Condors & Jesuits

Hosting family visiting from the States have given us ample excuse to tour the region around Cordoba and play the tour guide.  With my Dad visiting this month we  managed to visit some of Cordoba’s most historic sites and stunning scenery prior to heading out to Salta and Mendoza.

Jesuit estancia of Santa Catalina, north of Cordoba

Jesuit estancia of Santa Catalina, north of Cordoba

The city of Cordoba is ringed by a number of estancias built by Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century.  Many of these sites are Unesco World Heritage sites, as is the Manzana Jesuitica in central Cordoba.

Museo Jesuitico Nacional de Jesus Maria, built in 1618 in the pueblo of Jesus Maria north of Cordoba.

Despite eventually being expelled from the continent by the Spanish, the Jesuits left an enduring legacy in the Cordoba area.  Most of their settlements and institutions remain today.  Founded by the Jesuits, the National University of Cordoba is one of the oldest universities in South America.

Museo Historico Nacional del Virrey Liniers, in Alta Gracia south of Cordoba

Museo Historico Nacional del Virrey Liniers, in Alta Gracia south of Cordoba

The Jesuits utilized a number of large farm facilities in the surrounding valleys to generate income for their mission.  Sad to say the kids have seemed most interested in the old bathroom facilities used by the Jesuits.  The wine making equipment and workshops where slave craftsmen built everything from nails to ornate works of art for use in the church are fascinating.  Each estancia was centered around an iglesia.  We found the displays and overall state of the Jesuit Estancia in Alta Gracia to be the best we’ve visited so far.

Jesuit Estancia, Alta Gracia

Jesuit Estancia, Alta Gracia

In addition to the amazing history left behind by the Jesuits, the surrounding mountains are a wonderful way to experience the Cordoba area.  Just over an hour drive to the southwest of Cordoba lie the Sierras Grandes.

Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito

Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito

Rather than the low, rolling hills covered in scrub brush that define the Sierras Chicas nearby, the Sierras Grandes rise sharply out of the valley and are vast.  The summit of this range is an open, rocky grassland called the Pampa de Achala rising to about 5,000 ft.

The quebrada (gorge) where condors nest and learn to fly.

The quebrada (gorge) where condors nest and learn to fly.

Halfway between Cordoba and Mina Clavero is Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito.  Despite a blustery day, Dad and I had a great hike to a clifftop viewpoint above a stunning gorge.  Although we saw only a few condors soaring high above, we had a great view of giant white streaks of condor poop against the cliffs.

Balcon Norte, near La Pampilla in Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito.

Balcon Norte, near La Pampilla in Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito.

The highway to the park is in great condition and provides amazing views of the rugged terrain.  We rented a car for the weekend to a few estancias and in particular for the trip up to La Pampilla.  Although I’ve read it’s possible by bus to access the park, I wouldn’t want to try it.

Next up, Salta and Mendoza!

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.

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.

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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!

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A collection of car “things.”

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

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Weapons, of course.

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

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

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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.

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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.”

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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!

Uncertainty

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.

Patagonia Greatest Hits

Travels in Patagonia with los abuelos

Travels in Patagonia with los abuelos

All things considered, our kids travelled like pros for three weeks as we explored Patagonia, Buenos Aires and Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay with Erica’s parents.  Much to the kids’ dismay we managed to squeeze in some study time along the way, but the best part was watching them learn simply by seeing new and amazing sights along the way.  At times it can difficult to appreciate how wonderful this time together has been for all of us when Ben is squealing, Elliott’s yelling or Molly’s screaming about how her clothes are too tight.  It sometimes takes just a deep breath and a look out the window at the gorgeous lakes of Bariloche to gain perspective (terrific wine doesn’t hurt either).

This segment of our year abroad marked 6 months since we left Portland, Molly’s 4th birthday, a long anticipated trip to Patagonia, a visit from grandparents and our 2nd border crossing to renew our 90 day tourist stamp.  We thought it would be fun to share some of the kids’ favorite experiences from the trip south.  Needless to say the best part for all of them was seeing Grandma and Grandpa.

Elliott

  1. Bariloche chocolate (check this out!)
  2. Seeing all the glaciers (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares near El Calafate)
  3. Hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa and the boat captain on the glacier boat ride

Ben

  1. Our house in Bariloche was awesome
  2. Seeing the lake monster and playing in the fort (Lago Nahuel Huapi)

    Playing in a driftwood shelter on the beach near Llao Llao

    Playing in a driftwood shelter on the beach near Llao Llao

  3. Eating lots of hamburguesas and drinking Fanta

Molly

  1. My birthday cake

    Molly's 4th birthday cake in Bariloche

    Molly’s 4th birthday cake in Bariloche

  2. My smoothie at the hotel in Bariloche

    Savoring a smoothie at Hotel Llao Llao

    Savoring a smoothie at Hotel Llao Llao

  3. Seeing the glaciers

A few other good times captured on film include:

Being tourists in Bariloche

Being tourists in Bariloche

Elliott on the Cerro Catedral chairlift

Elliott on the Cerro Catedral chairlift

Taking a bet to swim in Lago Gutierrez

Taking a bet to swim in Lago Gutierrez

Multi-generational Travel

It was just four days ago that we landed back in Cordoba.  An over-night bus brought us home from Buenos Aires, and although I was sad to leave my parents after having them with us for five weeks, and I felt wonky after not sleeping very well on the bus, I was thrilled to have not one, but THREE Christmas cards from friends in the states waiting for us.  And I have to admit, it has been nice to start getting back into our “routine” here.  I think I may finally be seeing the end of the laundry tunnel.  I remember a friend once saying that she was tackling the Mount Everest of laundry, and these past few days, I know exactly what she meant.

