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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We had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend the River Plate soccer game, and I think we all agreed on the way home it is on our top 10 Parker family experiences.  No announcers, no halftime show, no cheerleaders, and only next to Lauryn’s Colorado Cup Championship Game, this was the most exciting sporting event we have ever attended.

I got Lauryn’s little camera out once, and then it was put away for the rest of the game, but I captured the crowd during a point in the game and the energy in this video never stops throughout the entire game.  There is a group of radicals who are brought in to a specific section of the stadium and they lead the crowd the entire game in songs and chants.  You don’t want to be anywhere near these guys, “muy loco”.  They sing at the top of their lungs the entire game, and when they get a goal it is pure pandemonium.   Our friends translated the songs and they are full of history and pure hate for their rival team La Boca!  The La Boca game was the following week so they were really going crazy. 

 We went with our friends Mike and Kirsten and their family.  Mike is Argentine and can switch from 100% American to 100% Argentine in a split second, quite impressive.  They live in Miami, Florida and are here this trip for  6 months immersing their kids in their culture and spending time with their Argentine family.  Kirsten was an EX-pat child born in Guatemala, and lived in various countries growing up.  She speaks perfect English and Spanish and they spoke on our behalf the entire game.  We had to keep our English very, very low.  Mike is the one in the video jumping up and down and will go to every single game while they are here, but not the La Boca game, as it was in La Boca and too dangerous if you are a River fan!

 There were so many amazing aspects of the game, but most curious was after the game.  River fans had to stand and wait to leave the stadium for 45 minutes, any guesses why?  They had a small section reserved for the visitors and the police escort these fans out of the stadium and give them a 45 minute head start before they release the River fans. On the way out of the stadium,  I held on to the girls hands so tight Lauryn had to ask me twice to not squeeze so hard.   The singing continues out of the stadium and into the streets in unison, I have never seen anything like it in my life, priceless!

So glad to have this experience, watch our YouTube Link below.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-rvER0lAaw

“What do you say to taking chances – what do you say to jumping off the edge, never knowing if there’s solid ground below or hand to hold or hell to pay, what do you say”

Maybe I have been listening to much to the girls Ipod and the cast of Glee singing this Celine Dion song, but it got me thinking.   I never really thought of ourselves as risk takers but the more we are here the more I realize that is the case as being in Argentina provides more risk than I would like to admit.  I remind myself that risk taking is good.  “No pain no gain” has also meant something to Doug and I and that is one of the reasons I am sure that we find ourselves in Argentina.

The pain I am experiencing is missing my life in Colorado, USA.   I have recognized with all our moves and this one even more so that how you perceive your experience abroad has everything to do with your circumstances when you left.   My ex-pat friend Katie has been here for a year and they kept their home in California as they could not sell it considering the devalued housing market.  I was shocked when she told me they were praying for an extension of their assignment.  I think my jaw dropping to the floor prompted her to tell me why.  Katie speaks enough Castellano (Argentine Spanish) to get by, which is currently a ton more than me and she is truly making the most of her experience, and she does not want it to end.  Their U.S. house has lost much of its value in the last few years and with California being in its bankrupt state the schools are in turmoil.  Here her children get to attend an amazing private school while learning Spanish and gaining an incredible world perspective.  She would rather wait out the storm here in a foreign country with maids and private schools then to have to deal with their situation at home.  She feels god placed her family here and she is thriving with her sense of purpose and thrill for adventure.

When I left I was not looking for a new adventure, or a better life.  I was still enjoying my new life and adventure in Colorado. So I appreciate Katie’s reminder that god placed us here for a reason and I try hard not to miss my Colorado house, the schools, the mountains, our friends, family, and amazing country.   I keep in perspective “no pain, no gain”.  We will gain from this experience and although there are days that are difficult, I know the girls will benefit from their exposure to a new language and their new world perspective.  Doug has gained significant international business experience and I am still not sure just yet what I am gaining, but I will let you know.

