Expat

We're Dual Citizens!

Our Argentine passports just arrived!

Our Argentine passports just arrived!

After an 18-month process, we are proud to announce that we are dual US/Argentine citizens! Okay, the adults of the family are naturalized Argentine citizens. Our youngest is a natural-born Argentine citizen since she was born here. And our 7-year old... we are still working on her status. She is a permanent resident but citizenship is a bit tougher since she was born in the USA and is currently a minor, but we will get to that in detail later. 

Dual citizenship was not our goal of moving abroad, but it has been a nice benefit. 

Brad represented the two of us throughout the process with the federal courts in Cordoba and it was an unbelievably smooth and inexpensive, albeit fairly long process. We have now been through both the permanent residency and citizenship/naturalization process here in Argentina and I daresay, citizenship was easy. 

The US State Department does not limit the citizenships that one can acquire and you can read more about that here and here . The main point as written is: 

"In light of the administrative premise discussed above, a person who:
  • is naturalized in a foreign country;
  • takes a routine oath of allegiance to a foreign state;
  • serves in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities with the United States, or
  • accepts non-policy level employment with a foreign government,
and in so doing wishes to retain U.S. nationality need not submit prior to the commission of a potentially expatriating act a statement or evidence of his or her intent to retain U.S. nationality since such an intent will be presumed."
(i.e.: We have no intent of giving up US Citizenship, and the US government presumes the same.) 

We'll be writing about the steps to Argentine Citizenship in great detail in upcoming posts. 

ALSO in the works: We're reclaiming Italian citizenship (granted since birth to Brad and the girls) with the goal of the three passport trifecta of USA-Argentina-Italy. The exciting details will be saved for yet ANOTHER post- or ebook if these citizenship posts get too lengthy. 

We feel that Argentine citizenship was a natural step for our family because:

  • Our youngest will always be a natural-born Argentine citizen
  • We have spent the last 5 years here in Argentina
  • We feel a great connection to the Argentine people and culture
  • As citizens, we can move freely throughout Mercosur (The EU of South America) without visas (US Citizens need visas for many countries in South America or pay a reciprocity fee for entry) and have the flexibility to travel/work at will... and not run into the possibility of having permanent residency taken away from us at some point in the future. 
  • While we do not plan to stay forever, this gives us options. 

The girls will have the option to live, study and work on three continents, with little or no bureaucratic or visa requirements.  United States of America, Italy/European Union (EU), and Argentina/Mercosur and its affiliate members.  

Examples:

Want to move to Medellin, Colombia? Residency visa is granted in approximately 5 days to Argentine citizens. Nothing more than a background check which can be obtained same day. The process is substantially easier than what US Citizens would have to do to get a similar residency visa in Colombia.

Want to go to University in Germany?  It's free to all. See the link here to compare University costs throughout Europe. 

Now we just have to keep track of our 7 passports... hopefully soon to be 8...and not long after that...12! Looks like we'll need a larger travel wallet. 

 

 

 

 

NEW Healthy Family Abroad Format

Ugh. Changing blog formats is never simple. The look, the layout, re-categorization of 6 years worth of posts. Here's the deal: We've changed the blog format to include three branches of information: Health, Family and living/moving working abroad information (thus our new name of HealthyFamilyAbroad!!) See the three tabs up above.

You'll be seeing a new blog design coming soon, utilizing these new categories to more easily search posts by interest.  There will be overlaps as many subjects can fit into more than one category.

Family will consist of posts on:

  • Time Together
  • Communication with Family at a Distance
  • Education: Local & Electronic Options
  • Trips "Home"
  • Holidays
  • Pregnancy & Birth
  • Kid Gear/Supplies
  • Language & adaptation
  • Minimalism
  • Travel
  • Packing How-To's

Health: 

  • Food/ Diet/Cooking
  • Meal Planning
  • Local food availability & cost
  • Medical Care & Insurance
  • Fitness
  • Diabetes Care
  • Homesickness
  • Work/Live Balance
  • Mental Health

Expat/Living Abroad: 

  • Technology
  • Visas
  • Residency
  • Citizenship
  • Anchor Baby
  • Rentals
  • Transportation
  • Location Independence
  • Lifestyle Design
  • Money Exchange

Thanks for all your interest. We are very excited to roll out the new blog format and focus! Remember to comment on our posts and like us on Facebook!

Happy Travels,

Lisa signature
Lisa signature

It's The Most Wonderful (Terrible) Time Of The Year

grumpy-cat-christmas-meme
grumpy-cat-christmas-meme
--Or, 5 Ways to Survive the Holidays--

Christmas is upon us. I've been feeling it for a few weeks already. This year, our Thanksgiving was filled with friends and activities. Three feasts to be exact. It was lovely (and filling) but the signpost on the calendar of tough times to come.

I can't say it's all bad because during this time is my daughter's birthday, but that one big day was coming up. The elephant in the room that I don't want to face. Christmas.

Living abroad is not all piña coladas on the beach (in fact, there is no beach here. We're in the fly-over country of Argentina). There are real struggles. With language, with culture, with homesickness.

I wrote about my personal struggles during the holidays last year as well.

Homesickness is the very worst for me during this time of year.

While I love the summer, summer produce, the pool and lazy vacation days, I do NOT like celebrating Christmas when it is hot. It feels wrong on so many levels. I struggle to create traditions for my daughters when it is an atmosphere so different than how both my husband and I grew up.

Lots of people struggle during the holidays, whether it is from missing the ones you love because of physical or emotional distance, or because of death, divorce or other family struggles. The holidays are hard.

