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Can you believe we have been here over 7 months now?!

Since we moved to Buenos Aires…

…Our baby girl was born!…
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…Grandma and Grandpa Malone visited…
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…Grandma and Grandpa Kempf visited…
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…Friends from Cedar Rapids have visited…

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…my sister Rachel came to visit…. and then decided to stay…

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…our friend Megan from San Diego has visited…

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…our friends Jessie and Isaac from Cedar Rapids have visited…

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…Claire is officially Argentine! and has received her Birth Certificate, DNI and Argentine Passport!…

…Claire is officially American and received her US Passport…

…and lots, lots more!

We have been very busy with visitors and figuring out this city even more! I have so much to tell you all, and now that my sister is here and I have a live-in-babysitter YAY!, I will hopefully be getting more stories and updates to all of you soon!

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So once again I’ve gone MIA for a little while, and while part of that is because there is a brand new baby in the house, it is also because we have our first visitors!

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My parents flew in last week and are here for two weeks. We have been out and about almost everyday and have had a lot of fun! I have lots and lots of pictures and stories to share. (That is a bit of a teaser since I’ll wait til they are gone to spend more time sitting at the computer. 🙂 )

We are off to find some souvenirs today and check out some more sites.

I have loaded a bunch of new pictures to Flickr, if you’d like to check it out. The link is on the right-hand side of the page.

Updates coming soon…….

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Winter in June

So there have been a lot of baby updates lately, so I figured you’d all like to know how everything else is going here. As of today, we have officially been here for 3 months! It has gone fast and slow in many ways….  We have certainly learned alot, but have a LOT more left to learn. 🙂

The main question that we get from family/friends back home, new friends here, and random taxi drivers is: Do you like it in Argentina so far? Our answer: Meh…..  It’s not that bad, but it certainly doesn’t feel like home. We are getting used to how things are done here, and certainly experiencing a lot! Thankfully we have met some really great people here, so we don’t feel alone in this big city, but we also miss our friends back home like crazy! At least we know that the next couple of months are going to fly by incredibly fast! First, the baby arrives… then my parents are visiting. Two weeks after they head out, Chris’s parents are visiting. Then some friends are coming the beginning of September! Followed by my little sis… then followed by some more friends in October! Then at the end of November, baby and I are headed back to the States for Thanksgiving and Chris will join us before Christmas! We are so excited to have so many visitors so we can share what we have experienced here so far!

Below are a few more notes about the main stuff going on around here:

Weather –

So we knew when we moved here that we were missing summer back home and heading into yet another winter. We consoled ourselves with the fact that the temperature here would be like spring back home. It has been averaging about 50-60 degrees here, which has been quite nice. It also hasn’t rained very much lately (based on our Iowa standards anyways). I’m not sure, however, that the Argentine’s have gotten the message that it is still really nice out! Even on a 60-70 degree and sunny day, people are walking around in winter coats and scarves. I even saw snow pants for sale at the store. Hello people, it hasn’t snowed here in over a decade!

We miss summer! Barbecues, boating, bonfires, Uptown Friday Nights, camping, margaritas on the porch…oh the margaritas!….. I could go on! Even though the weather here is quite nice, the people have that winter-type hibernating attitude. Boo!

Learning Spanish –

The language is possibly still the most frustrating part of being here. We definitely anticipated it to be difficult, but it can be frustrating when the simplest tasks turn into drawn out events. Chris continues to have Spanish lessons twice a week at our apartment with his tutor, Maria. The classes are going really well, but learning enough Spanish to communicate in the plant environment is definitely different than your typical conversation Spanish that I’ve been working on. I don’t envy him in the slightest! It’s very exhausting and frustrating for him to deal with every day, all day. We just have to remind ourselves that we’ve only been here for 3 months and it will get easier! Heck, I remember even just going to a restaurant the first weeks we were here and being totally clueless as to what they were saying. Now we can handle that like champs!  I get my weekly Spanish “lessons” from our new cleaning lady, Erica. 🙂 I think she may be my new best friend. Erica doesn’t speak any English so our twice-weekly conversations about soap, the dogs, our families and kids are definitely a big help for me!

