Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I can't remember if I've mentioned the issue we ran into with my VISA expiring while we were in the U.S.

So in case I haven't, here's the back story: When we moved to Argentina, I came into the country on a two-year VISA. Which we renewed for one year (all that was allowed) when the first expired. The plan was to apply for permanent residency at the three year mark, which is usually granted at that point. However, knowing we would be in the U.S. then, Ivan tried to get things handled before we left on furlough. But was told that wasn't possible.

While in the U.S. Ivan talked with folks at the Argentine consulate in Chicago on numerous occasions, trying to figure out how to handle things. In the end they had no suggestions, except for me to return to Argentina as a "tourist" and then file the paperwork for permanent residency.

Easier said than done, because we haven't been "home" much since we returned November 22nd. Which brings us to this, the final week of the year. Monday was a holiday for government offices and banks, but yesterday morning we were up bright and early, and out the door a little after 6:30 a.m.
I'm so glad we don't live in the capital city of our province! This kind of traffic would make me crazy. We have enough of it during the summer, when tourists flood our little city, but most of the time we do not have to deal with bumper-to-bumper, stop-go-stop traffic.

Even with the traffic we were in line at the Ministerio de Justicia (Ministry of Justice) by 7:30 a.m., and wonder of all wonders, the doors opened early! We were ushered into the building at 7:40 a.m., settled on a long bench in a long hallway, and then a government employee spent about 5 minutes explaining the paperwork.

Oh, and this was not to apply for permanent residency. This was for paperwork necessary for the permanent residency application. You see, they want to make sure I'm not a criminal.

We'd already applied for, and received, the same thing from the FBI in the U.S. before we came back. It took 10 minutes to download the form off the internet, fill it out, and mail it to them with a check. A few weeks later and my criminal check had been performed and the report was sent to us by mail.

It doesn't work like that here.
Nothing is ever that simple.
Not even paying your light bill.

We had to go stand in line and hope that we weren't too far back, because they only give out a certain number of forms each day and everyone after that is turned away and told to come back another day.

So imagine our chagrin when the line re-formed and the man began handing out forms, only to give the man in front of us the last set!

Not to worry! Ivan, while researching exactly what documents we would need, had found the forms online, printed them, and filled them out.

The government employee took one look at our forms and said, "No, those are old ones."


But the man must have still been filled with good cheer left over from Christmas -- or maybe we just looked pitiful. For whatever reason, he said to hold on, he'd go get us a set of forms.

And a half hour later, he did actually return with a set.

Ivan, an old pro at this since he's been the chief filler-outer-of-forms since we moved to Argentina, knew the drill and first thing he did was have us fill out the two forms needed to take to the bank.

Because corruption is such a problem we cannot pay the required fees to the Ministry of Justice. We have to go to the bank (not just any bank, a specific bank that was about 12 blocks away), stand in yet another line, pay the fees, and then return to the Ministry of Justice with the stamped form from the bank showing we had paid.

Ivan spent the time in line at the bank filling out the other forms, so when we finally got back to the Ministry, we were ready to get in the next line.

The lady who took care of us first dismissed the copy of my national I.D. as being inadequate so we had to leave, find a copy shop and have a bigger, clearer copy made, and then take that back to the Ministry. Thankfully we didn't have to wait in that line again, but got in fairly quickly (maybe 5 minutes or so?) and then we were given a number and told to go back to the waiting area.

We were #798. I was not the 798th client of the day. I don't think they give out more than 30-40 or so forms a day. They just keep using a big roll of numbers until they run out. But as we sat down and began listening to the numbers, we realized we were about 30 down the line. Which made sense, since we were the last ones given forms.

When it was finally our turn, the man who waited on us made a big deal out of my passport being in one name and my national I.D. being in another. Well, duh! In the U.S. I legally go by my married name. In Argentina that is not permitted, so my national I.D. is in my maiden name. Of course they're not the same. And it's not like this is the first time they've ever run across this problem. There are thousands of Americans living in this province who have gotten permanent residency, so you KNOW they've encountered this issue before.

Ivan asked to speak to someone higher up the food chain so we were ushered next door to the supervisor, who also tried to give us a run-around.

I'm not sure what Ivan said but he made it clear that immigrations knew all this, and it was NOT.A.PROBLEM. There was some more back-and-forth chatter and they finally backed down, and we were allowed to finish the process of applying for a background check by the police to make sure I am not a criminal.

It only took three hours.

We get to go back to Cordoba on Friday to pick it up.

That wasn't all we did while in Cordoba yesterday. We're not going to waste a trip, since it's expensive in terms of tolls, gas, parking fees and time.

