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

"Clutter is The Junk Food of Your Home"

A link on Facebook caught my eye. Not the usual click-bait, it was this article. I was hooked instantly. It's a topic I find very interesting- Tidying- or rather sorting, getting rid of unneeded possessions, then simple organization solutions for the items that are left.

This is the book:

Turns out this book has been on the NYT best seller list. Who knew? (I'm living in something of a self-imposed media black-out here in the middle of Argentina, so this book was news to me.)

In our family's journey for health (spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc.) this clearing of our excess possessions fits right in.

"Consider clutter the junk food of your home"

I admit, I bought Marie Kondo's book for Kindle online a few minutes after reading the article and I am totally hooked.

The idea behind the book is to sort thorough your clutter in batches. Not a few items a day, not a category every month. Whole house, one category at a time, taking no more than 6 months to sort everything in your home. As recommended, I started with my clothes.

I don't have many clothes to begin with so this task should be easy, right? Well, yes and no. Turns out I've been keeping things I don't love (too big, too worn, the wrong color, the wrong fabric) just because I have nothing to replace them with. Not a good enough reason. You must evaluate every item in your wardrobe with a question of:

"Does this (item) spark joy in my life?"

In my experience, it's a pretty clear answer.

A few select items WILL be my shopping list after this, but there is no hurry. I will be selective. I have to make sure it will be perfect for me and the new items will spark joy in my life.

Here are all of my clothes (pictured above) before sorting. The two bins in front are workout clothes (left) and tank tops (right). The bin in the back is scarves and the bag is off-season clothes. It's currently early fall in Argentina.

I am happy to say that by evaluating my clothes using the KonMari Method described in the book, I was able to separate two full bags: one to donate and another to sell at a nearby consignment shop. That is in addition to two other bags I already had in the garage to donate.

I gave myself a little wiggle room (which the author would NOT approve of) and kept a "maybe" bag, and a bag with a few heavy winter sweaters.  This "maybe" bag contains items that I'll evaluate again in the coming days:

  • Items in need repair or alterations.
  • Practical items that don't yet have replacements (like a well-worn but too big fleece).
  • Other items I just have to think about if I really love. (If they're in the bag, though, chances are that I will be able to part with them. Just not today.)

I also sorted through clothes of Geneva's that she has outgrown and we are saving for her sister. I only kept the pieces that are special and in good condition, resulting in the removal of one more bag of clothes from the house.

My Sorting Results:

  • 2 bags of clothes out of my closet, resulting in much more streamlined shelves. I will go back and fold everything as the book recommends.
  • 1 bag of Geneva's old clothes.
  • I also inspired the Mr. to sort through his clothes and we have two even larger bags of clothing that have been removed from his closet.

Bag Count So Far Using the KonMari Method: 5

I honestly feel like a weight has lifted off of my shoulders...and this is only after sorting through clothes!

We have done massive possession purges before (2008 when leaving the USA and again in late 2010 leaving Uruguay) and while I am constantly shocked at how much we can easily accumulate, I embrace the physical and emotional freedom that comes with fewer possessions.

My closet, after sorting and before folding

My closet, after sorting and before folding

My Six-Hanger Closet

My Six-Hanger Closet

Clothes remaining in my wardrobe, pictured above (not including exercise gear):

  • 3 dresses, hanging on 2 hangers
  • 4 long pants, folded (including 1 jean)
  • 1 capri pants, folded
  • 2 outdoor jackets (one dressy, one sporty), dressy jacket hanging
  • 3 long skirts, folded
  • 2 skorts, folded
  • 1 suit (skirt/jacket) hanging
  • 2 lightweight blazer/jackets (one dressy, one casual), hanging
  • 1 cardigan sweater, folded
  • 2 sleeveless sweaters, folded
  • 3 blouses, 1 hanging, 2 folded
  • 6 tank tops (I like to layer!) in one purple bin

Next phase: My purses, shoes, foundations, hats, accessories and fitness gear. Then folding & organizing* all according to the plan.

*One great thing about this book is that the author does not recommend any special, high cost organizing tools. Nothing else to buy. Fold your clothes using the recommended method and put them in drawers when possible. Do NOT stack.