What we can do is try to be gentle with ourselves during this difficult time and find ways to treat ourselves kindly.

  1. Know your triggers. Mine are certain Christmas songs and Skype calls. I can't get through them without crying. My best advice is to avoid them when you can (I hear the first notes of "I'll be Home for Christmas" and I skip to the next song) or keep Skype calls brief and on subjects other than missing home. Not saying there won't be tears, but the might be kept to a minimum.
  2. Get away when you can. Know when you need a break and take it. Go for a walk, journal in private, lock yourself in your room for a bit if needed. Sensory overload and overwhelm is common during the holidays. Sneak away and take some time to re-center.
  3. Avoid foods/drinks that can make you feel worse. Foods have a huge emotional impact and when you are already feeling vulnerable, that extra piece of pie or glass of wine will not make you feel better. Keep with a clean diet, drink a ton of water and keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum.
  4. Sleep. I know there is a lot going on: From wrapping presents, to the office party, to getting the tree set up. None of these is worth sacrificing sleep (said the night owl that is often awake past 1 AM. I need to listen to my own advice!)
  5. Prepare for the stressful times. Treat yourself to a bath, a massage, practice yoga or meditation, exercise or whatever works for you. Settle your mind in any way that you can before the times that are going to be the hardest for you.
  6. Open up about your struggles. Talk to those you love and trust. Be honest that this time is difficult. They can help be the shoulder you cry on, or the one you sneak away with to take that walk (see #2).  Once you share, you might just find that others are struggling, too.

*If you are experiencing depression (more than holiday blues) please seek professional help ASAP. Talk to your doctor or other trusted person who can help you get the assistance you need. I struggled with depression for years. Medication and light therapy helped substantially but I know the darkness of undiagnosed depression and how difficult that first step can be. You can do it.

PEACE AND BLESSINGS TO YOU ALL.

Wishing you HAPPY HOLIDAYS and a WONDERFUL 2015 TO COME!!!

Love,

Lisa, Brad, Geneva and Franca

Food and The Mother of Invention

If you asked me 5 years ago whether I thought food would be a major factor in our lives in South America, I never would have considered it. Food was food. Sure there were things I liked to eat and I knew there would be things that I wouldn't be able to find in South America, but I am here to tell you that our cooking and eating habits have changed and matured dramatically since we left the USA in early 2009. Poached Pears (With Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Cream Topping)

In Uruguay, our major adjustment was that the dinner hour doesn't start until about 8 PM (this is true in Argentina as well, with many restaurants hitting their busiest times around 10 PM). When we visited Uruguay in early 2008 during our exploratory trip with our infant daughter, this wasn't an issue. We brought the baby with us in a stroller and she slept while we ate. Toddlers, unfortunately are not quite as flexible. We opted to make food at home whenever possible and more often than we care to admit, we would wait for the take-out pizza place to open at 7 PM so we could get our pizza, pizzeta (crust, sauce and toppings with no cheese) and faina.

Weekly Produce for URMOVINGWHERE Family

Luckily, wherever we have lived in South America, there has been an ample supply of fresh produce and we could find the raw ingredients to make many things. On the other hand, the furnished rentals where we've lived have posed a challenge with the appliances/cookware provided. I started to cook in earnest, while not buying many durable goods because we've been moving frequently. Necessity is the mother of invention and I learned to make all the things that we might be craving: pad thai, fried rice, mac & cheese, lasagne, and all sorts of sauces, soups and spice blends from scratch.

I've always loved to bake, but I started experimenting with alternative flours (there are many gluten-free alternatives here) and I've had great success with everything from pizza crusts to moist fruit breads and crumbly scones.

Many of my cooking challenges arise from using recipes or meal-planning sites from the USA. As we are not in the US, I do not have access to certain foods (like kale, organic anything, sweet potatoes and most packaged items) and appliances (like crockpots- not available here, or a blender- I refuse to buy one). I've made do with substitutions for some things and created my own modified prep and cooking methods for others.

I am going to start to include recipes and workarounds here, as a supplement to our travel blog. Food is a huge part of an experience in any country. While I sometimes like to cook North American food as a reminder of 'home', I use many international influences, all the while modifying recipes to fit with the foods we have readily available in central Argentina.

Hope you enjoy our international food journey. You might just find a recipe that you'd like to try as well. ¡Buen Provecho!

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas...

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the day! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to everyone!!! Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree & Little F With An Angel

This is a season of strong emotion for us- as it is for many people. We have chosen not to travel back 'home' for Christmas and rather travel in the summer (June/July) to the US when we can enjoy the weather there and get away from the winter here in Argentina.

That does not make this time of year any easier. As we struggle to create warm-weather Christmas traditions without our extended family nearby, it doesn't quite seem like Christmas to us. We both grew up in the upper midwest of the United States. Christmas meant cold and snow and baking Christmas cookies and navigating holiday storms/slippery roads to visit family.

Visiting Papa Noel December 2013

Our Christmas in Argentina will consist of opening up a family present to each of the girls on Christmas eve, along with setting out cookies/milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Unfortunately no homemade cookies this year. 100 F heat with a broken AC is too warm to turn on the oven. We'll be streaming Christmas music on the ipad (avoiding "I'll be Home For Christmas"-- that always makes me cry) and enjoying plenty of ice cream and many a frosty beverage in an attempt to keep cool.

Christmas morning will be chaotic, like many households with young kids. Our 6 year old and 1.5 year old will dive into their presents and we'll take a few new pool toys out to enjoy right after breakfast. Christmas day will be no baking for us. We'll be grilling salmon and beef tenderloin on the parilla and taking dips in the pool to cool off in between cooking.

