Our World Traveling Pugs: A Tribute

G with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009
Geneva with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009

When we moved to Montevideo, Uruguay in March of 2009, we brought our two Pugs, Pablo and Paloma with us.

We often joke that they were the most complicated part of the move, requiring specific flight times and layovers (due to temperature restrictions for snub-nose breeds),  translated paperwork, exams, shots at very specific intervals, crate requirements, leash, water, tags… the list goes on.

For anyone who loves dogs though, this is not even a question.

Our dogs were our first babies-before-our-human-babies and although we didn’t plan on moving across the globe when we became dog owners early in our marriage, we knew the commitment that dog ownership entails, so 7 years later, the dogs were coming with us.

Transit was the easy part. Boarding the dogs in Montevideo another issue all together, but we worked through it and were reunited as soon as we had “our” house in the Pocitos neighborhood. It was wonderful to be together again and the dogs lazed in the sunshine of the courtyard and curled up together wherever they could find a comfy spot.

Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Skip ahead 18 months and we flew with the dogs again on our way to Bariloche, Argentina.

This time we knew the drill of traveling with pets and while a bit simpler, Uruguay’s pet exportation requirements were still quite detailed.  Through Buenos Aires and to Bariloche, our dogs were traveling pros.  They loved the freedom of Bariloche and our fenced in yard. Pablo specifically would explore and lay in the gorgeous grass and I’d like to think he appreciated the beautiful views, too.

When we drove from Bariloche through Chile and settled in Córdoba, Argentina.  We knew that the pugs couldn’t take a 15 day road trip with us so we had a wonderful neighbor family in Bariloche watch them. They were caretakers at a gorgeous estate and the dogs were in heaven with a loving family and property to roam.

The dogs flew one final time from Bariloche to Córdoba to meet us when we were in our house near the Cerro neighborhood, in the northwest of the Córdoba Capital.

Geneva (AKA "Punky Brewster") & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Geneva AKA “Punky Brewster” & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Córdoba was to be their final home.

Pablo had been in declining health for years. He had lower spine issues and before we even left the USA, we had consults with the University Veterinary hospital, treatments with an alternative medicine Vet (yes, he received doggy chiropractic and acupuncture) and therapy to maintain strength in his hind legs.  As he aged, his gait became more and more unstable but he could still walk. As a last-ditch effort, we even used small balloons over his hind feet like booties so he’d gain some traction on our slippery tile floors.

Shortly after our second daughter was born at the end of May 2012, Pablo stopped walking completely. He stopped eating and drinking. We took him in to receive IV fluids, but he was 12 years old and  his time was up.

On our most recent trip to Bariloche this past February 2014, we stayed at the same house where we used to live and buried Pablo’s ashes under a prominent tree that he loved to hide under 2 years earlier.

Franca & Paloma in Córdoba, Argentina. October 2014
Franca & Paloma, October 2014

We still had Paloma, the younger of the two.  A year and a half the junior of Pablo, we felt like Paloma would live forever. She was going to be the ugly old toothless Pug that lived to be 17.  While visually, she had aged a lot in recent years, she still got around like a puppy. She had a vigor that Pablo’s quiet aloofness could never match. She was the barker. She was the one wanting to ‘meet’ all the other dogs but then would roll onto her back in submission. Pablo was just too good for that, too much of a loner to care.  Paloma was a social butterfly, or so she wanted to be.

Our vision of the life our old dog was going to lead changed suddenly last week.

Paloma died in my arms as we were trying to rush her out the door to the vet. At 12-1/2 years old, we shouldn’t have been surprised, but after watching Pablo’s slow decline over the course of years, we were shocked that she passed so quickly. Paloma was fine in the morning: eating, drinking, climbing stairs; then in the afternoon: shuttering, gasping and gone. So suddenly.

We have such an emptiness in our hearts. After nearly 14 years of having dogs in in our lives, the changes in routine and in looking for the pitter pat of little doggie feet to greet you are the hardest.

