Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rambling thoughts on everything from telephone calls to accent tiles

I have been a bad blogger lately! If only we could pack a few more hours onto each day.

Because it's been so long since I've posted anything of substance, I figure why start now so you'll get even more insubstantial information today. Just the thoughts rambling around in my brain, rather like the silver marble in a pin ball machine.

In other words, read at your own risk for blogging whiplash.

I have mentioned that we've been looking at houses and property. In the U.S. I liked nothing better than house hunting, attending the annual Parade of Homes, and checking out the realty magazines that you can pick up at newstands. But here... the process is just different and I was tired of being trotted around to properties I had no desire to see when we'd ask to see something we were interested in. No blowing in and out of a house to check it out quickly; the realtor always had a few more to show us and we never finished a session in under two hours. Never.

So this southern girl bailed on her husband. Yes, yes I did. I'm not proud of it, but it was just more than I could handle. I told Ivan he could screen places and if he saw something he really liked, then show it to me. Otherwise, I was overwhelmed at home and needed to stay focused on catching up.

Overwhelmed because lately I've been feeling like a CLUNKER, always breaking down, spending more time "in the shop" than "on the road". In the past five weeks I've had a nasty cold, arguably the worst migraine in my life, and managed to put my back out by doing nothing more than bending over.

Just call me Granny.

With so much time "in the shop", when I did feel good I've wanted to catch up on laundry, sweep floors, pick up clutter... I'm not good about handling dirt and clutter. A few days, no big deal. More than that and I get antsy. After two weeks down with the head cold, this place was a WRECK. Did a quick, superficial clean-up before Sta. Rosa but haven't really been able to do a good housecleaning since. 

Which makes me slightly crazy.

It has been necessary to cancel a few Spanish classes and a couple English get-togethers along the way but overall I've done a pretty good job of keeping up with the regular schedule. 

Back to houses and property...

We found a house we liked (the one with the bathtub in the yard ;) which is basically move-in ready but we would have to build a garage/shop first because all our stuff (i.e., Ivan's tools) wouldn't fit into the house. We also came across an almost empty lot with a small casita. The casita isn't finished and would not be sufficient for us to live in even when it is (two small rooms and a bath) but we loved the location (just 50 yards from the river that feeds into the lake that we live by now) and think that if we can get it for a decent price, then we'd like to build.

We honestly have no idea what this will involve. We know the process is different here. You have to have a licensed architect do the preliminary paperwork and get the plans approved, but that's about all we know. We have no idea the cost of materials or the regulations for residential construction... So Ivan stopped by the municipality and they told him if he brought in a pendrive they'd copy the regulations for him, so he did and they did and now we just need to print it off. Not sure if we should get a ream of paper first; there seems to be rather a lot of them. *sigh*

Have had an interesting time trying to figure out how to get the cash into the country if the seller accepts our offer. We don't have an account at a local bank since those are not easy to open. So in the past week Ivan's been checking out the options -- which range from using ATM machines (most expensive) to using a monetary conversion business (next to highest) to opening an account with an international bank (cheapest). Huge differences in cost! From less than a couple hundred to over sixteen hundred dollars, depending on who charges which fees and at what percentage rate.

Obviously we'd prefer to go with the cheapest option BUT they'd only give us the money in pesos and we think the buyer really wants U.S. dollars. The absolute easiest method would have been to wire transfer the money directly to the seller's bank but apparently banks here don't really like to deal with those.

I'm still trying to figure out what banks do. They're open only in the mornings. They don't do home mortgages or loans for cars. I think they must make most of their money charging fees on the checking and savings accounts they do have. Most Argentines we know who have some money keep a little in an account here for living purposes but put most of their money elsewhere, either Europe or the U.S. because (1) they get more interest on deposits and (2) it's safer. I'm not sure how often this has happened over the years, but in 2001 a financial crisis caused people with money in banks here to lose all or most of their money. If they got any of it back, it was just a fraction.

I'm also trying to figure out why it costs more for people to call locally than overseas.

Yes, you read that right. It's more expensive to call our co-workers here than our kids in the U.S.This is not to say it's cheap to call the U.S., it's just REALLY expensive to make local calls.

I'd say there's a wee problem with the system here, wouldn't you?

We don't use the house phone to call our kids though. Our son set us up with a Vonage phone before we came so we can make unlimited calls to the U.S. at no charge to us (he takes care of the monthly fee). Or we skype when the Vonage phone isn't working well. At around two cents a minute, skype is a very cheap alternative!

Back once again to houses and property...

Between the work we're doing on the house in Sta. Rosa and dreaming about building our own place some day, I've been looking into construction and finish materials. I've got a notebook that's rapidly filling up with prices, ideas, and sketches. One of the things I came across is an accent tile that I love, love, love! We're going to use it in the kitchen in Sta. Rosa, just above the white wall ceramicos. This thin rope tile is PERFECT for that country cottage look I'm going for!
I've been putting some thought into what look I'd like for that future dream house of ours and have decided I'm drawn to a combination: modern industrial meets country cottage. Don't think it can be done?! Just wait...I think this is going to be a very interesting project! Which I will document right here on the blog, of course. With photos. Lots and lots of photos.

The pin ball is coming to a stop. I have to clean the kitchen and then go commiserate Argentina's loss at the hands of Germany :-(


Mari said...

Good to hear from you again! Sounds like you have had quite a time of it. Hope you are doing better and stay that way.
The house stuff sounds exciting but overwhelming!

rita said...

I'm glad you are excited about dream house design. I am not very good at that.
I pray your health issues clear up go away and stay away!

Betty said...

I would love to start over and build my dream house. But my husband is "allergic" to the problems that go in hand with building a house in South America.... Those rules and regulations you got from the municipality sound similar to ours here.
I hope you find a nice place to build your dream house.
I love the tiles you picked!

The Bug said...

I'm glad you enjoy the idea of planning a house - but boy that would overwhelm me! I can't wait to watch the process.