Christmas memories will not always be like this and we are planning to enjoy a snowy white Christmas with family again very soon. Right now though, our Christmas is bittersweet. We are missing family and the Christmas experience of our childhood as we create a new 'normal' warm weather Christmas for our girls. Lets just hope that I don't start bawling during all of our planned skype calls with family! :)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Argentina!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!

Pros and Cons of Argentina: Part 2 of 2

The lists of Pros and Cons for Argentina and Uruguay have been popular and we have to note that these lists are based on our experiences, you may not find the same apply to you. Even with the following list, we love Argentina. All places have their pros and cons and we have found a spot here in Cordoba Argentina that works for our family. We liked Uruguay but were never in love with Montevideo and are MUCH happier here in Argentina.

If you haven't read our previous lists, Check out Uruguay Pros and Cons And Argentina Pros: Part 1 of 2.  If you've lived in either one of these countries, what have your experiences been? Do you agree with our lists or disagree? Leave a comment to let us know.

ARGENTINA CONS:

  • Vacation Days This may be a Pro if you are a salaried Argentine employee, but for us, working on a US schedule or any Argentine hourly employee, the sheer amount of vacation days in Argentina is ridiculous. It means schools are closed, stores are closed and we have a day where we still have to work but also have to juggle childcare and pre-planning of all the shopping/services. For example this past Easter, Thursday is a marginal holiday, Friday is a national holiday and Tuesday the 2nd is also a national holidays to commemorate the Malvinas war. The Monday after easter has been added as a bridge day, creating 6 days off for many people (our daughter's school). Good for them, bad for us on a US schedule.
  • Ferias. Oh, how I long for Uruguay's fresh produce in a street market, set up weekly before the sun rises. The energy, the culture and the gloriously fresh produce, eggs, meat and fish. Sigh. There are 'Ferias Francas' here, but none in our neighborhood. We will have to search them out and make a weekly journey. Certainly not as convenient as the feria outside of our door every Sunday morning in Montevideo.
  • Governmental Stability. Hahaha. Argentina? Stable Government? You have to be kidding me. Primaries were held yesterday, legislative elections are in October and the presidential election is in 2015. So we'll wait and see what happens.
  • Monsanto and Agribusiness. While there is a growing demand for organic fruits and vegetables here (and suppliers meeting the need), the big agro-businesses have a hold on Argentina and grow and incredible amount of GM soy and corn here. Some estimates state there are 19 million hectares of GM soy here, which represents 56 percent of the cultivated area in Argentina and that 97% is exported to Europe and Asia. 

     This is something that weighs very heavily on my mind, but the USA is no better, in this regard.

On a similar note, much of the free-range beef and other high quality food products are exported as well, leaving the lesser quality for the Argentines. You will occasionally see "Calidad de Exportación" on products - meaning "Export Quality" but it is pretty rare. This, along with tight restrictions on imported items makes it challenging to get high quality and/or non-Argentine-produced products here. 

  • Tramites. There are so many appointments to do things here and so many places where you must go in person to pay bills/get addresses changed/request a new card, etc. While there are services/payments that can be done online and some neighborhood pay stations, it is still not widespread yet and these things certainly cannot be done by mail like it can in the USA.
  • Colas. No, not a soda-pop cola. A line or a queue. You will wait in lines and you need to be patient and wait (see above for tramites). Bring a book or your knitting, you will need it. (If you have a baby with you though, you get to go to the front of the line. No kidding.)  In many places phones are banned by law so that won't save you.
  • Siesta Still after 4 years in South America, I am not yet accustomed to the siesta. As North Americans, I like things to be open when I want them to be open. The fact that I can't get groceries or go to the doctor in my neighborhood during the middle of the day is insane. Almost every business in our neighborhood is closed from 1:00 or 1:30 until 5 PM. The exception to this is the big box stores (Walmart/Easy/Carrefour) and the larger grocery store/pharmacy/restaurant chains. The bright side is that if somewhere IS open during siesta, you'll have it to yourself during those hours.
  • Restaurant Hours If you want to eat dinner early, you are out of luck. This is not unique to Argentina but sometimes, we want to eat out or order delivery before 8 PM. No luck. Most restaurants open at 8 PM and most Argentines do not eat dinner until 9 or later.

So, those are a few of the pros and cons from our perspective- in no particular order. Leave a comment to let us know your experiences and what you agree or disagree with from our lists. If you live somewhere else and love it, tell us why.

Video Interview with 3/4 of the URMovingWhere Family

We were recently interviewed by Coley Hudgins for the website as a part of their new feature on other bloggers' stories. Happy to say that we were the first for this honor!

Click here for the same video on the Movingabroadwithchildren site and check out the other great features/resources there. Also see the Coley's new site with even more great info for families living abroad at http://www.theresilientfamily.com/

It was fun to be a part of their first interview!

Mandatory: Exploratory Trip(s)

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When we were considering the realities of a move abroad in 2008, we traveled with daughter #1, who was 3 months old at that time to Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. If we hadn't explored our potential move cities in advance, we probably would not have made the move abroad.

We CANNOT imagine and DO NOT recommend moving abroad, especially with children, without scoping out the location(s) in person first.

It took us a year after that first exploratory trip to put our ducks in a row and plan our move to South America. We moved in March 2009. This was not a quick decision and we'd been contemplating our options for years before.

