Los Niños

In 2 weeks we leave Córdoba for the final phase of this crazy adventure before our next one begins!  We will spend time touring Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, and Manaus in Brazil before touching down in Seattle at the end of July.  Before saying goodbye to so many wonderful new friends in Argentina, it’s time to dig into the impact this parenting experiment has had on our kids.  Deciding to turn our lives upside down for a year and move to Argentina was done so partly out of a selfish need for adventure, but primarily as a gift for our kids.  The time we’ve spent together and the shared experiences are priceless.  It has been both incredibly rewarding and difficult to watch the kids adapt, react and grow over the past year.  We asked the kids to share some of their experiences in Argentina, while Erica and I have summarized our thoughts on how each of them have changed before our eyes.


Best memory?  All the asados we went to with friends.

Favorite food?  Costilla (ribs).

What I will miss most?  My friends and all the people.

Favorite place?  Going to Bariloche because there was lots of chocolate, beaches and dogs you could take pictures with, and our house we rented we really fun.

Hardest part?  School and tarea.  The way they do division in school because it’s backwards from how we do math in the United States.

Of all the kids, Elliott seems to have adapted the best to Argentina.  He’s always been a very positive, easy-going child.  He embraced this adventure early on and has seemed the least homesick.  Elliott’s met lots of new friends and integrated wonderfully with a new social circle, thanks in large part to the gracious Córdobeses.  It’s been hard to watch him experience frustrations in school this year.  We fear he’s started to dread school already and worry about the long-term impact this year might have on his academic confidence.   Erica and I take solace in the fact that his spoken Spanish is terrific.  He’s a kid who has always loved sports, so it’s been wonderful to see him embrace rugby.  Elliott never seems more focused or free than when he plays sports.  He’s completely in the moment and engaged.  Joining Club Bajo Palermo (rugby) was a game-changer for all of us, providing an incredible link to the community, new friends and a great way to learn the language for both boys. We’ve also watched Elliott approach adolescence before our eyes in Argentina as girls have shifted from annoying to intriguing!  Of course the smell and drama factors have changed as well, not for the better.

Bariloche made an impression on the boys

Bariloche made an impression on the boys


Best memory?  Going to Bariloche with Grandpa & Grandma.  There was really good chocolate.

Favorite food?  Chocolate & matambre empanadas

What I will miss most?  My friends & rugby

Favorite place?  Bariloche

Hardest part?  Having a broken collarbone and not being able to play rubgy.  Being a long ways from Chase, Charlotte and Wyatt (cousins).

Ben has always been a home body in many ways.  To this day, he insists he’d be perfectly happy in the same house and same neighborhood in Portland forever.  He’s a kid who needs to know the plan at all times and can be a bit anxious.  Needless to say moving to Argentina has served as forced therapy of sorts for Ben since even the best laid plans don’t count for much sometimes here.  He’s been forced to accept a level of uncertainty and has become more easygoing and flexible over the past year.  It’s interesting that although he’s clearly the most homesick, his language has taken the biggest leap forward.  Ben had only completed one year of Spanish immersion kindergarten when we arrived.  Now he’s easily the most fluent in the family.  His accent and use of local slang marks his Spanish as distinctly Córdobese and seems to come utterly naturally.  Ben has never had the interest or commitment in sport as Elliott, but his experience with rugby this year has definitely fueled his confidence as his height skyrocketed.  This year has highlighted just how different our boys are in school as well.  Despite not being the social animal that his brother is, Ben has excelled in school with almost nonchalance.  For the most part the boys have been a mystery to their teachers in many ways.  The idea of teaching a non-native Spanish speaker is completely foreign.  We might as well be from Mars, but Ben has integrated himself in the system and kept pace at every turn.


Best memory?  Friends like Maria Lourdes, Sofia, Josephina

Favorite food?  All the pizza, helado y galletas y chocolate and candy.

What I will miss most?  My friends and Violetta and going to kiosco to get Violetta cards.  Also we won’t have a swimming pool in Portland.

Favorite place?  Bariloche because I had my birthday there.  I liked Mendoza too because we cooked pizza and we painted wine.

Hardest part?  I’ve missed my friend Inez and my cousin Charlotte a lot.

Physically, Molly has grown the most since we’ve been in Argentina.  When we got here, she was a 3-year-old.  3-year-olds are babies!  Molly slept in a crib up until we left for Costa Rica last July (mostly because we didn’t want the hassle of buying a bed that we would soon have to store).  She is now a very sassy 4-year-old who sleeps in a big-girl bed, and has told us in no uncertain terms that she expects a blue, pink, and purple big-girl bike with a basket, bell, and ribbons from the handlebars upon our return to Portland.  Molly has grown out of more clothes that I thought was possible for one child in the course of a year.  When we arrived Molly spoke almost no Spanish. We enrolled her in a half day Pre-K nearby for the dual purpose of forced immersion and social interaction.  She wasn’t a big fan of school at first, given the fact that none of her classmates or teachers understood a word she’d say.  Nine months since she began, her comprehension is terrific.  Early in the year she began to constantly ask how to say certain words in Spanish, illustrating her interest and learning process.  When put in a situation where she’s playing with a non-English speaker, she now jumps right into Spanish with no problem.  Molly has always had a strong personality, but we believe this experience has only enhanced her confidence.  In fact we’re a bit worried about her reaction when we return to the States and total strangers no longer refer to her as “princesa,” “preciosa,” or “hermosa!”

