. Lauderdale to an Irish mother and a Puerto-Rican father. Although he spoke and understood Spanish to a certain degree, he was unaccustomed to how different the Argentine Castilian was to the standard Spanish we were used to hearing from our family and friends in the States. Even I was a little thrown off by some of the words, sayings and jokes and I was raised by Argentine parents.

However, the biggest obstacle for us had been separating the things my mother had told us about how easy it would be to integrate to Argentina with the actual facts.

At the time I was 35 and my spouse was 29. We hadn’t anticipated any issues finding work, but we also didn’t know that an employer could screen potential candidates based on their age and gender. It became obvious that we were going to have to figure out the truth about life in Argentina for ourselves. So we asked around. Eventually we learned that it’s difficult to get work if you’re over 27 and virtually impossible after 30. Of course there’s always the option of working under the table, which we have done as freelance writers in order to survive here.

Another obstacle we discovered was the stigma that certain people have in regards to Americans. I can’t tell you how awkward it is to get invited to a party and hear people bad mouthing Americans and calling us “colonizing terrorists.” This initially made it really difficult to make friends and for a time we decided to live in a virtual bubble. Eventually, we reached out to other expats and they in turn introduced us to Argentineans who are kind and open-minded. Some even speak English too.

The food however took some getting used to. Argentines are quite fond of their barbecues, which consist of everything from cow brains to kidneys, ribs and entrails. We found very little variety beyond the empanadas, crumb sandwiches and “Dulce De Leche” spread. I missed the variety that was available in the States. I was craving Chinese food, good old southern fried chicken, fried Okra, bacon, maple syrup, waffles, stuffing, turkey slices, pepperoni, pizza rolls, Hot Pockets, Shanghai wings, waffles, General Tso’s Chicken, New York style pizza, tacos, burritos, even the Cuban and Puerto-Rican sandwiches (called Pernil) that I’d grown accustomed to. Granted some of these items are hard but not impossible to find here. Other dishes can be made from scratch if you’re lucky enough to be married to someone who loves to cook, like I am. But for the most part, a lot of the American, Mexican, or oriental style dishes are served at restaurants with an Argentine twist to them, which simply doesn’t work for me.

Jorge Pic 1However, Argentina has given us the chance to do something we love quite a bit and that’s to explore and see new things.

In the last two years, I’ve visited the Sierras (mountain region) of Cordoba. I’ve been awestruck by the rock formations and breathtaking depths.

I’ve also visited the capital in Buenos Aires which is far more similar to the States than anything I’ve seen in Cordoba. The buildings in the capital are taller. It’s a bit more hectic and people are always buying things in much the same way as they do in Manhattan. Some areas, especially the business district, where a lot of the national and international banks are located, reminded me of downtown Miami. Recently, I’ve also had the chance to visit the province of San Juan. Did it have an emotional resonance for me because I was born there?

Unfortunately I have no memory of my life in San Juan as I only spent my first year and a half in this province. So the answer to that question would be no. So have I integrated to Argentine life after two and a half year of living here? Um no and I don’t see myself ever doing that, at least not fully, but that’s okay. My initial fear was that I would have to give up who I was to assimilate to Argentinean society, but I’ve come to realize that I can truly have the best of both worlds without having to lose anything and that’s one of the biggest hurdles I’ve managed to overcome as an expat.

Link to George’s expat site: http://gayamericaninargentina.blogspot.com.ar/

 

A huge thanks to Jorge (George) for sharing his story with us over the last few weeks! I love the perspective because each expat experience is completely unique. From your background situation, to logistics on the ground where you move, to what you miss most from your “home” country.
We’ll be reposting our own expat story in this format in the coming weeks.

Expat Feature: George, part 2 of 3 – Preparation

Here is part 2 of George’s Expat story. If you missed part 1, you can find George’s Expat story Part 1 here.

Jorge Pic 3

Careful preparation and organization are vital elements for any kind of move, but nothing could have prepared me for the physical, financial and emotional exhaustion that came with moving abroad.