Pablo and Paloma were great dogs, not perfect, but they were ours. They gave us unconditional love and we gave them a forever home, even though that home changed a few times. We miss our two babies-before-our-human-babies and will be forever grateful that they took this crazy international adventure along with us.

Besos a ustedes dos, Pablito y Palomita!!!  Los queremos y los extrañamos mucho!
Pablo and Paloma Jan 12, 2008
Pablo & Paloma, January 2008. Minneapolis, MN

 

Expat Feature: George, part 1 of 3

George in NYC
George in NYC

Is it George or Jorge? That’s the question most people have asked me since I was five years old.

I generally go by George, since it was easier for my teachers, friends and bosses to pronounce. For some reason, the J has always been a tongue twister for a lot of the folks I’ve met growing up. So I go by George.

So what makes me unique from the average American expat? Well for starters, I wasn’t born in the United States. I was born in San Juan Argentina during the militia dictatorship of the 70s. It was a terrible time in Argentine history. People were abducted from their homes and were never heard from again. My parents feared for my life so they took me to live in the United States. They did everything in their power to speed up our residency and U.S. citizenship paperwork so that I would never be forced to go back and endure the hell that the Argentine people were facing at the time.

I never knew much of anything about my life in Argentina. I was too small to remember anything. Life for me began in my hometown of Miami. My parents and I moved around quite a bit while I was growing up. I must have gone through ten different schools before I graduated high school. Oh and I did spend a year in Franklin Tennessee before we moved back to Miami. I attended college in Orlando’s Valencia Community College, where I spent ten years of my life and eventually met my future spouse. 

George, his spouse and in-laws in NYC
George, his spouse and in-laws in NYC

You could say that traveling has always been a part of me. Since meeting my partner, we’ve done quite a bit of cross-country trips. Eventually I followed my partner to New York so he could attend a college called New School. We remained in New York for four years during which time I was laid off twice. I even remember one year where we were living in a shoebox apartment infested with rats and eating boiled eggs, Jell-O and drinking tap water. New York was going to be the precipice where my writing career would take off but it didn’t.

We ultimately decided that New York was not the right fit for us so we needed an escape plan.

The only choice available to us was one that I was very reluctant to take … moving to Argentina. My parents had retired and left the States seven years earlier and were living comfortably in Cordoba, managing a series of properties. I reached out to my folks, explained what was happening, and they invited us to move to Cordoba. So why was I so reluctant? The American life was all I’ve ever known. There was no room in my mind, body or soul for any other allegiances. I wanted my life to continue in the States, with my friends and with my in-laws but I had to look towards the future. The Bronx just wasn’t cutting it and we didn’t have the resources to start over anywhere else in the States. So after a great deal of soul-searching I decided to accept my parents’ generous offer to move to Argentina.

But as I got ready for the big move, two questions haunted me. What if I can’t survive the culture shock? What if I can never find a way to return home?


 

Please look for Part 2 of George’s story featured next week! How would he transition to life in Argentina? Would it meet his expectations????

Adventures with Diabetes

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Miami Airport, August 2014.

When thinking about our lives and the interesting things that we’ve done as a family, I sometimes forget I am a person with Type 1 Diabetes. For most of the last 12 years, I have been attached to an insulin pump and testing my blood glucose a million times per day. Well, not quite a million…but a lot.

It’s strange that sometimes I can forget about Diabetes, even though I have a device tethered to my body 24/7, but I do.

I also sometimes forget that I’m living a really remarkable life:

  • Brad and I traveled to Thailand 6 weeks after my diagnosis, which included a 3-day trek in Chiang Mai.
  • We’ve trekked the Inca trail in Peru
  • Earlier this year, we took a 38-day / 3800 mile road trip across Argentina with our two young daughters (6 & 1-1/2 years old).
  • I travel internationally on a regular basis, including 13 countries (some multiple times) since diagnosis and lived in/had health insurance in 3 countries.
  • I’ve been walking approximately 21 miles per week
  • We had an accidental, unassisted homebirth with daughter #2

— and I have Type 1 Diabetes!!!