We also stopped by the immigration office -- which was packed and standing-room-only in the waiting area -- but learned we'd need to get an appointment. Ivan has a contact at immigrations in Buenos Aires who is walking us through the process, and he's going to get the appointment set up for us.

Then we had a hitch installed on our car, so Ivan can pull the little trailer we brought from the states. While they had it up on the lift, he asked if he could check things out and he discovered the front brake pads and a few other parts needed to be replaced a.s.a.p. It was basically metal-on-metal.

Because prices and inflation are so high here, he decided to do the work himself. So he bought the parts last night and that's what he's working on right now.

But back to yesterday...

On the way to the place where we had the hitch installed we were stopped in traffic several times. I took the opportunity to snap some photos. Here's a church with the coolest mosaic domes:
You probably can't tell how pretty they are unless you click on the photo and enlarge it. Absolutely lovely!

And on a building that houses a labor union was this interesting frieze showing workers protesting:
I wasn't able to get the entire frieze into the photo, since part of it wrapped around the corner and was obscured by the building next to it.

After that we grabbed lunch and stopped at a mall that has businesses related to construction. We were pricing some things we know we'll need when we build next year: a garage door, electrical supplies, etc. Didn't stay too long because by that time it was about 5 p.m. and we were getting tired, and we knew we had one more stop: Walmart.

I do most of my shopping locally, but there are some things I just can't get anywhere but Walmart. Or the price difference is great enough to make it worthwhile to buy there. My list was fairly short, so it didn't take long and soon we were on our way home.

Pulled into the driveway at 7:30 p.m.
Ivan's pedometer showed we had walked over 13,000 steps.

The adventure isn't over yet. Once we have the police report, the really fun part begins. Not sure yet if we can file the paperwork for permanent residency in Cordoba, or if we'll have to make a trip to Buenos Aires. It's important to get it expedited because otherwise we'll run into problems in March when we have to go to Uruguay for our annual missionary conference. Getting out of the country won't be a problem, but getting back in could be if I haven't been granted permanent residency yet.

It took 18 months to get our national I.D.s
Hoping and praying we get my new I.D. with permanent residency status in two months.
Care to join us in praying?!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Project 365 -- We're in the home stretch

I'm a bit behind with P365 and admit with shame I took absolutely NO photos week before last. It was our first full week home and we were BUSY with a capital B. However, I more than make up for the lack of photos from then by having too many this week.

We just returned from our first real vacation in years. We've had little 2-3 day breaks, but not a whole week since about 2000, I think. Friends gave us a week through RCI (time share), and we found the Colina Del Valle Resort about two hours away that's part of the RCI network. Here's the outside of our little home-away-from-home for the week:
We spent most of the week right there, because our room had lovely, refreshing, wonderful air conditioning! Not to be taken lightly when the temps are in the 100s! In fact, one day it got up to 108 and we were especially grateful for the a.c.

But heat or no heat, we'd venture out daily to grab lunch in town, and then over to the clubhouse where they had wifi so we could check e-mails.
It wasn't air conditioned, so we didn't stay long. The sun beating in all those windows turned it into an oven during the day.

Ivan was on a mission to find good ice cream. This first place had a quaint setting but the ice cream wasn't very good.
We did finally find some great helado in a nearby town; actually the best chocolate I've had in Argentina. For some reason it usually tastes fruity rather than chocolatey -- but the chocolate we found at Crillon's in Villa Dolores tasted like cocoa and was not so icky sweet. YUM!

A few years ago Ivan learned that there's an orchid indigenous to this area of Argentina, but until recently we hadn't seen one. Here's a close-up of a couple we found during a walk one morning:
Very pretty, isn't it? Not a typical looking orchid at all, but that's what it is.

Although the resort is within the city limits, it's up a hill along a dirt road and really feels like you're out in the country. Here's a shot of the pool area and in the distance you can see mountains. No matter which direction you looked, you could see mountains.
And here's the aforementioned clubhouse from the outside:

We had to drive 40 km to get to a gas station with GNC, so twice we made the trip to Villa Dolores. While sitting on a park bench in the town plaza, I saw this cute little Fiat 600 painted turquoise!
We're not sure how old it is, but Ivan thinks those were made back in the 60s.

Most days we'd go into Mina Clavero for lunch or to buy groceries (usually ate a light dinner in our room). On one of the main downtown streets, amidst all the shops and businesses, was this little private home:
As cute as it is, I don't think I'd want to live smack dab in the middle of town.