Argentine Food –

Always a big topic for a hugely pregnant woman! I was hoping that after being here a few months I would find some Argentine food that I absolutely love. Hmmm….not so much. I guess its a good thing for our waistlines, but not exactly fun! Heck, I’m pregnant (obviously) and have only gained 14 pounds…. and the baby is estimated at 8 pounds. I totally thought I’d be that lady that gained 50 pounds while pregnant! HA! We have found a couple of restaurants that are decent, thankfully. I have been making the majority of our dinners at home. I even started making my own salsa, hummus, and spaghetti sauce. 🙂  The biggest complaint about Argentine food is the lack of flavor or spice. The restaurants all seem to serve incredibly similar menus with lots of beef, cheese, and pasta.

Health Care –

Some of you may remember my original posts about trying to find a doctor here. Thankfully the second doctor I met with, Dr. Doris, has been really nice so far! Things are definitely run differently here, but I feel like she is checking all the right stuff and is very competent. She did inform me last week, however, that the midwife that she works with during the delivery is 82-years-old. Anyones jaws on the floor?! haha Yep, 82. When she told me this, she joked that she has “given birth to the whole city”! No kidding! Since the midwife doesnt speak English, the doctor will be at the hospital during the entire birth. Phew! I’m sure at 82 this other lady has seen just about everything, but it definitely makes me a little nervous!

Take Care! We miss you folks back home!  More updates to come soon…

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Chris has been very fortunate that the last few years in Cedar Rapids, he has had a 5 minute commute to work. There was a giant smokestack about 100 feet from his office that we could just about see from our backyard. His commute here is a little bit different….

Unfortunately his 5 minutes turned into 1 hour 30 minutes (depending on traffic). The plant is located outside of Buenos Aires a ways, and there is a bit of navigating to get out of the city and onto the freeways that get him there. Hopefully he’ll get used to it as time goes on, but for now, its still a thorn in his side.

To pass the time a few weeks ago, he took some video and pictures of his commute, the plant, and his office. Below is a brief tour of what he sees every day.

First up, a view of the city on his way out of town.

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Next, this is a video from the “freeway” after he has made his way through the city.

Then, its the “city” where the plant is located.

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Next, are a few pictures of the view from plant.

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And finally, the pictures of his office. (Looks slightly like a jail cell, and is definitely missing a little personal touch!)

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Had to add this one too. This was a hole in the wall where there used to be a AC/Heater unit. It was taken out awhile ago, so its been a little chilly for Chris lately considering his office is partially below ground. They have ordered another one, but who knows how long that will actually take to get installed.

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Here is the view from his office. (Anyone thinking jail cell again?) He keeps the shades shut though because there is quite a bit of “traffic” on the road next to the window. (traffic = horses/donkey’s pulling carts, people from the nearby “town”, etc.)

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I have personally never been to the plant so I was glad he shared these with me so I can see what he sees every day. Not exactly pretty scenary. I think I’ll have to put a few photos in a frame or find something to liven up his jail cell for him!

I hope you all enjoyed the little tour! We miss you guys! And are so glad that we can have Skype dates now to keep in touch!

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Wow…. time has flown by since we arrived here! And I have really been slacking with the updates…

Internet

Everything is going pretty well here, especially since we FINALLY have regular internet. We’ve actually had it for a little over a week now, thankfully. We ended up switching companies and going with DSL instead. So far it has worked pretty darn well and is fast enough for Skype. 🙂 Finally connected to the world, and the Starbucks consumption can decrease.

Baby Doctor

Also, I found a doctor! A normal one, that I can actually understand! I mentioned that I had an appointment in my last post and thankfully that appointment went REALLY well. The lady is incredibly nice and was great about answering lots of questions. Ahhh… So glad I switched. She sent me on my way with “prescriptions” for a few vaccines (flu and tetanus), lab work, and an ultrasound. More to come on these this weekend. Long story short… everything looks great, baby is getting big, and mama is uncomfortable!

