Hace mucho calor!

Summer in December is in full stride here.  Temperatures are regularly topping 90 degrees.  We hear the afternoon tormentas that break the heat every few days will increase after the first of the year.  These storms are an impressive demonstration of nature’s fury with howling winds, lightening and thunder.  The rain that follows the wind can only be described as a deluge, transforming the streets into canals.

A big part of our verbal argument to the kids when making the move south was that we would find a house with a pool.  We lucked out and were able to deliver on this promise, and it’s paying huge dividends right now.  It’s doubtful we will ever live in a house with a pool again, so it’s been a great experience so far for the kids.  Along with providing hours of physical entertainment to the kids when they otherwise would probably be driving each other nuts, the kids are rapidly becoming awesome swimmers.  Molly in particular has made giant strides in just a month.  The swimming lessons included at her preschool have obviously made an impact for her.

Ben’s Camping Trip


Ben’s 1st grade class had an overnight camping trip at the school on Thursday night so we thought this would be a great experience for him to recount in his own words. Karma goes to the parents (not us) who sacrificed their night to give the kids this experience.

“We played volleyball, karate and I got an orange belt cause I already know karate.  Then we ate hamburgers, I ate at least 5.  I sat with my friend Ignacio.  We roasted marshmallows and I burnt mine.  I showed my friends how to burn theirs.  We made s’mores and I had 5.  Afterwards an Indian came, which was a fake one, cause they don’t exist.  We made hats and put our handprints on them.  We slept in the class on the floor.  My friend Santi brought a mattress for me.  I tried to sleep but so many girls and boys were talking.  My favorite part was doing karate.  We got to punch wood that was really thin. ”


It was awesome seeing Ben completely comfortable in all the chaos of 30 kids totally amped for a sleepover.  This was one night after the police strike in Cordoba that resulted in looting and a city-wide lockdown, so tensions were still a little high.  We were not sure if he would be scared overnight, but all was well.   I picked him up the next morning and he was asleep on the couch an hour later.  To prepare and recover, the school was kind enough to cancel school for Ben’s whole class Thursday and Friday.  2 more weeks of school for the boys before summer break!



Today we had a glimpse of the crazy weather we’ve heard all about here in Cordoba when the heat starts cranking up.   Outside of one massive rainstorm a few weeks ago, we’ve had gorgeous weather since August.  Oddly enough, in Cordoba the winter is incredibly dry, while spring and summer tend to bring the bulk of this region’s precipitation.  This afternoon was hot and muggy but otherwise beautiful.  About 30 minutes before this storm the wind picked up and clouds rolled in.   We could hear a massive roaring sound and realized what was coming just a few minutes before it arrived.  The windows in a car parked outside our house shattered, and we has some minor damage and flooding.   Trees on the street look shredded of branches and leaves.  Mother Nature impresses again.

Pictures & Maps

A photo montage from our weekend trip to La Cumbre a few weeks ago and a trip to Villa General Belgrano for the day yesterday.  La Cumbre is located to the north of Cordoba in the Central Sierras and is famous for paragliding and the Cristo Redentor statue.   Yesterday we managed to visit VGB for one of the final days of Fiesta National de la Cerveza, otherwise known as Oktoberfest.   Villa General Belgrano is located south of Cordoba.   We’ve had some fun playing with a map program recently to document our travel, but we can’t quite figure out yet how to embed it nicely into the blog.  Until then, here is the link!!

Cristo Redentor, La Cumbre

Cristo Redentor, La Cumbre

Sunset from Cuchi Corral, La Cumbre

Sunset from Cuchi Corral, La Cumbre

Vast skies at sunset, La Cumbre

Vast skies at sunset, La Cumbre

Huge crowds at Oktoberfest, Villa General Belgrano

Huge crowds at Oktoberfest, Villa General Belgrano

Daily parade, VGB

Daily parade, VGB

Oktoberfest complete with amusement park!, VGB

Oktoberfest complete with amusement park!, VGB

Many different groups and dress in the parade, VGB

Many different groups and dress in the parade, VGB

And yes, bier.  Note my selection of stein.