Just two stores over is this great verdularia -- I don't think I've ever seen one this big or as well stocked!
On our last morning we stocked up on a bunch of fruits and vegetables to bring home.

I made two batches of yogurt before we went, and also some homemade granola, so we were set for breakfast for the first five days. When we ran out, we went into town for desayuno at a great little café. You could sit inside, or out in this covered patio area:

We arrived home early afternoon on Saturday and hadn't been home too long before friends called, inviting us to their Christmas Eve party. It didn't start until 9 p.m. It was a potluck so I made potato salad. We appreciate our friends including us even though we're not family, since it was a family affair. Their kids and spouses, and the spouses families were all there. What a meal! We started with appetizers like pickled tongue, pretty pinwheel sandwiches, slices of salami, and various salads. Then they brought out grilled pork and vegetables. Oh, and by the way, we didn't start eating until about 10:30 p.m. :)

We were in the middle of dessert (fruit salad and panettone) when it struck midnight and the fireworks started. So of course we stopped eating and rushed out to watch them -- and the guys shot off some of their own -- before trooping in to finish dessert. Even though I paced myself, I was still stuffed by the time it was over! We left around 1:30 a.m.; the first to leave :)  I'm guessing everyone else stayed at least another hour or two. Sadly, although I took the camera, I never thought to get it out of my purse and actually use it.

Today is Christmas, and we had a traditional Argentine asado.  I'm guessing most of you sat down to a turkey or ham dinner. Ours was rather different. Ivan grilled pork, slices of butternut squash, an onion, tomato, and Basque-style morcilla (with nuts and raisins added). I made pasta salad, and we had a little potato salad left from last night. Oh, and Ivan baked a loaf of bread. Later on we'll have dessert: homemade vanilla ice cream and sliced fresh peaches. YUM! 

I did get my tree up and decorated (the decorating took place yesterday!) and am now enjoying it, all lit up even though it's the middle of the day. Have to enjoy it while I can.
I thought about cropping out the fan, but then decided to leave it. After all, our Christmas season is in summer and it's HOT so the fan is a necessary piece of equipment. Since this house doesn't have many outlets, I have to position the fans where I can. In this case, it happens to be right next to the tree :)

Hoping each one of you has a wonderful, blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Time for a weekly post

I just realized the last time I posted was a week ago, and thought it might be about time to check back in.

We're on vacation this week. A real, honest-to-goodness vacation; the kind we haven't had in years. All thanks to some dear friends in our home church, who gave us a week at a time share. What a HUGE blessing! Thanks again, Dennis and Lois!!!

We've never had a vacation before where our primary activity was SLEEPING but we're thoroughly enjoying it :)  We're also getting quite a bit of reading done, and I keep drawing floor plan after floor plan. I can't seem to stop.

To be honest, we haven't ventured far from our lovely, AIR CONDITIONED room. And here's a clue as to why:
Even though Ivan had the a.c. in the car re-charged before we left, it's not working so I have no desire to go very far in it. Basically we leave only to have lunch at a restaurant or buy food to eat in our room for dinner. 

And each day we walk over to the club house where there is wifi, to check e-mails and see what's happening in the world.

We had no idea how tired we were until we got here and started relaxing....and sleeping, then sleeping, and sleeping some more. It's been a pretty crazy year, and we're so grateful for this week to unwind and REST.

Looking forward to starting the new year fresh and ready to go. Meanwhile...

Wishing all of you a wonderful, blessed and joyful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back into the swing of things

After a couple of days of uninterrupted unpacking and getting re-settled, we've jumped right back into the thick of things -- although the unpacking continues around other activities and responsibilities.

On Sunday we went to a birthday party. Our friend Magdalena turned 75! I didn't count, but I'm guessing there were over 30 there that day to help her celebrate the milestone. Here's a shot of them setting up when we arrived, some of the first ones there (being on time here means being early).
Guests kept straggling in for over an hour, some traveling quite a distance. Magdalena, or Kooky as she's called by family, has a lot of relatives! She's told us stories of growing up in a close-knit community where all the aunts and uncles lived nearby and everyone spent the weekends hanging out at the grandparents' hacienda. The sole surviving aunt and quite a few of the cousins were at the party Sunday and I found their relationship and interaction interesting. Here's a shot of the aunt and some of the female cousins chatting before the asado started:
That's Magdalena on the far right. These women represent a slice of the social strata in Argentina, from lower middle class to very well-to-do (as in, they have homes in several countries). But Sunday they were just family, and no one paid the slightest attention to where they fit in the economic hierarchy. Which is unusual in Argentina, as they tend to be rather class conscious.