This week I must confess I am feeling a little gain, as we were able to enjoy two awesome experiences.  We were so happy to have our friends from Colorado visit for the week and we had fun touring the city and staying at an old Estancia in the country side http://www.estanciavillamaria.com/eng.html .  This was my first trip out of the city and I was so thankful to leave the noise and pollution behind.  The Estancia was amazing with lots to do on the property and excellent food.  Mostly however, I obsessed over the beautiful décor and dream of a day I might build my own mini estancia.  For now I will settle on incorporating some of the Argentine design elements when we finish our basement in Colorado. Lyndsey and I have lots of ideas and Doug and Lauryn will be building a parilla (Argentine grill) in the back yard.  After saying goodbye to our visiting friends, we made our way to Uruguay to the Four Seasons.  All I can say is I have never had a vacation like the one we are having this week.  There is no way to express the relief I feel being able to speak English exclusively.  The service here is unlike anything I have ever experienced and all employees, every single one speaks at a minimum Spanish and English.  This is unheard of in Buenos Aires. When we ordered dinner the other night for the first time not only were there menu items from our home country, we could ask our servers questions about the entrees and make special request and they understood us!  After we ordered we had a little moment of silence at the table and big smiles on our faces, we all recognized the amazing event that just took place.   Although we will be refreshed from this amazing visit to Uruguay, I think it will be even more difficult to go back.  I will once again need to work harder to communicate and life will be a little trickier again, I will feel the pain.

As we work to further integrate into our new life the Argentine culture continues to amuse and interest me.  I wish I could have taken our extensive culture class this summer rather than last.  Last summer I had just found out our fate and my head was in another place, quite frankly I did not want to be there.  Had I taken the class this summer, I would be asking a million questions and wanting to know as much as I can about the history of Argentina?   As I live amongst my foreign friends, I realize the Argentines and their history are fascinating.  It’s a little jarring to know that so many turbulent events occurred just a few short years ago.  I am still working on that book “Barrack Obama meet Evita Peron”, as they are one in the same.  If I have not mentioned it before, her intentions were good but the long term effects of her socialist policies resulted in bankrupt nation.  Once the 5th wealthiest nation in the world, Argentina was in economic turmoil less than 10 years ago; forced to freeze bank accounts while the currency plunged.

These events effect who they are and why they act the way they do.  For example many Argentines do not even have a bank account; they pay their bills in person with cash and wait in long lines to do so.  The truly wealthy Argentines, keep every peso with them.

If you go to an ATM, you have about a 50% chance of it having cash, inflation is on the rise and currency is in short supply.  The ATM is our main source of obtaining Peso’s so we deal with this often.

Probably most facilitating is observing the internal battle with the primary Argentine resource, beef.  The government is restricting the exportation through increased taxes as the government feels its best beef should be accessible only to the people of Argentina and at a low cost.  However, the government influence has had the exact opposite effect.   With the high export tax and enforced cost controls, ranchers are forced to close up shop or convert their land to growing soybeans.  In addition a significant drought that took place last year killed off over 1.5 million cows. So the precious Argentine beef, there most valued resource is diminishing and the cost of beef has risen by some say 100% in the last few months.  In this land of massive meat eaters, there is much discontent with government intervention, but unlike our democracy, the people do not have much ability to effect any change.

So I will sign off for now and wish you a very happy Easter!  Easter in the fall is just not Easter to me, but thank goodness I shipped the plastic Easter eggs and our Colorado friends brought us some American Easter candy.  We will be spending the day with new friends and will maybe gain a few new traditions along the way.  We appreciate your continued prayers.

Here are a few pictures of our stay at the Four Seasons- Uruguay.

The earth quake that hit our neighboring country to the west did not have any direct impact on us, but it certainly stopped us in our tracks and had us considering how we would be impacted if a similar incident were to happen in Argentina.  The “all for one” mentality here would escalate to a new level and we would no doubt need to find a way to exit quickly.  The fact that we are very far from home is very evident to us every minute of the day and this recent incident was just another stark reminder.   Lyndsey and I have been having a hard week; we are missing our life, family and friends in the Estados Unidos (USA).  We are a case book study of the X-Pat stages of culture shock.  We have our good days and bad days and never forget how vulnerable we are.

I am truly learning to live the expression “day by day”.  I have had to abandon my “control every situation” personality and I am currently in withdrawal.  You can try to plan things here, but inevitably something will happen completely abstract to change those plans i.e., flooded streets, loss of electricity, the store or restaurant just decides not to open that day.   So eventually you give up the fight and go with the flow.  Quite frankly it kind of feels good to not have to manage every situation to death; however the true test will be if I can sustain this philosophy in the states.  So as we continue to positively work at transitioning so many aspects of our lives we have open minds and hearts and are excited to understand what each of us will gain from this experience.

So perhaps it is because we are putting forth so much effort and we are working so hard at our transition, that I took such offense to term “X-Pat Princess”.   I could hardly believe my ears when I heard that slander for the first time at church on Sunday, from our pastor no less.  I was so stunned when those words came out of her mouth that I had to stop myself from standing up, snapping my fingers in the air, and saying, “Oh no you didn’t”! I looked around at my fellow X-Pat wife’s for a similar reaction and I found them shrugging their shoulders and nodding while casually agreeing.