I am sure I drive my doctors insane, but I’ve got it -mostly- under control. I’m in control as much as much as any person with Diabetes can keep the pendulum-that-is-blood-glucose from swinging in one direction or the other.

These stories & details make up the fabric of my life. I guess you can call it adventurous. I guess you have to be when you have a chronic illness and you choose to move abroad anyway and deal with things as they come.

Iguazu Falls, Geneva 5 years old.
Iguazu Falls, March 2013, Geneva 6 years old.

The best thing I’ve found is to not view my body as the enemy. We’re in this together.

I use my body and exercise as my tools and sometimes, just sometimes, lose myself in my day and forget about my physical tether that is attaching me to my insulin pump. Some days, I just have to let go and be normal- figuratively speaking, of course. Diabetes doesn’t take a holiday.

Perfect Imperfections

** This is a post the I wrote back in June but for some reason never posted.  So here it is! **

A Perfect Fall Day, Córdoba, Argentina
A Perfect Fall Day, Córdoba, Argentina

As I was walking home from bringing Daughter#2 at her preschool this afternoon, a 4 km round trip through a beautiful neighborhood on a partly cloudy, crisp early fall day, I kept thinking about the term ‘perfection’. What a perfect day. What an amazing experience, walking these residential streets that I walk every day, but being truly present and aware of the beauty.

Truth be told: My music app wasn’t working so I was forced to walk without the distraction of a steady beat pumped into my ears.

I breathed deeply, walked smoothly, noticed the leaves falling in the breeze. I picked up the most perfect golden red leaf from the ground… and then noticed its imperfections. The small tear towards the bottom. The spots of brown. It wasn’t perfect at all. But what in nature really is? It is all very imperfect, but that is what makes it beautiful.

A 'perfect' leaf on my walk.
A ‘perfect’ leaf on my walk.

Of course, nature’s beauty is fleeting and as I stopped to take a photo, I must have dropped this perfect leaf and I couldn’t find it again.

Perfection and the lack thereof has been a recurring theme lately. It is something that keeps coming up in my world. Needless to say, it’s been on my mind.

One of my favorite songs on my walking playlist is John Legend’s “All of Me”.  If you don’t know it or want to listen again, you can see a version of it here (live version appropriate for all ages). “Cause all of me
Loves all of you.
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections.”

I was also thinking about a blog that I saw for the first time last night. A truly inspiring story about a woman’s weight loss journey and finding love in herself and her imperfect body. Check out the story at I’mperfect Life.

The underlying theme: Our lives are never perfect, our relationships are never perfect, no matter what they look like from the outside.

Along the same lines- A country is never perfect, either.

No matter where you are, you have to take the good with the bad and find beauty in the imperfections, the frustrations, the day to day nuances that may drive you crazy (See my list of the Pros & Cons of Argentina Part 1Part 2!) You have to decide if those imperfections are a deal-breaker for you. If you stick it out, if you make the best of whatever imperfect situation or country, it can help grow resilience, an open mind and open heart.

This is not to say that you have to accept the way things are without changing (yourself, the situation, or both). Just remember to look for the beauty among the (seemingly more obvious) imperfections of the journey.

That is all. I am off to enjoy more of this absolutely perfect day.

Lisa

Striving for Minimalism

Toddler G and all of our STUFF arriving in Montevideo Uruguay in March 2009We moved to South America 5 years ago this past March, with a 15-month-old baby, two Pugs, a collection of carry-ons plus 12 bags/boxes, a stroller, travel crib and car seat, all brought with us on the airplane.

This was after we sorted and packed/sold/gave away nearly everything we owned. All the furniture in our 2000 sq. ft house in MN; sold. Clothes; donated. No shipping container for us. No sir. We’ve pared it down to the essentials.

Our whole life was in those 12 bags/boxes. Everything from clothes and toys to a desktop computer and two flatscreen monitors.

