Since an accurate description of my Spanish so far would be “caveman” I thought a post about learning the basics in Argentina so far might be fun. I can’t imagine how this experience might be going if Erica and I hadn’t made the trip down in April first. Our new friends Brad and Lisa describe the importance of this best on their blog here.
Shelter: If and when we finally figure out how to rent a house in Cordoba, we’ll have to write a post on just that process alone! It’s been a roller coaster ride so far. Fingers crossed for a house in the next few days. In the meantime, we are extremely fortunate to be staying at N’Aike Casa de Huespedes. We found it purely based on proximity during our April trip on www.booking.com. The family that owns it happened to live in Corvallis, Oregon years ago and all speak wonderful English. I truly don’t know where we’d be if it weren’t for Marcos, Carlos and Sebastián. A week before we left Costa Rica we checked availability and found 2 adjoining rooms. They’ve gone over the top on helping us find a house and making our stay comfortable with the kids. From giving us rides, setting up airport pick up with our mountain of luggage, posing for Molly’s drawings, calling tons of realtors for us, and putting up with a loud American family of 5, they rock.
Food: N’Aike is located on some busy streets in a residential area. We have to walk to a variety of shops for supplies. Learning when they are open has been a challenge. Siesta is in full effect here, with all the pros and cons. We’re eating out more than we plan to when we settle in, we have breakfast included at the hotel and we try to plan either lunch or dinner on our own using the hotel kitchen. We’ve made a few trips out to hit the veggie stand, the butcher, the baker and the kiosko. We finally just went to a supermarket for supplies. It’s been fun to try our own mini-asado on the hotel parilla (bbq) a few times. It’s an art here that I hope to master after a year. The best meat so far was at some friend’s houses, but for lunch or dinner we’re having either pizza, tostados (toasted sandwiches with no crust), pasta, or lomos (skirt steak sandwiches). The wine…we’ll have to do a whole separate post on the wine, we need to sample a lot more before posting anything noteworthy.
Transport: Along with the occasional ride from one of the guys at the hotel, we’re on foot, bus or remis (taxi). I’ve got an aversion to spending money on cabs that’s made for a few long walks and might lead to divorce, but the buses so far have been great. The first day we arrived Brad filled me in the prepaid bus pass that’s needed for all city buses. It takes a few days to get used to finding the regular bus stops you see in the US, and knowing the stops are just telephone poles. Some buses are deluxe, some are not. There’s bus protocol too. Sit in the front of the bus and you better be ready to give up your seat for the older lady or mother with kids. You also must wave the bus down or it goes zooming by the stop. Same idea when you’re getting off. It’s a good idea to have a remis driver you trust plugged into the phone. We met our guy the other night, he’s looking for a house for us!
Support: One of the big selling points for us in moving to Cordoba over other destinations was the support system we felt we’d have here, and that’s been true so far. An old friend of Erica’s brother lives here, plus we made a number of connections thru the Facebook expat group we joined 8 months ago. We were able to actually meet with a number of great people from this group in April who have been invaluable in giving pointers and advice. Getting the lay of the land from locals or expats has been so important and we just hope to somehow repay the favor eventually.
Having connections has been critical. Finding a house, finding a school, finding a way to access cash all rely on who you know and personal connections.
Communication: Skype has been the primary means for chatting with family and making calls to banks, airlines, etc. Wifi is easy and everywhere. Our friends Gaby and Tom loaned us a phone that we will use for local calls. Buying a SIM card and loading the phone with prepaid minutes took 3 stops and about 2 hours to figure out, but should be easier next time. WhatsApp is a free international texting app that I still need to master, but that seems to be the way to go also.
In terms of language, between Erica, Elliott, Ben and I, we can usually communicate in Spanish. Molly and I are about on the same level. When we get settled we’ll get her in some sort of day care and I’ll start taking classes. The difference in Spanish from Costa Rica to Argentina has been interesting. Our ability to get the gist of a conversation or question now as opposed to April is huge though.
1 1/2 weeks in Argentina and all is well. We love it but really want to find a place we can call home, for now. Back to my caveman Spanish, “Nosotros hablamos con tu despues.”