Considering I was in church and no one else seemed too upset, I determined that perhaps I should just let this one go, but I simply could not.  When I saw my girlfriends for lunch later that week, I immediately informed them we should never let anyone refer to us that way again.  “X-Pat Princess” implies we are spoiled and we are anything but.  Believe me if I was so spoiled I would have said, I am not going to Argentina and that is FINAL !  But we are here supporting our husbands 100%.  Many people said to me before we left, “I could never do what you are doing, I could never move to another country”.  So I am here amongst the women who can and we never have it easy.  It is tremendous work as we try to work through this foreign system and maintain normalcy for our children, while not dwelling on everything and everyone we miss from home.  We are not princesses, but if we take a few perks along the way it is simply payment for our sacrifices.

Let’s be very clear, we are here for a reason and we are indeed enjoying it and making the most of this opportunity we have been granted. Given the choice most of us (american)moms would still rather be in the US scrubbing our own floors.  However, during our time here, we have been relieved of our cleaning duties as well as laundry and cooking.

I am pretty sure our Margarita is happy with her situation, as I am not very good at telling her what to do. Unfortunately, I am told these women are use to being treated horribly and working tremendously long hours and all for barbarically low wages. I do not tell Margarita what to do, I like what she is doing, I do not make her pick up after us, I need my kids to do that for themselves.  Margarita and I take trips to the store where we play charades and I grunt out a few words that I know and then she comes home and makes food that reminds me of my grandmothers cooking.  I determined over the years that cooking is truly a gift and she has it as did my grandparents.  I am sending an email to the food network to let them know I have their next “Chopped star”, she uses ingredients I have never seen in my life to make constantly good dishes.  The girls always ask when I pick them up, what did Margarita cook for dinner?  They can’t wait! I would not say it is gourmet, it is just really, really good food.  I am motivated to learn Spanish because I want to talk to her.  I want to know about her life.  Ball does an extensive testing and an environmental study at her home, so we know that all is good and legal (90% are not). She just seems so kind I want to get to know her.  I go to Spanish translator.com and write her notes to tell her how much I like her cooking.  My tutor laughs at me and tells me how terribly it was translated, but Margarita gets the point.  I drive her when I can to the bus stop.  My more knowledgeable X-Pat friends do not approve of any of this.  They tell me the maids are not use to such kindness and they will take advantage of me.  Maybe, but I appreciate her so much and the work she is doing for my family the least I can do is take her to the bus stop.  They just shake their head at me.  Doug reminds me we are paying her and we are following the Evita labor laws to the letter and she receives paid vacation along with contributions to her benefits and pension.  I still cannot believe sometimes what they actually get paid for all the work they do.  Margarita is thrilled to have a steady job and after interviewing lots of candidates, I believe she is the right fit for our family, and although I am terrible at giving any orders, she does so much work and we are in reality benefiting each other.

I do find myself thanking god about five times a day that I am an American.  The Argentines do not wish they were Americans this is their home, but their government so restricts any foreign influence they do not know what they are missing.  I am so thankful for our great democracy, although our current leaders are trying to satisfy their own agenda despite the wishes of the people, democracy will reign and we are indeed a blessed nation.

I am learning so much about my always interesting Argentine host and I try to be very gracious and remember always I am a guest.  I am in their country and I must make an effort to learn their language.  I always apologize and tell them I am trying and never act mad or frustrated when I cannot get anything accomplished.

There is internal conflict in the country with the beef industry.  Beef is the number one Argentine export and the government is significantly tampering with the process.   As a result, beef prices have jumped some say 100%.  Times are tough here for many people and crime is a factor.  Without committing heresy while in country, I will try to explain in my next addition why the situation is so damaging to Argentina because of the government controls. The Argentine government perceives their intervention is helping their citizens, but the result has been the exact opposite.   Do you think Obama is reading my blog?

Please say a prayer for us everytime we cross your mind.

Until next time,

>Lyndsey’s Youth Group took a train to downtown BA for an evening of Paint-ball.  unlike other parents, we were not quite ready to put Lyndsey on a train by herself so Doug joined the fun and they had a blast.  Doug snapped a few pictures with his cell phone and this is Lyndsey in her militia gear and one of her new friends/neighbor.

