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.