My spouse and I were going to a country that is very different from the United States culturally with its customs, food and overall way of life.

For starters, we’ve always been big spenders. I myself have a DVD obsession while my spouse is hooked on novels and clothes. Would we be able to keep up this lifestyle in Argentina? For that answer we went to the expert, my mother.

My mom warned me months before my move that life in Argentina would take some getting used to but nothing can really prepare you for the journey until you’ve actually set foot here. Although she meant well, she practically sold us a lemon when she convinced us that the politics, financial and job outlook here was great, but we fell for it and decided to start packing.

So now we had to go through a ton of items in our storage unit and weed out what we needed, wanted, and what needed to go in the trash. Since our budget was limited, we could only afford to send four boxes, 50 pounds each through an international moving company. That in itself set us back 1,200 US dollars. We gave away whatever we didn’t want to our New York family and left the stuff we couldn’t take in their basement with the promise of returning to reclaim the items at some future date.

Although we had been preparing for months, we were still packing, taking stuff out and reorganizing things until the last minute.

This was hard on us but even harder on our family. My in-laws barely had time to say goodbye to us. We could tell that they were disappointed. My spouse and I knew that our move to Argentina was quite possibly a one-way trip and so did they. Our family wanted the chance to say goodbye and yet there simply wasn’t time and that’s possibly one of our biggest regrets; not making enough time for them.

I don’t think I was too nervous about the move itself but that might have been the effects of the Xanax I took before getting on the cab to get to the airport. My spouse has always been my rock and I drew strength from how well he was handling everything. I think the only time I became emotional was when the plane took off and I saw New York from up above for what was possibly the last time. But I hadn’t left The States, not just yet. Our plane landed in Miami and there was a layover of a couple of hours before we boarded the next plane which would take us to Argentina.

I guess it was kind of symbolic that my life began when I arrived in Miami and now I was saying goodbye to it before beginning a whole new adventure in Argentina. As the second plane took off, I watched the night lights of Miami one last time.

Goodbye U.S.A. the only home I’ve ever known. Thank you for my life.


 

We’ll be posting the final installment in George’s story next week. How has he adjusted to life in Argentina? Has it met expectations? We’ll see!

Our World Traveling Pugs: A Tribute

G with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009
Geneva with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009

When we moved to Montevideo, Uruguay in March of 2009, we brought our two Pugs, Pablo and Paloma with us.

We often joke that they were the most complicated part of the move, requiring specific flight times and layovers (due to temperature restrictions for snub-nose breeds),  translated paperwork, exams, shots at very specific intervals, crate requirements, leash, water, tags… the list goes on.

For anyone who loves dogs though, this is not even a question.

Our dogs were our first babies-before-our-human-babies and although we didn’t plan on moving across the globe when we became dog owners early in our marriage, we knew the commitment that dog ownership entails, so 7 years later, the dogs were coming with us.

Transit was the easy part. Boarding the dogs in Montevideo another issue all together, but we worked through it and were reunited as soon as we had “our” house in the Pocitos neighborhood. It was wonderful to be together again and the dogs lazed in the sunshine of the courtyard and curled up together wherever they could find a comfy spot.

Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Skip ahead 18 months and we flew with the dogs again on our way to Bariloche, Argentina.

This time we knew the drill of traveling with pets and while a bit simpler, Uruguay’s pet exportation requirements were still quite detailed.  Through Buenos Aires and to Bariloche, our dogs were traveling pros.  They loved the freedom of Bariloche and our fenced in yard. Pablo specifically would explore and lay in the gorgeous grass and I’d like to think he appreciated the beautiful views, too.

When we drove from Bariloche through Chile and settled in Córdoba, Argentina.  We knew that the pugs couldn’t take a 15 day road trip with us so we had a wonderful neighbor family in Bariloche watch them. They were caretakers at a gorgeous estate and the dogs were in heaven with a loving family and property to roam.

