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Archive for March, 2011

I have a lot of random comments about things we’ve seen and done since we arrived here that I thought I’d share. I am working on a few different posts for the next couple of days. First, I’ll show you a map of the neighborhood as well as pics of the stuff outside our apartment. Secondly, I’ll tell you about a expat get together we went to on Wednesday night. 🙂

For now, here are the random comments and photos.

Poor Hef...Apparently he feels closer to me when sleeping on my dirty sock.


– Last week I mentioned that Jack gets a lot of comments and attention while on walks…. well Hef got his first official comment! An older guy told us he looks like the dog on Men in Black (probably because that was a pug). Haha Not sure if that was a compliment, considering the dog in the movie was some sort of alien. 🙂 Sorry Hef.

– There is a pack of stray dogs that sleep in the park across the street at night. Pretty sure we’ll be staying clear of the park at night. Those poor pups look a little rough and mangy.

– They are very known for their beef in Argentina. You can get a huge, delicious steak just about anywhere for $10 or less. However, they apparently aren’t big fans of preservatives…. The hamburger and steak we got from the grocery store went bad in 3 days. Lesson learned: Freeze the meet immediately OR use it the same day.

– The spice section at the grocery store is significantly lacking. They have all sorts of premixed spices, but just finding salt and pepper took a few days.

– Note: Don’t tell cab drivers you only speak English… this lets them know that they can just drive around for awhile and increase how much you owe cause you probably don’t know where you are going anyways. This has happened once on the way to Spanish class. Oops, lesson learned. At least now I know better, and it was only a few extra dollars.

– I learned this week that they pay approx. 50% in income taxes here. Whoa! The worst part about it is that they get very little in return. The roads, garbage, general city cleanliness, schools, public hospitals etc could use quite a bit of work. Ironically, there are a few big projects going on this year since it is an election year.

– Number one question/comment we get about Argentina: Does the water actually swirl the opposite direction? Eventually I’ll post a video to prove it. 🙂

– We found a “Home Depot” last weekend. It is called Easy. This made Chris happy.

Chris hard at work on the mesh fence.


– Chris’s first fix-it project was to add a mesh fence to the railing on our deck. He caught Hef out there with his head AND two front feet through the railing. Whoa! That could have been really bad!

The new dishwasher hookup.


– His second project was to get the right plumbing parts to hook up our dishwasher. Thank goodness he is handy because who knows how we would have found a plumber and explained the situation in Spanish.

Hmmmm... Either we need new plates or I have to do some dishes by hand... Maybe I can find some cheap dishes. 🙂


– The dishwasher and dishes were both included in the furniture rental package when we moved in. However, the plates are too big for the dishwasher…. Hmmmm

– The trash here is put out on the street every night around 8. It’s a lovely sight when there are just piles of trash on each block every night. No trash cans, just bags or piles of random trash. Apparently most neighborhoods with efficiency-type apartments have poles with metal baskets to put your trash bags in. We just have piles.

– There is a family that sits in the park across from our apartment every day. Mom and dad, two girls around 10 and a little boy probably around 4. They sit there and watch the parking spots on the backside of the park. They “wash” the cars that park there while the people are in the mall.

– Every weekday morning there is a guy selling pastries from a basket down on the street corner. He appears to do pretty well. Maybe someday I’ll be brave and go try one. I think I’ll wait til the baby is born though, just in case.

– Every single weekday I’ve noticed the same couple making out in the park across the street while they wait for their bus. Ugh….gross. This is apparently not all that uncommon because Chris and I see people making out in the park regularly. I told him we should join in and experience the “culture”, but he is reluctant. Haha just kidding, we’re not really into PDA.

– Their schedule here is shifted back a few hours from what we are used to. Most people start their work day around 9-10, eat lunch around 1-2, have a coffee break/snack at 4ish, and eat dinner at 9-10. This is harder to adjust to than we thought. Especially since Chris leaves for work around 8 our day starts earlier than most. How do you wait til 9-10 to eat? And then still get to bed at a decent time? No wonder their lifestyle here seems more relaxed, they must just all be tired… Then, on the weekends, the bars don’t really liven up until around 2, which means that people don’t get home until 5-6ish!

