Felices Pascuas!

I know I’m a few days late here, but Felices Pascuas a todos!  Happy Easter, all!

Easter is a huge deal in Argentina and Paraguay. Our site was off from Wednesday to Sunday for Semana Santa festivities. Last year, T and I were in a bit of an existential funk, so our Easter enjoyment was pretty much limited to chocolate. This year, with a regular internet connection (albeit a slow one) and beautiful weather, we were feeling more adventurous!

Let’s just start with the obvious–a lot of this week focuses on going to Mass. Not being particularly religious, T and I did not partake in that. (Instead, we made it through all two seasons of “Dead Like Me.” Sacrilegious?) So, what I can report on is what happens outside of the church.

We didn’t see or hear of anything interesting happening Maundy Thursday, but on Good Friday at dusk there was a HUGE procession for Via Crucis, or the Way of the Cross. I’m not entirely certain if this is the same thing as the Stations of the Cross or not–can any Catholic readers clarify this for me?  Essentially, the procession starts at the church door with a crowd full of candles (and a truck with a very large loudspeaker blaring prayers).  The assembled crowd parts to let through the priests, followed by some of the more important men in the village carrying the statue of Jesus. They walk around town and pray as they go.

IMG_0412We went to Posadas on Saturday to grab some necessities, since store hours are a little unpredictable on holidays (or, honestly, all the time). We thought we were being smart by going on a holiday when everyone would be busy with family. We were incredibly wrong. Apparently we did the Argentinian equivalent of going shopping the day before Thanksgiving. We spent an hour in the checkout line–bless you, iPhone and your Kindle app.

IMG_0414You can see the Prioridad line above for pregnant ladies, families with children under 2 years old, and senior citizens. They can, and will, throw you out of that line if you do not apply to one of those groups.

Sunday was a slow day, with our only real marking of the holiday with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate bunny. Normally, Argentinians eat giant chocolate Easter eggs. They are ornately decorated and can be as tall as two feet high. (Our butcher has one, but they make fun of us for taking tourist photos, so I didn’t grab a photo.) We settled for the bunny instead of the mass produced Bon o Bon eggs.

IMG_0415 IMG_0416 IMG_0418I clearly like chocolate far too much for my own good, as evidenced by so. many. chocolate pictures on my phone.

Sunday ended with a bit of a surprise. There are a LOT of stray/random dogs in Argentina. A lot of them belong to people–they just let their dogs wander around the neighborhood in packs, and trust they will come home for dinner. Others are legitimately strays. It’s often difficult to tell the difference, since there’s a lot of instances of abandoned pets as people move.

A dog showed up at our gate, looked at us expectantly, and then circled the block only to sit in front of our gate again. We opened the gate up, and she spent the next few hours at our feet watching tv outside. That night, we went on our evening walk (about 3.5 miles!), and she miraculously followed us the entire way. I caught her still snoozing on our porch at midnight, but by morning she was gone and we haven’t seen her since.

IMG_0419Mooch was incredibly jealous of and displeased by our guest. I don’t blame him–the dog ate some of his food.

 

Also, I have to apologize for the low photo quality on this post. All of these are from my iPhone–I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me. Whoops!

Advertisements

2014 Wrap Up!

It’s a rush to the finish here in Ituzaingo! Our site closes for the two weeks surrounding Christmas, so that means as of December 20th, we don’t even have to think about work for two weeks! However… that means it’s chaos here trying to shut everything down and get ready for the next year. Both T and I are super-excited to go back to the States this weekend and spend some quality time with friends and family. (As well as time with the “rabbit that should have been in Argentina” and our guinea pig!) We’ve been playing Christmas music in the office the past few days to get into the holiday spirit–despite the fact that it’s in the mid-90s outside! The Argentinians are very much into fake Christmas trees and garlands–very strange to see next to the palm trees and parakeets.

Our end of the year prep has gotten a little more hectic than we could have imagined, though! Last week we accidentally hit a yacare, or crocodile. We had to drive to Posadas for a business dinner, and were driving back late. Since the yacare are so close to the ground, we didn’t see it until the absolute last second… and by then it was too late.  For future reference–don’t hit yacares! They are like rocks. We are both fine, but the car’s radiator is shot and the radiator frame is bent–plus we have no front bumper.  We were planning on sending the car to the dealer for some scheduled maintenance while we are out of the country anyway–but the car had to be towed all the way to Posadas now.  We’ll see how long it takes the Argentinian mechanics to get the necessary parts! We’ve since been told by others that the area where we had our accident is a popular late-night crossing spot for yacares–so we’ll have to keep that in mind if we drive at night again!

Courtesty of Taringa.net

Courtesty of Taringa.net

This means that we’ve been doing everything by bike since then. We do hitch a ride into work every morning with coworkers, but for all of our normal errands, we have to bike around the city. We’re definitely glad we brought our backpacks and have a nice basket to put on the back of one of the bikes. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, especially for grocery shopping!  I’m actually really glad we spent the money to get a water purification system for our tap–now we don’t need to lug heavy bottles of water from the grocery store!