The dogs flew one final time from Bariloche to Córdoba to meet us when we were in our house near the Cerro neighborhood, in the northwest of the Córdoba Capital.

Geneva (AKA "Punky Brewster") & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Geneva AKA “Punky Brewster” & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Córdoba was to be their final home.

Pablo had been in declining health for years. He had lower spine issues and before we even left the USA, we had consults with the University Veterinary hospital, treatments with an alternative medicine Vet (yes, he received doggy chiropractic and acupuncture) and therapy to maintain strength in his hind legs.  As he aged, his gait became more and more unstable but he could still walk. As a last-ditch effort, we even used small balloons over his hind feet like booties so he’d gain some traction on our slippery tile floors.

Shortly after our second daughter was born at the end of May 2012, Pablo stopped walking completely. He stopped eating and drinking. We took him in to receive IV fluids, but he was 12 years old and  his time was up.

On our most recent trip to Bariloche this past February 2014, we stayed at the same house where we used to live and buried Pablo’s ashes under a prominent tree that he loved to hide under 2 years earlier.

Franca & Paloma in Córdoba, Argentina. October 2014
Franca & Paloma, October 2014

We still had Paloma, the younger of the two.  A year and a half the junior of Pablo, we felt like Paloma would live forever. She was going to be the ugly old toothless Pug that lived to be 17.  While visually, she had aged a lot in recent years, she still got around like a puppy. She had a vigor that Pablo’s quiet aloofness could never match. She was the barker. She was the one wanting to ‘meet’ all the other dogs but then would roll onto her back in submission. Pablo was just too good for that, too much of a loner to care.  Paloma was a social butterfly, or so she wanted to be.

Our vision of the life our old dog was going to lead changed suddenly last week.

Paloma died in my arms as we were trying to rush her out the door to the vet. At 12-1/2 years old, we shouldn’t have been surprised, but after watching Pablo’s slow decline over the course of years, we were shocked that she passed so quickly. Paloma was fine in the morning: eating, drinking, climbing stairs; then in the afternoon: shuttering, gasping and gone. So suddenly.

We have such an emptiness in our hearts. After nearly 14 years of having dogs in in our lives, the changes in routine and in looking for the pitter pat of little doggie feet to greet you are the hardest.

Pablo and Paloma were great dogs, not perfect, but they were ours. They gave us unconditional love and we gave them a forever home, even though that home changed a few times. We miss our two babies-before-our-human-babies and will be forever grateful that they took this crazy international adventure along with us.

Besos a ustedes dos, Pablito y Palomita!!!  Los queremos y los extrañamos mucho!
Pablo and Paloma Jan 12, 2008
Pablo & Paloma, January 2008. Minneapolis, MN

 

Expat Feature: George, part 1 of 3

George in NYC
George in NYC

Is it George or Jorge? That’s the question most people have asked me since I was five years old.

I generally go by George, since it was easier for my teachers, friends and bosses to pronounce. For some reason, the J has always been a tongue twister for a lot of the folks I’ve met growing up. So I go by George.

So what makes me unique from the average American expat? Well for starters, I wasn’t born in the United States. I was born in San Juan Argentina during the militia dictatorship of the 70s. It was a terrible time in Argentine history. People were abducted from their homes and were never heard from again. My parents feared for my life so they took me to live in the United States. They did everything in their power to speed up our residency and U.S. citizenship paperwork so that I would never be forced to go back and endure the hell that the Argentine people were facing at the time.

I never knew much of anything about my life in Argentina. I was too small to remember anything. Life for me began in my hometown of Miami. My parents and I moved around quite a bit while I was growing up. I must have gone through ten different schools before I graduated high school. Oh and I did spend a year in Franklin Tennessee before we moved back to Miami. I attended college in Orlando’s Valencia Community College, where I spent ten years of my life and eventually met my future spouse. 