A few months ago when I envisioned my X-Pat experience, I knew I wanted our family to; slow down the pace, spend more time together, learn Spanish, and make the absolute most of our experience during the small amount of time that we are here.  Today is the one month anniversary of our arrival and we are starting to feel a little more at home each day and working a little closer to our goal.  One perk we enjoy very much is having Doug home with us in the mornings for breakfast before he takes the girls to school.  In our almost 17 years of marriage we have never seen him in the morning as he was always long gone at work, so this is a very nice benefit.  However our pace has not slowed down as much as I would have like, and I have resigned to the fact that our life no matter where we are is going to be crazy busy and that is just who we are.

My Spanish teacher and I spend more time discussing world politics and religion than we do studying Spanish, but I told her today, I am starting to feel a little more settled and I promise to study more.  She always say’s “oh Kelly, you are doing fine”.  Although she has told me the guards get very excited when they know she is coming to my house.  They know she is a tutor and they ask if she can please hurry and teach Senora Parker Spanish.  The guards need to call me whenever there is someone wanting to enter.  When they call I say, “Si, Gracious”.  I usually wait to hear the name of the person I am expecting to arrive, however if they told me an axe murder was on the way I would still say, “Si, Gracious”.   I am so obsessed with the correct pronunciation that I have to practically say the entire Spanish alphabet in my head so I can recall the proper sounds of each consonant and vowel before I will even attempt to pronounce one word.  And I think I may never venture out of the present tense.   Lauryn will be the one who is going to really learn Spanish.  Her pronunciation is right on, and already she is correcting me.  She practices a lot at school and I am just not sure how much practice Lyndsey is getting as in the land of 6th grade you do your best to stay under the radar.  You would not want to look silly by improperly pronouncing the days of the week, someone might laugh at you.  Lyndsey will probably be like me, we will understand it, but we will not speak it beautifully.  Keep in mind this language is completely different from what is spoken in Spain and Mexico.  Of course it is still Spanish but the pronunciation is practically Italian.  Elizabeth tells me I need to practice speaking all day long, in the car in the shower, this is the only way it will become natural.  I pray for more motivation.  You would think being in a foreign country and not be able to communicate would be plenty of motivation; however I have many enablers that communicate on my behalf so I do not have an intense desperation like some of the other X-Pats.

There are so many opportunities at the American School; we have piled it on again.  As promised, we made our way downtown over the weekend to visit the rink where the girls will eventually take a few lessons.  The ride is long and the ice is tiny, but after our fun day in the city we decided having to come to the rink on Saturday will provide us with the motivation we might not otherwise have to explore downtown Buenos Aires.  The last time the girls and I were downtown it was August and our minds were clouded with all the details of moving and finding a house in this new world.  We had a city tour but I was so overwhelmed it was hard to enjoy the tour and listen to the guide.  Close to 20 million people call Buenos Aires home and it is truly massive. I don’t think this small town girl will ever wrap her brain around this massive city.

Each and every street you happen on is highly populated and full of shops and architecture that never repeats itself.  It is a mixture of old European meets modern day art.  We are enjoying an overload of new experiences, but you can bet every chance we get to grab our little slice of Americana, we take it.  We had heard there was a Hard Rock Café downtown and thanks to our navigation system we were able to find this needle in the haystack. We are immersed in the Argentine culture and we enjoy their foods and customs all day long, but oh the joy we find in ordering a chicken fingers appetizer with both honey mustard and BBQ sauce.  It is these little things that absolutely make our day.  I tried to see if I could buy some honey mustard, however given my limitations on communicating I was not successful.  I ordered nachos with salsa, also very hard to find and there was not one morsel left on the plate.  We walked around the outside market in front of the Hard Rock Plaza and I was happy to see lots of American tourist speaking perfect American English, not British English like the Argentines speak.  To hear people speaking American English outside of the X-Pat community makes me smile.  I wanted to tell them all “watch your purse”.  I leave mine at home when I travel to the city.

It is interesting to live amongst a socialist society.  I love to hear Doug talk about how the government regulates price controls on products so that no one shop can provide a better deal than the next, this way everyone is “equal”.  I have keys to our home that look like what was surely used by John Adams when he was given the keys to the white house.  The “key” industry has been around for a while and it employs lots of people so they keep it going as to not put anyone out of work.  Does this sound familiar?  I will try not to get to political but let’s just say President Obama needs to spend some time in Argentina.  Bailing out dying companies will not allow more evolutionary ones to evolve and it will not allow us to advance.