Customs

We are still waiting on our container that shipped 2 weeks before we left. 😦 It arrived in Argentina last week, however, it is currently stuck in customs. They told us 10 days ago that it would be 5-7 days before it would be released. Hmmm….. And now it will be a bit longer because the custom workers have a strike planned for today. I really hope we get it soon so we can get Baby Kempf’s room all set up!! Plus, I think Chris is sick of wearing the same 3 pairs of pants, since I didn’t pack very well for him and the rest of his pants somehow ended up in that crate. Oops. Sorry!

Visa

We are also still waiting on our official visa’s. The whole fingerprinting thing was submitted to the FBI so they could finish their background work. Once they send back their approval, it will take a few more weeks to finalize the process here. The main problem with this hold-up is that Chris isn’t allowed to drive the company car until he has his work visa (which is understandable), so he has been taking a taxi to work every day. At least he gets a little nap on the way home, but it is apparently incredibly boring and he is really looking forward to being able to drive himself.

Weather

Apparently, it is Fall here and Winter is right around the corner. Thats what they tell us anyways. I’ll believe it when I see it. It is still in the 70’s during the day and low 50’s at night. That apparently is getting relatively cold for them though because they have turned on the heat in our building. Grrr…. My extra little heater (little Miss Kempf) was doing a good job of keeping me warm already, and unfortunately, the heat in the main part of the apartment is set for the whole building, so we dont have an option of turning it down during the day. (It doesnt help that there is a 103-year old in our building, that I imagine likes it a bit toasty.)

Puppies

Lastly, the pups are doing great. I think they are pretty much adjusted to living here already thankfully. They have a pretty rough life!
This is how Hef spends 90% of his day….

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In order to legally stay in Argentina for the next year and a half, Chris’s company is working on getting our visa applications completed and submitted. This can be a ridiculously long and difficult process apparently. Just think of the issues we had getting internet… I’ll be surprised if we have our visas before it is time to return home. haha

One of the steps of the visa process is that the US FBI requires that we have our fingerprints on file with our application. Sounds pretty harmless and easy, right? Haha, it was definitely an adventure and one of the craziest stories from BA so far!

Chris had gone to get his fingerprints done a few days before I did, so he at least warned me about the process. Without this warning, I might have had a slight panic attack…. Here goes…

So we live a few blocks away from the main police station in Buenos Aires, but since the plant is about an hour out of the city, they had us go the police station near them instead. They ordered a remise to pick me up and take me out there. (A remise is a hired taxi. It is a bit more trustworthy than a city taxi and this particular one was contracted with Chris’s company.) Chris had told me about his long drive to work and the “interesting” scenery along the way, so I was a bit intrigued to finally be able to see it for myself as well. I think that because he had warned me about some of the neighborhoods we would drive through, that I was not quite as shocked as I might have been. Also, I didn’t take any pictures because I purposely didn’t take my camera in case it was stolen at some point during this excursion… I’ll try to paint a mental picture for you of the towns that we drove through…

I went on a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico when I was in 9th grade, and this was very similar to what we saw when we were down there. The area is very flat and is reminiscent of North Dakota farmland, except that the small towns are made up of concrete block shacks. Most of the “houses” did not have windows and were constructed with concrete blocks, sheets of metal scraps, and some cardboard. They were primarily just one block room, but some were adventurous and had two stories. They obviously didn’t have any kind of sanitation service as there were piles of garbage along the roads. There were also a fair number of stray dogs roaming the streets as we drove through. I’m not sure if they had running water or electricity, but would imagine most of them did not by the looks of the little town. Compared to some of the fancy buildings in our area, this was quite a shock to see the level of poverty. It was quite a wake-up call since we were only an hour away from downtown and some of the richest neighborhoods in the country.

Finally, we reached the police station. (Although, had the remise not stopped right in front of it, I wouldn’t have known it was a police station!) Chris had described it as a building that looked like it had been through a war, been burnt down, and rebuilt with the same stuff. I thought he was exaggerating… he wasn’t. This building would have been condemned a long time ago in the States.

