Sunday Walk

Yes, I am well aware it is Thursday. But T and I have been super-busy this week, and I’m just now uploading our photos from our Sunday walk around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful day–and we’re trying to get all the vitamin D we can, since our office is at least 12 meters below the nearest sunshine!

We live in the villa permanente, which is a neighborhood essentially created by Entidad Binacional Yacyreta as a place for all of its workers to live. The houses roughly correspond to your place in the hierarchy–there are some low white houses that look like small barns and can be kindly described as man camps.

Then there’s our neighborhood of yellow houses. We love our quiet, friendly neighborhood. Pretty cobblestone streets, lots of people walking and biking, and plenty of little groups outside on a beautiful day enjoying the sunshine and a cup of mate. For being identical houses, each of the houses clearly expresses the personality of the owner.

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Then there’s the brown houses

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And finally, for the really important people, the white mansions:

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It would not be a walk if there wasn’t a moment of “Sara pets a strange but friendly neighborhood dog.”

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Weekly Reading, Vol. 7

1) I have been following this “Motherhood Around the World” series on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo, since it began. They profile American women who are raising their children abroad, and describe the unique cultural differences in raising children and living life in general. The most recent post in the series highlights Germany.

2) Coca Cola has been test-marketing Coca Cola Life here in Argentina for months. It’s sweetened with Stevia and has a green label… and is apparently making its way to US shelves soon. Our take? Weird aftertaste.

3) Levo League  has a great article about how to work out with coworkers. Timely, both for me down here (maybe some Zumba classes in the next few weeks!) and back in the States. A few coworkers are spending their lunch breaks doing either T25 or PyLo (both of which I am dying to try!).  Levo League is a great online resource for women who are Gen Y/Millennial and are looking for some career and life camaraderie.

4) Here’s a really cool look into the American exhibition in Moscow in 1959, where the US tried to court Soviets with fancy consumer products–and the location of the famed Kitchen Debate between Kruschev and Nixon.

5) What Writers Can Learn From ‘Goodnight Moon’

6) This article about the rigorous process that all recipes in Bon Appetite go through is a fantastic read.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

The beginnings of the garden…

T and I have been wowed by the abundance of beautiful, cheap as dirt produce here in Argentina. It seems like every week we go to the grocery store, there’s something new and exciting and beautiful to bring home. This week’s experiment was blueberry juice. The verdict? Odd, cloyingly sweet, and too syrupy. Oh well, it was a nice try, and it looked so pretty in the bottle!

One of the things we’ve had a hard time finding, however, is the fresh herbs we use in our cooking all the time in the States. They don’t seem to sell bunches of basil or thyme or rosemary. We’ve only seen parsley! So, we’ve decided to try our hand at gardening. The climate down here is so temperate (there is NEVER snow!) that we’re hoping that we can have some success. Here are our results so far!

The basil (both traditional green and some fun purple basil) is growing so well! In Spanish, this is albahaca.

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Our tomatoes (tomates) are doing well, and so are the spinach (espinacas)! You can’t really see it, but the thyme (tomillo) is slowly growing. I’ve nearly given up hope on the strawberries (fresas), peppers (pimientos) and rosemary (romero).

Here’s a bonus picture of what we thought was a lime tree, and now we’re not so sure… we think it may be a lemon tree. Lemons down here can be orange!

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We’re hoping to expand the garden a little bit more every few months–I have a whole collection of seed packets with various veggies. We just wanted to start small and see how these went first.

Weekly Reading, Vol. 6

Long time, no posting on this topic! Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks.

1) Fast Company wrote a great article about women saying “sorry” too often and its consequences.

2) Zach Weinersmith (the mind behind one of my favorite comics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) and wonderful artist Boulet did a great Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit.

3) Why Google is so Interested in Kenya’s Transit System.  Interesting–and even more so since my sister just came back from visiting Kenya with her boyfriend.

4) I have been loving College Humor’s video series on “What If Google Was a Guy”–hilariously on point. Here’s Part 3.

5) There is such a thing as an agricultural Roomba, and it is awesome.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Happy Monday, everyone.

On Time in Northern Argentina

Going back home, then coming back to Argentina always puts some things in perspective.

We loved being home and seeing everyone. What we didn’t miss was all of the other scheduled things–doctors appointments, lawn guys, and a million other silly little things to do in a short period of time.

It was wonderful being able to just flush toilet paper–which they do not do in Argentina. (The ugly American inside me shudders.)