We are pretty sure we have stepped back in time to what we estimate is the early 1970’s but with internet for those Argentines who can afford it.  Most Argentines would never have enough money to buy a computer.  The electronics are not as advanced as what we are use to and are ridiculously expensive even for Americans utilizing the exchange rate.  I would never buy anything of value here, except for these awesome little furniture pieces I find from the old Estancia’s – more on that later.   The American products we are use to are just not the same quality here, it would appear because of the government fixed pricing and tax implications on imports, they need to send inferior quality products in order for them to make any money. The Argentine government would rather their population use what is available from their own country, they do not want foreign companies providing products that compete with what they already provide.  You all heard the horror stories of our family trying to get our visas.  They strongly discourage any foreign influence, the socialist mentality disagrees that foreign business would create new jobs; their view is very simply that it would take them away.  Ball of course is in the disposable products category and is doing very well as they manufacture in country a product in high demand and they do not import.  We had about two weeks of rain and the mosquitoes are in full force.  When we arrived there were no bugs and now we cannot even walk outside.  All the “Off” cans in Argentina have Ball written on the bottom.  “That’s my can man”, I tell everyone.  So business is booming.  Doug’s plant also manufactures Aerosol cans for deodorant, cleaning supplies etc.  Aerosol cans are quite popular here.  Ironically you would think our children have never heard of “Off” as they are covered in bites.

So I celebrated my one month anniversary by meeting Doug and Mercedes at the Baruge Lazulay near the colectora by the Panamericana.  This was a big deal as a month ago climbing Mt. Everest seemed more manageable than driving to this location.  Thanks to lots of coaching and map assistance from my Elizabeth and Mercedes, I made it on my own. I was complaining to our home owner, through my translators of course, about the loose tiles in the sunroom/breakfast area.  By some miracle, or my constant complaining, they told me I could pick out the color of the tile and they would install it.  I will keep you posted on this one.  That is very uncharacteristic of an Argentine owner to repair an item like this while the renter’s contract is already signed.  So Doug, Mercedes and I picked out a few tile options from The Baruge Lazulay.  I will post before and after pictures if it ever actually gets to that point. When we return to BA in the fall from the states, I will have one suitcase dedicated to gifts for Mercedes, I adore her. Doug appreciates her as well and tells me this is part of her job, but she does it in a way that puts me at ease.  She’s like my little guardian angel, thank you god.

Until next time,

Mucho amor, Huesto Luego

This is the guard station entrance into our neighborhood.  The Trende La Costa passes the front of the entrances to many of the gated communities and the San Isidro station is about 3 blocks down from our neighborhood and is a popular tourist spot.

Well it had to happen; we transitioned last week from our vacation mode to the full blown reality of living and raising kids in a foreign country.  We kicked off the week with the first day of school at Lincoln. Both girls did great and said they liked it very much.  Lyndsey had what we call an Argentine day on Tuesday.  We bought her on the eve of the first day of school the only lock we could find, and it had a key, so we had to hunt around town to find a more traditional one the next day.  In short, the janitor had to destroy both locks so she could get her locker open.  I felt so bad for her as this is not your ideal 2nd day at a new school. Not really Lyndsey’s fault as things do not always work like they are suppose to here and so we all have our Argentine days.  Everyone was very helpful and in true Parker style we made our typical grand entrance and now everyone including the janitor knows who we are.

Argentine days however are much easier because we are so blessed with an amazing support system, without them I would have abandoned ship two weeks ago.  Just when I think the communication gap is too much and I cannot take it anymore, God puts someone in my life to remind me we are here for a reason.  This week Elizabeth entered my life, my Spanish teacher/therapist.  Per my itinerary from Doug’s office, I was to tutor with her from 8:30 to 10:30 on Thursday and in the midst of all this I was to have three service people descending on our home to resolve some repair issues.  Funny how I still think charades will get my through the day.  While repeating again for the 10th time “no entiendo”,  Elizabeth came in and took over.  You do not know how humbling it is to have zero control on what is happening in your life and home, imagine if I did not have Elizabeth and Mercedes whom I can trust immensely.  In addition to an unexpected therapy session, I had a huge lesson on working with Argentine service people, current events, and a little history of why Argentines are the way they are.  Elizabeth is taking me on a field trip this week to help me get my very complicated parking pass so I can park in front of the quaint shops in San Isidro, Love her!