Like many of our readers, we had completed a ton of online research to even narrow the locations down to Uruguay or Argentina in the first place. Then, traveling with an infant during our scouting trip was simple (at least compared to traveling with a toddler or preschooler!) We wandered and walked for hours, checking out neighborhoods, talking to people, gathering info and heading out at all hours of the day and night. Late night South American dinners are easy-peasy with a sleeping baby at your side!

We receive so many questions about the places where we have lived and we are happy to help, but we can't make the decision for you and you shouldn't rely on ANYONE - let alone a stranger- to sway your decision. You need to see a place in person to really know if that location is right for you.

We recently learned of a young family who had moved to Montevideo sight unseen only to find that they hated it and left after the first week. They are now very comfortably settled in a gorgeous coastal town in Argentina. Their initial experience sounded quite traumatic and although all signs pointed to Uruguay being the perfect fit for them, it was not.

The day-to-day realities of a city could me much, much different for you based on any number of factors: ability to blend in, language skills, your cultural background, expectations, socio-economic level, etc..

Please consider a scouting trip (or two) to any foreign location you may consider living. Your scouting trip, along with all the online information and contacts that you can gather will help you form an accurate picture of a place. Don't forgo this crucial step in the planning process.

To learn more of the specific steps in planning a scouting trip, check out this very informative post on Moving Abroad With Children.

 

 

We're Still Around

What a beautiful plane!
What a beautiful plane!

Hey All!! It is comforting to know that you are all concerned if we disappear for a while. Thank you for your notes!

We are still around- albeit traveling for a while. We'll be getting back to our daily grind at the end of July. Yes, it's been wonderful. Yes, we have some stories to tell.

Fun at airports
Fun at airports

I'll be posting a few short items in the coming days. One was an interview that we did earlier this month for an amazing online community- http://movingabroadwithchildren.com. If you really want to dig for our interview, go ahead. They have some great content and I love this expat video series they are doing (I am happy to say we were the first!)  If you don't want to peruse the site looking for our interview, stay tuned for the direct link coming up.

I have to keep you in suspense, right? More to come soon. Chau!

Pros and Cons of Argentina: Part 1 of 2

After our last post about the Pros and Cons of Uruguay, we of course had to follow up with our perspective of Argentina. We were in Bariloche for 5 months and now in Cordoba for 2 years. We love it here for many reasons and want to tell you about it. This one has been a much tougher list to write. Why do we love it here? Argentina has some very distinct problems and some of the country's economic challenges are getting worse by the day. The Uruguay list was relatively simple. We've been away from it for over two years. We've had time to reflect and consider our lives within that context.

It's like we can't see the forest through the trees right now.

And, our standard disclaimer: There is no perfect place and not everyone will agree with the following, but here's our take on Argentina.

I am addressing each point in the same order so show the switch from an Uruguay Con to an Argentina Pro for us. Hope you can follow my madness:

PROS:

  • Argentina is (Relatively) Cheap.  Where we were renting a 2 bedroom/1 bath house in Pocitos (Montevideo, Uruguay), we are now paying a little more than half to rent a 3 bedroom/3bath house with a pool in Cerro de Las Rosas (Cordoba, Argentina). Unfortunately, prices keep going up. Argentina does have 20% inflation, although they claim it is much lower. Since we are making dollars, Argentina is still much less expensive than Uruguay was for us. Kids items and electronics are still pricey (same as Uruguay) but housing, services and utilities are much less. 
  • Dry. We're in Cordoba which is at the eastern side of the Sierras Chicas, a small range of mountains that run north-south. We have hot and slightly humid summers and dry, mild winters. It is glorious and we love the climate here. Like Uruguay, we walk everywhere so weather is a huge factor for our day-to-day comfort and we have to plan accordingly. I have never paid so much attention to the weather before we moved to South America. 
  • No Sickness! Maybe we got through all of our 'Expat bugs'when we were in Uruguay but we haven't had more than the sniffles here- and that is with one kid in school. We had our share of sinus infections and flu in the past and are super happy to report that in Cordoba, we have not been sick at all (Knock on wood!) 
  • Residency Process Was a Cinch. We were amazed that after a 4 hour appointment in migracion (1 hour of which across the street at a cafe, waiting for them to process paperwork) We had our temporary DNI papers in hand and were waiting the official cards in the mail. The cards came within 2-1/2 weeks and we are thrilled to now be permanent residents of Argentina. We did have a little help because of our infant daughter, who is a dual citizen because she was born here but we also know people here who are foreigners and have gotten their residency within just a few visits to migracion. MUCH faster than the 2+ years it has been taking in Uruguay. 
  • Incredibly Welcoming. We've met so many wonderful people here, from introductions in the park, coffee shops and school. We are invited to peoples homes for asados, birthday parties and baptisms. People are so genuine and really mean it when they offer to help. It is a wonderful community.  
  • Walkable Residential Neighborhoods: We are in the Cerro De Las Rosas area of Cordoba, about a 20 minute drive NW of the city center. The houses are more typical suburban, but still connected to create higher density. We live 4 blocks from one main shopping street, 10 blocks from another, 8 blocks from G's school and the larger grocery stores have online ordering and delivery for what we can't get within our neighborhood. We get lots of exercise, put many miles on our stroller and walk nearly everywhere we need to go. If we head downtown, we take the bus (Diferencial line), which is plush and airconditioned :) (Disclaimer: this is the nicest bus line and costs double what the standard busses here do- about $1 USD)
  • Easy To Get Further. We have never owned a car in South America, so we walk, take public transportation and the occasional taxi all through the city and surrounding areas. We've also taken busses to Carlos Paz (just over the Sierras from Cordoba) overnight busses to Buenos Aires, Mendoza and on to Santiago, Chile. We've also rented a car, but transportation is really easy without a car of our own- even with two kids.
  • Goods & Materials. There is a wide variety of items available here, mainly because it is a much larger market than tiny Uruguay. Clothing is not the best quality all the time, so you have to be choosy where you shop. If you know what you are looking for, stay out of the malls and shop in the center of town, there are some good deals to be had. Not quite like shopping USA good deals (for clothing especially) but it's all relative. We've also found a great variety of imports, organic and specialty food items. You just have to know where to shop and maybe make a trip across town once per month or so to get them. :) 
  • Many 'Mixed' Families. We love the fact that there are so many expats here that have married Argentines. In fact, all of our expat friends, with the exception of a few missionary families, are Argentine/foreign mixed couples. They live here and are invested in a way that most transient expats are not. This give a great perspective on the ins and outs of the country and culture through people on the inside. In Uruguay, the expats we knew were like us - both members of the couple were from elsewhere. We really value all that we have learned through our local and expat friends throughout our journey.
  • Variety. There is a great variety of larger cities (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba and Rosario) and a huge variety of climates/landscapes in a country as large as Argentina. From sub-tropical jungle in the northeast to semi-desert in the northwest, to mountainous ski-mecca around Bariloche and sleepy coastal beach towns on the east coast- all with the wide-open pampas inbetween. Argentina has a city and a landscape to fit nearly every preference.
  • Healthcare. I feel like I have won the healthcare lottery. I have Type 1 Diabetes, which in the past has made acquiring health coverage difficult at best. In Cordoba, we found APROSS, which is the provincial plan. Not only was I insurable through APROSS, coverage started from day 1 for both diabetes and pregnancy and also has 100% coverage of all of my Medtronic Insulin Pump supplies. The big deal: I pay $390 pesos per month for me and the baby. That's it. So, as of posting this, it is about $48 USD per month if you're using Argentina's  blue rate of exchange. More about this and other countries take on healthcare at a previous post, Healthcare in the Rest of the World. Since signing with APROSS, Argentina has past a law stating that people with pre-exisiting conditions can no longer be banned from coverage by private insurers, although they can be charged more. I have such amazing care and inexpensive coverage, I wouldn't dream of switching.

