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!!!

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.

 

 

Pros and Cons of Argentina: Part 1 of 2

After our last post about the Pros and Cons of Uruguay, we of course had to follow up with our perspective of Argentina. We were in Bariloche for 5 months and now in Cordoba for 2 years. We love it here for many reasons and want to tell you about it.

This one has been a much tougher list to write. Why do we love it here? Argentina has some very distinct problems and some of the country’s economic challenges are getting worse by the day. The Uruguay list was relatively simple. We’ve been away from it for over two years. We’ve had time to reflect and consider our lives within that context.

It’s like we can’t see the forest through the trees right now.

And, our standard disclaimer: There is no perfect place and not everyone will agree with the following, but here’s our take on Argentina.

I am addressing each point in the same order so show the switch from an Uruguay Con to an Argentina Pro for us. Hope you can follow my madness:

PROS:

  • Argentina is (Relatively) Cheap.  Where we were renting a 2 bedroom/1 bath house in Pocitos (Montevideo, Uruguay), we are now paying a little more than half to rent a 3 bedroom/3bath house with a pool in Cerro de Las Rosas (Cordoba, Argentina). Unfortunately, prices keep going up. Argentina does have 20% inflation, although they claim it is much lower. Since we are making dollars, Argentina is still much less expensive than Uruguay was for us. Kids items and electronics are still pricey (same as Uruguay) but housing, services and utilities are much less. 
  • Dry. We’re in Cordoba which is at the eastern side of the Sierras Chicas, a small range of mountains that run north-south. We have hot and slightly humid summers and dry, mild winters. It is glorious and we love the climate here. Like Uruguay, we walk everywhere so weather is a huge factor for our day-to-day comfort and we have to plan accordingly. I have never paid so much attention to the weather before we moved to South America. 
  • No Sickness! Maybe we got through all of our ‘Expat bugs’when we were in Uruguay but we haven’t had more than the sniffles here- and that is with one kid in school. We had our share of sinus infections and flu in the past and are super happy to report that in Cordoba, we have not been sick at all (Knock on wood!) 
  • Residency Process Was a Cinch. We were amazed that after a 4 hour appointment in migracion (1 hour of which across the street at a cafe, waiting for them to process paperwork) We had our temporary DNI papers in hand and were waiting the official cards in the mail. The cards came within 2-1/2 weeks and we are thrilled to now be permanent residents of Argentina. We did have a little help because of our infant daughter, who is a dual citizen because she was born here but we also know people here who are foreigners and have gotten their residency within just a few visits to migracion. MUCH faster than the 2+ years it has been taking in Uruguay. 
  • Incredibly Welcoming. We’ve met so many wonderful people here, from introductions in the park, coffee shops and school. We are invited to peoples homes for asados, birthday parties and baptisms. People are so genuine and really mean it when they offer to help. It is a wonderful community.  
  • Walkable Residential Neighborhoods: We are in the Cerro De Las Rosas area of Cordoba, about a 20 minute drive NW of the city center. The houses are more typical suburban, but still connected to create higher density. We live 4 blocks from one main shopping street, 10 blocks from another, 8 blocks from G’s school and the larger grocery stores have online ordering and delivery for what we can’t get within our neighborhood. We get lots of exercise, put many miles on our stroller and walk nearly everywhere we need to go. If we head downtown, we take the bus (Diferencial line), which is plush and airconditioned :) (Disclaimer: this is the nicest bus line and costs double what the standard busses here do- about $1 USD)
  • Easy To Get Further. We have never owned a car in South America, so we walk, take public transportation and the occasional taxi all through the city and surrounding areas. We’ve also taken busses to Carlos Paz (just over the Sierras from Cordoba) overnight busses to Buenos Aires, Mendoza and on to Santiago, Chile. We’ve also rented a car, but transportation is really easy without a car of our own- even with two kids.
  • Goods & Materials. There is a wide variety of items available here, mainly because it is a much larger market than tiny Uruguay. Clothing is not the best quality all the time, so you have to be choosy where you shop. If you know what you are looking for, stay out of the malls and shop in the center of town, there are some good deals to be had. Not quite like shopping USA good deals (for clothing especially) but it’s all relative. We’ve also found a great variety of imports, organic and specialty food items. You just have to know where to shop and maybe make a trip across town once per month or so to get them. :)  
  • Many ‘Mixed’ Families. We love the fact that there are so many expats here that have married Argentines. In fact, all of our expat friends, with the exception of a few missionary families, are Argentine/foreign mixed couples. They live here and are invested in a way that most transient expats are not. This give a great perspective on the ins and outs of the country and culture through people on the inside. In Uruguay, the expats we knew were like us – both members of the couple were from elsewhere. We really value all that we have learned through our local and expat friends throughout our journey.
  • Variety. There is a great variety of larger cities (Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba and Rosario) and a huge variety of climates/landscapes in a country as large as Argentina. From sub-tropical jungle in the northeast to semi-desert in the northwest, to mountainous ski-mecca around Bariloche and sleepy coastal beach towns on the east coast- all with the wide-open pampas inbetween. Argentina has a city and a landscape to fit nearly every preference.
  • Healthcare. I feel like I have won the healthcare lottery. I have Type 1 Diabetes, which in the past has made acquiring health coverage difficult at best. In Cordoba, we found APROSS, which is the provincial plan. Not only was I insurable through APROSS, coverage started from day 1 for both diabetes and pregnancy and also has 100% coverage of all of my Medtronic Insulin Pump supplies. The big deal: I pay $390 pesos per month for me and the baby. That’s it. So, as of posting this, it is about $48 USD per month if you’re using Argentina’s  blue rate of exchange. More about this and other countries take on healthcare at a previous post, Healthcare in the Rest of the World. Since signing with APROSS, Argentina has past a law stating that people with pre-exisiting conditions can no longer be banned from coverage by private insurers, although they can be charged more. I have such amazing care and inexpensive coverage, I wouldn’t dream of switching.