We had so many foods that we desperately missed (Mexican food, Chipotle, hot wings) from the USA that we gorged on all week. But we missed our nightly fresh veggie plates and simple cooking.

But what struck me the most this trip was the difference in time and urgency. If we are late 15 minutes to something in the States, we know to call ahead and tell the person we’re meeting we’ll be late. Down here, it’s different.

Case in point: last night we were invited to the local club for a special promotional night. We asked what time the party started, and were told 10:30pm. Late for us boring people who work on Saturday, but not bad! So we got all dressed up, drove to the venue, and…. no one. Not a sign of a person in sight. We texted our contact, who said they were running late, and the earliest they would be open for business would be 11:15. We texted again at midnight to ask if the party was going yet, and they were still trying to get the venue open. Shortly thereafter, we fell asleep.

We had a good conversation about everything down here is a very mañana type of experience–it’s customary to arrive one to two hours late to a party in a person’s home. No one thinks to call if you’re 15 minutes late (unless they recognize that we’re the Americans, and we clearly value that sort of thing). In some ways, it’s liberating–but in many ways, it’s incredibly frustrating. Transfer the same attitude from social engagements to work life, and it’s even more frustrating. We often spend a decent amount of time explaining to our coworkers in the States that things move slower down here–so we need to accommodate that distinct possibility when planning.

 

On a completely different note: WordPress has informed me that someone found my blog by searching for “Patron Saint of Guinea Pigs.”  Whoever you are… that’s awesome. And apologies, to the best of my knowledge, there is no patron saint of guinea pigs.

 

A Cornucopia of Fitness Options

Hello. My name is Sara, and I have an addiction to fitness DVDs.

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After two months of hotel food, I’ve been trying to get back into shape. I have a pretty sedentary life at work, so I know I need to make up for it in some way.

On my last trip to the States, I filled up my Amazon cart (and my literal cart at Walmart and Target!) with fitness DVDs that I could do at home. In the winter (Southern Hemisphere–so the seasons are switched!), we leave for work in the dark, and when we return home, it’s dark again. I’ve tried to counteract this with Vitamin D supplements and finding fun workouts to do at home in the comfort of our living room. Best yet, they’re pretty cheap–all of them were less than $10 per DVD (with the exception of Body Revolution, which if you divide 15 dvds by the $130 the whole program cost, that’s even less, plus with the included resistance bands).

At some point, I’ll do reviews of these–a sort of pay-it-forward thing. I read all sorts of reviews of these DVDs and programs on blogs before I bought them–so it’s only fair to do the same for the next person who’s looking for some fun workouts.

What I’ve got:

  • Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution (15 DVDs, 90 day program)
  • Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred
  • Exhale: Core Fusion Collection
  • Jillian Michaels’ Six Week Six Pack
  • Zumba Fitness World Party (XBOX ONE)
  • The Fighter Within (XBOX ONE)
  • Jillian Michaels’ Killer Buns and Thighs
  • Jillian Michaels Extreme Shred and Shed
  • Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30
  • Element: Barre Conditioning
  • Element: Yoga for Stress Relief and Flexibility
  • Element: Yoga for Strength and Flexibility
  • Jazzercise Burlesque (judge me, go ahead–it was on sale at Walmart, and looked like a fun “off day” workout)

The other programs I’ve considered? PiYo, T25, Physique 57, and TurboFire. I have exercise ADD, so I don’t have much of an interest in the longer daily workouts (hello, P90x) and I hate workouts that require a whole pile of equipment.

At this point, we have a set of handweights (in kgs!), a bunch of yoga mats, a yoga block, some resistance bands (from JM Body Revolution), and I got some of those grippy yoga gloves and socks (which I am loving for the Barre workouts).  We’re considering a kettlebell, but haven’t pulled the trigger on that one yet.

I also discovered the “disco gym” in town. T has gone to the traditional weight lifting gym–which is not entirely my bag. I like weight lifting, but I need something fun to go with it! The “disco gym” is more woman-focused, and does spinning, zumba, and what appears to be ab classes on a weekly basis. Hopefully, a coworker and I will be hitting up some of those sessions shortly.

Don’t worry–this isn’t going to turn entirely into a fitness blog. I’ll still be posting LOTS about expat life in Argentina–I’ve just been so appreciative of the WordPress/blogging fitness community and their tips and support.