All that being said, I'm going to leave you with rainbows and sunshine and happy feelings about Argentina. Not all the case though, as we'll address the negatives in our  next installment. Stay tuned for the dark side of Argentina, plus a few things that are just plain bothersome. :)

 

Reflecting on Argentina

I've been working on the Pros and Cons list of Argentina but it is proving much more difficult than the previous Uruguay list. It was stressing me out so I took a break, enjoyed a great, long Easter weekend with my family which is continuing until Wednesday April 3rd. (Today and Tuesday are also Argentine federal holidays, making this a 6 day weekend. It is on my Cons list. You'll understand why.) So, the Argentina Pros and Cons list is long and has been very difficult. Maybe it is that we are still too close to the situation- since we are still here. Maybe it is just that Argentina, by nature is more complex. I've decided to split the Pros and Cons into two lists. Even then, I don't think my little lists will do justice to such a complex and varied country as Argentina.

At Iguazu Falls "Garganta del Diablo" March 2013

So, here we are enjoying the variety of life in Argentina (definitely on the Pro's list). In March, we spent one weekend at a friend's farm near Ascochinga, one at Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border which I must write about in a future post, one weekend home (whew!) and this weekend with the XL Easter tourism weekend. Its been a busy month and made even busier contemplating, writing and re-writing the Pros and Cons of Argentina post.

It's coming. Promise.

I Would Ask My Grandparents...

Family portrait winter 1952-53
Family portrait winter 1952-53

My Grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands in 1955 with their 8 children. My mother was 2nd born, the oldest girl and at age 12 (almost 13), had a good perspective on the journey to the USA and the transition to life in the midwest.

Throughout our time in South America, I've often thought of my family's journey in 1955 and what I would ask my Grandparents if they were still with us.

My Mom has been a great resource for answers to some of my questions, but the perspective of an immigrant child versus that of an adult can be strikingly different.

On a recent trip back to the USA, over lunch with my cousin, we talked about this very thing and it never fails to make me cry (tears welling now). I would ask my Grandparents:

  • What were their goals (for their family, themselves and their children)?
  • How long it took them to really feel at home in the USA?
  • When did they start speaking English at home instead of Dutch?
  • Did they feel like they had options of where to live or was the USA their only choice?(Many Dutch also came to Argentina during that era, including the family of my Mom's classmate)
  • What would their alternate future in the Netherlands have been?
  • Did the USA meet their expectations?
  • What were those early years like for my Grandmother in particular (In the rural Midwest, with young kids in an old farmhouse)?
  • What would they have done differently, if anything?
  • What were the strangest things to them in the USA (food, customs, English phrases, etc)?
  • What is their perspective on our move to South America and our abilities to live/work virtually anywhere?

Our experiences, while similar in some regards, are very different given the 50+ years that have passed. Theirs was a permanent move where we have much more flexibility. They left the Netherlands not knowing if they would ever see loved ones again, where we have had 3 trips back in the 3.5 years we've been in South America. My Grandmother went to the mailbox every day hoping for a letter from home. We have frequent Skype calls with family and can share photos and video easily online.

In fact, I just called my parents via Skype and asked my Mom if she would email some photos for this post. She has been wonderful recounting the experiences of her family as she remembers but I wish my Grandparents were still alive.