– Both weekends we have been here, there have been drunken, bar-goers singing and being loud outside at 6am in the morning…. This is a bit annoying.

– I’m glad Chris and I really like each other. 🙂 Since we don’t know many people yet, we naturally spend a lot of time hanging out with each other. It’s really handy to be married to my best friend. (I’m not even writing this for extra wife points cause I not sure if he even reads the blog. 🙂 )

– There are some really good, nice people in this world. Lidia said that she likes to help people like us because she is passing on the help that she received when she has travelled to other new places. I love that whole pay it forward thing.

– One of my favorite red wines is the Malbec. They have really good Malbecs in Argentina. (slight whimper). Even though I kinda like being pregnant, I really miss having a glass of wine at night with my hubby.

– I now know for sure that “stuff” doesn’t make a house a home. We have very little “stuff” until our container gets here, but our apartment is feeling more like a home since we are comfortable here.

– I think I may have an alien inside me. Little Kempf is ridiculously active these days and I can see my stomach moving more and more every day. (Some people may think its kinda gross, but I think its kinda cool since it is so new and strange.)

– Bone is hueso in Spanish. We have started using hueso when referring to the dog bones. 🙂 They just look at us confused. Haha We must be bored cause we find this hilarious.

– There are street performers out on our corner every once in a while. They juggle to earn spare change. Most of the time they are juggling something like tennis balls, bean bags, or big knives. This guy really impressed me though and juggled fire! Chris caught it on a quick video from our balcony. Here is the link.

Below is a list of a few of the random things we miss from the US so far:
(Please note: The people are a given, so I didn’t list you all here.)

Chris’s list:
– Q-tips. The brand here just apparently is not satisfactory.
– Jack Daniels. Yes, they do have it here, but it is pretty darn expensive. I’m pretty sure this will be on the request list for every visitor. 
– Automatic ice maker.
– Jimmy Johns sandwiches.
– A backyard to easily let the dogs out.
– The house and quiet neighborhood. (It’s a big change to be in such a busy city.)

My list:
– Hyvee. Food is a pretty big deal, especially since I’m pregnant. I haven’t found much that I really like at our grocery stores yet.
– Normal toilet paper. Their TP here is all really thin and the cardboard roll is bigger so you go through it a lot faster. Another consequence of being pregnant. 
– My washer and dryer. This one doesn’t let me procrastinate because it is pretty small and everything has to hang dry.
– My pillow. It’s being shipped, but won’t be here for a few more weeks.

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Spanish Class

Has anyone read Eat Pray Love? This whole Spanish class experience is reminding me of parts in that book…. I’ll explain further.

I went with Chris to sign up for classes last Friday. According to one page on their website, the classes had already started and the signup period was over a few weeks earlier, but another page on the website had the final signup date as the 18th. I gave them a call and they said to come in that same day (the 18th) to get signed up because class was starting on Monday…. I felt pretty good since it seemed like I had finally figured something out. haha

We took a taxi downtown (about a 20 minute drive) and arrived at the University building. I promise I will post some pics of this building as soon as I remember to bring my camera with me. It is about 200 years old apparently… and looks like it hasnt been repaired or cleaned since it was built. Hmmmm… I was a little skeptical when we walked in. I went to the information desk and inquired about the class. She told me that registration was over the previous week and they were not accepting more students… of course! I mentioned that I was told to come in to sign up, so she went to find the lady who seemed to be in charge of the language classes, Claudia. Claudia had me sit down and take a quick Spanish test to place me in the most appropriate level. She only spoke spanish to me, but thankfully I understood enough of it to manage. haha She originally asked how many years I had studied Spanish, and I mentioned the 3 years in high school, however, after taking a look at my completed test, she asked how many years ago I had taken those classes. hahahaha… apparently I didnt do so well on the test. 🙂

Claudia recommended that I join the 1B level, but if it was too difficult, to come back and talk to her. 🙂 1A is essentially beginners that have no prior Spanish knowledge. I was a little embarrased considering I have actually studied Spanish before, but after starting classes, I’m glad I wasnt placed any higher! (This is part of the experience that mirrors Eat Pray Love in my opinion. The main character in the book moves to Italy and takes a similar type class for Italian. She has to take a placement test just as I did.)

