While reflecting on recent events here in Argentina and considering how I might describe them in a post, I started considering how we as a family have been dealing with varying levels of uncertainty throughout this adventure. As many Argentines will tell you, fiscal and economic uncertainty has seemingly always existed here. I’m not sure we will ever grasp Argentina politics or the economic upheaval, but like many times during this journey, it continues to be an education. This is a part of the world in which most houses have a rooftop water tank, because on occasion, the water system fails. Accepting a level of uncertainty is part of life here and was instrumental in making our dream become reality. Adapting to life in Argentina also serves to remind us of how stable and certain our lives in the States are.
When we stopped dreaming and started acting, the level of risk and uncertainty we needed to accept exponentially increased. I believe that the biggest obstacle holding others back from a sabbatical or long-term travel is fear of the unknown. Deciding to quit a good, stable job with 3 kids and one income and forsake our financial security was no small matter. While Erica and I had dreamed of dropping our safe, consistent American lives for many years in order to live abroad with the kids, it was not until we accepted that we could not plan or foresee every detail. As the consummate planner, this was exceptionally difficult for me. The number of questions that loomed were endless and remain so. How long will it take to get another job? Will it pay as well and will I like it? Will a gap year hurt my career? Will we have to move to a different city when we return to the States? Will we run out of money? Do we have enough budgeted for when we return? Are we jeopardizing college for our kids? Will the kids fall behind in school here? What grade do the boys go into when we return? Are we hurting their development? Will we like Argentina? How will the kids adapt? Will we be lonely and isolated? How safe will we be? Eventually, Erica and I decided that we had an opportunity before us that we could not pass by and that the risk was acceptable. I could not plan every detail and know for certain that everything would be all right as much as I wanted to.
Now that we are here, life in Argentina continues to be an exercise in both patience and uncertainty. When we left we had neither rented our house in Portland nor had we found a rental in Cordoba. We were not certain the boys could enter the local school. It has been a challenging year even by Argentine standards. Earlier in the spring a police strike here in Cordoba initiated a nationwide strike and subsequent looting. December and January have been the hottest months in 50 years, causing electrical outages in parts of the country. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her administration seem to revel in uncertainty. Recently she made her first public statement in 40 days. Currency control policies seem to change week-to-week, inflation is rampant, and no one seems to have any idea how far the peso will fall or what the government will do next. A major devaluation occurred several weeks ago, with the peso destined to fall further against the dollar. Changes in the peso and currency regulations mean that we are never quite sure how reliable our supply to pesos is. The rate we change dollars into pesos has undergone tremendous change in the course of our time here, as has inflation, impacting our budget. For example, today Erica bought Ben’s asthma medication as a local pharmacy. Last month it cost $180 pesos, today it costs $360. The school year ended for the boys 2 weeks early unexpectedly, and we have very little idea when school will resume due to a teacher strike. Despite all of this uncertainty, we have tried to mirror the Argentines we have met, and simply roll with it over the course of the year.
One of the aspects that we enjoy most about living abroad for an extended period of time and total immersion is the window that opens to a whole new world. We try to treat each difference between Portland and Cordoba as a learning experience rather than complain about it. While our time here is limited, we find ourselves wondering how Argentines manage to live indefinitely with constant change and uncertainty. Here in Argentina, on the eve of my 40th birthday, there are very few things that I’m certain of. I hope it all turns out, that the kids thank us someday, and that we are doing the right thing. I do know that I could not be more excited by the uncertain future that waits for myself and my family in the next 40 years.
Your kids (and maybe you too) are going to come back rock stars in Spanish. That, they will eventually thank you for. We’re cheering for you!
Dear Rob and family,
We are still loving your letters .You and Erika are to be greatly admired for having the courage to step out of your saftey net and give yourselves and your family this , (all though uncertain ) amazing alternative life experiance . Some day you will look back and realize what a valuable leasons you gave you and your children.It will all work out ,I promise !
There were many times that I questioned some decisions Jim and I were making for our family in the day “.The uncertainty of it ,” are we being responsible?
We’ll maybe in our case not all ways ,but I only look back to say that we must have done something very right to have produced two of the most wonderful daughters any parent could imagine.
the big decision
about 21 years ago, I had to take a leap of faith and for a couple of serious reasons that I couldn’t share with anyone at the time, I had to leave Chile and I have to come to the US. Certainly I did not have a wife and kids and I was only 28 (which may have to do why I did it.) I had certainty that I would have never been grated permanent residential status in the US or probably in any country. I know for sure that my efforts to educate myself will be less valuable abroad than in my own country. I had no idea what I was going to do if I couldn’t stay in the US. But I left, con una mano por delante y la otra por detras (get the image?)
It all, by luck, by the mercy of others, by changes in the laws promoted by others or by me, worked out.
I am sure that it will all work out and the children will have something that very few have. They will have something among themselves that will make them connect with each other. They will realize that taking leaps of faith is something that people do and they succeed.
I so admire you for doing something most people don’t. You’ll gain something nobody can take away from you and your family.
Thank you so much for such candid insight Rodrigo. Your advice and counsel regarding how this experience might impact the kids and their education was invaluable. Often we find ourselves asking what Rodrigo would say about a certain aspect of Elliott’s learning or school. The kids miss you and we can’t wait to tell you more about this trip when we return in person.
Rob & Erica
Love it Rob. Very well written. Enjoy the uncertainty, baby.
And they have whiskey down there, don’t they? You should have some whiskey. It sounds like you aren’t having enough.