The discussions I would love to have with them as an adult! I miss you Oma and Opa...

Adriana, Harry and Children
Adriana, Harry and Children

We now have the flexibility and options that come with a technological world. It has never been easier to move to a different country. In fact, we have friends all over the world that are in near-constant motion (as singles, couples and families). After a few years, it is time to move on or move back 'home', only to move again shortly thereafter.

Is this the start of a nomadic generation, all thanks to technology?

On the days that are hard, when the cultural differences seem too great or the distance just too far, I have to remember my family history and the strength of my Grandparents and all of the other immigrants around the world.

Today we have it easy. We have the world at our doorstep. We are thankful for those who have made the tougher journeys before us.

Our Ultimate Plan

Snoopy Statues, Mears Park, St. Paul, MN
Snoopy Statues, Mears Park, St. Paul, MN

What are we doing in Argentina and how long will we stay? 

This past June/July, we spent 6 weeks in the USA, visiting family and friends, renting a house in an area that we'd consider moving back to someday. All of this with the hope of catching up with people and trying to figure out what our plan will be for the future.

We really enjoyed our time visiting the USA and loved the walkable neighborhood where we were staying. (I nearly had a heart attack when I walked into a Super Target for the first time- not knowing where to start... but I digress.) While we were there, I was more and more sure that we were going to be coming back to that very place sooner rather than later and even started throwing around a "1 year plan" that we'd be back in the USA within about year- to live.

That lasted about as long as it took to get back to Argentina.

Our lifestyle in Córdoba is just so hard to leave. 

Within days of returning to Córdoba, Argentina, we were not so positive of what seemed like a near sure thing just a few days earlier.

Upon return, our house was freezing cold (Cordoba had a really cold spell in the days before and in an un-insulated, masonry house with the heat turned off, it was COLD) which was not unexpected because it was the middle of winter. We bundled up for a few days and got settled back into our routine. We wake up at 8 AM every morning, walk daughter #1 to school, and on most days, return to have a leisurely coffee together and catch up on the day's to do list. It is a really comfortable lifestyle.

Our friends and neighbors checked in on our house while we were gone with no problems and everyone was happy to see us back.

Sure, we don't have some of the material things here that we might want but that is okay. We are comfortable with what we have and that makes it really hard to plan a departure. Cost of living and healthcare here are excellent, too....the only REALLY hard part is distance from family in the USA. Frequent Skype calls help, as do 6-8 week visits every summer. 

The Saturday after our return to Córdoba, we took the bus 2 hours across the Sierra mountains  to a friend's birthday party in Capilla del Monte. That town is just magical in it's own right, but at several moments during that afternoon, I looked around and marveled at the beauty of it all and how so many of the people surrounding us had the same questions and similar paths to ours.

At the Cordoba Airport. We're leaving for vacation!!!!
At the Cordoba Airport. We're leaving for vacation!!!!

After that initial cold snap, the weather warmed for a few beautiful weeks where we had temperatures in the 70s (with some 80s and 50's mixed in to even things out). And this is the middle of WINTER!!

Seeing the Excitement through New Eyes: 

We've recently met new friends from the USA who moved to our neighborhood and seeing the excitement and adventure in them as they start a new chapter in their lives is invigorating - even for those of us experiencing it second hand. Their wonder at the novelty of it all makes us remember those small things that we have grown accustomed to over the past 2.5 years in Córdoba.

For example, all the kissing. People kiss hello and goodbye on the right cheek here. EVERYONE does this. Teachers at school kiss every kid hello and goodbye. Everyday. If this is not a part of your cultural heritage, it can be overwhelming. We now love it and it brings a sense of community and closeness that cannot be achieved with a handshake or a simple hello.

Locals have large social networks here and so much of life here is about who you know, or who your friends know. We have connections here for just about everything- and are loyal to those connections. We have people to recommend if you are looking for a house, a car, appliance repair, yard work, pool maintenance, water service.

Language is Crucial to Integration

That being said, we are not as integrated here with the Cordobeses as we would like to be. We are both in Spanish classes again after a looooong hiatus and it feels good to have structured lessons again (Escuela de Español CELEC).

Our "baby" F is now 17 month old and we just started her in a local jardin de infantes, which is a mix between daycare and preschool. She is there for 3 hours/day and it is her primary spanish exposure, which is how started her older sister in Spanish at Caminito in Montevideo, Uruguay.

More social exposure in Spanish will help us all get the most out of our experience in South America.

So....

I can't believe our original 1-2 year plan from when we came to South America in March 2008 has extended into 4.5 years. I keep thinking that I'll wake up one day and be done with it all. So far, those thoughts have been fleeting and the desire to continue here in Argentina..... continues.

Hurry Up and Wait

One of our goals in coming to Uruguay was to slow down.

Getting out of the business rat race of the United States would allow us to take life at a slower pace and enjoy each other and our everyday world more, right? Well, a lot has been written about the pace of life in South America and how the siesta culture allows you to slow down. Many smaller stores are closed between 12-2 or 2-4 in the afternoon. !Manaña, manaña! is also a common thought meaning, it'll get done tomorrow. There are no consequences for being late and dinnertime is normally at 9 PM or later.

I've come to the conclusion that patience and the ability to wait is not necessarily inherent in the people here, it is the pace of outside factors that has made the people relax and well...wait.  

Everything takes longer, from the laundry drying on the line, to waiting in a queue at the bank, to taking a number everywhere you go.  People seem fine by this. I on the other hand, am still an antsy North American who has not learned the art of waiting.

