A Tale of Two Days

During our time in Argentina we have been fortunate to have very few days in which Erica and I are both at the end of our rope.  Some days it seems that nothing goes right or according to plan.    Being flexible and patient are critical,  and I like to think we’re pretty good at it, but some days it all falls to pieces regardless.  Rarely however, do we seem to have two days that are so starkly different from one another.  Yesterday was a rough day for both of us.  The sun comes up the next day and the magic is back.  A tale of two days living in Argentina:

Wednesday, March 19

Yesterday was unusually cool and cloudy.  Molly and Ben are killing us the moment they wake up.  In short order Ben and Molly both lose access to all electronics for the day.  Molly freaks out about everything from hair to shoes, is late for school and screams during drop-off.  Ben and Elliott bicker and mess around rather than buckle down with morning homeschooling.

I proceed to get my ass kicked in my Spanish class and realize I may have hit my learning limit.

Erica tries yet another new bus route to work downtown but has to abort and get a cab.  Paying cabs to get to teaching gigs is not very profitable, thus frustrating.

The boys goofing around on the walk to school grows so annoying I nearly push them into the street.  My plan to check in with Elliott’s teachers about homework fails when I first try to ask Ben’s teacher if we have bought the correct math book.  Ben has disappeared with said book to the kiosco to spend the pesos I gave him for a water bottle on candy. By the time I return the candy and collar Ben, Elliott’s class has started.

Molly and I head to the grocery store for the weekly restock.  At checkout I try yet again to ask for home delivery.  After 3 attempts the checker understands me.  When I ask if I said it correctly, she says yes.

Erica tries to pay a hotel deposit for my sister’s upcoming visit at a bank and realizes that ALL banks close for the day at 1:30pm.

Hoping for a nice day tomorrow, I vacuum the pool and proceed to break the vacuum.

While Erica’s heading to her 2nd teaching gig of the day, she gets hung up in downtown traffic since all the garbage workers are striking and firing off cannons in the street.

Molly and I head to a nearby doctor’s office to schedule health checkups for the kids before we pick up the boys at school.  After feeling pretty good about making the appointment despite my rough language, I realize I booked a time when the boys are in school.  By the time I realize my error we’re on the bus headed to school.  The bus Molly and I take from the doctor’s office completes its route before I expect it to, making us late to get the boys.  On the walk home from school, every dog seems like Cujo, ready to rip our limbs off and I start to realize I’m really bothered by the ridiculous amount of security on the beautiful houses in our barrio.

On Erica’s way home from teaching downtown, she flags her bus which slows down at the curb, and then, for no apparent reason, speeds up and drives past the bus stop without stopping.  She ends up having to wait another 15 minutes for another bus to come by.

Thursday, March 20

Today it’s a gorgeous, sunny day.  The boys start their math homeschooling today without being reminded!  Bickering is minor.  Molly awakes in a good mood and gets dressed with no fussing.  She’s dressed and delivered to school on time and with no crying.

Erica recovers the boys’ notarized birth certificates (previously missing) at their school and successfully completes the bank deposit she tried the previous day at a bank near our barrio.

The boys and I hit the pool store for some supplies and I miraculously get what I need with zero translation help from the boys.

With trepidation, I call the doctor’s office to reschedule the appointment, and am amazed that I’m able to do so with near total comprehension.  The makes my day since speaking on the phone in Spanish is one of my greatest fears here.

I’m able corner Elliott’s teacher and ask how he’s been doing on homework.  Seems he’s doing what he’s supposed to so far.  I covertly watch Ben buy his water bottle today as instructed versus candy before heading out for a quick run home in the sunshine.

Erica’s finally able to get Molly to wear her tights to ballet and dropped off with no fuss allowing her to get to work on time.

Erica’s evening English class goes well….her favorite 82-year-old-student charms Erica with her question about idioms, “Ehreeka, I don’t understand. What means this, ‘hunky guy?'”

My medicinal Fernet & Coke seems to be easing a persistent cold this evening.  The day was good.  I didn’t even explode when Ben dropped an entire bag of milk on the kitchen floor (yes, I said “bag”)!

So again we have a lesson in perspective.  It’s all still parenting, with just a few extra wrinkles to make things more interesting.  One day we feel worn down and helpless.  The next, all is well in the world and we’re living a dream once again.

5 Reasons We Love Cordoba

The view of downtown Cordoba from our rooftop in Barrio Urca

The view of downtown Cordoba from our rooftop in Barrio Urca

National Geographic Traveler recently named Cordoba one of the 20 Best Destinations in 2014.  As the article points out, the city’s combination of history, culture and proximity to the Sierras make Cordoba a wonderful destination.  We decided to move to Cordoba because of the size, climate and people.  It is also a huge college town, with more than 6 universities, which we assumed would be a bonus for Erica’s teaching endeavors.  We could not be more pleased with our selection and are proud to share it with so many family members visiting this year.  While the mountains and lakes of Bariloche and the glitz of Buenos Aires tend to garner far more attention, Cordoba flies under the radar as the nation’s 2nd largest city.  To mark our upcoming 7 month anniversary in Cordoba here are our top 5 reasons that we love Cordoba:

  1. Cordobeses:  The absolute top reason we love Cordoba is the people we’ve met.  Cordobeses have a well deserved reputation for being some of the friendliest Argentines.  The generosity and willingness to embrace our family has been astounding.  Our house, entrance to the boys’ school and Erica’s job have all been possible only due to the kindness of the people we’ve encountered.  The character of Cordobeses have allowed us to truly become a part of the community as we experience school, work, birthday parties, asado, family gatherings and sports.  Where else would a taxi driver return an expensive camera a week later?  Where else are you invited to their home for an asado 10 minutes after meeting for the first time?
  2. Language:  The Spanish spoken in Argentina is commonly referred to as Castellano.  It’s a distinctly different sound than the Spanish spoken in Mexico.  The accent in Cordoba is unique as well.  The sing-song intonation of Castellano is beautiful to hear, albeit muy rapido mucho veces.  Moreover, we love the fact that very little English is commonly spoken in Cordoba.  We came here to immerse and learn the language and Cordoba is a perfect city to force us all to speak Spanish.  This point was reinforced during our travels to Patagonia and Buenos Aires in January where English was widely understood.  In Cordoba, we’ve grown accustomed to the stares and second looks when we speak English.  Nearly everyday we are asked, “de donde son?”  Our presence here is unique and people are genuinely interested to listen to English, as evidenced by the crowd of kids that gather around us when we speak to the boys at school.  In Cordoba we need to be ready to speak Spanish at every turn, for every task, no matter how minor.  It can be exhausting, but it’s an effective way to learn.  We’re also thrilled to hear locals tell us that the boys have picked up the Cordobese accent.
  3. Climate:  We have loved most aspects of the weather in Cordoba so far.  We wanted to live in climate far different than Portland.  For the most part, that means warm and dry as opposed to wet and dreary.  Winters are dry and windy here.  Summers are hot and sometimes humid with regular thunderstorms.  The electrical storms in the spring and summer have been unbelievably powerful.  Continuous cracks of lightning and thunder rattle the house followed by sheets of rain and hail.  Given how much we walk, we’re fortunate that the rains that turn the streets into rivers are fairly infrequent and dry up quickly.  The region has gone from brown and drought-ridden to flooded and lush in our time here.  We have been told this year has extreme for the region with record-breaking heat, wildfires, giant hail, flooding and even an earthquake!  With the exception of some miserably hot and humid days in December and January, we have loved waking up to beautiful, sunny days that seem the norm here in Cordoba.
  4. Neighborhood:  While researching our trip, we’d read about Cerro de Las Rosas and Urca on some expat forums.  These adjoining barrios lie about 20 minutes by bus to the northwest of downtown Cordoba.  It is a middle to upper class neighborhood that is crisscrossed by major bus lines and is extremely walkable.  To the horror of our friends here in Argentina, we have been determined to go sin auto for the year, and it would not be possible were it not for the convenience of our barrio.  We’re blocks away from a great park, ice cream, meat market, vegetable stand and school supply store.  We walk 2 blocks to drop Molly at ballet and Ben at karate.  Our longest regular walks are to the boys’ school and grocery store (Disco, aptly named).  It’s a safe and relatively quiet area outside of the usual blaring alarms and dogs.
  5. The Sierras:  To the north and west of Cordoba lie the Sierras de Cordoba.  We have loved our limited excursions to some of the towns that dot the mountains nearby.  The Sierras remind us of Nevada in a way.   Far from alpine, the Sierras tend to be more desert and scrub.  We’ve been able to visit La Cumbre, Mina Clavero, Jesus Maria, Nono, Capilla del Monte, Villa General Belgrano and Ongamira.  The bus system is wonderful and cheap, allowing us to avoid expensive car rentals most of the time.

(Bonus favorite from Rob)

Fernet & Coke:  While definitely an acquired taste, Cordobeses love their Fernet and Coke.  Erica’s description of this Italian digestif is that it tastes like jet fuel and Grandpa cologne.  Accurate for straight Fernet to be sure.  However when mixed with Coke, you have a sweet yet bitter cocktail.  I must admit I only tried it first as a novelty, but it’s truly grown on me.

Fill 1/3rd glass with Fernet, top off with Coke and ice, and you're half Cordobese

Fill 1/3rd glass with Fernet, top off with Coke and ice, and you’re half Cordobese

Quick Trip

Recently, we had Rob’s cousin, Shannon, visiting us from the Boston area. Although the weather didn’t completely cooperate, it was significantly warmer than the 26 degree (Fahrenheit) highs that Shannon was coming from.

After my parents leaving over a month ago, the kids were ready and excited for a new visitor. And after a solid day and a half of relaxing (and an asado), we filled Shannon’s time here with exploring in and around the city of Cordoba.

First we bused to a little town called Mina Clavero which is southwest of the city of Cordoba. It took about 2 hours on a bus along windy roads (and some of them very narrow with a sharp drop-off to one side). I was glad that the kids slept on the bus most of the way, and there were points where I was wishing for sleep myself.

