I can’t believe how far removed we are from our live in the US. I turned on the TV last weekend and saw the start of the Kentucky Derby.  Instantly I wondered why they were running an old clip from the Kentucky Derby, it took a few seconds for my brain to register that it is spring in the US and it is indeed Derby time.  Outside my windows the leaves are turning colors and falling to the ground, the air is getting chilly and I feel like I should be carving pumpkins and working on our Halloween costumes.

I was home by myself last weekend.  Lyndsey was at a church retreat, Lauryn went with her friend to their grandparent’s country home and Doug was in the US.  Even after months of low key weekends and an empty house, I still fought the urge to run around packing skate and soccer bags, filling water bottles, gathering snacks and handing out our daily itinerary with carpool assignments.  Just as getting use to the new seasons is difficult so is breaking the pattern of our prior over scheduled life.   We have temporarily traded our activity packed lifestyle for carefree days.   There is no cleaning, cooking, or laundry to be done, this is all done for us and life is much more relaxed. So I ask myself, why am I so excited to go back to the US where all these responsibilities will be waiting for us?  It is simply the only life I have ever known and I love it!  But in the mean time, I will enjoy the break.

Four months since our arrival and I am holding onto my believe that no one does it better than the US!  Living day to day in a socialist society certainly makes it very clear to me I would never want to be in a position of being completely dependent on the government for my survival.  Personal accountability, innovation and competition appear to be absent here as the culture tends to rely on the government to take care of them.  So as government policies suffer so do the people with no ability to change their situation.  How thankful I am for a capitalist society where you and you alone control your own destiny.

Of course my views are generalized and are from a visitor’s perspective.  My life is so far removed from theirs it is probably unfair of me to be so judgmental.  So I enjoy the Argentines as they anger me and amuse me all day long.  Every day is a new unique experience.  Today they amused me when I was at the San Isidro bakery waiting my turn.  All I could hear was Spanish all around me with a strong Castellano accent at an extremely rapid pace.  As instructed by my tutor, I try to ease drop on conversations to see if I can determine what they are talking about.   I was not having much luck until Linda Ronstadt came on the radio and half the store burst into “My Baby Takes The Morning Train” in perfect English.    We always scratch our heads at the American songs that have made their way to main stream Argentine radio.  Let’s just say they are seriously hung up on the 80’s.

So we are learning so much and whenever we have an AH HA moment! Lyndsey always follows it up with, “I have learned my lesson, can we go home now”?  I then tell her in my best Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid) voice, “You still have much to learn”.  The kids were so excited for Doug to return from his trip to Arizona, because they missed him and he had a suitcase full of stuff!  When we asked them if they wanted their dad to bring them anything from the states, I was surprised by their answer.  No new Ipad’s or other electronics, etc.  At the top of their list were chocolate chips, granola bars, fruit snacks, American candy, and bisquick for pancakes.  Man how our priorities have changed.  It is nice to have escaped a bit of the materialism.  Things we never thought we could live without, we manage just fine without.  So while we do miss some of our favorite American things we are appreciating the benefits we do have in Argentina as well as the perspective we are gaining.  Here are a few examples.

Margarita,

I was blessed growing up with amazing grandparents. Their home was ran as if June Cleaver herself lived there.  Every day without fail they would have a beautifully prepared meal, an immaculate house, the clothes cleaned and ironed, the rose garden looking like something out of a magazine and all with a smile. They were content in this role they were truly masters of their craft. However, as the women’s movement moved forward and we entered the work force and schedules of children’s activities took over our lives, this craft became a lost art.  Margarita reminds me every day of how my grandparents managed their homes.  Within fifteen minutes after her arrival she has made every bed in the house, gathered any trash and laundry and freshened up the bathrooms.  She is a true professional and I am taking lots of notes.  I am most amazed at her efficiency and time management while making it all look so effortless.  I am telling you the honest truth when I say we have purchased more cleaning supplies in the past 4 months than I have in my entire married life.  Like any professional she uses many tools at her discretion to work her wonders.  We asked Margarita if she would help us out with Lyndsey’s birthday party and stay through the evening to make some of her fabulous food and help with serving the food.  I am still in awe of her performance.  Allow me to admit I did not a thing but take her to the store where she gathered everything she needed, she then put away everything in “her” kitchen and throughout the week she worked her magic, preparing various empanadas, wrapped pancho’s, pizza and even recreated from our American recipe Lyndsey’s favorite cream cheese frosting.  This by the way was no easy task as we had to find powdered sugar. The night of the event she served the kids like royalty bringing them food at precise intervals throughout the evening, and then providing us adults with samples of whatever she was serving the kids.  All while the kitchen was spotless, the table was always refreshed with drinks and food and not a spot of trash could be found.   We had her stay the night and asked her nicely at 11:30 if she would stop cleaning and please go to bed.  I did not clean up one thing, not one dish.  Whenever she came into the room I had to stop myself from jumping up and hugging her.  Especially since some of my adult guest had been living in Latin America for years with maids, they would not have approved of that affectionate gesture. We are giving Margarita a big vacation this winter (July, which is Argentine Winter) so we were told that is plenty of payment.  However when she left in the morning I gave her 200 pesos all the left over candy and cake for her Niño’s and Doug drove her to the bus stop.  Margarita is a gift to our family.