We liked to think that we were living a minimalist lifestyle when we brought said bags/boxes to our furnished rental in Montevideo, but we weren’t. Not even close. We still had collections of clothes that we brought with us “just in case”. We sill had (and have to this day) boxes and boxes in storage in my father-in-law’s basement back in the USA. Boxes full of housewares and momentos, clothes and business paperwork. I shudder at the thought of those boxes, even though I have sorted, further purged and repacked said boxes every time we visit the USA.

Is this any better than paying for a storage unit somewhere? No.

Little F (along with Paloma the Pug) in the play area. Look at all the STUFF!
Little F in our play area. Look at all the STUFF!

We now have far too many toys and random THINGS that we’ve accumulated being in one house in Cordoba for over 3 years. Time to pare down again. We are sorting, cleaning, selling and giving away once again.

Less STUFF means less to worry about. Money saved by not purchasing extraneous things. Time saved not looking for things and not having to maintain ‘collections’ of things. More time for meaningful experiences. More time for the PEOPLE in your life.

My favorite video about STUFF is in the link below (warning: Carlin has a potty-mouth, but the message is powerful). Click if you dare: http://youtu.be/MvgN5gCuLac

Some of our favorite minimalist resources are:

Zen Habits http://zenhabits.net/ (which planted the seed in our minds, years ago)

Becoming Minimalist http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

The Minimalist Mom http://www.theminimalistmom.com/

Food and The Mother of Invention

If you asked me 5 years ago whether I thought food would be a major factor in our lives in South America, I never would have considered it. Food was food. Sure there were things I liked to eat and I knew there would be things that I wouldn’t be able to find in South America, but I am here to tell you that our cooking and eating habits have changed and matured dramatically since we left the USA in early 2009.

Poached Pears (With Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Cream Topping)
Poached Pears (With Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Cream Topping)

In Uruguay, our major adjustment was that the dinner hour doesn’t start until about 8 PM (this is true in Argentina as well, with many restaurants hitting their busiest times around 10 PM). When we visited Uruguay in early 2008 during our exploratory trip with our infant daughter, this wasn’t an issue. We brought the baby with us in a stroller and she slept while we ate. Toddlers, unfortunately are not quite as flexible. We opted to make food at home whenever possible and more often than we care to admit, we would wait for the take-out pizza place to open at 7 PM so we could get our pizza, pizzeta (crust, sauce and toppings with no cheese) and faina.

Weekly Produce for URMOVINGWHERE Family
Weekly Produce for URMOVINGWHERE Family

Luckily, wherever we have lived in South America, there has been an ample supply of fresh produce and we could find the raw ingredients to make many things. On the other hand, the furnished rentals where we’ve lived have posed a challenge with the appliances/cookware provided. I started to cook in earnest, while not buying many durable goods because we’ve been moving frequently. Necessity is the mother of invention and I learned to make all the things that we might be craving: pad thai, fried rice, mac & cheese, lasagne, and all sorts of sauces, soups and spice blends from scratch.

I’ve always loved to bake, but I started experimenting with alternative flours (there are many gluten-free alternatives here) and I’ve had great success with everything from pizza crusts to moist fruit breads and crumbly scones.

Many of my cooking challenges arise from using recipes or meal-planning sites from the USA. As we are not in the US, I do not have access to certain foods (like kale, organic anything, sweet potatoes and most packaged items) and appliances (like crockpots- not available here, or a blender- I refuse to buy one). I’ve made do with substitutions for some things and created my own modified prep and cooking methods for others.

I am going to start to include recipes and workarounds here, as a supplement to our travel blog. Food is a huge part of an experience in any country. While I sometimes like to cook North American food as a reminder of ‘home’, I use many international influences, all the while modifying recipes to fit with the foods we have readily available in central Argentina.

Hope you enjoy our international food journey. You might just find a recipe that you’d like to try as well. ¡Buen Provecho!

I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas…

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the day! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to everyone!!!

Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree & Little F With An Angel
Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree & Little F With An Angel

This is a season of strong emotion for us- as it is for many people. We have chosen not to travel back ‘home’ for Christmas and rather travel in the summer (June/July) to the US when we can enjoy the weather there and get away from the winter here in Argentina.