 

USA–July 2014

Well, we’re back in Argentina after a week and a half of time in the US seeing friends and family–plus a few days of work. No rest for the exhausted, apparently!

We had two HUGE suitcases that we filled up with all sorts of goodies–so much so that they each weighed 85 lbs! This made for lots of fun navigating the various airports–and a lot of telling overly enthusiastic remis drivers to ten cuidado, or be careful, as they tried to hoist them into the car.  We carried a lot of work stuff, a lot of gifts for coworkers, and a HUGE pile of textbooks back. (More on these exciting personal goals later!)

So, what did we do in the states? We saw these two cuties–who we miss very much. This is the infamous Tesla (the rabbit who was supposed to be in Argentina) and Mr. Winks the guinea pig (who is geriatric and is not travel-friendly):

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We had a lot of fun family time–including a picnic complete with a campfire, fireworks, and smores!

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I swear everyone was much happier than this photo may let on.

We tackled our overgrown lawn a little bit (and had words with the lawn care guy who was supposed to be taking care of it).  A vine even grew up from our pergola, onto our telephone/cable wires, and INTO our bedroom window, curling around the Venetian blinds!

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Finally, we ended our trip watching this happy couple tie the knot near King of Prussia. Congratulations, Keith and Sarah!

A gorgeous, radiant bride…

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A heartfelt and teary ceremony…

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And a great reception!

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Oh, and Argentina got second place in the World Cup. 🙂

It was a great time home. We wish we would have taken two weeks! We didn’t have much time for ourselves or on our own–but we did manage to squeeze in one movie (Transformers 4) and the requisite movie theatre popcorn (a big craving of mine).

It looks like the next guaranteed time back is our official home leave in December for the holidays!

Surviving a Long Flight

As you’re reading this, we’re on our way back to the States for a week of R&R and friends and family! We’ve loaded up our Amazon carts with all sorts of goodies for our personal and professional development (more on that later!), and are incredibly excited to see some of the people we’ve missed the most. Plus fast internet–we are incredibly excited for fast internet.

Now that I’ve done the trip a few times, I’ve thought lots about how to make the actual travel less painful. The door to door trip from Ituzaingo to York is around the 40 hour mark.  We have a mind-numbing nine hour layover in Buenos Aires and this will be the third time I’ve made the trip.

1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. If you’re going from Argentina to the US, you can buy your huge bottle of water before security–because in Argentina they don’t care if you take liquids through. If you’re going US to Argentina, buy as big of a bottle as you can once you’re past security.

2) TSA Time. Speaking of security, wear an outfit with the TSA in mind. Slip on shoes, no crazy belt buckles, and please empty your pockets before you get to the scanner. Also, fun facts: glittery sweaters should NOT be worn through the scanners (or else you’re getting a pat-down), and some hand lotions contain the same properties as bomb residue, in case they wipe you down. In terms of Argentinian vs. US Security: The two countries are so very different. Coming from Argentina, you’ll go through very low-key metal detectors, but right before you board, they will hand-search your carry-on and personal items. Then, once you get into the US, be prepared for customs. We like to transfer in ATL, and need to remind ourselves that a two hour layover is essentially the minimum to make it through the craziness that is US customs and security. Try to hoof it quickly to the customs line–I think several international flights come in at exactly the same time, so if you don’t book it, you’ll be stuck at the back of the line. Also, be prepared for a much slower security experience–there’s a lot of people who have never heard of the liquids, laptops, pat-downs, scanners we are used to in the States.

3) Bring a “survival pack.” I have a pack of items I keep near the top of my personal item so I have them mid-flight. These include: Yes to Cucumbers wipes, tissues, Chapstick, a hotel-sized hand lotion, my glasses case (no sleeping in contacts for me!), an extra pair of comfy socks, toothbrush/WISPs, and a hairbrush. These are just for mid-flight necessities. I keep a whole separate makeup bag for once I’m off the flight to pop into the restroom and make myself look somewhat like a human again. Other products to consider: I’ve heard that misting spray and dry shampoo work wonders as well. I haven’t tried either of them on my flights yet, but am considering grabbing some for a trial run.

4) Bring your own entertainment. This is insanely important for the layover. Both Aeroparque (domestic) and Ezeiza (international) in BA have WiFi, but I always try to load up my Kindle Fire with books, movies, games to keep myself amused for the time. Since you can’t check into a flight more than four hours ahead of time, I’ve had luck camping out in one of the cafes at Ezeiza and enjoying a soda and sandwich with my luggage.

