Monthly Archives: December 2012

El finde

Para Kevin

Hola Kevin!

¿Que tal? ¿Todo bien en Arizona?  Espero que el año Nuevo te lleve contento, buena salud y prosperidad.

IMG_00574Creo que las experiencas en Argentina tuyas eran diferentes a las mías. En primero tú viajaste acá y estoy conociendo sólo Bariloche y los alrededores (y un poco de Chile). En segundo tú viviste en Buenos Aires lo cual es masivamente diferente de Bariloche. Por ejemplo el clima de verano en Bariloche es templado mientras que en B.A. un oso polar al zoo se murio de madrugada de la Navidad a causa del calor inaguantable. También B.A. es una cuidad bastante enorme cuyos problemas son de dimensiones iguales. Despues de llegar en Argentina sabemos de dos apagónes extensos, dos inundaciónes grandes, y un saqueo alrededor del obelisco con daños importantes cometieron para los hinchas de Boca en el día 12.12.12 (hay once jugadores en un equipo de fútbol y los fans se consideron el doceava). Bueno fueron saqueos en Bariloche también…

¿Sabes que en enero los residents y los turistas en B.A. no van tener acceso a la linea A de subte por lo menos una quincena y por un plazo que puede llegar hasta los 60 días? Los 95 coches de madera serían remplazados por 45 vagones nuevos y 25 o 30 coches usados. Nadie puede argumentar que es una mala idea. ¡Pero imagina la cuidad sin una linea de subte importante!

En B.A. hay arquitectura interesante, museos, restaurantes y otras cosas que nos gustan. Pero estamos contentos en Bariloche.

Creo que hacer este ejercicio era bueno para mi. Capaz lo hacería otra vez!

¡Hasta luego!


Hi Kevin,

How are you? How’s everything in Arizona? I hope that the new year brings you contentment, good health and prosperity.

I think that your experiences in Argentina were different than mine. First, you traveled while here and I am only getting to know Bariloche and the surrounding area (and a little bit of Chile). Second, you lived in Buenos Aires, which is vastly different from Bariloche. For example, the summer climate in Bariloche is mild whereas in B.A. a polar bear at the zoo died in the middle of Christmas night because of the unbearable heat. B.A. is also an enormous city with big city problems. Since arriving in Argentina we’ve heard about two large-scale power outages, two big floods, and Boca soccer team fans getting out of control and causing significant damage around the obelisk on 12.12.12 (there are 11 players on a soccer team and the fans consider themselves a 12th player). Okay, there was looting here, too.

Have you heard that in January residents and tourists in B.A. won’t have access to the A subway line for at least two weeks and possibly as long as two months? Ninety-five 100-year-old wooden subway cars are going to be replaced by 45 brand new cars and 25 or 30 used cars. No one can argue that it’s a bad idea. But imagine the city without an important subway line!

Buenos Aires has interesting architecture, museums, restaurants and other things that we like, but we are happy in Bariloche.

I think that this exercise was good for me. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime!

Talk to you later!

Lo que necesitamos…deshacernos de estos americanos

Matias, my teacher for the last several weeks.

Matias, my teacher for the last several weeks.

Halfway through our sabbatical, Pete and I are a little frustrated and disappointed with how much progress we’ve made learning Spanish. In my case, I had unrealistic expectations. My background in French allowed me to understand a lot relative to how much Spanish I knew. I tried to speak and realized I couldn’t say anything. And when I started to speak, I realized how confusing and confused I sounded. Two days ago I thought I did well speaking in class, and later told Pete that if I could just get the verb conjugations down I could probably have some decent conversations. Then we went to tae kwon do and I made ridiculous errors talking to Valeria. Yesterday in class I was acutely aware of how haltingly I spoke and how often I screwed up verb conjugations and tenses. It’s painful for everyone.