Wait and wait. Then wait some more. 

This week I was at a doctors appointment.  Scheduled for 5:20 PM, I got in to see the doctor at almost 7PM. I had things to do. I was playing games on my phone, writing notes for the things to discuss with my doctor and texting my other half, who was wondering where the hell I was..

As I glanced around the waiting room around me, people were just sitting. Patiently. Many not doing anything for an hour and a half. They were not looking at their phones, not reading a book or magazine. They were doing NOTHING but sitting there. I was going insane and must have looked like I had ants in my pants with how much I was squirming and stretching.

When I actually got in to see my Dr., she took more than 20 minutes with me to discuss some changes in prescriptions and I got her personal cell phone number in case I have any questions. I never felt rushed like I have so many times in the USA. I felt cared for.

This is just the pace of life.

I've also noticed that you rarely see people eating or drinking (other than the traditional mate, which is an herbal, bitter green tea that is consumed so much in Uruguay and Argentina that people carry it along with them in a gourd cup with metal straw) while walking or on the bus. Fast food is not extremely common and even at McDonald's, people more frequently eat inside or take it back to their home or office to eat with others.

After 18 months here in Uruguay, I' ve learned that I do not have patience.

Is this something that can be learned? It does not seemed to be ingrained since birth with Uruguayos. Are they just resigned to the fact that every  tramite (official appointment) takes a ton of time?   I do not know. All I know is that life is not necessarily slower in Uruguay, drivers are still fast and impatient, people still have lots of things to do, but in many ways life is more deliberate. Personal interactions are valued more and people are willing to wait for the important things.

Our Next Adventure

Bariloche, Buenos Aires, Uruguay MapUruguay has been our home for the past 16 months and we love it. Through the ups and downs of adjusting to life in a different culture, we have been truly fortunate to find ourselves in such a place. We are ready for a new adventure, most likely temporary but we don't know. All signs are pointing us toward San Carlos de Bariloche,  Argentina. We plan to be there for the low season of October through December. If you don't know Bariloche, it is a very different type of place from Montevideo. Located in the mountainous area of northern Patagonia, spring is the low season there with skiing being the main draw in winter and hiking/water sports in the summer.  Since we have never lived in the mountains but would like to, this area really appeals to us.  There are other towns nearby such as San Martín de los Andes and El Bolsón that we plan to explore and the variety of outdoor activities in this mountain/lakes region is incredible.

One challenge with our plan is how to live in a more rural area without a car.  The Bariloche area has a great bus system that runs a loop from downtown to the main roads, with other buses running long distances from Bariloche. While we explored living within the city proper, we were told in no uncertain terms that while the city has all the modern conveniences, the city is not why people come to live in Bariloche. Now we are researching temporary rentals on the main bus loop or within a decent walking distance to the city center.

Our flight is booked for September 25th, our current landlord is notified of our lease termination and we are starting the purging process all over again.  There is no turning back now!

Our list of things to sell will be coming shortly. It is amazing how much you can acquire even when you live in a furnished  rental and never really purchased much.  Alas, we have plenty of housewares, toys, clothes, books and cloth diaper supplies that we will be selling.  The plan is to come back to Montevideo during/after high season 2011 but we don't want to store all our extra stuff, so away it goes.

Wish us luck!  This extended vacation will hopefully be just the thing we're looking for.  New things to learn and explore within a beautiful, restorative environment.  You can't forget the great German architecture, handmade chocolates and artisan beers produced in the Bariloche region!  Sounds like my kind of place!!

Location Independent Professionals

We are not professional bloggers- as I am sure you’ve guessed. We have day jobs and a family and sometimes those other commitments interfere with our travel blogging.  Honestly though, we could not be where we are in the world without the types of jobs we have created for ourselves.  We are actually working on two new business ventures that will allow us to escape the work day and make a more independent income.  More to come on that.

The group that we most associate ourselves with is the growing number of LIP's across the world (Location Independent Professionals / Location Independent Parents).  Although we love Uruguay, who knows if we'll stay here. Our jobs can allow us to go wherever our hearts desire.

While we realize this is a little late in coming for our travel blog, here is a little more about us:

Brad’s love is travel, and after 14 years in the industry, he launched Pangaea Travel. Pangaea specializes in planning complex itineraries and round the world trips, as well as student, teacher and group programs (and it turns out there is a great market for booking fellow expats, their friends and family!) Brad is also known as the "Airfare Guru" on Brilliant Trips - which is a very prestigious association with a well known travel site. As you might have known with all of our previous posts on Technology, Brad is a tech geek and he works via high speed internet, VoIP phone and a love for the latest tech solutions.

Brad’s newest addition to the Pangaea family is Pangaea Insure: an online travel insurance comparison site where you can search the major travel insurance providers and come up with the best quote for you- all in seconds.

I am an Interior Designer who has focused my work on kitchen and bath design. I've been working independently for the past 6 years. Moving abroad has provided some fun long distance projects that prove nothing is impossible with the right technology!

My love of kitchen and bath design is brought to life in my newest project, laNeva Artisan Tile. After focusing for years on interesting tile designs and having installers tell me 'You can’t do that!’, I created a tile line the way it should be offered: Accessible to both designers and the public, made to order, handmade, lead-free, custom design/layout assistance, tons of combinations and our signature Rift Series blends of two colors on one tile.