And yes, bier. Note my selection of stein

Day in the Life

Viernes 04 de octubre: A busy day in the life

7:30 AM:  Up and at ’em!  Coffee on, check email, FB and a few hotel options in BA for an upcoming trip.  Solo breakfast of left-over cornmeal pancakes, fried steak and egg before chaos ensues.

8:00 AM:  Chaos ensues when waking the kids for the day.  A Molly no le gusta la manana.  Shades open and breakfast requests made.  The kids have morning and night checklists now for basic stuff.   They include getting dressed and making beds before breakfast among other duties.  $5 pesos can be earned daily for compliance.  Screaming and yelling follows when Molly realizes she’s supposed to wear her swimsuit under her clothes today for daycare.  Friday is pool day!  Molly’s preference is to wear no clothing at all, so the idea of a tight suit under clothes is unbearable.   Molly loses screen time today.

9:00 AM:  Daddy bolts for Spanish class.  The boys begin their morning tutoring and homework with Erica despite Molly’s tortured wails.  The school that Erica and I take Spanish lessons at is a 20 minute walk from the house.

9:30 AM-12:30 PM:  Today my twice weekly class seems so tranquil after the crazy morning.  One-on-one with the teacher leaves me exhausted after 3 hours.  Today we work on reflexive and irregular verbs.  Erica walks Molly 2 blocks up to her daycare.   Drop-off has been going well for the week, but today started out rough, so she cries.  Daddy usually drops her off as a result.  Elliott works on science and Ben on math today.  We’re using a variety of home school books, but primarily the What Your XXXX Grader Needs to Know, by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.  The 3 strikes rule is working better for curbing freak-outs during this time each day.  Afterwards the boys entertain themselves by watching some baby pigeons in the backyard try to fly.

12:30 PM-1:30 PM:  Erica picks up Molly from daycare, and she had fun!  Today was the first day she decided to actually swim.  Erica feeds the kids lunch and gets the boys ready for school.  I finish up class and step out to catch a bus downtown.  We need money so time to visit the money guy.  The process of getting money in Argentina is a whole other post someday on its own!  I wait for the nicer, diferencial bus for the 20 minute ride to Centro.  Erica starts walking about 1pm with the kids to school (the walk to school takes about 25 minutes with the kids) but runs into Elliott’s friend’s mother, who gives the boys a ride.  Bonus since now Molly can have a nap!!

2:00 PM-3:30 PM:  After Molly’s nap Erica walks to the school kiosko to volunteer as kids scream in candy orders rapidly in Spanish during each recess.  Molly tags along today.  The kiosko is solely staffed by the equivalent of the PTA and raises money for the school.  We think incorporating a small shop that sells vast quantities of soda and candy to kids during the school day at Beach School back in North Portland would go over well.   After 3 previous trips to the office downtown where I pick up money I finally remember the correct bus stop.  Downtown during siesta is packed but my sense of direction is improving in Centro and find the office with little problems.   After a little chit-chat I descend the elevator with a large wad of pesos on my person.   Since we are planning a trip to Uruguay and Buenos Aires soon, I stop in across the street at the local Buquebus office to purchase 5 roundtrip ferry/bus tickets using my newly acquired pesos.  Fortunately they’re open despite siesta!  This takes longer than expected, but after an hour I leave with our tickets and exhausted after 3 hours of class plus an hour speaking completely in Spanish with the ticket agent.

3:30 PM-4:00 PM:  Before the bus ride back to our barrio, I stop in a La Tasca near San Martin Square for a bite to eat.  Little old men in bright red coats are servers, and seem to outnumber the customers.  I thoroughly enjoy a Quilmes beer and small pizza complete with the hearts of palm that seem to be on every pizza I end up with.