George, his spouse and in-laws in NYC
George, his spouse and in-laws in NYC

You could say that traveling has always been a part of me. Since meeting my partner, we’ve done quite a bit of cross-country trips. Eventually I followed my partner to New York so he could attend a college called New School. We remained in New York for four years during which time I was laid off twice. I even remember one year where we were living in a shoebox apartment infested with rats and eating boiled eggs, Jell-O and drinking tap water. New York was going to be the precipice where my writing career would take off but it didn’t.

We ultimately decided that New York was not the right fit for us so we needed an escape plan.

The only choice available to us was one that I was very reluctant to take … moving to Argentina. My parents had retired and left the States seven years earlier and were living comfortably in Cordoba, managing a series of properties. I reached out to my folks, explained what was happening, and they invited us to move to Cordoba. So why was I so reluctant? The American life was all I’ve ever known. There was no room in my mind, body or soul for any other allegiances. I wanted my life to continue in the States, with my friends and with my in-laws but I had to look towards the future. The Bronx just wasn’t cutting it and we didn’t have the resources to start over anywhere else in the States. So after a great deal of soul-searching I decided to accept my parents’ generous offer to move to Argentina.

But as I got ready for the big move, two questions haunted me. What if I can’t survive the culture shock? What if I can never find a way to return home?


 

Please look for Part 2 of George’s story featured next week! How would he transition to life in Argentina? Would it meet his expectations????

Adventures with Diabetes

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Miami Airport, August 2014.

When thinking about our lives and the interesting things that we’ve done as a family, I sometimes forget I am a person with Type 1 Diabetes. For most of the last 12 years, I have been attached to an insulin pump and testing my blood glucose a million times per day. Well, not quite a million…but a lot.

It’s strange that sometimes I can forget about Diabetes, even though I have a device tethered to my body 24/7, but I do.

I also sometimes forget that I’m living a really remarkable life:

  • Brad and I traveled to Thailand 6 weeks after my diagnosis, which included a 3-day trek in Chiang Mai.
  • We’ve trekked the Inca trail in Peru
  • Earlier this year, we took a 38-day / 3800 mile road trip across Argentina with our two young daughters (6 & 1-1/2 years old).
  • I travel internationally on a regular basis, including 13 countries (some multiple times) since diagnosis and lived in/had health insurance in 3 countries.
  • I’ve been walking approximately 21 miles per week
  • We had an accidental, unassisted homebirth with daughter #2

— and I have Type 1 Diabetes!!!

I am sure I drive my doctors insane, but I’ve got it -mostly- under control. I’m in control as much as much as any person with Diabetes can keep the pendulum-that-is-blood-glucose from swinging in one direction or the other.

These stories & details make up the fabric of my life. I guess you can call it adventurous. I guess you have to be when you have a chronic illness and you choose to move abroad anyway and deal with things as they come.

Iguazu Falls, Geneva 5 years old.
Iguazu Falls, March 2013, Geneva 6 years old.

The best thing I’ve found is to not view my body as the enemy. We’re in this together.

I use my body and exercise as my tools and sometimes, just sometimes, lose myself in my day and forget about my physical tether that is attaching me to my insulin pump. Some days, I just have to let go and be normal- figuratively speaking, of course. Diabetes doesn’t take a holiday.

Perfect Imperfections

** This is a post the I wrote back in June but for some reason never posted.  So here it is! **

A Perfect Fall Day, Córdoba, Argentina
A Perfect Fall Day, Córdoba, Argentina

As I was walking home from bringing Daughter#2 at her preschool this afternoon, a 4 km round trip through a beautiful neighborhood on a partly cloudy, crisp early fall day, I kept thinking about the term ‘perfection’. What a perfect day. What an amazing experience, walking these residential streets that I walk every day, but being truly present and aware of the beauty.

Truth be told: My music app wasn’t working so I was forced to walk without the distraction of a steady beat pumped into my ears.

I breathed deeply, walked smoothly, noticed the leaves falling in the breeze. I picked up the most perfect golden red leaf from the ground… and then noticed its imperfections. The small tear towards the bottom. The spots of brown. It wasn’t perfect at all. But what in nature really is? It is all very imperfect, but that is what makes it beautiful.