After spending about 10 days in and around Cordoba, we hopped a flight south to Bariloche.  Bariloche is a gorgeous place in the mountains, and we rented a large house with an incredible view of the Lake Nahuel Huapi.  This was, honestly, our view of the lake from the house:

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Really, it does not get much more beautiful than that!
It was nice to have a big space to spread out in Bariloche, but like so many, many things in Argentina, this house had little things about it that made us wonder.  What are those wires hanging out of the ceiling?  What is that hole in the fireplace?  Were they going to build a deck, and just ran out of money, or is this house built on an old foundation?
Bariloche was great because everyone got to do a little bit of what they wanted to do.  My dad and Rob went fly fishing:
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My mom and I ate a lot of chocolate and ice cream (photos unavailable), and the kids got a lot of great outside play time:
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Bariloche is very windy, though, and one morning, after a particularly bad wind storm, I woke up to find all three kids in Molly’s bed:
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I would say that we moved on further south to El Calafate because we had our fill of chocolate (Bariloche is known for its chocolate), but anyone who knows me would know that that’s a lie.  There is no such thing as too much chocolate, but our time was up in Bariloche, so we checked out of the house, and headed to the airport to catch our flight to El Calafate.
When traveling with seven people, you can guarantee that there will be at least a couple of wrinkles, and our flight from Bariloche to El Calafate was one of them.  We arrived at the airport with enough time to grab some water, and make a trip to the bathroom.  After waiting for a flight that was “delayed” for about two hours, we were told by the airlines (actually, Rob had to go up and ask, and right after he asked, there was an announcement over the intercom) that our flight had been cancelled, and we would have to wait until the flight five hours later that evening.  As happens anywhere, the crew for our original flight were over their flight time after the delay, so they couldn’t fly.  We were disappointed, and feeling tired, but what could we do?  We decided to take a cab back into town and get some lunch, or at least, I thought ice cream!
This was a case where it paid off BIG TIME to be traveling with small children (and I don’t usually say that!).  When we went to the ticket counter to ask if we could store our bags at the airport, the ticket agent said, “Well, aren’t you a family with young children?”
“Yes,” we replied, wondering, “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well,” the ticket agent said, “your children are probably tired.  We will get you a room in town so they can rest.”
Rob and I exchanged looks that said, “Are you serious?”
It was siesta time in Argentina, and you don’t mess with siesta!  So we happily took two cabs back into town (paid for by the airlines), then checked into the hotel for the afternoon.  For whatever reason, I told the woman at the hotel counter that we could really all just fit in one room.
She looked at me like I was crazy:  “But you’re seven people!  How will you fit?  We’ll give you three rooms.”  Luckily, at that point, I decided to shut up.
This was a time when what could have been a very frustrating situation turned out much better than we could have imagined.
We arrived in El Calafate much later than we had planned, but settled into our rooms and decided to hit the little town the next day, and figure out how we would spend our time there.
El Calafate is a lovely little town.  The town is very clean by Argentine standards (maybe it’s all the wind?), the streets are wide, and the pavement is smooth, and they have wonderful sidewalks throughout.  Also, this is the home town of the president of Argentina.  That’s all I’m going to say on that matter.
We spent four days in Calafate seeing amazing things, the likes of which, I don’t think I will ever see again.  Glaciers:
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Sheep shearing by hand:
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And some really, REALLY big icebergs:
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Some of us had a better view than others:
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That’s my dad shooting from the first-class cabin.
And others of us didn’t really care about the view:
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Molly slept through the first two hours of the boat ride, and woke up next to a huge iceberg.  Needless to say, she was a little confused.
After a couple of days of icebergs and glaciers, Rob and I were off…….SIN CHICOS…….to El Chalten for three days of hiking.  El Chalten is about a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride north of El Calafate.  It is a haven for hikers and backpackers, and Rob and I had flashback after flashback of our backpacking trip to Asia almost 13 years ago.  We came into El Chalten much older, much wiser (I would like to think), and much more discriminating than many of the other hikers.  Although we stayed in a modest hostel it was fantastic to have our own bathroom, a fairly comfortable bed (on a frame off the floor–unlike many of the beds we slept on in Asia), and enough cash to have fantastic dinners out.
We decided to do the longer hike the first day (28 km round trip!!!!!), and were rewarded with views of Cerro Torre like this:
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After which we rewarded ourselves with desserts like this:
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Tired and sore after a long hike the first day, we took a “shorter” hike the second day to the Fitz Roy range, and although I told Rob I wasn’t sure I would make it all the way to the look-out (10 km one-way), I am so, so, SO glad that I did:
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Our trip to El Chalten would never have been possible if it hadn’t been for my amazing parents, DAVE AND CATHY STEVENS, who volunteered to watch the kids for us so we could have some time away.  The cottage/hotel they stayed at in El Calafate was cozy but cramped, and we are so GRATEFUL to them for taking on three of their busy, rambunctious grandchildren in a country where they speak very little of the language.
A couple hot baths with epsom salt, a bus ride, and plane trip later, we were in Buenos Aires, back in the heat and humidity of the Argentine summer.
Upon arriving at the house that we had rented in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of BA, we ran into another “snag” in our travel plans. Electricity use in Buenos Aires has grown immensely over the past 15 years, and the supply has not kept up with the demand.  Power outages are common in the summer, and can last anywhere from half an hour, to two weeks.  Do you see where I’m going with this?
We were hot and tired after a long travel day of over 1700 miles, and ready to just sit and relax.  When we arrived at the house, however, the power was out.  The caretaker told us that the power should be coming on within the hour, so we decided to stay and hope for the best.  After a fantastic dinner out (really, it was amazing—-or maybe I’m just remembering their air conditioners), we came back to the house, and still, no power.  I walked around the block talking with neighbors and store owners, and found out that the power in our house, and the neighbor’s house had been out for three days, and they had no idea of when it would be back on.  “Maybe tonight; maybe next week” was the response I got from most.
At this point, I’ve got to hand it to my parents and kids:  there was no swearing (at least, that I heard), no shrieking, no yelling, no “What-the-hell-kind-of-a-place-did-you-book?”.  They were incredible troopers.  We were all tired, we all realized that late on a Sunday night, we didn’t really have any other options, so we sank into fitful, mosquito-bitten sleep.  When the power STILL was not on the next morning, we knew we had to make a plan.  Fortunately for us, the hotel we had reservations in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay could take us early, so we packed up our things as quickly as we could, talked with the owner of the house (who agreed to refund the money), closed the door to the house (and left a key on the inside which in turn caused them to have to cut open the door–oops!), and high-tailed it over to the ferry dock to catch the next ferry just as the power came back on.  Oh well.
Once on the ferry, I thought it prudent to buy my dad and Rob some beer, the kids some Fanta, and ice-cold agua con gas for my mother and me.  We all shared some Oreos, and things started looking up.
We loved our time in Colonia, and had a great time just walking around the cobblestone streets, visiting the late-17th and early-18th century houses turned into museums, and……eating ice cream.  This is not the best picture of my mom (she’s behind Rob), but this little pulperia, called Buen Suspiro, where we had lunch was so delightful, that I had to include this picture.  Again, kudos to my kids because this was not a quick in-and-out lunch.  We were probably there for about 2 1/2 hours. Fortunately, right outside is a very quiet pedestrian street, so they were in and out of the restaurant the entire time.
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We eventually made it back to Buenos Aires, and to a different hotel in the Recoleta neighborhood.  The heat was still fierce, and for some reason (I think we had heard rain was on its way), we decided to do one of those bus tours where you can sit up on top of  a double-decker bus where the roof is cut off.  The tour was great, but so was the heat.  That day in Buenos Aires, the heat index reached 47.3 degrees celsius!  That’s 117 degrees fahrenheit, so yeah, it was hot. Not the best day to be sitting up on top of a bus driving around a huge city.  We called it quits for a late lunch, then somehow made it back to our hotel for cold, cold showers.
That night it rained, and the following day was like a gift from the travel gods who were saying, “Okay.  You guys have all proved your muster.  Here’s a nice cool day.  Have fun!”  There is no shortage of things to see and do in Buenos Aires, and we had promised the kids on a previous trip to the city that we would come back to see the zoo, so our family was zoo-bound while my parents did more grown-up sight-seeing.
Again my parents blessed us with their grandparenting skills and Rob and I had an incredible dinner out at Cafe San Juan, where we had been dying to go.  We were not disappointed, and felt almost like we were back in Portland with the Argentine version of hipsters with tattoos and trucker hats.
After five weeks of togetherness (certainly more than they get of us when we’re in the States!), the Vaughn family was headed back to Cordoba, and my parents were headed back to Gig Harbor.  It was an amazing time, and not only am I thrilled that my parents could (and would) take the time to visit us, and travel with us, I am thrilled that I look forward to seeing them AGAIN when we return!  It’s been a long time since I lived under the same roof as my parents, and I’m proud to say that I think we all had a fantastic trip.  Thanks to Rob for his amazing planning!
The day after we got home, the kids were promptly “bored,” so we have enrolled them in two weeks of summer camp. This serves two purposes:  entertainment for them, and a nice little break for Rob and me!