I waited in the remise for Chris and his coworker to arrive so they could help with the fingerprints. As I waited, a “cop car” brought in a guy in handcuffs. I’m not even sure how to describe this adequately. The car pulled up to the station. It did not have a back window, but instead a tarp and duct tape. It also had “Policia” hand-painted on the side. It was probably an early 90’s/late 80’s model. It was in REALLY rough shape. Four people got out of the car; three police men (I assume), and one guy in handcuffs. The police men had guns in their belts and bulletproof vests, but weren’t wearing official uniforms. I was definitely sweating at this point…. They wanted me to go into the same building that they just went into!! I took a deep breath…

Chris and his coworker arrived a few minutes later and brought me inside. Inside wasn’t any more impressive than the outside. After talking to a policeman (this one was in an official uniform), they brought me through the building and upstairs to one of the offices. As we were walking from the main lobby to the staircase, I briefly glanced to my side as there were some dark rooms with bars on the doors. Ummm…. Yeah… these were the jail cells…. And there were people in them…. It was really dirty since there were no floors, just dirt. I only got a millisecond glance, but the mental picture is still there! After walking past the cells, my heart started racing a bit faster. We came to an open courtyard-type area. Back here they had their fleet of “squad cars”. My description of the first car I saw essentially covers the rest of the cars as well. On the side of the courtyard were some concrete steps that went to the second floor. Now remember, this building looks like it has been through a war…. The steps were a bit crumbly and did not have a railing. Thank goodness Chris had warned me about this and I wore tennis shoes. After holding my breath for a few steps, we were up to the second floor where the offices were. Man, I wish I had pictures…

When we got to the office, the policeman took a small paintbrush and dipped it in a bucket of what I believe was tar. He rolled it with a mini rubber paintroller on a block of wood to even it out a little. And then proceeded to roll it onto my fingers… Yep. Tar. Chris had warned me about this as well. The funniest part of this was that there was a ink stamp pad sitting on the table beside this tar contraption! Huh?

So as you can probably imagine, tar is very sticky and gloppy. Definitely not the easiest option for fingerprinting. The policeman had me “practice” my fingerprints on some scrap paper to get the extra goo off before putting my prints on the official FBI form. My fingers were still pretty darn sticky though even after those extra prints. So the funniest part about doing the “practice” fingerprints was that instead of putting the paper on the desk and having that be the hard surface I pressed against, he picked up the stamp pad and used that as the support behind the paper. Hahaha I wanted to laugh out loud, but wasn’t about to insult the policeman after walking past the cells downstairs!

Finally, he deems my fingers ready for the official prints. Unfortunately, the practice runs have caused my hands, his hands, and the stamp pad to have random blotches of tar on them so everything that touches them is also covered in black goo. This includes the official FBI paper. It was a mess. As he went to put my finger prints on the page, he kept saying something in Spanish. He spoke really quickly and I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying… After a few times, I figured out that he was telling me not to look. Huh? Don’t look? I’d seen the paperwork, and I’ve obviously seen my fingerprints. Not sure why I shouldn’t look, but I wasn’t going to argue. After a few moments, the fingerprints were officially on the paper. They were messy, goopy, and quite smudged. I really hope the FBI accepts them!

Now it was time to wash off the tar… The policeman led me back down the rickety stairs, to a water trough in the courtyard area of the building. At least they had running water… He had brought a jug of green stuff with him from the office upstairs. Chris had warned me about this as well. He proceeded to dump about a ½ cup of pure lye on my hands to wash off the tar. Now granted it was quite effective and the tar came off relatively easily. But it was pure lye! My hands were bubbly for a really long time. It would feel like I got it off, and then I would rub my hands together, and bubbles would appear again. Hopeless. I finally figured that they were good enough, so he handed me a towel to dry my hands off. The towel looked like it was used by a mechanic for over 1000 oil changes. It was filthy! And to top it off, he had put some of the lye on the towel to try to clean it off a little while I was cleaning my hands. Yep, I was all soapy again. Whatever…. I just let them stay that way until we got home and I could wash them normally. Not sure if any of you have washed your skin with pure lye before, but if you have, you would know that the stuff will seriously dry you out. My hands peeled for a week because they were sooo dry!