Because he is already conversational and can find a way to say whatever he is thinking, Pete’s language goals were to clean up his Spanish: to eliminate silly errors that have dogged him for years and to perfect his use of “por” and “para” (both mean “for” or “by”) and “ser” and “estar” (both mean “to be”). He’s at a point where the distinctions in usage are stylistic and can’t necessarily be explained by rules, which makes it difficult at times for a teacher to help him. And now it’s hard to find a teacher. He lost the first one to a ski vacation in Europe and the second to an extended visit to Buenos Aires, and others are on vacation until the new year.

Both of us wish, at times, that we weren’t living with each other. It’s too easy to come home from school and speak English for the rest of the day. At the same time, being here together with Lou has led to interactions and created opportunities that we otherwise wouldn’t have: daycare, tae kwon do, play dates.

Lou is our rock star. He’s una esponja (a sponge) and comes home using new words like “squat down” and “super scary plants” (from Ciro, who told Lou there are man-eating plants next to La Montaña). Lou speaks confidently and correctly, and he offers me gentle corrections. I think he truly likes being able to speak two different languages.

For me, the only way to advance is to spend less time using English and more time using Spanish. So from now on, this blog will be in Spanish. Thanks for understanding.



Although our luggage was overweight leaving the U.S., I think we did really well packing, especially since we have clothing for 90-100F weather in Buenos Aires, for 50F and windy in Bariloche, and for Pete’s trip to Ecuador in a couple of weeks.

DSC_0114Things I am glad to have brought along include:

  • inflatable bed for Lou
  • sharp kitchen knife and a pair of scissors
  • plug adapter for Argentina
  • unsweetened peanut butter (four jars is not enough!)
  • running shoes for sunny or rainy weather, hiking trails, sidewalks of all types, and rare visits to the gym
  • trekking shoes for Lou
  • favorite shampoo and cosmetics
  • Ibuprofen, children’s Tylenol, and bandages, because when you need them, you need them
  • Kleen Kanteen reusable water bottles—just like at home, drinking water out of the tap rather than buying it in plastic bottles is probably the easiest way to keep our carbon footprint from getting even bigger
  • my laptop…

The only thing I regret not bringing is our pepper mill. I left it behind for the renters because who can live without fresh-ground pepper? Me, now.

Necessities we could only get here were SIM cards with local phone numbers (Pete got them on a pay-as-you-go plan and added data for one peso—$0.22!—a day) and bus cards.


We wanted to do something fun outside on Christmas Day, and the closest we came was a 20- minute horseback ride through puddles during which we showed a nine-year-old horsewoman what city-slicker chicken shits we are. It’s unfortunate that you can’t see Pete’s mud-covered leather boat shoes or hear the nine-year-old yelling at me repeatedly to drive the horse better.

La Nochebuena

DSC_0092It started to feel like Christmas on Sunday morning when Lou and I and most of the rest of Bariloche decided to go to La Anonima and buy ingredients for the Nochebuena dinner. The store was packed, and after disappearing briefly, Lou was returned to me with a knowing smile by a young federal police officer still in town because of the looting last Thursday.

Now that we live in a house and have more than four plates and four glasses and one frying pan and one cooking pot, we made the easy decision to invite some people from school for Christmas Eve dinner. Pete had the brilliant idea of serving beef stew, and that’s how I found myself in line at the butcher counter ordering a kilo and a half of “bisteca de pobre” (poor man’s steak, which I can tell you is not what they call it here although it made the butcher smile).

Our two-room house is in the backyard of our landlady Nora, and she must have seen me in the kitchen Sunday afternoon chopping carrots and degristling bife for the stew because she came over to see if I needed anything. The surprise encounter combined with my meat daze turned me into a stuttering, miming fool. But Nora went back to her house and returned with an assortment of baking dishes and we used them all.

Nora made us a cake and Christmas cookies!

Nora made us a cake and Christmas cookies!