That's it and it's working brilliantly.

One more step on our way to living a more minimalist, streamlined and mobile lifestyle. Check!

**If you're interested in the book, please click on the link button above to buy through Amazon. If you buy through the link included here, you help support our blogging while not costing you any more.  

I love the kindle version of this book on Amazon because, hey, I don't want any more clutter. If you prefer traditional-book-in-hand, that's cool, just select that option when ordering. Whatever floats your boat :) 

Just remember, I would never (NEVER!) recommend anything that I have not used and love.

Peace and love,

Welcome to 2015!

Waiting patiently to open a gift on Christmas Eve 2014.
Waiting patiently to open a gift on Christmas Eve 2014.
 Woohoo!! The holidays are done. I can't say I am sad to see them go (see my last post about homesickness).

We did have a good time, though. Our family enjoyed a lovely, quiet Christmas at home and a more lively New Year's Eve celebrating with friends.  I am happy to now have some time without the bustle and stress of the holidays to enjoy the lazy days of summer (Christmas in the summer will always feel wrong for me, though!)

We're working on our yearly goals, which is aided by a fantastic new analog tool called the Passion Planner(Not an affiliate link. I just love it so much, I want to share with everyone!) and ridding our lives of extraneous stuff on our quest for minimalism and focusing on what really matters.

We have some surprises coming up, to be revealed in the next few months. Have to keep mum for now.

But, to no one's surprise but my own, Geneva will start second grade at the beginning of March and Franca in Salita de 3 (3-year-old) preschool.

Where is the time going? Too fast!! They are growing too fast!!

We are looking forward to the year to come but hope that it slows down, even just a bit. Personally, I will be doing my very best to savor every second and truly live this year to its full potential.

May 2015 be everything your heart desires.  Make it count!

Feliz Año Nuevo!! (Happy New Year!!) Besos a todos! (Kisses to everyone!)

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

Switching Gears, Changing Lanes: Our New Blog

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20140221_135624-SMILE

The Light Bulb Above My Head:

A few weeks ago, during a solitary walk on a cloudless afternoon , I had a revelation (that's been happening a lot on my walks recently). With no music pumping into my ears, I was thinking of goals past and present, of our travel blog, of the information we put out (or not) about our experiences living abroad with our family.

Truth is, I'm not really excited about documenting Argentine life/experiences/information anymore. I am tired of writing about the pros and cons of certain places and the many reasons we chose to leave Uruguay (we get questions about Uruguay more than Argentina and we haven't lived there since 2010.)

I also don't want to write a travel guidebook about all the locations/attractions/foods/people/culture in Argentina.

Don't get me wrong, I love Argentina and love to help people find specific answers to fit their personal situations and goals for living abroad. I just don't want to write generic travel information that may or may not help anyone.

What Gets My Blood Pumping:

What I AM passionate about is our family's quest for health. I am not strictly speaking about physical health (although that contributes to it), but my list includes:

  • Mental Health (and General Sanity!)
  • Work/life Balance
  • Environmental Health
  • Minimalism - The quest for less stuff & simpler living
  • Lifestyle Design & Location Independence
  • My Adventures with Type 1 Diabetes
  • Healthy Balances with Kids
  • Cooking & Recipes
  • Physical Fitness
  • Travel and Packing How-To
... and how our journey towards healthy living is influenced by - and contributes to - our choice to live abroad.

The format and name of this blog will be changing to HealthyFamilyAbroad in the coming weeks, although we will reference previous articles and maintain our URMovingWhere articles within the archives. There will be a re-direct set up so you can still type use the URMovingWhere name and be sent to the new blog format.

**We're also looking into ways to monetize our blog and add revenue streams with the new format. All of this will be done with complete transparency and we will be adding a source of income tab to show how we are making our blogging experiences support our lifestyle, instead of just our life supporting our blogging, as has been the case these last 5 years. ;) 

We hope that you will continue to join us in our adventures as we explore and document our journey living as a Healthy Family Abroad! 

Thank you all for your support!

Un beso,

Lisa

Life on the Road - 38 days around Argentina

Reflections on our epic Argentine road trip. I can't believe this was 8 months ago already...