Usually, people go to Mina Clavero because two rivers flow through town: the Rio Panaholma and the Rio de los Sauces. The town sits at the confluence of these rivers, and it makes for some fantastic swimming among the boulders and pools. The only problem was the timing of our trip: Cordoba has been experiencing a huge amount of rain lately, which has resulted in flooding in many areas. So not only was it too cold in Mina Clavero to swim, the rivers were so swollen, and the water was running so high, that with children, we hesitated even walking too close to it!

Mina Clavero

Here is a picture of the river in Mina Clavero in good weather.


And here is a picture of the river when we were there.

It is always interesting to try to find things to do to entertain children when you are in a rainy climate, and we found a “museum” of sorts near Mina Clavero called “Museo Polifacetio Rocsen.”  http://www.museorocsen.org/rocsen/  I’m not sure how else to describe this place other than a “museum of the weird.”  This museum had everything……and I mean EVERYTHING!  Name on thing, and I am pretty sure the museum had it:  old cars?  Yep!  Old printing presses/typewriters/adding machines/computers?  Yep!  Shrunken heads?  Yep! Taxidermied animals? Yep!  Beautifully beaded flapper dresses?  Yep!  Old medical equipment?  Yep!  Weapons?  OF COURSE!


A collection of car “things.”


How could I have forgotten to mention the goucho gear!?!?


Weapons, of course.


This picture gives a particularly good idea of just how much “stuff” is crammed into each room.


And some of the “stuff” is just a tad bit dusty.


After two days in Mina Clavero, we decided to head back to Cordoba.  There is some excellent condor-viewing near Mina Clavero, and we had hoped to take a day trip to hike around, but the weather was rainy and cold, so we just headed straight home.

A couple more days in Cordoba, then we rented a car and drove to our friends’ farm north of the city of Cordoba. Our friends had invited us to their farm before, but had said that we would need to rent a car to get there.  “Isn’t there a bus that goes near it?” I had asked.  After an hour of bouncing and bumping along winding dirt/mud roads and driving across little (and not-s0-little) creeks and streams, I began to understand why Carla had told us that we would need to rent a car.

Driving in Argentina is always an adventure, and when you cram six of us into a small sedan with fold-down back seats, throw in a 4-year-old who HATES to wear seat belts (thank you, Argentina) and add terrible weather to the whole thing, it makes for a really GREAT car ride—NOT! I’m pretty sure I kissed the ground when we got to the farm first, and helped the kids out of the car second.

The farm is in an incredibly gorgeous spot not far (as the crow flies) from Jesus Maria, Cordoba.


The lovely farm house of our friends, Carla Dawson and Sebastian Olocco.

We spent a fantastic two days (despite rainy weather) with Sebastian and Carla.  The kids ran free, played with animals, waded in the pond, caught tadpoles, lit fires (for the water heater and asado), and basically had a wonderful time doing kid things.  The adults relaxed, took walks, relaxed some more, and ate really, really wonderful meals.

A spring-fed pond at the farm.  Tadpole catching was good, but fishing with rocks was not.  For the record, it was definitely NOT warm enough to go wading/swimming, but that didn't stop Ben.

A spring-fed pond at the farm. Tadpole catching was good, but fishing with rocks was not. For the record, it was definitely NOT warm enough to go wading/swimming, but that didn’t stop Ben.

Lighting the "globos" was the high light of the evening. Here, Rob holds the globo, and Sebastian helps Elliott light it.

Lighting the “globos” was the high light of the evening. Here, Rob holds the globo, and Sebastian helps Elliott light it.

Globos for each kid.  We lit them individually and watched them until the burnt out.

Globos for each kid. We lit them individually and watched them until they burnt out.

Molly's pure joy was pretty clear.

Molly’s pure joy was pretty clear.

The beauty that was the beginning of our asado on Sunday.

The beauty that was the beginning of our asado on Sunday.

What's better than a delicious asado on a wooden table with good friends?  Pretty sure nothin'!

What’s better than a delicious asado on a wooden table with good friends? Pretty sure nothin’!

After two wonderful days with Carla and Sebastian, we headed to Capilla del Monte, which is known around here for it’s alien presence.  We didn’t see any aliens, but we did manage a short little hike (maybe 20 minutes) with Ben complaining the entire time as if we had been stranded in the desert for 40 days.

Mysterious Mount Uritorco.  No aliens spotten on our watch.

Mysterious Mount Uritorco. No aliens spotten on our watch.

Now here we are back in Cordoba.  Cousin Shannon headed back to Boston after a couple of days exploring Buenos Aires on her own, and the kids have all started back to school this week.

Molly on her first day of school in her "guarda polvo."

Molly on her first day of school in her “guarda polvo.”


The boys ready to head out to school on their first day. Just like Portland, teacher’s strike averted!

Rob and I are so glad to have the kids back into the routine of school. It’s been a busy, busy summer going from place to place, and I think everyone is ready for a return to “normalcy.”

Now just two weeks until Rob’s sister and her family arrive!  SOTERS:  WE ARE READY FOR YOU!