The food was plentiful and quite varied -- which was also unusual; I think because Magdalena is a vegetarian (although there was grilled chicken as well). Some of the offerings were *ahem* rather different, like the cheese and fruit sandwiches: three thin slices of white bread separating a thin slice of cheese and chunks of canned pineapple and chopped maraschino cherries. Sounds weird but it was actually very good! I also tried gluten "meat" with an oil and herb dressing.
 (that's the stuff that looks sorta like spam with parsley on top)

After everyone had their fill of food, they started breaking up into groups to talk. As in cultures everywhere, the men went off to the quincho which was as far as they could get from the gaggle of women without actually leaving the yard. Women outnumbered men by at least four-to-one. It wasn't too long before half the women changed into bathing suits and headed for the pool.
It was a perfectly lovely day for the party; the rain holding off until the very end.

Ivan didn't really have an opportunity to talk privately with Julio, Magdalena's husband, but it was obvious he was upset about the death of their mutual friend, José. José was killed in an accident Thursday, when his tractor rolled over on him, but his body wasn't found until Saturday. José's wife and youngest daughter stay in Carlos Paz during the school year because they feel the schools are better here, going home to Tanti on weekends and holidays.

As you can imagine, the family is devastated. Because it was an accident the police sent the body to the morgue for an autopsy. Normally the dead are buried the very next day because they don't typically embalm the bodies, but they didn't release José's remains until late Monday. The family cannot bury (or cremate) him until the autopsy report is complete in 15 days; they're also required to keep the body in Tanti, where the accident occurred. But they held a wake in Carlos Paz Monday night. Ivan was there until 2 a.m. Over the year and a half that he's known José he's gotten to know a lot of his friends and family, so he stayed longer than he'd intended, talking with many of them.

Ivan wasn't able to leave for the wake until after 10 p.m. because he was waiting for me to finish up at Wallace Academy, the English institute in town where we help with oral exams during mid-terms and finals. Last night he helped at Wallace so I could work on unpacking, and preparing some food for today.

We're having a couple of young ladies over for merienda about 4 p.m. Maria and Mariella (sisters) have been living and working in Carlos Paz while Maria attended university in Cordoba the past four years. She just finished and they're moving back to Corrientes.

Then tonight we're having pollo asado (grilled chicken) with Tómas and Andrew. Ivan met Tómas last year when he was renting Marce's basement apartment. She introduced us to him because she knew he and Ivan share a passion for aviation. Found out in the process that his dad is a third generation missionary from England, and Ivan's been chatting with Andrew online for months. Tonight we're finally going to get to meet him.

And then Thursday is already planned, and so is Friday... Nothing like jumping right back into the swing of things!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Project 365, Week 49 & 50

Finally home, sweet home, where we have internet. Such as it is :)  Better than none at all, though!

Since we were in Santa Rosa, sans internet, last weekend, I'm catching up by including two weeks of P365 photos.

We drove out there in our "new" car. We're so thankful for the Lord's provision in this area! We bought this 1994 Ford Galaxy from the same family that sold us our Fiat Uno :) 
It has the requisite power steering (main reason we sold the Fiat) and, as an added bonus, it had already been converted to run on GNC (natural gas). This is a HUGE blessing, as we can get about 150 km on a tank of GNC, at the cost of about $5.40 U.S.! Woot! Even with the big tank for GNC in the trunk, we still have more room back there than we had in the Fiat.

I sadly have no photos from our first few days in Sta. Rosa as we were busy with company (fellow missionaries). Both couples were getting ready to leave for furlough and we had a nice time together, catching up.

Toward the end of the week we decided to drive to Yacanto, a little town about 30 km from Sta. Rosa, and then continued on to the even smaller village of Durazno, and the scenery was breathtaking! I have several photos from our expedition to share with you:
Can you imagine living out there, with the high sierras in the background?
This llama was wandering around loose behind the little gas station in Yacanto
I thought this gate was so picturesque
We stopped for a picnic...
...beside this river.

It was an absolutely lovely, wonderfully relaxing day! One of two we had during our ten days in Sta. Rosa :)  The rest of the time we were busy working our way through a rather long list of repairs and maintenance issues that had to be addressed before summer renters begin arriving. We are praying for a sufficient number of renters to cover the annual expenses for the house, plus enough to pay for having the house re-wired. There were some problems while we were gone, and it's getting dangerous to leave it as is; we use a lot more electrical items today than when my in-laws built the house about 40 years ago.