All that being said, I’m going to leave you with rainbows and sunshine and happy feelings about Argentina. Not all the case though, as we’ll address the negatives in our  next installment. Stay tuned for the dark side of Argentina, plus a few things that are just plain bothersome. :)

 

Reflecting on Argentina

I’ve been working on the Pros and Cons list of Argentina but it is proving much more difficult than the previous Uruguay list. It was stressing me out so I took a break, enjoyed a great, long Easter weekend with my family which is continuing until Wednesday April 3rd. (Today and Tuesday are also Argentine federal holidays, making this a 6 day weekend. It is on my Cons list. You’ll understand why.)

So, the Argentina Pros and Cons list is long and has been very difficult. Maybe it is that we are still too close to the situation- since we are still here. Maybe it is just that Argentina, by nature is more complex. I’ve decided to split the Pros and Cons into two lists. Even then, I don’t think my little lists will do justice to such a complex and varied country as Argentina.

At Iguazu Falls "Garganta del Diablo" March 2013

At Iguazu Falls “Garganta del Diablo” March 2013

So, here we are enjoying the variety of life in Argentina (definitely on the Pro’s list). In March, we spent one weekend at a friend’s farm near Ascochinga, one at Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border which I must write about in a future post, one weekend home (whew!) and this weekend with the XL Easter tourism weekend. Its been a busy month and made even busier contemplating, writing and re-writing the Pros and Cons of Argentina post.

It’s coming. Promise.

Healthcare In The Rest Of The World

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101778.html

A simple link. Read it.

There is so much wrong with healthcare in the United States and this article from the Washington post discusses the system in the USA compared to other countries, specifically Japan, Germany, France and Canada- although others are mentioned as well.

Here in Argentina, we have incredible healthcare at a fraction of what we paid in the USA. Our current costs are 390 pesos/month for me, the type 1 diabetic and our baby using APROSS, the provincial plan and 970 pesos/month for the other two members of our household (using MET, a private insurer and their most expensive plan). Total: 1360 pesos or $203 dollars/month at a 6.5 exchange rate.

With APROSS, there is a copay of $10 pesos, which is $1.54 dollars for my appointments (all baby appointments are without copay) and APROSS covers all of my Medtronic Insulin pump supplies with no copay. It is wonderful.

Enough said about how great the healthcare is here. Read the article:

 

By T.R. Reid — Five Myths About Health Care in the Rest of the World

New Year’s Eve in Cordoba

The lanterns New Year’s eve is different in a country where it is summer rather than winter on December 31st. Last year was our first New Year’s eve in Cordoba, after living through it in Montevideo and again in Bariloche. Bariloche was quiet, but then again, nearly every day in the country outside of Bariloche is quiet. Why should New Year’s be an exception?

Montevideo and Cordoba are decidedly NOT quiet on New Year’s eve. They are the exact opposite of quiet. They are loud, obnoxious and extremely dangerous with every single person (or so it seems) lighting off fireworks. It’s similar on Christmas eve where we had about 30 minutes of fireworks last week but we are bracing for a lot more tonight.

The thing is, it’s not just one house or one fireworks display in the distance. It is coming from all around you. We live across from a park, so much of the noise comes from there, too. Seemingly every house lights off fireworks and there are pyrotechnics pop-up shops around town for the weeks leading up to the holidays.

We tend to be on the more reserved side and want to keep up the South American traditions, but also celebrate in our own way. Last year we purchased large paper lanterns that fill with hot air after lighting a giant wick on the bottom. They float away until the wick burns up (or burns the lantern). We lit paper lanterns like this when in Thailand many years ago and it was a peaceful way to celebrate while not contributing to the noise- unless you count the medium-sized-one crying. She did NOT like to let go of the lanterns last year!

We’ll be sending off paper lanterns again this year. After releasing the lanterns, we’ll lay in the backyard to enjoy the neighborhood display and our lanterns floating away peacefully in the not-so peaceful night.