5:00 PM:  After short wait for another diferencial bus, I’m back where I started get off about 6 blocks from the boys school.  I walk up and relieve Erica of Molly’s company at the kiosko, if only for a short time before school’s out at 5:30.  Molly and I head back home, first stopping at the corner toy school to load up on a few birthday presents for the coming weekend and 3 scheduled parties.   We all end up back home about the same time.

6:30 PM:  Manuel (neighbor and rugby coach) honks and the boys race out the door to rugby practice.  Manuel is a saint and Elliott’s become good friends with his son, Santi.  My beautiful wife brings me a gin & tonic as I start on our dinner of fettuccine with squash, arugula and lemon!

9:30 PM:  Boys return and chow down.  We all devour the remains of a pint of Bariloche helado for dessert when  plates are cleaned.  The boys escape showers since they have a game in the morning and kids are in bed by 10pm.  1 kid out of 3 earns $5 pesos today.

Rinse and repeat

Smoke & schedules

Our corner for necessities

Our corner for necessities

It’s been a big week for Mother Nature in Cordoba.  This past week we’ve had 100 degree days and 60 degree days.  High winds and no winds.  Massive brush fires surrounding the city have been somewhat contained now, followed by an earthquake nearby on Wednesday night!  It was centered near Alta Gracia and shook the house for a few seconds. Earlier in the week the city was hazy with smoke and bits of ash in the air.

We’ve spent the week getting more organized and established with school, work and life here, but can’t help but feel pretty guilty and privileged to be able to provide our kids with this opportunity, yet events like the fires and realities such as the weak peso cause others to suffer all around us.  After we hosted our first asado on Sunday, we discovered that our friend Dolore’s family house outside of Cordoba was destroyed.

We have begun to figure out schedules around siesta along with our weekly grocery and meal plans.  We are juggling schedules sans car for shopping, walking the kids to school, paying bills, watching Molly and coordinate house repairs, and set up services like water and security.  Budgeting each week is coming together gradually.  Erica is starting to pick up more English teaching gigs.  Erica and I start Spanish classes 2x per week starting next week and the boys have joined a local rugby team!  The boys are meeting lots of new friends at school and despite some very persistent older girls, they seem to be having fun and becoming fluent fast.  Ben actually wrote a note to one girl that said, “No me gusto, basta!”  Hearing the boys speak with their friends at rugby practice has been a thrill.  First match tomorrow might yield another post soon!


Smoky sunset at rugby practice

First day of school!


Today the boys started 1st and 4th grade at Escuela Primaria Juan Zorilla de San Martin in the Cerro de Las Rosas neighborhood in Cordoba!   Big success considering no one tried to escape and Elliott was apparently mistaken for Justin Bieber.  The school day wrapped up with a promised heladoria stop (I had dulce de leche con brownie) and I had to jump in the pool on a 50 degree evening to make good on my promise to the boys if all went well.  Yo tengo frio.  Yesterday when it was 80 the idea seemed better.

The process to enroll the boys at Zorilla has been remarkably smooth, thanks to a great friend Gaby!!  She made introductions for us to the principal when we visited in April and elaborated on Erica’s PTO expertise to pave the way.  Getting all the right paperwork in order and supplies for the boys is ongoing, but we feel very fortunate.  The people we met in April swung the decision to Cordoba, and it’s the people who continue to reinforce our decision.

We prepped for today by visiting the school the day before to meet the principal and teachers and show the boys the classrooms.  The biggest adjustment so far is all the attention they are getting.  The teachers and staff all gush about how cute and handsome they are and give them lots of kisses (besos in Argentina in lieu of handshakes).  They are suddenly rockstars!  All the touching, kissing and attention has them freaked out.  Elliott was absolutely mobbed today when we arrived.   The girls were asking him to sign autographs thinking he was Justin Bieber.  The other kids are so curious and excited to meet both of them.   Elliott quickly had a few self-appointed buddies clearing space for him like bouncers.  Ben said he had to climb under a table at one point to escape the girls.  They are overwhelmed by all the attention so far and pretty worried, but after Day 1, the language barrier seems to be the lesser issue.   Everyone is so nice and accepting so far.