Our vegetable garden (huerta) has been growing like crazy with all of the hot weather and rain! T installed a homemade drip line to keep the basil particularly well-watered, but it’s done wonders for the other plants as well! We’ve already harvested some of the beans, but I think our first crop of tomatoes will be while we’re in the States. You know what’s nice about Argentina, though? The growing season is YEAR ROUND. So we will have lots more where that came from, I am sure.

_DSC0614

Basil (albahaca) growing like crazy!

_DSC0616

Tomato plants, with a row of lettuce, a row of onions, and a row of carrots. Our spinach didn’t fare so well.

_DSC0615

_DSC0613

We also had our company Christmas party, which was a fun experience. We had both the Argentinians and Paraguayans, as well as our customer, at the big dinner in one of the fanciest spots in town. On the menu was a delicious whole leg of beef that the cook lit on fire at the beginning. It was perfecto. We also had a wide variety of salads (not the lettuce kind–more of red beets, potatoes, and rices). We made friends with the venue’s dog and a teensy, tiny kitten, but left before the karaoke got into full swing. (We made it 1am! We’re getting somewhat closer to being Argentinians!)

 

The patio of our venue... with some leftover decorations from the previous weekend's quinceanera celebration

The patio of our venue… with some leftover decorations from the previous weekend’s quinceanera celebration

All of the salsas!

All of the salsas!

Just some of the delicious carne.

Just some of the delicious carne.

_DSC0624

It wouldn't be an asado without a copious amount of bread!

It wouldn’t be an asado without a copious amount of bread!

Teensy, tiny kitten!

Teensy, tiny kitten!

Leg of Beef

Leg of Beef

The whole spread, minus the salads

The whole spread, minus the salads

The whole crew!

The whole crew!

We’ll miss the main festivities of Argentina at Christmas–I’m told it involves a lot of beach time–but we are so happy to go back to the States and see some snow! We’ll see if I blog at all while I’m back in the States!

Feliz Navidad y un prospero Año Nuevo a todos!

US Trip–and Disappointment

Well, after a week in the US for some work meetings, I’m back in Argentina.

I’ll open this up with the biggest disappointment: Tesla’s still in the US. I’m finding that bringing a pet down here is an experiment in how many things can go wrong at once.  In order to get the bunny down here, the following steps need to be taken:

 

  1. Find a USDA approved vet. Neither the USDA or APHIS actually have a list of these people, or at least won’t tell you over the phone. So just start calling vets, asking for their recommendations, and hoping to find one.
  2. Make an appointment no more than 10 days in advance with your USDA approved vet. Bring several copies of the APHIS 7001 sheet, and any other paperwork you can find that might help you out and may or may not be needed by Argentina.
  3. Try to arrange an appointment with the USDA state vet in Harrisburg, because you are either overnighting the forms your vet filled out and hoping they’re right, or personally bringing them to the state vet. Pro Tip: they don’t respond to voice mails.
  4. No more than 14 days before you leave, book your Delta Cargo flight. Read their instructions carefully, because you can’t allow your pet to have any fruits, veggies, or agricultural products (including hay) in the carrier. The carrier itself has to be bolted together, with a water bottle and bowl that can be filled from the outside, with stickers that say “live animal” and all identifying information on the owners (addresses in both countries, phones in both countries, and feeding instructions).

 

Needless to say, this did not include having to spend hours trying to get information out of the USDA, APHIS, the US embassy in Buenos Aires, and the Argentinian embassy in DC.  None of which were incredibly helpful.

Ultimately, I had the vet appointment, and all of the accessories for bunny. But–the state USDA vet never bothered to get back to me, then Delta decided to run planes on the ATL-EZE route that do not include a pressurized part of the cargo area for animals. Finally–the nail in the coffin–the newest edition of the TACT newsletter–which is all about air transport rules–has an explicit rule change for Argentina, which bans all live rabbits and hares and their associated products from entering the country.  Because those diabolical bunnies are clearly plotting an invasion.

So, that was incredibly disappointing, but thankfully both Winks and Tesla seem very happy with my family in the states. (THANK YOU ALL AGAIN FOR TAKING CARE OF THEM!)

However… we did get two suitcases full of goodies for down here:

  • XBOX One and games
  • Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder, Crushed Red Pepper, Garlic Powder
  • Colored Sharpies
  • Pretzels
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs
  • Peanut Butter
  • iPhone (unlocked and ready for a global plan… we are still forced to use our US phones only in emergencies without our DNIs)
  • Long-sleeved shirts and jackets for me!

We still don’t have our household goods down here, and it’s questionable if they will ever show up, so we were getting a little desperate. I had thoughtfully packed most of my winter wardrobe in there, thinking that by the time it was winter, it would be here. So much for that–but a good excuse to go shopping.

We’ve been trying to eat healthier down here–two months of hotel food has taken its toll. Thankfully, the fruits and veggies here are very inexpensive!

I’m hoping to be better about updating this–but we’re most likely going to a 7 day a week schedule for a bit at work–which means I don’t have anything terribly exciting to post. I will try to post more tomorrow about the drive from Buenos Aires to Ituzaingo–which was actually exciting–after I get my photos loaded up.