On the Road!

We did it!

38 days away from home. 6100 km (3800 miles) driven. One car. Two adults & two little girls.

11 hotels/apartments/houses
10 cities.

A circle around the center of Argentina.

One incredible adventure.

Day 1, Pilar: On January 24th, we left on a spectacular road trip that would circle us around the midsection of Argentina. In a tour like nothing we've ever done before (okay, there was the Chilean road trip 3 years ago, but given the geography of Chile, that was one way and not a ROUND trip. We were moving from Bariloche to Cordoba via Chile, but I digress.) Starting on January 24th, 2014, we had our car all packed and drove 6.5 hours, through Rosario, to get to our friends house in Pilar, just northwest of Buenos Aires. We stayed there, met his pet pig named Peppa (a pet at that time, which since has been made into dinner) and had a lovely tour of Pilar, along with ice cream and sushi.

Brad and Franca watching Geneva and Delfina in the waves.

Days 2-4, Mar Chiquita: Heading out the next day, we drove south along the coast to Mar Chiquita, a sleepy coastal village just north of Mar del Plata. We stayed a gorgeous three nights with Brad's cousin, her Argentine husband and their daughter. They  split time between the Northeast USA and coastal Argentina. Their daughter is 1-1/2 years older than our oldest  daughter and  they were fast friends. We loved the freedom that a constant playmate afforded us. Aaaah.... The food here was incredible. The lifestyle here was even better. I could really get used to living as a beach bum!

Sea Lion colony in Mar Del Plata.

On our way out of town, we swung through Mar del Plata. Crazy. I do not want to EVER stay there during high season. Wow. We had driven through a few days earlier to see the sea lions and knew what we were getting ourselves into.
A quick stop at a street market to pick up a very special loaf of bread and other random snacks that were recommended to us and we were off! Again.
Day 5-6, Bahia Blanca: Heading south further. Very hot. Saw the movie Frozen with our older daughter here. Franca, the toddler,  fell in the park and scraped her nose. Now she has a perfect stripe up her face and looks a little chipmunk-esque. We stayed at the Hotel Argos, and were lucky enough to get an updated king corner suite. It was really lovely and since the girls are small, we all curled up in one king-sized bed together. :) We won't be able to do that for too much longer!

Walking along the beach in Las Grutas during low tide.

Days 7-9, Las Grutas:  After a meandering drive southwest, we made an unplanned detour to Las Grutas. We rented a great apartment on the beach. Again, we drove up to see it, ran back to the car to tell Brad and the girls, then ran back to reserve it. Not many vacancies during high season! We had some gasoline drama here- the only gas station in town was empty and waiting for a tanker truck to fill up- and had been for days. We didn't have enough gas to get back to the next bigger city. Luckily we didn't have to drive anywhere for a few days and could have always taken a taxi 12 km to get a can of gasoline if needed. On our last planned day there, the station got a fill-up and so did we.
The beach was beautiful with "pools" cut out of the stone that you could access during low tide. It was a great sandy beach with high cliffs leading to the town up above. On the very end of town there was even a water slide (Geneva thoroughly enjoyed this) and cabañas and carpas (tents) along the length of beach that you can rent to stay out of the sun.
Day 10, Neuquen: A quick stop for the night, then taking off the next morning. We stayed at Casino Magic Hotel for a bit of luxury.
This is the only place we stayed at for only one night- but also the only place we stayed at twice (once down and once on our way back). Since it was such a quick stop, we ate at the hotel restaurant where we were one of three families there when it opened at 8:30 PM. Beautiful rooms, pool and public spaces. The restaurant was good, but not exceptional.

Standing in front of Volcan Lanin. Junin de los Andes, Argentina.

