Category Archives: Argentina

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!

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

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!!!

Mandatory: Exploratory Trip(s)

 

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Exploratory Trip March 2008. Palacio Salvo, Montevideo, Uruguay.

When we were considering the realities of a move abroad in 2008, we traveled with daughter #1, who was 3 months old at that time to Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. If we hadn’t explored our potential move cities in advance, we probably would not have made the move abroad.

We CANNOT imagine and DO NOT recommend moving abroad, especially with children, without scoping out the location(s) in person first.

Exploratory Trip March 2008. Buenos Aires. 3-month-old Daughter #1.

It took us a year after that first exploratory trip to put our ducks in a row and plan our move to South America. We moved in March 2009. This was not a quick decision and we’d been contemplating our options for years before.

Like many of our readers, we had completed a ton of online research to even narrow the locations down to Uruguay or Argentina in the first place. Then, traveling with an infant during our scouting trip was simple (at least compared to traveling with a toddler or preschooler!) We wandered and walked for hours, checking out neighborhoods, talking to people, gathering info and heading out at all hours of the day and night. Late night South American dinners are easy-peasy with a sleeping baby at your side!

We receive so many questions about the places where we have lived and we are happy to help, but we can’t make the decision for you and you shouldn’t rely on ANYONE – let alone a stranger- to sway your decision. You need to see a place in person to really know if that location is right for you.

We recently learned of a young family who had moved to Montevideo sight unseen only to find that they hated it and left after the first week. They are now very comfortably settled in a gorgeous coastal town in Argentina. Their initial experience sounded quite traumatic and although all signs pointed to Uruguay being the perfect fit for them, it was not.

The day-to-day realities of a city could me much, much different for you based on any number of factors: ability to blend in, language skills, your cultural background, expectations, socio-economic level, etc..

Please consider a scouting trip (or two) to any foreign location you may consider living. Your scouting trip, along with all the online information and contacts that you can gather will help you form an accurate picture of a place. Don’t forgo this crucial step in the planning process.

To learn more of the specific steps in planning a scouting trip, check out this very informative post on Moving Abroad With Children.

 

 

Pros and Cons of Argentina: Part 1 of 2

After our last post about the Pros and Cons of Uruguay, we of course had to follow up with our perspective of Argentina. We were in Bariloche for 5 months and now in Cordoba for 2 years. We love it here for many reasons and want to tell you about it.

This one has been a much tougher list to write. Why do we love it here? Argentina has some very distinct problems and some of the country’s economic challenges are getting worse by the day. The Uruguay list was relatively simple. We’ve been away from it for over two years. We’ve had time to reflect and consider our lives within that context.

It’s like we can’t see the forest through the trees right now.

And, our standard disclaimer: There is no perfect place and not everyone will agree with the following, but here’s our take on Argentina.

I am addressing each point in the same order so show the switch from an Uruguay Con to an Argentina Pro for us. Hope you can follow my madness:

PROS:

  • Argentina is (Relatively) Cheap.  Where we were renting a 2 bedroom/1 bath house in Pocitos (Montevideo, Uruguay), we are now paying a little more than half to rent a 3 bedroom/3bath house with a pool in Cerro de Las Rosas (Cordoba, Argentina). Unfortunately, prices keep going up. Argentina does have 20% inflation, although they claim it is much lower. Since we are making dollars, Argentina is still much less expensive than Uruguay was for us. Kids items and electronics are still pricey (same as Uruguay) but housing, services and utilities are much less. 
  • Dry. We’re in Cordoba which is at the eastern side of the Sierras Chicas, a small range of mountains that run north-south. We have hot and slightly humid summers and dry, mild winters. It is glorious and we love the climate here. Like Uruguay, we walk everywhere so weather is a huge factor for our day-to-day comfort and we have to plan accordingly. I have never paid so much attention to the weather before we moved to South America. 
  • No Sickness! Maybe we got through all of our ‘Expat bugs’when we were in Uruguay but we haven’t had more than the sniffles here- and that is with one kid in school. We had our share of sinus infections and flu in the past and are super happy to report that in Cordoba, we have not been sick at all (Knock on wood!) 
  • Residency Process Was a Cinch. We were amazed that after a 4 hour appointment in migracion (1 hour of which across the street at a cafe, waiting for them to process paperwork) We had our temporary DNI papers in hand and were waiting the official cards in the mail. The cards came within 2-1/2 weeks and we are thrilled to now be permanent residents of Argentina. We did have a little help because of our infant daughter, who is a dual citizen because she was born here but we also know people here who are foreigners and have gotten their residency within just a few visits to migracion. MUCH faster than the 2+ years it has been taking in Uruguay. 
  • Incredibly Welcoming. We’ve met so many wonderful people here, from introductions in the park, coffee shops and school. We are invited to peoples homes for asados, birthday parties and baptisms. People are so genuine and really mean it when they offer to help. It is a wonderful community.  
  • Walkable Residential Neighborhoods: We are in the Cerro De Las Rosas area of Cordoba, about a 20 minute drive NW of the city center. The houses are more typical suburban, but still connected to create higher density. We live 4 blocks from one main shopping street, 10 blocks from another, 8 blocks from G’s school and the larger grocery stores have online ordering and delivery for what we can’t get within our neighborhood. We get lots of exercise, put many miles on our stroller and walk nearly everywhere we need to go. If we head downtown, we take the bus (Diferencial line), which is plush and airconditioned :) (Disclaimer: this is the nicest bus line and costs double what the standard busses here do- about $1 USD)
  • Easy To Get Further. We have never owned a car in South America, so we walk, take public transportation and the occasional taxi all through the city and surrounding areas. We’ve also taken busses to Carlos Paz (just over the Sierras from Cordoba) overnight busses to Buenos Aires, Mendoza and on to Santiago, Chile. We’ve also rented a car, but transportation is really easy without a car of our own- even with two kids.
  • Goods & Materials. There is a wide variety of items available here, mainly because it is a much larger market than tiny Uruguay. Clothing is not the best quality all the time, so you have to be choosy where you shop. If you know what you are looking for, stay out of the malls and shop in the center of town, there are some good deals to be had. Not quite like shopping USA good deals (for clothing especially) but it’s all relative. We’ve also found a great variety of imports, organic and specialty food items. You just have to know where to shop and maybe make a trip across town once per month or so to get them. :) 
  • Many ‘Mixed’ Families. We love the fact that there are so many expats here that have married Argentines. In fact, all of our expat friends, with the exception of a few missionary families, are Argentine/foreign mixed couples. They live here and are invested in a way that most transient expats are not. This give a great perspective on the ins and outs of the country and culture through people on the inside. In Uruguay, the expats we knew were like us – both members of the couple were from elsewhere. We really value all that we have learned through our local and expat friends throughout our journey.
  • Variety. There is a great variety of larger cities (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba and Rosario) and a huge variety of climates/landscapes in a country as large as Argentina. From sub-tropical jungle in the northeast to semi-desert in the northwest, to mountainous ski-mecca around Bariloche and sleepy coastal beach towns on the east coast- all with the wide-open pampas inbetween. Argentina has a city and a landscape to fit nearly every preference.
  • Healthcare. I feel like I have won the healthcare lottery. I have Type 1 Diabetes, which in the past has made acquiring health coverage difficult at best. In Cordoba, we found APROSS, which is the provincial plan. Not only was I insurable through APROSS, coverage started from day 1 for both diabetes and pregnancy and also has 100% coverage of all of my Medtronic Insulin Pump supplies. The big deal: I pay $390 pesos per month for me and the baby. That’s it. So, as of posting this, it is about $48 USD per month if you’re using Argentina’s  blue rate of exchange. More about this and other countries take on healthcare at a previous post, Healthcare in the Rest of the World. Since signing with APROSS, Argentina has past a law stating that people with pre-exisiting conditions can no longer be banned from coverage by private insurers, although they can be charged more. I have such amazing care and inexpensive coverage, I wouldn’t dream of switching.

All that being said, I’m going to leave you with rainbows and sunshine and happy feelings about Argentina. Not all the case though, as we’ll address the negatives in our  next installment. Stay tuned for the dark side of Argentina, plus a few things that are just plain bothersome. :)

 

Reflecting on Argentina

I’ve been working on the Pros and Cons list of Argentina but it is proving much more difficult than the previous Uruguay list. It was stressing me out so I took a break, enjoyed a great, long Easter weekend with my family which is continuing until Wednesday April 3rd. (Today and Tuesday are also Argentine federal holidays, making this a 6 day weekend. It is on my Cons list. You’ll understand why.)

So, the Argentina Pros and Cons list is long and has been very difficult. Maybe it is that we are still too close to the situation- since we are still here. Maybe it is just that Argentina, by nature is more complex. I’ve decided to split the Pros and Cons into two lists. Even then, I don’t think my little lists will do justice to such a complex and varied country as Argentina.

At Iguazu Falls "Garganta del Diablo" March 2013
At Iguazu Falls “Garganta del Diablo” March 2013

So, here we are enjoying the variety of life in Argentina (definitely on the Pro’s list). In March, we spent one weekend at a friend’s farm near Ascochinga, one at Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border which I must write about in a future post, one weekend home (whew!) and this weekend with the XL Easter tourism weekend. Its been a busy month and made even busier contemplating, writing and re-writing the Pros and Cons of Argentina post.

It’s coming. Promise.

Healthcare In The Rest Of The World

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101778.html

A simple link. Read it.

There is so much wrong with healthcare in the United States and this article from the Washington post discusses the system in the USA compared to other countries, specifically Japan, Germany, France and Canada- although others are mentioned as well.

Here in Argentina, we have incredible healthcare at a fraction of what we paid in the USA. Our current costs are 390 pesos/month for me, the type 1 diabetic and our baby using APROSS, the provincial plan and 970 pesos/month for the other two members of our household (using MET, a private insurer and their most expensive plan). Total: 1360 pesos or $203 dollars/month at a 6.5 exchange rate.

With APROSS, there is a copay of $10 pesos, which is $1.54 dollars for my appointments (all baby appointments are without copay) and APROSS covers all of my Medtronic Insulin pump supplies with no copay. It is wonderful.

Enough said about how great the healthcare is here. Read the article:

 

By T.R. Reid — Five Myths About Health Care in the Rest of the World