There are two sessions per day in primary school, morning and afternoon.  Gaby was great in helping to get the boys in the same session and Elliott is in the same class with Gaby’s daughter Malena, who is completely bilingual.  The boys start at 1:30pm and are done at 5:30pm.  We take a public bus from our hotel in Villa Belgano to Cerro for school.  They have 3 recesses and there is a kiosko (read candy shop) on site for the kids!  Selling points for the boys to be sure.  We’re blackmailing the boys with 2 pesos per day earning potential with good behavior to be readily spent at the kiosko.

More on house hunting and day-to-day challenges and observations soon!

Elliott surrounded before class

Elliott surrounded before class

Yelling and listening quietly


We arrived in Cordoba just the other morning, but some times it feels like we’ve already been here for at least a week.  After a whirl wind couple of days filled with incredible asados with friends and house hunting, we tried some sight seeing downtown today, but that was kind-of a bust because it’s a holiday.  It’s a national holiday to honor the death of Jose de San Martin who was a leader Argentina’s successful struggle for independence from Spain.  We thought that maybe there would be some fun stuff happening downtown, but I guess it’s more of a holiday where you hang out with friends and family.  Which has gotten me thinking about all this “family” time we’ve had over the past month.

Frankly, I’m exhausted.  The constant stream of questions from Ben, our middle child, is almost more than I can handle.  I know that he’s a kid who needs to know the plan; he needs to know what we’re doing next IN DETAIL, but often (honestly, most of the time), I don’t have that answer.  I don’t know exactly where we’re going, but I gave the taxi driver an address, and here’s hoping he’s going to get us there.  I don’t know exactly what time everyone will be at the asado, but we’re going to get there around 12:30, or 8, or whenever, and when everyone else shows up, they show up. I don’t know what the taxi driver’s name is, or why he’s talking on the phone while driving, or what that sign says.  I’m just trying to take it all in, too.  I do know, however, that this is just Ben’s way of making sure that everything is ok, and that his parents are in control, at least, sort-of.  All this makes for a pretty short fuse.

Put that together with the fact that we’re staying in a guest house/bed and breakfast, where the people are wonderfully kind, but our quarters are close, and unfortunately, my best parenting techniques are out the window.  Rob and I are trying to be very conscious (and at the same time help the kids grasp the concept) of the other guests, so we spend a lot of time telling the kids to “be quiet!” and “stop running!” and “don’t slam the doors!”  I have lost count of how many times I’ve said to the boys, “And what about your behavior did you think was acceptable on ANY LEVEL?!?!?!?!”  With this phrase, I hope to accomplish two things:  make the kids shut up, and use confusing enough language so the non-English speakers here will have no idea of what I’m saying to my kids.

In all of this crazy, there are amazing glimmers, though.  Incredible moments that I grab and hold onto tightly:

*Molly dancing in her seat on the plane as she listened to music with her headphones.

*Ben and Elliott watching some cartoon in Spanish, then chatting about it IN SPANISH, I’m sure, without even realizing that they were speaking Spanish.

*Molly telling our friends that her Spanish is “fantastic.”

*Ben chatting with just about anyone who works at the hotels where we’ve stayed like they’re old friends from way back.

*Rob getting us downtown on the bus from our hotel without a hitch.

On Wednesday we’re going to the boys’ school to meet their teachers and have a look around, then they’ll start school on Thursday. I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep myself together when we drop them off on Thursday, but I’m not betting on it.  This is a BIG DEAL, and I would give almost anything to be a fly on the wall and listen in on their conversations.  I promise I would listen quietly; they wouldn’t even know I was there.