Days 11-12, Junin de los Andes: Snore.... Hotel was blech but grounds were amazing. We booked it that morning, just hours before we arrived, so beggars can't be choosers, right?  Unfortunately the weather was freezing cold and very windy. We had to buy more clothes for Daughter #1 to keep warm!! This was our jumping off point to see the spectacular  Volcán Lanín outside of town.
Days 13-17, San Martin de los Andes: Oh, what a beautiful little town! Shopping was crazy expensive and there were a ton of people blanketing the town but we still enjoyed it. We drove into town and straight to the tourism office to try to find a place to stay. After a few doozies, we found an apartment that was cute and adequate for a 5 night stay. Mexican food at Viva Zapata was unbelievable. We hiked to the lookout above town and then drove some trecherous gravel cliffs to other lookout. LOOOOOOng drive to volcano. Freezing still but I purchased 2 meters of fleece to wrap Franca. We also drive to Chapelco Mountain/Ski Resort where Brad and Geneva went down the alpine slide and later Geneva climbed the lakeside rock wall. San Martin was great little town that I definitely want to visit again!
Almost took a wrong turn to Chile on the way to Villa la Angostura. Stopped at an overlook and asked a tour bus driver. Turn around!!!
Days 18-19, Villa La Angostura: When we arrived, we had some time before check-in, so we stopped for a really beautiful lunch and I cried. I cried over my lamb because it was so good and our lives are so amazing!!! Geneva was asking about our engagement over dinner and wanted daddy to propose to me again, so we got re-engaged over dinner. Geneva lost a tooth the next night at dinner. I Bought an overpriced but beautiful Columbia jacket for myself. It was an eventful few days! We spent 2 nights, two different rooms in a great hotel but with a terribly bumpy and rutted dirt access road.
Days 20-24, Bariloche 1:  We found a little Apart-Hotel off of Av. de los Pioneros, close to downtown. This was a very different perspective from being so close to Llao Llao when we were previously living in Bariloche from Sept 2010-Feb 2011. The apartment was old and not the prettiest, but for a walk-up (no reservation again), we couldn't be too picky.

"Our" house in Bariloche.

Days 25-34, Bariloche 2: We are HOME- well, our old home!!! Back to the same house where we lived for 5 months in 2010- 2011. Geneva had her 3rd birthday in this house, we celebrated Christmas, Brad's birthday and we also decided here that we wanted another baby once we settled in Cordoba. Needless to say, this house is very significant to us, even if we were only here for 5 months.
We had nine days here again this time and it was paradise. There were some great updates to the place and we wanted to soak up every second of it. We also buried our dog's ashes in the beautiful yard. He loved the yard so much and Pablo, along with our other dog, Paloma, stayed in Bariloche for an additional 3 months (from Feb 2011- to May) while we were getting settled in Cordoba before they joined us via plane. We are all happy that he is there forever now. Cue the tears.

Ready for the Zip Line Canopy Tour!!

We did some of the tourist things as well as re-visiting some of our favorite places: Hotel Llao Llao for coffee. Cau Cau boat trip, Bellevue Casita de Te (twice!), Canopy zip-line for Geneva and Brad. Incredible drive to El Bolson (the furthest South we visited- almost as far as Puerto Madryn, but on the other side of the country.)
Alas, all good things must come to an end. We leave and head north to Neuquen once again. It is a spectacular drive north out of the city.
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Days 35-36, Neuquen- a second time: The only city where we stopped twice. We even stayed at the same hotel. Head to the Museum, check out downtown.
Day 37, Villa Mercedes: After discovering that we had an incredibly smooth, straight, beautiful hiway drive, we drove like the wind and kept on for 8 hours until we got to Villa Mercedes. Booked the hotel at a gas station/lunch stop with Wifi along the way.
Day 38, Cordoba!!! Home! We completed the incredible circuit, heading east from Cordoba to the coast of Argentina, down along the coast and across to the west, then straight up the middle of the country back home again.
The girls were wonderful- with the worst of the driving days being the first (getting accustomed to it) and the last (great anticipation of home).
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Tips to Remember :
  • Never tell your 6 year old when you will be getting home. Just show up. We spent several hours driving from Villa Mercedes with Ms.-Super-Crabby-Pants in the back seat. Pulling out the infamous "Are we there yet??" every few minutes. Never. Again.
  • No matter how much you pack, you are packing too much. We had one duffel bag of clothes  shared between all of us and it was too much. I would cut the clothes drastically next time. We were traveling between climates (hot and beach for our first 4 stops, then super chilly for 2 stops, moderate temps for the rest) so I packed for everything, or so I thought. We all had clothes we didn't use and Daughter #1 needed two warmer pieces that we purchased along the way.
  • Plan surprises along the way for the kids. Little toys packed, activity books, unexpected stops- even if just to a beautiful lookout. It is worth it.
  • Get gas /petrol/nafta- whatever you call it- get it WHENEVER you can! We got stuck in Las Grutas with very little gas, the only gas station in town was awaiting a fill (and had been waiting for days) and the next nearest gas station was 20 km away. Not cool, but there are worse places to be stuck, for sure :)