Nora is a sweetheart. Pete brought most of our luggage over before the trip to Chile and enjoyed a long conversation with her. She built the casita about a year ago to provide income in her retirement and she has outfitted it with care. Her husband is an outdoorsman nicknamed Pocho, and in addition to the guest house they have another casita with a full kitchen, parrilla (grill), and space for eating or dancing and for storing Pocho’s kayaks. One of the front windows is frosted and says “Nora y Pocho.” Nora told Pete that they used to have friends over for tango dancing in the casita, and that after 11 years of classes she’s still not that good.

"Juancito" was marinated with a dressing of orange peel, paprika, garlic and other spices

“Juancito” was marinated with a dressing of orange peel, paprika, garlic and other spices

Late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, Pocho and a couple of young guys built a fire behind the Nora y Pocho casita. The young guys are friends of the family who celebrate with them every year, and the one in charge of cooking “Juancito” is a chef. Pete stood around the fire and drank beer with them for awhile before walking away with an invitation to go fishing. (Nora and Pocho have three kids and some grandkids, but I don’t think they live in Bariloche.)

Our first guest to arrive was Ramon, the 18 year old from Chicago, who came over early to make a plum cobbler with cornmeal batter. Then Priscilla, an Outward Bound instructor from North Carolina stopped by on her way to an Argentine family gathering. Next to arrive was Alex, the recording engineer and jazz musician from Bristol, England, who came fresh from the climbing gym he visited with our teacher Matías. Lou knows Ramon and Alex from weekly cooking classes at La Montaña, and he had been counting down the hours until they arrived.

DSC_0095If we had more space we would’ve invited other people from school, like Etsuko, a Japanese woman about our age who travelled internationally as an IT consultant before going to culinary school to fulfill her personal mission of teaching foreigners how to properly cook Japanese food. Her first stop was Azerbaijan and now she’s working in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her Spanish seems pretty good to me, but she said that she learned it on the job and therefore talks like a man who works in a kitchen. I also would’ve invited Andrew and Kelsey, an attractive American couple from San Diego who are traveling in South America for a few months. Andrew is an artist and has a landscaping business where he gets to use a lot of Mexican Spanish like “troque” (that’s “truck” with a Spanish accent), and Kelsey is an engineer.

My sense is that Christmas for Argentines is above all a social event. Although some people go to Mass on Christmas Eve, religious activities and gift exchanges seem far less important than eating a big, late night meal with family and close friends. We sat down at 8:30pm to eat the stew and a quinoa salad (and the last box of mac and cheese for Lou), and at 11pm the chef brought us a generous-sized piece of Juancito, which we all tried. When Pete walked Alex and Ramon out at 12:30am, he saw a big group seated around the table in the Nora Y Pocho casita, and when I went to bed at 2am the lights were still on.

All I really want for Christmas is some sun, and I hope it comes tomorrow. December has been an unusually cold and wet month, and we are ready for SUMMER!


Copyright el diario Rio Negro

Copyright el diario Rio Negro

The cover story of yesterday’s provincial newspaper was “The awakening of a giant.” On Saturday the Copahue volcano in Neuquén province (north of Rio Negro province,  where we are) erupted and sent a column of ash and smoke nearly one kilometer into the air. The volcano is located in a minimally populated area and officials have staged military police and informed residents they need to be prepared to evacuate.

According to this web site, there are 39 active Andean volcanoes on the Argentina side of the border with Chile. “They belong to the subduction zone of the Pacific underneath the Andean (South-American) plate straddling the whole west coast of South America.”

When the Chilean volcano Puyahue erupted on June 4, 2011 (Volcán), it sent up a cloud of ash nearly seven miles high, according to Wikipedia. Residents of Bariloche had no warning, and were confused when the sky went dark around 4pm and there was thunder and lightening. Then what appeared to be dirt started to fall from above. Cars were abandoned in the middle of the street because thick ash prevented their owners from continuing to drive. And as they learned what was happening, people mobbed supermarkets trying to buy bottled water. The local airport was closed for eight months, and the ash combined with a light snowfall had a devastating effect on tourism.