Once Lyndsey got over the locker hurdle, she really seemed to enjoy school her first week of school.  Middle schooler’s have lots of freedom on their campus area and as usual Lyndsey seems to have lots of friends.  There is a neighborhood gang that rides the hood every night and she is right in the thick of it.  Lauryn tags along but it’s a little uneasy about the freedom she has in the neighborhood.  This community is gated with no less than four guards on duty at one time.  No one can enter the neighborhood without permission from a homeowner.  The guards know all the families and they are walking through the neighborhood as well.  This takes a lot of getting use to, but it is life in the big Latin American city.  Parents assure me that I need to let my kids go and let them enjoy running from house to house.  Lyndsey is so embarrassed because she has to call in every 30 minutes, but she knows this is how I roll.  They have never been allowed this independence and Lyndsey is truly enjoying this fringe benefit.

Lauryn likes school very much and always comes out in a good mood, her teacher is so amazing, and Lauryn has picked up right where she left off with the same math curriculum in Colorado.  This absolutely made her week! Lauryn is always talking with friends and really just seems happy.  She is enjoying the family time and less stress.  However next week activities start and we will pick up the pace a little but not like Colorado.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Lyndsey said she signed up for soccer.  All those years of driving to Toledo for games and tournaments all over the state only to have Lyndsey say when we moved to Colorado, “I think I will take a break from soccer”.  She has been playing with some of her neighbors and with friends at school and evidentially has a desire to dust of her soccer cleats.  I love to see gods good work, the reason we did all that traveling is now very clear.  Unlike the pressure cooker competitive soccer days in Ohio, this will no doubt provide her with development in a little more relaxed environment, we will see.  I am so excited she is playing it is great exercise and maybe she will want to continue in Colorado.  Lyndsey also has to participate in band; oh she does not like this.  She will be picking an instrument soon.  But as promised she will also be taking guitar lessons outside of the school and has many activities at church with her youth group.

We are looking outside of the school for soccer for Lauryn, she will do a little at the school, but we want to see what more competitive options are available.  Most of the clubs are all Spanish speaking, so we will see how this goes.  This may be something we have to do next school year as Lauryn’s language develops.   These are very competitive leagues and not being able to understand the coach, could be an issue.  Lauryn is going to join the choir, and she starts tennis as well as Awana at church in a few weeks.  She is truly excited she will be doing some intense bible study. What a good kid!

Next week we are visiting the Skating rink and I anticipate this will make us all very homesick, but we will see what we can do to get them on the ice at least once a week.  I have to attend an evaluation next week for my spot in the tennis league and I need to get in a little/lot of practice.  I have had much fun running around with Mercedes this week to rustic furniture stores and beautiful fabric stores in downtown BA.  I am excited about the furniture as we are finding some beautiful inexpensive rustic items we can use someday when we finally finish our basement.

So the hardest thing so far about this experience is: missing my family and friends so bad I could cry; missing my household items so bad I can have an absolute nervous breakdown at any minute; and feeling like the biggest idiot on the planet for not knowing the language. Why do we not more aggressively teach foreign languages in the American schools from an early age?  All the Europeans speak Spanish, English, as well as the language of their country.  They always ask if I speak Spanish and when they ask me where I am from, I proudly say “The United States of America”; born and raised in the fabulous state of Ohio in the heart of farm country,  just south of the headquarters to the American auto industry and just west of the American entertainers Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the American Football Hall of Fame ; I am proud to be an American, and yes, we may not know five languages but we are amongst the hardest working ingenious entrepreneurs on the planet!  We are blessed to be members of a democratic society where our people determine the policies not our government. Our country is comprised of immigrants who came in search of freedom and the promise land.  Our dedicated troops continue to fight fearlessly for this freedom and I tell my kids everyday to thank god they are Americans!  I may not say all that, but I politely get my point across.

Argentine Spanish is hard and I am in the overwhelming stage feeling like I need to learn this by next Tuesday while most people learn a new language over years.  My newest realization in my language quest is that Argentines’ really do not pronounce their consonants’, and we strongly pronounce our consonants’.  So I realize I have work to do.  Doug is doing well, he is indeed a leader.  He can manage this entire experience with grace and somehow he knows less Spanish than me, but always seems to communicate just fine.  People just want to do things for him.  I would also say Lyndsey has the same qualities, she makes friends easy and once she has determined, I cannot avoid this situation, she makes it work.  Lauryn and I however if we let ourselves will just shutdown.   But Lauryn like her mom wants to do well and knows we should enjoy this discovery time in our life.

So this week will bring new challenges for sure, as we get more settled we hope to do more skyping.

Love you all,

Mesa Argentina

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.