Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sort of like Monday Meanderings, Only On Tuesday

Yesterday we went to Cordoba, with a rather long "to do" list.

It involved some shopping.

And some price comparison.

Getting lost was not on the list.

And yet we did it anyway.

You'd think that after five years we'd sorta have a better handle on where things are in the neighboring big city.

Warning: Do not, I repeat DO NOT, rely on the free map phone app from NavFree when in Argentina.

I think whoever programmed this country for NavFree is a sick, demented individual who likes to send people on wild goose chases and takes joy in their misadventures.

Thankfully we are (kinda) still laughing about the two-hour journey through parts of the city we've never been (and hope to never go again). I mean, seriously, you could drive around the perimeter of the city several times in two hours, but we couldn't get out of one puny pie-sliced portion of it?

We managed to knock off most (but not all) of the items on the "to do" list, but were absolutely done in by the time we made it home. Like practically crawling-into-the-house done in. We'd forgotten how exhausting a day in the big city can be... And that's without getting lost. I think it might be a while before I want to go back.

We were both really tempted to give up entirely on the list at about 5 p.m., but pushed on for purely selfish reasons. Because there was one item that was not optional: buy coffee beans. I will economize in a lot of areas, but coffee beans is not one of them. Waking up to a really good cup of coffee is an indulgence we have become quite accustomed to, and would rather not do without. The best beans I've found in Argentina cannot be bought in our city, but thankfully can be purchased in Cordoba. So you'd better believe we made the extra effort and drove across town again in order to buy those beans.

We've been shopping around for mattresses, for the house in Sta Rosa. To say we've experienced sticker shock would be an understatement. Prices were high before, but inflation has pushed them up to what we consider the ridiculous. We've been to three stores in Carlos Paz and to a store as well as a mattress factory in Cordoba. In the end we're buying locally. While the factory gave us a pretty good price, it wasn't that much lower than one of the stores here in town. We pay a little more here, but avoid the cost of transporting the mattresses from Cordoba, as well as the hassle (which in our opinion is worth something too).

Prices, in general, have gone up 30-50% in the past six months. I find that staggering. How does the average Argentine get by?! Even with a fairly decent exchange rate on our dollars, we're still paying more for things than we did six months ago. It's a little scary to contemplate inflation continuing at this rate.

I've mentioned my love for doing laundry before. Today I'm in my element, cranking out load after load. The only thing is, it's so windy I can't dry our shirts on the line like I usually do. I've come up with a strategy to avoid having to iron (something I hate worse than cleaning toilets), that includes popping them into the dryer for 10 minutes, putting them on hangers and then clipping the hangers on the line (prevents all those little pinch marks you typically get from the clothespins). But with the wind whipping around at over 20 mph, that strategy won't fly. Well, actually it causes the shirts to fly -- right off the line and onto the ground -- so instead I'm hanging them on the shower rod in the bathroom after their 10-minute stint in the dryer. But everything else is going on the line, and it's kinda fun to look out the kitchen window and watch things go sideways in the wind.

I'm making zapallitos rellenos for lunch, but not really following the Argentine recipe. Instead of filling them with ham, eggs, scooped out squash, onions, bread crumbs and milk, I'm doing more of a stuffed pepper-type filling with rice, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Julio and Magdalena stopped by, and this is more along the lines of what she might do as a vegetarian. They were on their way to the vegetable store to pick up supplies so one of their granddaughters could make lunch. I hear homemade french fries is on the menu. Yum!

Have you ever had tennis elbow? I did once about 15-20 years ago and now I have it again. It's been six weeks and it's not getting any better. Do you think it could be because I'm still using that arm like normal? But the pain level is getting to where I might need to re-think that strategy.

I spent a fun 20 minutes wrapping Christmas presents this morning. One of our co-workers has small children and while we were in the states I picked up a few toys to give them for Christmas. We don't do much at Christmas now that we're empty nesters AND 6000 miles from family. But I did want to make sure and have something for the little ones.

I'm also planning to pull out the Christmas tree and all the trimmings and take them to Sta Rosa this year. The men are having a retreat there in early December and I thought it would be fun to decorate beforehand so they could enjoy it. And it will be nice to have it all decorated when we go out later that month for a few days. In spite of not doing much in the way of gifts, I do love to decorate for the holidays!

Lunch is almost ready, and the final load is ready to hang on the line. So this meandering must come to an end.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Morning

I've been up for a while, which means breakfast dishes are done, lunch is in the crockpot, and I'm ready for church...

So I decided to take a few moments and write a short update.

I've been a bad, bad Project 365er. I have taken only one photo all week :( I keep remembering after the fact that I should have taken a photo while someone was here, or we were somewhere, or something was happening...

I'm too much "in the moment" as we are welcomed back by this friend or that friend, and I simply don't think about taking out my camera to document the moment.

Es lo que hay.

I've been saying that a lot this week. Yep, back in Argentina, land of the trĂ¡mites infinitos (not sure that's a proper Spanish saying, but it expresses the sentiment exactly). I will not bore you with the details but simply say it made me want to pull my hair out. Good thing I'd just gotten a haircut, so there wasn't much to yank on.