A 'perfect' leaf on my walk.
A ‘perfect’ leaf on my walk.

Of course, nature’s beauty is fleeting and as I stopped to take a photo, I must have dropped this perfect leaf and I couldn’t find it again.

Perfection and the lack thereof has been a recurring theme lately. It is something that keeps coming up in my world. Needless to say, it’s been on my mind.

One of my favorite songs on my walking playlist is John Legend’s “All of Me”.  If you don’t know it or want to listen again, you can see a version of it here (live version appropriate for all ages). “Cause all of me
Loves all of you.
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections.”

I was also thinking about a blog that I saw for the first time last night. A truly inspiring story about a woman’s weight loss journey and finding love in herself and her imperfect body. Check out the story at I’mperfect Life.

The underlying theme: Our lives are never perfect, our relationships are never perfect, no matter what they look like from the outside.

Along the same lines- A country is never perfect, either.

No matter where you are, you have to take the good with the bad and find beauty in the imperfections, the frustrations, the day to day nuances that may drive you crazy (See my list of the Pros & Cons of Argentina Part 1Part 2!) You have to decide if those imperfections are a deal-breaker for you. If you stick it out, if you make the best of whatever imperfect situation or country, it can help grow resilience, an open mind and open heart.

This is not to say that you have to accept the way things are without changing (yourself, the situation, or both). Just remember to look for the beauty among the (seemingly more obvious) imperfections of the journey.

That is all. I am off to enjoy more of this absolutely perfect day.

Lisa

Striving for Minimalism

Toddler G and all of our STUFF arriving in Montevideo Uruguay in March 2009We moved to South America 5 years ago this past March, with a 15-month-old baby, two Pugs, a collection of carry-ons plus 12 bags/boxes, a stroller, travel crib and car seat, all brought with us on the airplane.

This was after we sorted and packed/sold/gave away nearly everything we owned. All the furniture in our 2000 sq. ft house in MN; sold. Clothes; donated. No shipping container for us. No sir. We’ve pared it down to the essentials.

Our whole life was in those 12 bags/boxes. Everything from clothes and toys to a desktop computer and two flatscreen monitors.

We liked to think that we were living a minimalist lifestyle when we brought said bags/boxes to our furnished rental in Montevideo, but we weren’t. Not even close. We still had collections of clothes that we brought with us “just in case”. We sill had (and have to this day) boxes and boxes in storage in my father-in-law’s basement back in the USA. Boxes full of housewares and momentos, clothes and business paperwork. I shudder at the thought of those boxes, even though I have sorted, further purged and repacked said boxes every time we visit the USA.

Is this any better than paying for a storage unit somewhere? No.

Little F (along with Paloma the Pug) in the play area. Look at all the STUFF!
Little F in our play area. Look at all the STUFF!

We now have far too many toys and random THINGS that we’ve accumulated being in one house in Cordoba for over 3 years. Time to pare down again. We are sorting, cleaning, selling and giving away once again.

Less STUFF means less to worry about. Money saved by not purchasing extraneous things. Time saved not looking for things and not having to maintain ‘collections’ of things. More time for meaningful experiences. More time for the PEOPLE in your life.

My favorite video about STUFF is in the link below (warning: Carlin has a potty-mouth, but the message is powerful). Click if you dare: http://youtu.be/MvgN5gCuLac

Some of our favorite minimalist resources are:

Zen Habits http://zenhabits.net/ (which planted the seed in our minds, years ago)

Becoming Minimalist http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

The Minimalist Mom http://www.theminimalistmom.com/

Food and The Mother of Invention

If you asked me 5 years ago whether I thought food would be a major factor in our lives in South America, I never would have considered it. Food was food. Sure there were things I liked to eat and I knew there would be things that I wouldn’t be able to find in South America, but I am here to tell you that our cooking and eating habits have changed and matured dramatically since we left the USA in early 2009.

