What a difference a week makes.  Last week at this time I was not driving, I did not feel comfortable going much of anywhere on my own, and I thought our whole family was going to pass out from the heat.  Today the temperature has finally dropped, the kids spent the day at an amusement park in Tigre (teagray) with Doug and new friends, and I enjoyed meeting more new and interesting people as well.

I am now driving like a true Argentine, I am out an about feeling good and trying to enjoy all these new experiences, with the exception of the language barrier.  The few weeks I have been here has taught me that learning to speak Spanish in Argentina requires a strong ability to master their pronunciation.  As Americans we typically learn Spanish that is spoken in Mexico, the Argentines speech is its own unique blend of Spanish, Italian and German.  When you first hear it, it is so beautifully spoken you would think it is indeed Italian they are speaking not Spanish.  Their alphabet has quite a few differences from the one we learned in high school.  For example everyone knows chicken (pollo) is pronounced poyo in Mexico.  In Argentina they pronounce “ll” as J so chicken is pronounced pojo.  So my first lesson will be the Argentine Spanish alphabet.   For those who come here and know Spanish well, they have to learn to master the pronunciation.  My name here is   “Caaaaale”, you hold the “a” for about two seconds than a short “e”.  The girls and I in our new found independence went to McDonalds the other day and somehow Lauryn ended up with a hamburger plain!  I said “hamburguese con queso”- hamburger with cheese but my pronunciation was way off.  Thank god for my good eaters they just eat it and laugh and me.  Lyndsey says her goal is to be able to order for us.  I told her that will require lots of studying, practice and patience.  I will need to practice what I preach as well.

I have to admit I am glad to be back in my car, I did not enjoy having to call a driver (remise) every time I needed to leave the house.  With all the back and forth between the church and school this week, I am having a better understanding of my tiny corner of Argentina.  To quote a famous movie line from Grease when they are at Thunder Road, “The Rules Are, There Are No Rules” and that is how we drive.  So basically you get to drive everyday how you wish you could drive when you are running late to your kids practice again.  Most streets are one way, so in a street where you would think one car could fit, they manage to fit three with a motorcycle in the middle.  There are no stop signs just a universal understanding that at an intersection the person to the right has the right of way.  Non Argentine citizens are easily identified as they pause at intersections and run the risk of being rear ended because no one is expecting you to stop.  On some of the major roads, they do have stop lights which go: green, yellow, red, then yellow again before it goes back to green.  As a result I find myself sitting at a red light waiting for it to turn yellow, because people start honking their horns if you are sitting there for .05 seconds after it turns green, everybody moves on yellow.  You also never stop at a light turning yellow before it turns red or you will hear beautiful Argentine obscenities directed at you.  Managing the one way streets has been really challenging and pedestrians beware, they do not have the right of way and they know it.  Don’t even get me started about turning left.  Only a few streets allow you to turn left and you can do it from the far right lane, think about that one.  I can’t believe they just let us drive here without taking a test first.   Argentines are very proud, very loud, and they care primarily about themselves, so driving is no joke and quite frankly if I ever get pulled over, I will not handle it well.  Most of the X-Pats have extra pesos on hand just in case, I will not do this.

I try to keep my eyes on the road but there is so much to see, I can hardly concentrate.  On our way to school the other day I was thinking to myself, it’s just so old, and sometimes dirty, crowded and smelly.  As I was complaining silently to myself, Lyndsey says, “I love these buildings, they are so old and they look so cool, the trees are so big and it’s cool that it is so busy here, I want to live in the city someday”.  After hearing her say that right when I was thinking the exact opposite, I realized I am officially so old and so stuck in my ways that I cannot enjoy the new and different sights and sounds around me.  The girls in will be influenced by this experience that will hopefully be with them their entire life. I on the other hand am too far gone to be influenced.    But there are many benefits here that are turning me into an Argentine fan.  You can have your dog groomed for about seven US dollars and they will come and pick him up at your house and return him.  Every restaurant and grocery store delivers and you can have manicures and pedicures done in your own home for a fraction of what it cost in a US salon.  In sharp contrast they know us Americans well; I paid 10 US dollars the other day on a small bottle of ranch dressing.

It has became very clear to me this week after hearing other peoples stories our X-Pat’s transition has been tremendously easier than most.  Knock on wood I am so thankful!!! You cannot imagine the conditions in which families arrive here and start living.  Often families live in a hotel until they can rent an apartment or home.  90% of them do not own a home in the states or their home country and will wait months with for their shipments to arrive with everything they own. Then they have to wait about another month for customs to pick through and inspect everything.  Most of them do not have a car at all and they are forced to utilize busing and trains or buy their own car which is next to impossible for foreigners to do.  It is amazing to me how little work the Argentines do, so getting anything done is excruciatingly time consuming. It takes months to get utilities established here and out of absolute dire frustrations most X-Pats hire a relocation specialist.  We have been blessed with Mercedes’.  Oh I cannot tell you what she has meant to me.  She is a highly educated Argentine who speaks Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and little German, she is Doug’s assistant and I adore her.  “Well”, this is what Mercedes says before she speaks, you must say it with an accent and at the same time you are exhaling.  Mercedes has been immensely helpful to me since our first visit in August.  As you can imagine, many of the Argentine merchants take advantage of non Spanish speaking people and Mercedes deals with all the vendors on our behalf.  I have been a little sad that I did not bring more of our household items so Mercedes called me a driver while the girls were at camp last week and together the driver Mercedes and I went to a little place where they hand craft beautiful wood furnishings for a steal.  Next week we have plans to go to Belgrano (bellgraaaano) roll your g and r’s, which is in the heart of Buenos Aires to a fabric store to find some fabric that I will use to reupholster my old basement couch.  So while other X-Pats are making plans to visit Antarctica, I am making plans to visit the fabric stores. It’s just who I am.

Lyndsey had orientation on Friday and I am holding my breath that it is as awesome as it seems.  The girls appear to have enjoyed their two week vacation and I am praying they still enjoy it here once school starts.  We are learning some serious street smarts and trying to keep a lower profile and blend.  There are so many amazing things to do and see, but there are many poor citizens and crime is high.  It is no different than any other major city in the world, you have to be aware and not draw attention to yourself.  Based on our airport experience you can imagine this is something we need to work hard at.

We’ll update you on school next week. Love you all.