I started class on Monday, and got a few surprises right away. First, I was a few minutes late because the traffic was worse than I anticipated, and when I walked in they were reviewing completed problems on page 36 of the book. 1. I didnt know there was a book. 2. How could they have gotten that far in the book in 5 minutes? 3. Was I in the totally wrong room?
I could tell pretty quickly that this was a Spanish class, and that the other 7 students were at about the same level as I was. The teacher didnt seem alarmed at all that there was suddenly another student in her classroom either. One of the students, Sevrina (from France), sat next to me and shared her book as they went through their homework from the prior week. Yes, thats right. Class started the week before….. Hmmmm…. Somehow I didnt understand that from any of the conversations with the program director the week before. Oh well… Just teaches me once again to just go with it…..

After class I talked to Sevrina and she explained how I could get the book and what homework they had already done in the book so far, in case I wanted to complete it at home to catch up. I had made it through the first day, and felt much better that I finally knew what was going on. haha…..

Here are some other random notes about class……

– Since the building is 200 years old, it is dirty and in desparate need of repair. I’m pretty sure the staircase to our classroom will collapse before the end of this course, but I’m not about to switch to the elevator in that building!
– The teachers only speak Spanish. The entire class… and it is exhausting! Thankfully I can understand pretty much everything, but saying anything back is the difficult part.
– There are 7 other people in the class: Sevrina from France, Martin and Sebastian from Germany, Kenerd from Taiwan, Katia from Holland, Margaret from Switzerland, and another girl whose name I havent figured out yet. 🙂 The last girl may be from the US as she has perfect English, but she also speaks fluent German. Most of the people in the class are students, but a Margaret, Sevrina, and Kenerd are a bit older. Still have to learn more about them.
– Class on Monday and Tuesday is taught by Inda and Wednesday and Thursday by Nora. Not sure why they team-teach, but it seems to work pretty well. They have very different styles, but seem to stay on top of where we are at in the book.
– Class goes until May 10th from 11-2, Monday through Thursday. It is exhausting, but will be very helpful and in the least gives me something constructive to do while Chris is working and before the baby is here. 🙂

I promise some pictures on this soon…. both from downtown Buenos Aires and from the building.

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Internet progress!

So Chris and I officially met an angel this week! The sweet, older lady from the 9th floor of our building introduced herself to Chris in the lobby and gave him her card in case we needed help with anything! Her name is Lidia. She also asked if we would like to work on our Spanish with her in exchange for some English lessons.

So after not having any luck understanding the issues with the internet hookup process, I sent an email to Lidia and asked if she would help do some translating for us. Heck, if she was in the same building and was able to connect to the internet, why couldn’t we? She stopped by the next night.

Within 15 minutes we understood the issue….. She said that they would not connect the internet because the last owners left a debt on the account. Ahhhhh…. It wasnt actually anything technical with the setup. They instructed Lidia that we could fax in the first page of our rental contract that showed the new owner, and our agreement to live in the apartment. They would then call her when they received the fax and give her a confirmation number. She would then have to call back with the confirmation number to clear the issue and schedule the installation. She was an absolute godsend because she was very stern on the phone and didnt take some of the bull that they seemed to be feeding her. She got moved around to a few different people and had to repeat herself a few times until she got someone to actually do something. How we could have gotten any of this accomplished is beyond me!!

Ultimately, they accepted the confirmation number and said they would call her back the next day to setup an installation time. The first available date at that point was April 1st….. She apologized for not being able to get it done sooner, but at this point we are super happy that it is at least being scheduled! As far as we know, we are currently looking at April 1st (or something around there) for the internet to be installed. WooHoo!!!!

I owe Lidia LOTS and LOTS of cookies or something!