Poached Pears (With Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Cream Topping)
Poached Pears (With Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Cream Topping)

In Uruguay, our major adjustment was that the dinner hour doesn’t start until about 8 PM (this is true in Argentina as well, with many restaurants hitting their busiest times around 10 PM). When we visited Uruguay in early 2008 during our exploratory trip with our infant daughter, this wasn’t an issue. We brought the baby with us in a stroller and she slept while we ate. Toddlers, unfortunately are not quite as flexible. We opted to make food at home whenever possible and more often than we care to admit, we would wait for the take-out pizza place to open at 7 PM so we could get our pizza, pizzeta (crust, sauce and toppings with no cheese) and faina.

Weekly Produce for URMOVINGWHERE Family
Weekly Produce for URMOVINGWHERE Family

Luckily, wherever we have lived in South America, there has been an ample supply of fresh produce and we could find the raw ingredients to make many things. On the other hand, the furnished rentals where we’ve lived have posed a challenge with the appliances/cookware provided. I started to cook in earnest, while not buying many durable goods because we’ve been moving frequently. Necessity is the mother of invention and I learned to make all the things that we might be craving: pad thai, fried rice, mac & cheese, lasagne, and all sorts of sauces, soups and spice blends from scratch.

I’ve always loved to bake, but I started experimenting with alternative flours (there are many gluten-free alternatives here) and I’ve had great success with everything from pizza crusts to moist fruit breads and crumbly scones.

Many of my cooking challenges arise from using recipes or meal-planning sites from the USA. As we are not in the US, I do not have access to certain foods (like kale, organic anything, sweet potatoes and most packaged items) and appliances (like crockpots- not available here, or a blender- I refuse to buy one). I’ve made do with substitutions for some things and created my own modified prep and cooking methods for others.

I am going to start to include recipes and workarounds here, as a supplement to our travel blog. Food is a huge part of an experience in any country. While I sometimes like to cook North American food as a reminder of ‘home’, I use many international influences, all the while modifying recipes to fit with the foods we have readily available in central Argentina.

Hope you enjoy our international food journey. You might just find a recipe that you’d like to try as well. ¡Buen Provecho!

I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas…

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the day! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to everyone!!!

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree & Little F With An Angel
Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree & Little F With An Angel

This is a season of strong emotion for us- as it is for many people. We have chosen not to travel back ‘home’ for Christmas and rather travel in the summer (June/July) to the US when we can enjoy the weather there and get away from the winter here in Argentina.

That does not make this time of year any easier. As we struggle to create warm-weather Christmas traditions without our extended family nearby, it doesn’t quite seem like Christmas to us. We both grew up in the upper midwest of the United States. Christmas meant cold and snow and baking Christmas cookies and navigating holiday storms/slippery roads to visit family.

Visiting Papa Noel December 2013
Visiting Papa Noel December 2013

Our Christmas in Argentina will consist of opening up a family present to each of the girls on Christmas eve, along with setting out cookies/milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Unfortunately no homemade cookies this year. 100 F heat with a broken AC is too warm to turn on the oven. We’ll be streaming Christmas music on the ipad (avoiding “I’ll be Home For Christmas”– that always makes me cry) and enjoying plenty of ice cream and many a frosty beverage in an attempt to keep cool.

Christmas morning will be chaotic, like many households with young kids. Our 6 year old and 1.5 year old will dive into their presents and we’ll take a few new pool toys out to enjoy right after breakfast. Christmas day will be no baking for us. We’ll be grilling salmon and beef tenderloin on the parilla and taking dips in the pool to cool off in between cooking.

Christmas memories will not always be like this and we are planning to enjoy a snowy white Christmas with family again very soon. Right now though, our Christmas is bittersweet. We are missing family and the Christmas experience of our childhood as we create a new ‘normal’ warm weather Christmas for our girls. Lets just hope that I don’t start bawling during all of our planned skype calls with family! :)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Argentina!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!