Our service jobs: Pangaea Travel and Lisa La Nasa Design are technology based and time based. While we can do them from anywhere, and already are considered LIP's (Location Independent Professionals/Parents) we have to put in the hours to make an income.  Pangaea Insure and laNeva Tile will allow us to be more independent, spend more time with our family and travel this beautiful world as we can maintain incomes with a little less time at our 9-5 day jobs.  We are so excited for the future!  Bring it on, 2010!

"Bueno, entonces"

The challenge of learning the language  in Uruguay is that you have to use a local tutor, text or program.  Rioplatense is the local dialect of Uruguay and parts of Argentina.  There are some big differences between the Spanish here to that spoken in Mexico or other parts of Central and South America. You cannot learn Rioplatense from the huge online language program Rosetta Stone, or books published for other areas. We just signed up for a new Rioplatense program called "Bueno, entonces".  This is in addition to our normal private tutoring in Uruguay.  "Bueno, entonces" is a completely irreverent, crass, cheeky language program that makes you laugh out loud- along with learning.  They describe themselves as Rosetta Stone meets South Park.  Word of warning: this is not for the easily offended. If you think you may be offended, you probably will be. If you want to check it out, don't say that I didn't warn you.

We think it is funny, interesting and certainly will not put you to sleep.  After the first few lessons, we're hooked and can't wait to see what happens next.  Kind of like a steamy latino-telenovela: very fun and a surprise at every turn.

Bueno, entonces is available in DVD's or download to PC/iphone/ipod touch.

If you want to learn more about Rioplatense Spanish, click here.

Expat Turnover

We have learned that not one, not two, but 7 families that we know in Montevideo will be leaving within the next 5 months.  Nearly all are leaving for work or educational opportunities, but some for a new adventure or economic reasons. Truth is, with inflation and the falling exchange rate of the dollar, it has become more expensive to live in Uruguay than it was when we arrived here 10 months ago and certainly when others arrived a few years previously.  Oh, why does the UY economy have to be so stable ?? (Unlike the Argentinian economy, which remains less stable  and as a result- a more favorable exchange rate from the US dollar). Great for Uruguay, not so favorable for expats!

We had been warned about the very common Expat Turnover and how it can go in waves.  We were just not prepared for quite the rush of people we know leaving Montevideo within such a short time.

We are very excited for the new friends arriving here on a regular basis, and more are sure to follow.  While it's hard to build relationships and then have people scatter to all ends of the world, (or rather Toronto which is strangely where many are going, but also to Thailand and the USA) we look forward to welcoming the new people coming to Uruguay, and staying in touch with those friends leaving.

To those of you leaving: We love you all and will miss you terribly. We'll keep up on facebook! Thank you for all the fun times, the support when we needed it and for helping us feel at home here in Uruguay.

With our Expat friends in UY, we have experienced: Piriapolis, numerous asados and pizza parties, birthdays, Friday lunches, Expo Prado, yoga, the beach and pool parties, zoos, movies, fubol matches, the parks, many exchanged notes, stories and recipes and so many other wonderful memories.  Thank you!

(Please note: While one rarely hears the word "Adios" here in Uruguay, it is universally understood, and well, I didn't have a photo of "Chau" written in the sand!)

The Art of Language

We have a 23 month old daughter who is in a stage of extreme language development. She can say many words/phrases in both English and Spanish and is learning more every day. As with any toddler, her comprehension of both languages is more advanced than her verbal skills and she gets really frustrated when she can't express what she wants or needs. I came to the realization the other day that I understand completely what she's going through. I feel the exact same way about speaking Spanish and want to throw a tantrum sometimes, too.

In fact, our daughter's comprehension of Spanish is probably better than mine. She learns so much at the jardín that she can follow all the instruction in Spanish and is learning more about Uruguayan culture daily. Just the other day, much to our surprise, she pointed to a honey-pot on her Winnie the Pooh-themed toothbrush and said "Mate!" (the preferred beverage of many Uruguayos that is drunk from a gourd cup). As you know, we're avid coffee drinkers, so Mate knowledge doesn't come from home. (Mate gourd photo from Wiki.com)

I studied a little Spanish briefly 10 years ago in college, but haven't used it since. While I have learned a lot being in Uruguay for the last nine months, it's been extremely helpful to work with a private Spanish tutor. It is invaluable to have private instruction for questions and very specific cultural information. We go over all the important details in a new language: How to describe what you want for a haircut, asking how to use a product at a store, why you pronounce the "J" in pajama here...  All the details that you can't learn online or in most Spanish textbooks. We are using a text called "Macanudo" which is strictly the Rio Platense dialect of Argentina and Uruguay.

My tutor was born and educated in Uruguay and lived in London for 12 years, she teaches both English and Spanish here. She is very inexpensive by US standards for private instruction- $1000 pesos/month for weekly 1.5 hour classes (about $8.50 USD per hour).

There are so many frustrating moments in learning a language by immersion, though. It hasn't happened often, but last week I had an experience where I was not understanding what a person at the doctor's office was saying. I had just gotten done speaking with an angel of a woman and had came back to the counter to verify one final question. The second woman I spoke with was completely unintelligible to me and kept speaking louder and louder, saying the same phrase, just at a higher volume. Then she started muttering under their breath and rolling their eyes shortly thereafter when I still didn't understand. It was a sad reminder of the many ugly Americans that I have seen do the exact same thing to foreigners. Note to self: avoid that person when visiting the clinic next time and have a few choice words prepared just in case ;)

While language skills are so natural for a 2-year-old, it's incredible how difficult it can be for an adult. I had anticipated that my Spanish would have progressed more than it has within 8 months. I'm still waiting for the moment when it all "clicks" and it becomes easier. That moment will come, right?