While we were waiting for some of the info to be sorted out, I chatted with her about other building questions as well. It is REALLY nice to have someone local to ask some seemingly simple questions. Our doormen, Jose and Juan, dont speak English, so getting much info from them is difficult even though they are very nice. (for example, how does the trash work? how do we get extra keys? how do we buzz people in? what do we do with the bills that come to our door that the owner pays? etc.)

Lidia has lived on the 9th floor of the building for 40-45 years! (It was built in 1955) Their are 10 floors in our building. (Each floor is one whole apartment.) Below is a list of the other people in our building, per Lidia.
– Older gentleman who owns the local school
– Single, female psychologist
– Single, female American Express employee
– 102 year old lady!
– 8th floor is being renovated
– (I’m forgetting the last couple of floors)

She also knows the owners of our apartment as well. They live a few blocks away from us.

I am sooo happy to have someone like Lidia in our building, especially since I am home during the day without Chris. I feel more comfortable having someone nearby to ask questions or go to for help if needed. 🙂 We owe her big time for helping out with the internet stuff!

She was also VERY excited about the baby. She was never married and doesnt have any children of her own. I have a feeling she’ll be visiting more often when this little one gets here. 🙂

Next update….Spanish Class….

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Belly Update: Week 27

For those of you that have been asking, here is the latest belly pic. 🙂 I’m officially now in my 3rd trimester. Probably about time I found a doctor here, right? Agreed. It is on the top of the list of things to figure out, but like everything, is proving a little more difficult than originally thought.

Our new insurance company is very helpful, however, they are in France, so my window of time where I can call is shortened due to the time change. And Chris has to send back the international cell phone we had been using, so I may have to deal through email going forward. We’ll see.

Thankfully, there are 2 highly recommended hospitals within 10 minutes, and if all else fails another good hospital just a block away for emergencies.

Baby Bump - Week 27

(Sorry for the dirty mirror and sorta blurry pic)

It makes me really happy to say that I took this photo in the baby’s room! Thats right, she has a room! Now all we need is our container of stuff that is en route and we’ll be able to put it all together. 🙂 Hopefully we’ll have that in only a few more weeks, but if that process works like the internet process, the baby may need to sleep with us for awhile. haha (crossing my fingers that all goes well)

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Casa Sweet Casa

One of the best parts of Buenos Aires so far is the fact that we are settled into our apartment already. Aparently it is very uncommon for housing to be setup before arriving in a country and you typically have to stay in a hotel or temporary apartment for weeks or maybe even a few months. Thankfully, Chris’s boss’s wife, Sarah, works in real estate and helped a TON by looking at apartments, sending pictures, and coordinating the contract before we even arrived.

When we arrived last Friday, we took a taxi directly from the airport to our new place! I was totally relieved when we arrived at our building and saw the neighborhood and then was even more relieved when I walked into the apartment and saw the size and the setup! It will be very nice for the new baby, the dogs, and plenty of visitors. hint hint

We only had to wait about 20 minutes before the furniture company arrived with our rental furniture.  They set up everything while Chris and I went to lunch to relax and refuel. We were definitely ready for a nap and a shower at this point, but that would have to wait a few more hours. After lunch, Sarah stopped by and went through some of the details with us and answered a few questions. Shortly after that the dogs were dropped off by the agent that brought them through customs. They were surprisingly in pretty good spirits!

Then, it was time for ALL of us to take a nice long nap! 🙂

I put together a VERY rough sketch of the layout of our apartment to help explain the pictures a bit better. Please note that this is by no means to scale.

Notes:

– The blue boxes are windows.
– The green boxes are doors.
– The black circle in the middle is a pillar.
– I am missing the balcony off the front of the living room section, and the staircase that is behind the elevator and service rooms.

Here are some more of the pictures. If you want to see all of the pictures you can click this link.

Dining Room/Living Room

Living Room

Master Bedroom

Baby's room

Spare bedroom

Kitchen

Laundry Room

Service bedroom

Entry - View from our apartment to the elevator doors.