I'd also forgotten how long everything takes. I'm like a horse somebody reined in suddenly. Whoa! Slow down girl! 

And yet, as long as it takes to get things done, the days seem to be flying by. How do you explain that?

I am enjoying doing laundry and hanging it on the line again. It's so hot and arid that a load is dry long before the next load is ready to hang out (remember, it takes my washer 2 hours to do a load).

We rarely had time for long, leisurely visits with people in the states, unless we were staying with someone. Here it is a given. It's nice to kick back and not have to watch the clock but just enjoy the coffee and conversation.

I should not be surprised at how it takes me a while to shift from one culture to another. I should be used to this by now, shouldn't I? I guess I thought it would get easier and happen faster the more we go back and forth. Although this was only our second furlough, it was our fourth visit to the U.S. since moving here (we also went up for Tina's wedding, and then for dad's funeral).

There are things about both cultures that I like and dislike. Just so we're clear: It's not that the things I dislike are wrong, it's more an issue of a personal preference.

So here I sit with the time to type a blog post on a Sunday morning, because my speedy, efficient American self has already taken care of the things that needed to be done. But I look forward to a time of greeting each person at church with a kiss and the chance to leisurely catch up on their week. The best of two worlds.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Week In

I have to admit our time in the U.S. feels a bit like it was just a dream. It went by so fast! And now that we're home and getting into the routine of life in Argentina again, it all seems rather surreal.

Not sure if I mentioned on the blog that kids tried breaking into our place a couple months ago until the neighbor chased them off. They managed to really tear up the screen and break the kitchen window, but a friend had the window repaired by the time we returned (Ivan dropped off the screen last Thursday and we're still waiting on it).

Other than that the casita was intact, but very dirty. I immediately swept the main traffic areas so we wouldn't track too much dirt around, but waited until the next day to do a thorough cleaning... since we arrived about 7 p.m. on Wednesday, tired from a 30 hour trip that took us from Middlebury, Indiana, all the way to our humble abode in Carlos Paz, Argentina.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that almost a week later, I still haven't put everything away and it might be another couple days before we are completely organized. In my defense, we have been rather busy. Here are a few of the things we've been up to since getting back:
~ took our friends Julio and Magdalena into Cordoba on Friday, for a doctor's appointment and other errands
~ Ivan had the windshield in the car replaced (there was another big crack in it when we got back), made sure we were all caught up on tramites, took our car for it's annual inspection and accompanying sticker that allows us to buy gas, and today is in Cordoba doing some shopping and getting our tickets for next year.
~ I've been cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, doing laundry, taking care of emails, doing laundry...
You get the idea I've had a little laundry to do? Well, that's because I put dust covers over most of the furniture in the casita while we were gone. Which by the way, was the best idea I've ever had! It cut down on cleaning time considerably -- BUT, it did mean I had to wash all those dusty dust covers (very appropriately named). And since my washer takes about 2 hours to do a load, it took me the better part of two days to get them all done.
~ Have had various friends stop by to welcome us back! That's been the fun part :)

It doesn't look like much when I get it down in print, but honestly, we've been on the go pretty much from the time we landed.

And last night after Ivan took Charlie home and I washed up the supper dishes, we just both sort of collapsed, like someone suddenly let the air out of our balloons. I've been fighting a head cold since last Tuesday, and not sleeping very well at night because of congestion and coughing, so I think it just all caught up with me, and I was done. I put my pajamas on and was in bed by 9 p.m.

This morning we got some shopping done locally. There's a place that sells mostly to other stores, but the public can shop there too and it's a little cheaper. That's where I get things like butter, lunchmeat, cheese, oatmeal... And I hit up my favorite vegetable stand, which doesn't have much variety at this point since it's early Spring. I bought very little at the local grocery store because they didn't have a lot of the things on my list, but Ivan was going to stop at Walmart while he's in Cordoba this afternoon and he should be able to pick up the remaining items there. It's not like starting completely from scratch, but there are a lot of things we have to stock back up on after being gone over four months.

Our yard is a sad sight. Brown and yellow crunchy dried grass is all that's left of our lawn, and almost all the plants died too. We did get some rain Friday and a little bit yesterday, but we need a LOT more! The lake, which we drove past this morning, is really low again. Not quite as low as it got in 2009/10 but still pretty low.

Once we get a little more settled I hope to get back to blogging on a more regular basis. Our neighbor's internet has worked at least a part of every day since we got back! If that continues, I should have no problems posting more often, but not sure if we can count on that continuing to be the case. Vamos a ver.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Furlough 2013

Today's our last full day in the states, and I decided to create a little photo collage of our time here:
Obviously this barely scratches the surface, because we were able to see a lot of people and go a lot of places over the past four months, but as far as collages go, it's a fair representation of furlough, I would say.

We get asked a lot if we're ready to go back. Yes, yes we are. But at the same time it's always hard to say goodbye. And it's going to be especially hard, knowing I won't be here for the birth of our first grandchild.

But it's not quite as difficult because we'll be coming back for a short furlough next April. By that time Simon should be 3-4 months old, smiling and cooing a lot, and we should have a lot of fun interacting with him.

So we leave with mixed feelings. An eagerness to get back home, and an eagerness to come back next year.

It's called anticipation.