That does not make this time of year any easier. As we struggle to create warm-weather Christmas traditions without our extended family nearby, it doesn’t quite seem like Christmas to us. We both grew up in the upper midwest of the United States. Christmas meant cold and snow and baking Christmas cookies and navigating holiday storms/slippery roads to visit family.

Visiting Papa Noel December 2013
Visiting Papa Noel December 2013

Our Christmas in Argentina will consist of opening up a family present to each of the girls on Christmas eve, along with setting out cookies/milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Unfortunately no homemade cookies this year. 100 F heat with a broken AC is too warm to turn on the oven. We’ll be streaming Christmas music on the ipad (avoiding “I’ll be Home For Christmas”– that always makes me cry) and enjoying plenty of ice cream and many a frosty beverage in an attempt to keep cool.

Christmas morning will be chaotic, like many households with young kids. Our 6 year old and 1.5 year old will dive into their presents and we’ll take a few new pool toys out to enjoy right after breakfast. Christmas day will be no baking for us. We’ll be grilling salmon and beef tenderloin on the parilla and taking dips in the pool to cool off in between cooking.

Christmas memories will not always be like this and we are planning to enjoy a snowy white Christmas with family again very soon. Right now though, our Christmas is bittersweet. We are missing family and the Christmas experience of our childhood as we create a new ‘normal’ warm weather Christmas for our girls. Lets just hope that I don’t start bawling during all of our planned skype calls with family! :)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Argentina!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!

Pros and Cons of Argentina: Part 2 of 2

The lists of Pros and Cons for Argentina and Uruguay have been popular and we have to note that these lists are based on our experiences, you may not find the same apply to you.

Even with the following list, we love Argentina. All places have their pros and cons and we have found a spot here in Cordoba Argentina that works for our family. We liked Uruguay but were never in love with Montevideo and are MUCH happier here in Argentina.

If you haven’t read our previous lists, Check out Uruguay Pros and Cons And Argentina Pros: Part 1 of 2.  If you’ve lived in either one of these countries, what have your experiences been? Do you agree with our lists or disagree? Leave a comment to let us know.

ARGENTINA CONS:

  • Vacation Days This may be a Pro if you are a salaried Argentine employee, but for us, working on a US schedule or any Argentine hourly employee, the sheer amount of vacation days in Argentina is ridiculous. It means schools are closed, stores are closed and we have a day where we still have to work but also have to juggle childcare and pre-planning of all the shopping/services. For example this past Easter, Thursday is a marginal holiday, Friday is a national holiday and Tuesday the 2nd is also a national holidays to commemorate the Malvinas war. The Monday after easter has been added as a bridge day, creating 6 days off for many people (our daughter’s school). Good for them, bad for us on a US schedule.
  • Ferias. Oh, how I long for Uruguay’s fresh produce in a street market, set up weekly before the sun rises. The energy, the culture and the gloriously fresh produce, eggs, meat and fish. Sigh. There are ‘Ferias Francas’ here, but none in our neighborhood. We will have to search them out and make a weekly journey. Certainly not as convenient as the feria outside of our door every Sunday morning in Montevideo.
  • Governmental Stability. Hahaha. Argentina? Stable Government? You have to be kidding me. Primaries were held yesterday, legislative elections are in October and the presidential election is in 2015. So we’ll wait and see what happens.
  • Monsanto and Agribusiness. While there is a growing demand for organic fruits and vegetables here (and suppliers meeting the need), the big agro-businesses have a hold on Argentina and grow and incredible amount of GM soy and corn here. Some estimates state there are 19 million hectares of GM soy here, which represents 56 percent of the cultivated area in Argentina and that 97% is exported to Europe and Asia. 

     This is something that weighs very heavily on my mind, but the USA is no better, in this regard.

On a similar note, much of the free-range beef and other high quality food products are exported as well, leaving the lesser quality for the Argentines. You will occasionally see “Calidad de Exportación” on products – meaning “Export Quality” but it is pretty rare. This, along with tight restrictions on imported items makes it challenging to get high quality and/or non-Argentine-produced products here. 