I hope you all enjoyed the mini tour of our new place! We are definitely still settling in and getting used to it, but I’m sure we will love it. Hopefully this weekend we will have a chance to stock up on some of the basic household items that weren’t in the furniture rental package. ie. Bathmats, toothbrush holder, clothes drying rack (we dont have a dryer), etc. Thankfully their is a store at the mall that has all of this! Thank goodness for the Argentinean WalMart!

Other random notes for the week:
– I am finally signed up for Spanish classes through the University. Monday through Thursday for the next 8 weeks I’ll jump in a taxi and head to class for a few hours.
– Still no internet…. apparently no one has had internet in our apartment before (or that is what they are saying anyhow) and they are experiencing “technical difficulties”. Keep your fingers crossed that they figure this out in the next week or so.
– Chris found out that their is a new national holiday next week and he has Thursday and Friday off of work! Yippi!!
– Chris told me yesterday that the area where the plant is located is referred to as “Matanza”. This translates to “Slaughter”. He is hoping it has to do with the beef production there…. I hope so too!

I have so many more things to say… but I’ll save those for upcoming posts. Topics I want to cover are: VERY noticable class differences (nannies, maids, dog walkers, etc), more pictures of the neighborhood and nearby shops, pictures from downtown, Spanish class…etc.

Ciao!

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Chris, the dogs and I finally made it to Buenos Aires last Friday, and all is well. I have lots to share already, but will have to share bits and pieces over the next week. Unfortunately we dont have internet in our apartment yet, so Starbucks is my new living room. 🙂

As soon as we have internet, I’ll work on getting pics and stories online as soon as possible.

Here are a few random notes to tide you over until I get things officially kicked off:

–          Chris and I were about 10 feet away from Seal while going through customs…. and couldn’t tell if it was actually him. He seems so much smaller in person. Chris saw online that he had a concert in town the next day…otherwise we never would have known if it was him. 🙂

–           Found peanut butter in the grocery store… in the cake frosting/baking aisle. Strange. Tastes pretty similar, and has the consistency of melted creamy peanut butter.  I’m happy.

–          You have to unlock the door to get OUT of the building. Kinda seems like a fire hazard…

–          The elevator in our apartment gives you about 10 seconds to get in with both doors closed otherwise it starts beeping incessantly. The dogs aren’t too thrilled with this.

–          They like to put eggs on everything here. Pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches…

–          Apparently boston terriers are well liked here. We have gotten a lot of comments about Jack while out on walks. Sorry Hef.

–          They keep eggs and some of the milk on the regular shelves in the grocery store and not in the refrigerator. Hmmm… Might be a little while before I brave eggs here…

–          Fashion is VERY different here. Hard to explain, but will try to post pics as soon as I can get some. Apparently long, unkempt hair is in. As is really tight pants. Think 80’s but kinda grungier. (this is for the teenagers mostly). The trip through the mall the other day was interesting.

–          Pretty much everybody delivers, but it would require a little Spanish to figure that all out. From telling them our address and phone number, to figuring out how to let them in the building. Seemingly easy things that we are still trying to figure out. (As soon as we meet with the landlord, hopefully we’ll have this figured out.)

–          Drivers LOVE using their horns here! Some of them even replaced their regular horn with a car alarm sound. Apparently that is more effective at getting people’s attention? One not so fun thing about living on a busy street.

–          Dinner starts around 9:30-10 at restaurants. You’ll be eating with the older folks if they are serving dinner any earlier than that. Everything seems to run a couple of hours later than in the US.

–          Walking to everything is kinda fun, but watch out for the water dripping from people’s air conditioners and decks. Kinda feels like you are being peed on. Gross!

–          Watch out for dog poop on the sidewalks. Everybody seems to have dogs here and no one seems to pick up after them.

–           It took FOUR days to discover a giant mall and Carrefour (Argentina’s WalMart) that is only half a block away. We can see it from our apartment and I still didn’t find it right away! I almost cried with excitement when I went in to Carrefour and saw all of the simple things I wasnt sure how I was going to find… ie blow dryer, tooth brush holder, dog dishes… the really important things. 🙂

I’m sure this list will grow as the days go on. I’ll elaborate some of this stuff with pics and additional info as time goes on.

Later!

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