But we did take time most days for a walk (when it wasn't raining, which it did a LOT). I like how the bark on a eucalyptus tree peels off like this:

The next photo is more for family members. This is the big new warehouse type store in Sta. Rosa!
It's on Route 5, toward Belgrano. It reminds us a bit of a Sam's Club (although not as big). They sell everything from dry goods to household items, cleaning supplies, dairy products and meat. 

I mentioned our car can run on GNC. Here's a picture of us filling up:
Gas stations require that everyone get out of the car before they start filling the tank. Although not every station sells GNC, quite a few of them do, so it's not usually a problem getting it. But sometimes the lines for GNC are really, REALLY long. Reminds me a bit of the lines back in the 70s during the oil embargo.

The day before we left Sta. Rosa, Sergio and Cristina came to visit. They're the young couple we allowed to use the back part of the house while we were gone, and here they are by their former "front" door:
We had a nice time catching up and sharing photos. They work with Word of Life Argentina, and had gone to a facility the organization owns down in Neuquen, to help clean up ash and they had lots of photos from that. The volcano that erupted is in Chile, but all the ash ended up in Argentina! There's an inch to several inches across a wide swath of the country. It's wreaking havoc on the tourism industry in that province, and as a result, we are seeing more tourists in our area.

This week we were able to get back into our house, arriving Wednesday evening. Surprised to find virtually the entire contents of our house (minus furniture) had been packed into boxes and stored in the garage, we have been busy unpacking, washing things, and putting them back where they belong. It's like moving, all over again.

I'm happy to report that after two days plus a few hours this morning, the kitchen is back in order! We took time out yesterday afternoon to go ahead and carry all the boxes in, figure out where they went, and then put them there. Here's a few photos of our house in the throes of unpacking...
living room
study/sewing room
spare room

No photos of the kitchen since I was too busy trying to find what I needed so I could prepare and serve something besides sandwiches.

While I've been busy unpacking, Ivan tackled the yard. Keep in mind that things always look worse before they look better...
The yard, especially around the walls, was/is an overgrown mess. And, as you can see, another branch of the peach tree broke; that makes a branch per year -- pretty soon there won't be any branches left :(  It's going to take him several days to get the yard back in shape.

While he was outside working he noticed a commotion next door. Next thing I knew he was running in to grab the camera:
Those men actually got that pool up and over the roof from the front of the house! And you can't tell from the photo, but it's a two-story structure. Remember the house that was built right next to us? It is actually two townhouses and the pool is going into the backyard of one of them.

I can't even tell you how good it is to be home! And I'm sure it will be even better when everything is back in order. Now, not to make anyone jealous or anything :)  but I thought I'd share what the banner on looked like when I checked it a short time ago. I have our old hometown and our current hometown in my "saved locations".
I much prefer hot to cold, so while y'all sip hot cocoa and warm yourself beside the fire (or heating vent), I'll just go get another glass of ice water.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday

As I sit on the patio at Hebras Casa de Te, just outside Villa General Belgrano, I am thankful for many things. Like the gorgeous weather that allows us to sit outside (84 and sunny), the yummy peach, banana and basil smoothie I just finished drinking, the car that we drove to get here...
... and the time to just sit and relax.

You'd think relaxing is a fairly easy thing to do. But it's only today that we are beginning to relax, after being back in Argentina more than a week (and six days in Sta. Rosa).

I'm also thankful for the house here in Sta. Rosa. I'm sure when Ivan's dad and mom built it, they had no idea that some 40 years later, we'd be enjoying it as our favorite get-away spot. It's location two hours from where we live and work is ideal. And it's location in the country, four kilometers from Sta. Rosa is an added bonus. The peace and quiet of the country is broken only by the raucous cries of wild parrots who have built condos in our trees, and the occasional passing vehicle. Oh, and the bleating of sheep:
That's the view I had while hanging out clothes on the line today.

Yep, enjoying the country life, even if it means we have to drive into town every few days to find a place with wifi so we can get online.

We plan to talk to some neighbors down the road that run a small hostelería and have internet for their guests, and find out how they managed to get it where there are no phone lines. We met them while on a walk the other day, and they gave us their promotional postcard. They've cleared the land and built the place themselves, settling here after looking at various locations in Argentina. We look forward to hearing their story, and finding out how a Russian and a South African ended up in Argentina. Hopefully we'll be able to have merienda (afternoon tea) with them soon.

Anyway, all that to say that some day we hope to have internet at the house here in Sta. Rosa. It would make it easier for us to stay connected when we come out, and our many guests who use the house would also appreciate the convenience.

That's all for now. I want to get back to just relaxing on the patio here at Hebras.