While the kids have undergone a tremendous amount of change and growth this year, so too has my own parenting style.  I’m closer to my kids than ever before and I’ve had lots of practice this year learning what works and what doesn’t.  We’ve had plenty of rough moments as we’ve spent an intense amount of time together this year, but our bonds as parent-child and siblings are stronger than ever.  Erica and I hope that the challenges and experiences we all went through together will only serve to make our family stronger and closer as we look to the next phase in our lives.

La Estancia Experiencia

La Granadilla

La Granadilla

As incredible as it seems, our time in Argentina is drawing to a close.  In 3 weeks we depart for an epic Brazilian tour prior to returning to home.  We all have mixed feelings about leaving Argentina and returning to the States which we’ll dig into a little bit in future posts.  A return to reality looms large as I’ve begun the job search from here recently.  Erica and I agreed long ago that we’d refrain from any discussions or activity pertaining to a job search or what comes next until May.  I’m so glad we did this so that my “grass is always greener” brain cells could soak in the moment.

That said, we’re still in Cordoba and trying to squeeze every ounce of experience out of our time here.  We recently checked off a big bucket list item that should be everyone’s goal when visiting Argentina: la estancia experiencia.

To clear up any confusion, estancia can refer both to old Jesuit missions and ranches, to active ranches, or mostly commonly to guest ranches.  We made it a priority to experience an estancia before we left.  A recent visit by some friends from Portland provided the perfect excuse.

After much research, Erica managed to settle on La Granadilla, located about 75 km southeast of Córdoba.  There are a number of estancias in the region, but La Granadilla seemed the most affordable for our group and kid friendly.  Typically, an estancia stay is full board, meaning 3 meals per day are included in the cost.  They tend to be remote and not easily accessible to public transportation.  In the end we located a mini bus transport company that agreed on pick up and return for $1,400 pesos rather than rent a car.  A 6 passenger rental car in Córdoba (hard to find by the way!) tends to cost the equivalent of $100 USD per day.

One reason we had not yet experienced an estancia was the cost.  For the most part, we’ve found the cost of many to be quite high.  After searching the web and requesting pricing by email, Erica picked a winner with La Granadilla.  The estancia is located near the pueblo of Alta Gracia and perched against the Sierras Grandes.  Typical to the region, the mountains are sparse and rugged.  Just about every plant will give you a poke.  We rented a basic detached villa with a kitchen, queen, 4 twins and a bathroom set apart from the main structure that included breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day.   Our bill in the end added up to $7,000 pesos, but also included extras such as corkage, drinks, WINE, an extra lunch and horse back riding for all of us.

Shortly after we arrived Ben spotted Vicky, a friend from school in Córdoba.  In the oddest of coincidences, it turned out that Vicky’s parents own La Granadilla.  The family has owned the estancia since the 1930s!  Vicky and Molly became fast friends and Ben garnered his fair share of girlfriend teasing during the course of the weekend.  The staff was wonderful and included two college girls who served as nannies in a way for all the kids while the parents ate.  The rest of the guests included a number of other Argentine families with young children.  Activities such as hikes, games and horse back rides were posted each day.  One of the most difficult parts of this year for the kids has been the inability to just run out the door and play outside given safety concerns and security.  At La Granadilla the kids ran free and were exhausted every night.  The boys would race outside in between World Cup games to play on the soccer field.  Saturday we were lucky enough to watch the Iran-Argentina game at the estancia with a huge group of Argentines.  I’ve never been much of a futbol fan, but there’s nothing like watching it with Argentines.

Meals were served in a communal dining hall and were announced by a dinner bell.  Breakfast tended to be the usual light fare, preparing us for the lunch and dinner to come.  Lunch and dinner were each 3 course and plentiful.  Mains included pastas, milanese (think fried veal cutlet), and asado.  As an authentic asado in Argentina, this asado included every internal organ you might imagine delivered to our table on a small grill still sizzling.  I’ve tried stomach now!

Just before we dug into the asado our wonderful estancia experience hit a speed bump when all the open space and play time resulted in an injury.  Courtesy of his brother, Ben wound up on his back with a fractured collarbone.  I’m frankly surprised it took this long, but thankful it wasn’t worse.  After a rough stretch he realized he was going to miss out on asado and insisted on taking his place at the dinner table with his arm slung in a USA soccer scarf.  7 years old and 3 broken bones already.  It appears his rugby career in Argentina is at an end a bit early.

Locating an estancia to stay at can be a bit daunting since many don’t seem to utilize the web very well and none post pricing.  Erica settled on La Granadilla after finding great reviews on Tripadvisor.  This is a decent page as a starting point for the Córdoba region.

Bagna Cauda


The culinary delights continue in Córdoba as we had the good fortune yesterday to enjoy bagna cauda for the first time.  Bagna cauda is a wickedly good winter dish, traditionally from Italy.  As is the case with locro, each family seems to have their own secret recipe.  Bagna cauda tends to either be oil or cream based, with garlic and anchovies making up some of the key ingredients.

Bagna cauda is eaten communal-style like fondue.  Our friend German has not only master asador skills, but also a wonderful bagna cauda recipe.  While the kids chowed on choripan, the adults dipped away with accompaniments like chicken, broccoli, sweet potato, milanese, carrots and bread.  It’s a deliciously salty dip that’s heavy on the garlic, always a good thing in our minds.  The rule of thumb apparently is one head of garlic per adult.  Yikes.

Kids table with choripan

Another beautiful Sunday spent with friends, wine, great food, and a little Fernet con coca.

Dipping treats