  • Tramites. There are so many appointments to do things here and so many places where you must go in person to pay bills/get addresses changed/request a new card, etc. While there are services/payments that can be done online and some neighborhood pay stations, it is still not widespread yet and these things certainly cannot be done by mail like it can in the USA.
  • Colas. No, not a soda-pop cola. A line or a queue. You will wait in lines and you need to be patient and wait (see above for tramites). Bring a book or your knitting, you will need it. (If you have a baby with you though, you get to go to the front of the line. No kidding.)  In many places phones are banned by law so that won’t save you.
  • Siesta Still after 4 years in South America, I am not yet accustomed to the siesta. As North Americans, I like things to be open when I want them to be open. The fact that I can’t get groceries or go to the doctor in my neighborhood during the middle of the day is insane. Almost every business in our neighborhood is closed from 1:00 or 1:30 until 5 PM. The exception to this is the big box stores (Walmart/Easy/Carrefour) and the larger grocery store/pharmacy/restaurant chains. The bright side is that if somewhere IS open during siesta, you’ll have it to yourself during those hours.
  • Restaurant Hours If you want to eat dinner early, you are out of luck. This is not unique to Argentina but sometimes, we want to eat out or order delivery before 8 PM. No luck. Most restaurants open at 8 PM and most Argentines do not eat dinner until 9 or later.

So, those are a few of the pros and cons from our perspective- in no particular order. Leave a comment to let us know your experiences and what you agree or disagree with from our lists. If you live somewhere else and love it, tell us why.

Video Interview with 3/4 of the URMovingWhere Family

We were recently interviewed by Coley Hudgins for the website http:movingabroadwithchildren.com as a part of their new feature on other bloggers’ stories. Happy to say that we were the first for this honor!

Click here for the same video on the Movingabroadwithchildren site and check out the other great features/resources there. Also see the Coley’s new site with even more great info for families living abroad at http://www.theresilientfamily.com/

It was fun to be a part of their first interview!

 

Mandatory: Exploratory Trip(s)

 

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Exploratory Trip March 2008. Palacio Salvo, Montevideo, Uruguay.

When we were considering the realities of a move abroad in 2008, we traveled with daughter #1, who was 3 months old at that time to Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. If we hadn’t explored our potential move cities in advance, we probably would not have made the move abroad.

We CANNOT imagine and DO NOT recommend moving abroad, especially with children, without scoping out the location(s) in person first.

Exploratory Trip March 2008. Buenos Aires. 3-month-old Daughter #1.

It took us a year after that first exploratory trip to put our ducks in a row and plan our move to South America. We moved in March 2009. This was not a quick decision and we’d been contemplating our options for years before.

Like many of our readers, we had completed a ton of online research to even narrow the locations down to Uruguay or Argentina in the first place. Then, traveling with an infant during our scouting trip was simple (at least compared to traveling with a toddler or preschooler!) We wandered and walked for hours, checking out neighborhoods, talking to people, gathering info and heading out at all hours of the day and night. Late night South American dinners are easy-peasy with a sleeping baby at your side!

We receive so many questions about the places where we have lived and we are happy to help, but we can’t make the decision for you and you shouldn’t rely on ANYONE – let alone a stranger- to sway your decision. You need to see a place in person to really know if that location is right for you.

We recently learned of a young family who had moved to Montevideo sight unseen only to find that they hated it and left after the first week. They are now very comfortably settled in a gorgeous coastal town in Argentina. Their initial experience sounded quite traumatic and although all signs pointed to Uruguay being the perfect fit for them, it was not.

The day-to-day realities of a city could me much, much different for you based on any number of factors: ability to blend in, language skills, your cultural background, expectations, socio-economic level, etc..

Please consider a scouting trip (or two) to any foreign location you may consider living. Your scouting trip, along with all the online information and contacts that you can gather will help you form an accurate picture of a place. Don’t forgo this crucial step in the planning process.

To learn more of the specific steps in planning a scouting trip, check out this very informative post on Moving Abroad With Children.