Lets just hope the huge cracks, pops and bangs throughout the neighborhood don’t wake up the baby. Who am I kidding, they will. That’s okay, it’s New Year’s Eve. :)

Happy New Year everyone! Make it a safe and beautiful celebration, wherever you may be. Wishing all your dreams come true in 2013!

What Makes Our Story Unique

Our goal for continuing this blog is to share our experiences living and traveling abroad as a family. We want to inspire people who may be considering the same and show that it is possible. You can follow your dreams and make living abroad a reality.

Although there are many other families who have lived abroad with many different circumstances, we think that our story is kind of interesting:

  • We are both from the Midwest of the USA. We are not a split-nationality marriage.
  • We’re 30-something Gen-X-ers that have started our own businesses.
  • We are in South America by choice. No job transfers, no family here.
  • We’ve lived in 3 different houses, in 3 cities in 2 countries. Lived on the coast in Uruguay, the mountains of Bariloche and the edge of the pampas, in Cordoba.
  • Hubby is a vegetarian living in the land of beef
  • I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for the last 10 years and use an insulin pump
  • We have two little girls now (started this adventure with one!)
  • Had a baby in Argentina (An unexpected home birth. We’ll get to that story :)
  • Our 5-year old that is completely bilingual.
  • We speak English at home and Spanish everywhere else.
  • Traveled with two Pugs from the USA and into Montevideo, Bariloche and Cordoba. Our oldest, Pablo, died this past June.

So, in addition to traveling with kids and pets, balancing work online with sometimes sketchy internet/electrical connections, a maze of doctors and insurance options and a rich family life, we want to continue the story and create an open dialogue for comments and questions.

Are you considering moving to a foreign country? Just in the dreaming stage? You can do it and we’re here to inspire you with our story.

 

Tren de las Sierras

Saturday October 13th we took the Tren de las Sierras for a ‘Saturday Adventure Day’ and we were pleasantly surprised by the entire day.

The train station is near-ish our house and although we’ve walked to Dinosaurio Mall (next door to the station) before, we didn’t have the time nor did we want to expend the energy before a potentially long day. A $20 peso taxi ride and we were there. The station was dated but fine, looking like a traditional train station that you may see in any small town. Tickets from the Rodriguez del Busto station, which is the start, to the final stop in Cosquin were $5.80 pesos for each adult and $3.30 for G, with the baby traveling for free. That totals about $2.50 USD total for our tickets for a 2 hour ride!

 The trains were really nice and much more modern than we were expecting but thankfully I asked ahead of time and there are NO bathrooms aboard the trains. We chose our seats (after a quick stop in the bathroom) and within a few minutes we were on our way. The route took us west out of Cordoba Capital, through the sierra mountains, along a small   river to Lago San Roque (where the town of Villa Carlos Paz is along the lake’s southwest shore). Then northwest to the town of Cosquín.

Now this is not a high speed train and it makes frequent (although fast stops) along the way. Our goal was the experience and the adventure rather than the end location. The plan included riding the train to the end of the line in Cosquin, stopping for lunch, playing at the park for a while and turning around to ride the train back again. On Saturday there are only two outbound trains and two inbound so we were sure to check on the times each way. There was one longer stop en route where there were vendors on the train platform selling bottled beverages and homemade goodies. We bought a round handmade brick-oven flatbread for $5 pesos. It was the heaviest bread ever and must have had a full kilo of flour used to make it. It was perfect.

Once in Cosquin, our plan came together perfectly. It was a sunny and slightly breezy day with warm temps and it was comfortable to be out during midday.  We had a relaxing walk where we found a cute local restaurant for lunch and stopped at an arcade afterwards for G. Then a quick stop for ice cream (yum!) and off to the park to run around a bit. After a while, it was time to walk the 3 blocks back to the Cosquin train station.

This train station was undergoing repairs and the building itself was closed. There was a ticket booth along the back of the building and port-a-potties that were thankfully well serviced. Sorry for all the bathroom commentary, but with small kids, you have to pay attention to these things!!! The train was nearly full when leaving as it was the last of the day but we got there early so we had no problem finding seats.

After a total of 4 hours on the trains looking at beautiful Argentine countryside and about 3 hours on the ground in Cosquin, we were tired, but happy for a successful and inexpensive Saturday Adventure Day in Cordoba Province.  Many more to come!

 


 

Rebirth of UR MOVING WHERE!

The decision has been made. The commitment is real. We’re back and blogging again about our lives in South America! Check out this short video about our plans:

We’re in Cordoba, Argentina and absolutely love it here. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll tell you about:

  • Renting a house as foreigners
  • Banking and exchange rates- some great tricks
  • Travel with kids
  • Location Independent lifestyle/Location Independent Parenting
  • Renting a car (or “You Better Be Able To Drive A Stick”)
  • Places to visit in and around Cordoba Capital
  • The Medical System and Health Insurance
  • Looking back at our time in Montevideo, Uruguay and Bariloche, Argentina

Thanks for following our adventures and we look forward to hearing from you!