5) Papers, Papers, Papers. International travel is full of paperwork (particularly for those who live in two different countries legally). In our case, it’s important to bring our US drivers licenses, US passports, Argentinian precarias (pre-DNIs) as well as our legal papers for temporary residency, yellow fever vaccination booklet, reciprocity fee (SUPER important–they will only let you print this ONCE. Save a copy. Make multiples. They are hardcore about this requirement), and we often bring our international driving permits and work badges. I like to throw all of this, plus all of our necessary travel itineraries, into a plastic folder from MEAD I pick up in bulk at Walmart.  Make sure it’s accessible–you’ll need to reference it often.

6) Bring a snack. Try to keep something in your bag in case you need it. If you were planning on grabbing a meal at your transfer, you could get delayed and never have a chance while you’re running to your connection. That’s when that granola bar you threw in your backpack comes in handy.

7) Don’t take a taxi off the curb in Argentina. If I was not clear enough there, I’ll say it again DO NOT HAIL A TAXI OFF THE CURB IN ARGENTINA. Go to Tienda Manuel Leon in the airport, where you can get a remis (hired car) to drive you where you want. You pay them there (and can pay with a credit card), they introduce you to their driver, and they take you where you want to go. A remis is ALWAYS the correct, safe way to go. If you are absolutely desperate and in Buenos Aires, you can hail a Radio Taxi (that name only) with the red LED sign in the window (also important) and they are fairly reputable (and will only take efectivo, or cash). Ignoring this advice could put you in a heck of a lot of danger.

8) There are weird cultural norms. Argentinians love to hurry up to stand in line forever–so the moment the plane touches down, everyone is up and trying to hustle in the aisles to get their luggage.  Also, some Argentinians clap once you land to thank the pilot for getting them there, or to God for not having the metal bird fall out of the sky (I’m not sure which one, but my sources tell me this is a very “country bumpkin” sort of thing to do in Argentina). Also, when Argentinians get grumpy, like in said long line, they will clap–sort of like how Americans do when that concert hasn’t started an hour after it was supposed to. They also have a very different version of “personal space.” Americans prefer a lot of it, and Argentinians… not so much.

9) Dress comfy, and in layers. I’m still working on this one. I alternate between broiling and freezing in airplanes, so I try to wear a lot of layers. If I wasn’t concerned about looking like a schlub, I would wear yoga pants. So far, I’ve worn jeans and regretted it, but I picked up a few maxi dresses and a pair of leggings that I’m going to try out this round and see how that goes.

Finally…

10) Don’t be a jerk. I didn’t think this needed to be said, but then I encountered a group of high school students who had clearly been down here on some sort of extended field trip. They were clearly from a well-off magnet school in California, and had not learned a lick of Spanish while down here except for a series of awful curse words that they belted out with glee every thirty seconds. Now, I have nothing against cursing–I can have a mouth like a sailor when the moment calls for it. I work on a construction site! However, standing in a line in a nice airport with a lot of families with small children around is no time to yell curse words, plus hop back and forth in line. It suceeded in making the entire experience a bit miserable. Just be a normal human being who stands in line, speaks politely, maybe learns a few useful words in the  language of the country you are visiting, and behaves reasonably.

Any other suggestions of how to make it through a 28 hour travel experience in one piece?

 

Go, You Chicken Fat, Go

I have been on a fitness kick lately–and it’s been great. I was never a terribly athletic child and teen–although I did get a varsity letter at graduation for being in marching band for four years! (No, I don’t get it either.)

I saw a bunch of articles pop up about Apple’s new ad about the fitness possibilities of their products. Cool unto itself–I’ve been looking into a wearable device, but haven’t found the perfect one yet. BUT… they include a song in the ad called “Go, You Chicken Fat, Go.”

Apparently commissioned expressly by JFK for the Presidential Fitness Challenge in the 1960s, the song was sent to every school in the nation. And I am sure that by 1994, most of them had long stopped using it. I have long joked about how “old-fashioned” my education was. We used a slide projector in 1995. And I spent my elementary years running around the gym and doing burpees (who knew those would be en vogue again!) to none other than “Go, You Chicken Fat, Go.” In the years since, I would occasionally wonder what sadistic gym teacher would buy a record that yells at chubby kids to get in shape–and where such a thing could even be bought.

Apple’s finally caused the story to be unearthed. Read source article here, and you can listen to the song here.