Reflecting on the trip, I can't believe that we all survived 38 days of family togetherness in a sedan! Our two daughters, ages 6 and 1-1/2 years old, both in car seats. One driver throughout (thank you, Hon, for the safe journey!) What an incredible adventure!!

Expat Feature: George, part 2 of 3 - Preparation

Here is part 2 of George's Expat story. If you missed part 1, you can find George's Expat story Part 1 here.

Jorge Pic 3

Careful preparation and organization are vital elements for any kind of move, but nothing could have prepared me for the physical, financial and emotional exhaustion that came with moving abroad.

My spouse and I were going to a country that is very different from the United States culturally with its customs, food and overall way of life.

For starters, we’ve always been big spenders. I myself have a DVD obsession while my spouse is hooked on novels and clothes. Would we be able to keep up this lifestyle in Argentina? For that answer we went to the expert, my mother.

My mom warned me months before my move that life in Argentina would take some getting used to but nothing can really prepare you for the journey until you’ve actually set foot here. Although she meant well, she practically sold us a lemon when she convinced us that the politics, financial and job outlook here was great, but we fell for it and decided to start packing.

So now we had to go through a ton of items in our storage unit and weed out what we needed, wanted, and what needed to go in the trash. Since our budget was limited, we could only afford to send four boxes, 50 pounds each through an international moving company. That in itself set us back 1,200 US dollars. We gave away whatever we didn’t want to our New York family and left the stuff we couldn’t take in their basement with the promise of returning to reclaim the items at some future date.

Although we had been preparing for months, we were still packing, taking stuff out and reorganizing things until the last minute.

This was hard on us but even harder on our family. My in-laws barely had time to say goodbye to us. We could tell that they were disappointed. My spouse and I knew that our move to Argentina was quite possibly a one-way trip and so did they. Our family wanted the chance to say goodbye and yet there simply wasn’t time and that’s possibly one of our biggest regrets; not making enough time for them.

I don’t think I was too nervous about the move itself but that might have been the effects of the Xanax I took before getting on the cab to get to the airport. My spouse has always been my rock and I drew strength from how well he was handling everything. I think the only time I became emotional was when the plane took off and I saw New York from up above for what was possibly the last time. But I hadn’t left The States, not just yet. Our plane landed in Miami and there was a layover of a couple of hours before we boarded the next plane which would take us to Argentina.

I guess it was kind of symbolic that my life began when I arrived in Miami and now I was saying goodbye to it before beginning a whole new adventure in Argentina. As the second plane took off, I watched the night lights of Miami one last time.

Goodbye U.S.A. the only home I’ve ever known. Thank you for my life.


 

We'll be posting the final installment in George's story next week. How has he adjusted to life in Argentina? Has it met expectations? We'll see!

Our World Traveling Pugs: A Tribute

G with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009
G with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009

When we moved to Montevideo, Uruguay in March of 2009, we brought our two Pugs, Pablo and Paloma with us.

We often joke that they were the most complicated part of the move, requiring specific flight times and layovers (due to temperature restrictions for snub-nose breeds),  translated paperwork, exams, shots at very specific intervals, crate requirements, leash, water, tags... the list goes on.

For anyone who loves dogs though, this is not even a question.

Our dogs were our first babies-before-our-human-babies and although we didn't plan on moving across the globe when we became dog owners early in our marriage, we knew the commitment that dog ownership entails, so 7 years later, the dogs were coming with us.

Transit was the easy part. Boarding the dogs in Montevideo another issue all together, but we worked through it and were reunited as soon as we had "our" house in the Pocitos neighborhood. It was wonderful to be together again and the dogs lazed in the sunshine of the courtyard and curled up together wherever they could find a comfy spot.

Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Skip ahead 18 months and we flew with the dogs again on our way to Bariloche, Argentina.

This time we knew the drill of traveling with pets and while a bit simpler, Uruguay's pet exportation requirements were still quite detailed.  Through Buenos Aires and to Bariloche, our dogs were traveling pros.  They loved the freedom of Bariloche and our fenced in yard. Pablo specifically would explore and lay in the gorgeous grass and I'd like to think he appreciated the beautiful views, too.

When we drove from Bariloche through Chile and settled in Córdoba, Argentina.  We knew that the pugs couldn't take a 15 day road trip with us so we had a wonderful neighbor family in Bariloche watch them. They were caretakers at a gorgeous estate and the dogs were in heaven with a loving family and property to roam.

The dogs flew one final time from Bariloche to Córdoba to meet us when we were in our house near the Cerro neighborhood, in the northwest of the Córdoba Capital.

Geneva (AKA "Punky Brewster") & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Geneva (AKA "Punky Brewster") & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Córdoba was to be their final home.

Pablo had been in declining health for years. He had lower spine issues and before we even left the USA, we had consults with the University Veterinary hospital, treatments with an alternative medicine Vet (yes, he received doggy chiropractic and acupuncture) and therapy to maintain strength in his hind legs.  As he aged, his gait became more and more unstable but he could still walk. As a last-ditch effort, we even used small balloons over his hind feet like booties so he'd gain some traction on our slippery tile floors.

Shortly after our second daughter was born at the end of May 2012, Pablo stopped walking completely. He stopped eating and drinking. We took him in to receive IV fluids, but he was 12 years old and  his time was up.

On our most recent trip to Bariloche this past February 2014, we stayed at the same house where we used to live and buried Pablo's ashes under a prominent tree that he loved to hide under 2 years earlier.

Franca & Paloma in Córdoba, Argentina. October 2014
Franca & Paloma in Córdoba, Argentina. October 2014

We still had Paloma, the younger of the two.  A year and a half the junior of Pablo, we felt like Paloma would live forever. She was going to be the ugly old toothless Pug that lived to be 17.  While visually, she had aged a lot in recent years, she still got around like a puppy. She had a vigor that Pablo's quiet aloofness could never match. She was the barker. She was the one wanting to 'meet' all the other dogs but then would roll onto her back in submission. Pablo was just too good for that, too much of a loner to care.  Paloma was a social butterfly, or so she wanted to be.

Our vision of the life our old dog was going to lead changed suddenly last week.

Paloma died in my arms as we were trying to rush her out the door to the vet. At 12-1/2 years old, we shouldn't have been surprised, but after watching Pablo's slow decline over the course of years, we were shocked that she passed so quickly. Paloma was fine in the morning: eating, drinking, climbing stairs; then in the afternoon: shuttering, gasping and gone. So suddenly.

We have such an emptiness in our hearts. After nearly 14 years of having dogs in in our lives, the changes in routine and in looking for the pitter pat of little doggie feet to greet you are the hardest.

Pablo and Paloma were great dogs, not perfect, but they were ours. They gave us unconditional love and we gave them a forever home, even though that home changed a few times. We miss our two babies-before-our-human-babies and will be forever grateful that they took this crazy international adventure along with us.

Besos a ustedes dos, Pablito y Palomita!!!  Los queremos y los extrañamos mucho!
Pablo and Paloma Jan 12, 2008
Pablo and Paloma Jan 12, 2008

Adventures with Diabetes

IMG_20140729_165205 (1)
IMG_20140729_165205 (1)

When thinking about our lives and the interesting things that we've done as a family, I sometimes forget I am a person with Type 1 Diabetes. For most of the last 12 years, I have been attached to an insulin pump and testing my blood glucose a million times per day. Well, not quite a million...but a lot.

It's strange that sometimes I can forget about Diabetes, even though I have a device tethered to my body 24/7, but I do.