The grand finale of the experience just about did me in…. We went back up to the office where Chris and his coworker were waiting. The policeman had to sign the paperwork so that it was official. He also had to add the official stamp of the police station to prove it was done by an official officer. He gets out his stamp…. Opens the stamp pad… and stamps the paper. WHAT!! There was ink in the stamp pad! And he knows what its for and how to use it? And why didn’t I get to use it for my finger prints? Whoa I was very confused. Just wanted to laugh, but again, I wasn’t about to cause any trouble. 🙂

Thank goodness Chris came with me and told me about the whole experience beforehand. It definitely lessened the inevitable shock!

I know we still have a lot of time left in Buenos Aires, but I’m curious what kind of event could top that experience. I’ve never been through anything like it before. It felt like I was in a movie or something!

It made me sweat a little just to rewrite it all. Haha Don’t worry, my next post will be a little less shocking. 🙂

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Hopefully this is the final set of posts coming from coffee shop internet!! Last week, after not hearing from our neighbor, I took a trip up to the Fibertel office to talk to someone in person. After waiting in line for quite awhile, I was able to speak to a guy and give him the copy of the contract that they had requested earlier. The guy didn’t speak much English, but could understand it just fine, and the same goes for my Spanish. I’m sure it would have been a rather funny conversation to overhear since he spoke Spanish to me and I responded in English. Regardless, it worked and we officially got an appointment setup for the installation guys to come to our house. The appointment is set for tomorrow morning (Monday), so please everyone keep your fingers crossed that we don’t run into any more issues!

On to a more fun topic…. Our neighborhood. I’ve been meaning to share this with you guys for a few weeks now.

When we first looked at different neighborhoods and apartments before we moved, there were a few criteria that we had for the perfect spot. They were: parks for the dogs, restaurants/cafes/grocery stores within walking distance (since I don’t have a car), safe to walk around, and more of a family environment. There were a few different neighborhoods that were high on the list.

Puerto Madero: It is down by the river and is a much newer part of town. It is not very busy, and has gorgeous apartments and restaurants. It also has a large nature area that would be great for the dogs. The biggest downside to Puerto Madero is that there are no grocery stores within walking distance.

Recoleta: We looked at a few apartments in this neighborhood, and while it has some very beautiful spots, we just didn’t find something that felt like “home” here. Recoleta is a bit closer to downtown than some of the other options which put most of the apartments in busier areas.

Palermo: There are technically a handful of different Palermo neighborhoods (Soho, Chico, Hollywood, Viejo). When we visited in January, Palermo Chico was the neighborhood that we instantly both liked the most. There are a significant number of parks, a lot of restaurants and shops, and it felt a little more residential than the neighborhoods closer to downtown. We also learned that there are a significant number of schools in this neighborhood which would explain why it had a more “family feel”. When we first looked at apartments, there weren’t any available in this neighborhood that were furnished and had enough room for us. Sarah had emailed quite a few different apartment options to us while we were still in the States in hopes that we would be interested, and I instantly knew I would like the final one because of the neighborhood.

Below is a series of pictures from our neighborhood.

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– This is our apartment building from across the street.

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– Looking from our corner towards the museum in the background. I love the amount of green in our neighborhood, even though it is a pretty busy part of town.

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– More apartment buildings around the corner.

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– A view down the street. I love the trees with the purple flowers!

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– The street around the corner. There is an ice cream shop, a hairsalon, and an italian food market on the left and a little supermarket, a vet clinic, and an electricians shop on the right.

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– Further down on the same street. There is a paint store, and a cafe on the right. And across the intersection, the infamous Starbucks!

Coming up on the blog…. I have scheduled a post to go online tonight about my interesting experience at the police station…. and then tomorrow morning… a post about my first experience at the doctors office here.

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