Re-defining our “Comfort Zone”

Over the past few years we have moved our children so far out of their comfort zone, I am not sure they currently have a comfort zone.  If I have said it once I will say it again the challenges and fears of living in another country are always evident, but I would not trade this experience for anything.   We have given our children the gift of broadened horizons, seeing the world they live in from a completely different perspective and hopefully the foundation of mastering a second language.  I believe they are gaining awareness not only of how fortunate they are but of how much pain and suffering exist outside of their little corner of the world.  They may not always admit it and they may realize it more when they are older, but they are learning to appreciate exploring new parts of the world and I believe it is their new comfort zone to be flexible and to keep moving and experiencing new things.

Beautiful Historic Argentina

Outside of Buenos Aires, you would think you were in a different country.  The people are so friendly, the air is clean and the country is home to some of the most amazing sites in the world including the Andes Mountain Range, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, and Iguazu Falls.  Buenos Aires is just one piece of beautiful Argentina, and we are looking forward to experiencing these wonders when we return in August.  Up until now our travels have mostly included Uruguay and the countryside inside the Buenos Aires Province.

A large part of the Argentine culture is a countryside full of old  Estanicias(Ranches) They are significant to Argentine history as these estancias were responsible for making Argentina the largest beef producer in the world. Some of the grander older estancias have been converted into beautiful bed and breakfast similar to the one we stayed at over spring break.  Many fine craftsmen are in the business of restoring or duplicating furniture from the old estancia’s.  The design is a combination of English Colonial and a touch of French Shabby Chic.  Can you imagine anything better, it’s a brilliant combination.  I think Ethan Allen needs a new Argentine Estancia line.  Unfortunately what is my absolute favorite past-time, furniture shopping, is the girls least favorite.  So we do not get to look as often as I would like but here are a few of our recent finds.

The $USD Exchange Rate,

We do quite well with the exchange rate on national products and services, so anything that is not imported is significantly less expensive for us.  I recently had my old couch reupholstered and it cost more for the imported fabric than the incredible detailed work done by the reupholster which equated to about 150 USD.    Another example is Javier my hairstylist.  Javier is a hilarious and loved by all Ex-Pat women.  When you go to Javier’s you must schedule nothing that day and you must schedule very early in the morning or your children will have to find their own way home from school.  Javier does hair differently that when we are use to in the states and the result is in all day experience.  He will often have café and factora’s(pastries) delivered to you while he is working with you, and I do not mind the time as I have a little more of that these days.  He sings Broadway songs and speaks a little English.  We always schedule our time at Javier’s with a friend since we spend so much time there.  Because most of the US embassy families go to Javier, he was asked to style Hilary Clinton’s hair during her visit to Argentina a few months ago.   He is respected by all!  The best thing about Javier – cut, color, highlights, moisturizing treatment, beverages and fun for fewer than 200 Pesos or about 50USD.

Kansas Restaurant, our oasis in the dessert, where our American cuisine is beautifully prepared and the service is exceptional.  We could live there.   As you have heard me say Argentines do not even think about dinner until after 8:30.  Most restaurants are open at noon for lunch then close around 4:00pm and do not open again until 8:30pm at the earliest.  Kansas opens at noon and luckily it stays open all day and late into the night.  So every weekend, you will see half of The Lincoln School (The American School) at Kansas around 7:00 pm as we are the only ones there.  By the time we leave at 9:00pm it is standing room only and the place is packed with Argentines until 2:00am in the morning.

Patriotism

Can I get an AMEN!  I have such a new appreciation for my home country, our constitution and the men who wrote it.  They were brilliant do we really appreciate the men who made our country the greatest nation in the world.  I will not dwell on this for too long, but in honor of our country and our constitution and what I have experienced, I will ask this favor of my American friends and family.  Run, do not walk to voting booths at the next election and vote against any candidate who favors any policies that even remotely resemble socialism, please trust me on this one.

Most of the US food products permitted to be sold in Argentina. The only thing missing is Lay’s Potato Chips and Oreo’s.

Ex-Pat Wives

Without these women I would have probably never made it this far.  We rely on each other for information, encouragement, laughter, Spanish interpretation, shopping information, and any valuable insight that might make our life in BA a little easier.   It’s not like where on Survivor Island or anything but let me give you an example.  This week you cannot find butter, sugar, and rice in the stores.  The story is that the government is creating a shortage so they can claim a higher demand and a need for higher prices on these items.  This is bad news as Argentines are already struggling with low wages, and high inflation.  This will no doubt translate to more desperation and crime.  So we share what information we know about this, where we might go to find these items, and how this might impact us.  These are amazing women, who inspire and motivate me. We are very dependent on each other, so it is really by “necessity” that we go out to lunch, breakfast, or coffee every day.


We leave in a few weeks for the states.  We are all very excited to reunite with friends and family and it will no doubt take us about a week to re-adjust.  I can’t imagine walking into a store and actually finding what I am looking for, or being able to have five errands on my list with the expectation of getting them all done rather than hoping to get one done.  It will be something to not have to translate my questions and practice them in the car before going into a store.  It will be even more amazing that when I ask a questions at a store the clerk does not look at me with that, Oh god she’s an American” face.  I will need to keep practicing my Spanish over the summer or pay a big price when I return.  So we would like to think we can keep up our relaxed pace over the summer, however we plan to fit in lots of soccer, skating, family and friends.  Let the craziness begin! I can’t wait!

See you soon!

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