I also sometimes forget that I'm living a really remarkable life:

  • Brad and I traveled to Thailand 6 weeks after my diagnosis, which included a 3-day trek in Chiang Mai.
  • We've trekked the Inca trail in Peru
  • Earlier this year, we took a 38-day / 3800 mile road trip across Argentina with our two young daughters (6 & 1-1/2 years old).
  • I travel internationally on a regular basis, including 13 countries (some multiple times) since diagnosis and lived in/had health insurance in 3 countries.
  • I've been walking approximately 21 miles per week
  • We had an accidental, unassisted homebirth with daughter #2

--- and I have Type 1 Diabetes!!!

I am sure I drive my doctors insane, but I've got it -mostly- under control. I'm in control as much as much as any person with Diabetes can keep the pendulum-that-is-blood-glucose from swinging in one direction or the other.

These stories & details make up the fabric of my life. I guess you can call it adventurous. I guess you have to be when you have a chronic illness and you choose to move abroad anyway and deal with things as they come.

Iguazu Falls, Geneva 5 years old.
Iguazu Falls, Geneva 5 years old.

The best thing I've found is to not view my body as the enemy. We're in this together.

I use my body and exercise as my tools and sometimes, just sometimes, lose myself in my day and forget about my physical tether that is attaching me to my insulin pump. Some days, I just have to let go and be normal- figuratively speaking, of course. Diabetes doesn't take a holiday.

Perfect Imperfections

A Perfect Fall Day, Córdoba, Argentina
A Perfect Fall Day, Córdoba, Argentina

** This is a post the I wrote back in June but for some reason never posted.  So here it is! **

As I was walking home from bringing Daughter#2 at her preschool this afternoon, a 4 km round trip through a beautiful neighborhood on a partly cloudy, crisp early fall day, I kept thinking about the term 'perfection'. What a perfect day. What an amazing experience, walking these residential streets that I walk every day, but being truly present and aware of the beauty.

Truth be told: My music app wasn't working so I was forced to walk without the distraction of a steady beat pumped into my ears.

I breathed deeply, walked smoothly, noticed the leaves falling in the breeze. I picked up the most perfect golden red leaf from the ground... and then noticed its imperfections. The small tear towards the bottom. The spots of brown. It wasn't perfect at all. But what in nature really is? It is all very imperfect, but that is what makes it beautiful.

A 'perfect' leaf on my walk.
A 'perfect' leaf on my walk.

Of course, nature's beauty is fleeting and as I stopped to take a photo, I must have dropped this perfect leaf and I couldn't find it again.

Perfection and the lack thereof has been a recurring theme lately. It is something that keeps coming up in my world. Needless to say, it's been on my mind.

One of my favorite songs on my walking playlist is John Legend's "All of Me".  If you don't know it or want to listen again, you can see a version of it here (live version appropriate for all ages). "Cause all of me Loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges All your perfect imperfections."

I was also thinking about a blog that I saw for the first time last night. A truly inspiring story about a woman's weight loss journey and finding love in herself and her imperfect body. Check out the story at I'mperfect Life.

The underlying theme: Our lives are never perfect, our relationships are never perfect, no matter what they look like from the outside.

Along the same lines- A country is never perfect, either.

No matter where you are, you have to take the good with the bad and find beauty in the imperfections, the frustrations, the day to day nuances that may drive you crazy (See my list of the Pros & Cons of Argentina Part 1Part 2!) You have to decide if those imperfections are a deal-breaker for you. If you stick it out, if you make the best of whatever imperfect situation or country, it can help grow resilience, an open mind and open heart.

This is not to say that you have to accept the way things are without changing (yourself, the situation, or both). Just remember to look for the beauty among the (seemingly more obvious) imperfections of the journey.

That is all. I am off to enjoy more of this absolutely perfect day.

Lisa

Striving for Minimalism

Toddler G and all of our STUFF arriving in Montevideo Uruguay in March 2009
Toddler G and all of our STUFF arriving in Montevideo Uruguay in March 2009

We moved to South America 5 years ago this past March, with a 15-month-old baby, two Pugs, a collection of carry-ons plus 12 bags/boxes, a stroller, travel crib and car seat, all brought with us on the airplane. This was after we sorted and packed/sold/gave away nearly everything we owned. All the furniture in our 2000 sq. ft house in MN; sold. Clothes; donated. No shipping container for us. No sir. We've pared it down to the essentials.

Our whole life was in those 12 bags/boxes. Everything from clothes and toys to a desktop computer and two flatscreen monitors.

We liked to think that we were living a minimalist lifestyle when we brought said bags/boxes to our furnished rental in Montevideo, but we weren't. Not even close. We still had collections of clothes that we brought with us "just in case". We sill had (and have to this day) boxes and boxes in storage in my father-in-law's basement back in the USA. Boxes full of housewares and momentos, clothes and business paperwork. I shudder at the thought of those boxes, even though I have sorted, further purged and repacked said boxes every time we visit the USA.

Is this any better than paying for a storage unit somewhere? No.

Little F (along with Paloma the Pug) in the play area. Look at all the STUFF!
Little F (along with Paloma the Pug) in the play area. Look at all the STUFF!

We now have far too many toys and random THINGS that we've accumulated being in one house in Cordoba for over 3 years. Time to pare down again. We are sorting, cleaning, selling and giving away once again.

Less STUFF means less to worry about. Money saved by not purchasing extraneous things. Time saved not looking for things and not having to maintain 'collections' of things. More time for meaningful experiences. More time for the PEOPLE in your life.

My favorite video about STUFF is in the link below (warning: Carlin has a potty-mouth, but the message is powerful). Click if you dare: http://youtu.be/MvgN5gCuLac

Some of our favorite minimalist resources are:

Zen Habits http://zenhabits.net/ (which planted the seed in our minds, years ago)

Becoming Minimalist http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

The Minimalist Mom http://www.theminimalistmom.com/

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!

Little Travelers - Our Adventures With Kid(s)

Last week, after returning home from some grocery shopping in our neighborhood, our 5-year-old steps into the house and declares, "I'm bored with this city."  Amused, I promptly put it on Facebook and two out of the first three responses were "Where did she hear that?" or something similar. That wasn't what I expected.

Daughter #1, showing her hands, black with volcanic sand and the Osorno Volcano in Chile. February 2011.

She is a kid that has always been on the move but we've never said that we're bored with a city. NEVER.

That is something out of her own head.

In my opinion, it does show that she is comfortable moving around and wants to explore this great world of ours.

While in Minnesota, we lived in the same house for 7 years and sold it when I was 6 months pregnant with dear daughter #1; the same daughter with the charming quote above.

That got me thinking how much we have traveled and what we have all seen in her 5-1/2 years (4 of which have been in South America). We lived in a few places in Minnesota leading up to our move, then in Montevideo for 18 months, Bariloche for 5 months and now Córdoba, Argentina for just over 2 years (where our second daughter was born in 2012).

We have seen many other places in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, all without a car of our own. We've rented cars, traveled with friends, hired a driver once (okay, twice) and taken a variety of planes, buses, boats and trains.

Exploring at Atlántida beach, Uruguay. March 2010.

In Uruguay, we've visited:

Colonia, Piriapolis, Punta del Este, Punta del Diablo, Cabo Polonio, La Paloma, Minas, Salta and through many more cities on the way.

In Argentina, we've visited:

Buenos Aires, Rosario, Mendoza, Bariloche, El Bolsón, Villa la Angostura, Concordia, Iguazu, Villa Carlos Paz, Villa General Belgrano, Cosquín, Capilla del Monte and others.

In Chile, we've visited:

Puerto Montt, Chiloé Island including Ancud and Castro, Osorno, Villarrica, Pucón, Puerto Varas, Santiago, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and others.

This also included two over-land crossings of the Andes mountains: One from Bariloche, Argentina to Puerto Montt, Chile by car and another time from Mendoza, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile by bus.

 

On a bus to Capilla del Monte, Argentina. November, 2012.

I can't forget the three trips to/from the United States since we've been living in South America. We are pretty well traveled with our kids. We like adventure (it was even in our wedding vows, "Through Adventure and Adversity") and we encourage a love of adventure and adaptability in our daughters.

We're not planning another move anytime soon, but we DO have some interesting travel plans we're considering. As you may have guessed, we're also not the type to travel WITHOUT our kids.

We'll see where our next big adventure takes us - as a family.

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.