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Finding an Apt

Our first trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina
to locate an apartment and figure things out!

Sunday July 2nd - I feel like I’m going through menopause, I’m so excited about our move, but then I’m nervous, then I’m thrilled, then I start to sweat, then I feel like this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, then I feel like I’m going to throw up!  Wow!

My cuzin Tom and Carmen's House Warming Party

Wednesday July 12th - We were frantically getting things ready for our trip to Michigan, when brrrring, Peggy from #1 calls and says “Did you remember the home owners meeting we were having tonight?”  Of course I DIDN’T remember!  Ugh! We had promised Elis, who takes care of our cats when we’re away, that we were taking her out for a nice dinner that night.  We decided to postpone the homeowners meeting an hour and a half and had a wonderful dinner with Elis, but had to rush to get back to the house for the meeting.  We had a great meeting with the current board members, I’m going to miss the close knit community feeling of our 10 unit association, Ron has been the board president for the last 10 years and we want to make an orderly transition to a new president.  Ron agreed to hand over the scepter, throne and crown!  Hah!  We stayed up late packing and got a whole 4 hours of sleep.

Thursday July 13th - We arrive in Michigan and we wait 45 minutes for our luggage, "must be all the new construction I say to Ron".  Getting the rental car takes another hour, "hmmmm, must be all the new construction I say to Ron".  Finally get to the Westin in Southfield, Mom and Bob are there to greet us. Ron and I have dinner with my college friends Jill and Dean, great to see them, have some laughs, reminisce and have a few drinks.  Mention how long it took to get our luggage and Jill says, “you must have flown North West”, of course she’s right.

Friday July 14th - I wanted to drive by the house I grew up at 22278 Prosper in Southfield. The road we used to walk along to get to the school bus seems shorter, the houses seem smaller, but it's very green and the neighborhood still seems in good shape.  Somehow, they black topped the road!  Our old house looks very good, the new owner has made some changes but it looks well tended.  We drive by the Berkley house, Bob wasn't in so we walked into the back yard, the grass smells good.  People in Michigan don't realize that those from California rarely have grass, the smell of cut grass is still one of my favorite smells.  We drive by my old high school, still looks in good shape. Ron keeps asking about White Castles so we stop by and buy 6 each, boy those things are good.  We're a little late to Mary's so we're eating them in the car, I start to groan at 4 but can't help myself, I have one more.  Luckily I can stop myself and save one for Mom and Phyllis.  We get to Mary's house, it's very nice and Mary has lots of chatskies and family photos decorating her house.  Mom and Phyllis each have one White Castle when Mary arrives and says "where's mine?". Oops!  We drive to Joey's new house, wow, it's beautiful and lots of room for his family.  I finally meet my goddaughter Paige, what great kids.  We drive up to Cadillac and hit a good Michigan rain storm, we can barely see.  Once at the Days Inn hotel relatives start coming out of the woodwork, this is GREAT!

Saturday July 15th - The reunion starts at 11am, hugs, welcomes and good wishes are everywhere. I'm sooooo glad I came for this. Uncle Peter, Phyllis and I perform act II of the "Good Doctor" as our skit.  We eat good food, play some volleyball, have some drinks and try and get caught up on everyone's lives.

Sunday July 16th - Breakfast is at the Clark's house.  Uncle Chet is making pancakes and boy are they good!  Make our final goodbyes and then Ron and I split from the rest of the crowd.  I have never been to Mackinaw Island and want to see it.  We take the ferry over to the island and have a great afternoon, it was worth the trip, but how many fudge stores can survive on that little island?

Monday July 17th - We fly back to California and greet the cats.  They know something is up, what with all the packing and moving boxes.

Tuesay July 18th - Today we are getting the laptop ready to take with us on our month long discovery trip.  We also need to pack and get my contact list printed out for when we get there.  I’ve been collecting names of contacts to find an apartment.  I know we won’t get everything done, but I think it’ll be a relief to get on the plane and realize that we can’t do anything else about it till we return in a month.  See you all on Sept 10th for our Life Part Deux Tango Party at the “Faz” restaurant in Sunnyvale.

Wednesday July 19th - Date of our flight to Buenos Aires - We getup at 7am, we've had a good 5 hours of sleep.  We rush to get last minute details done, the taxi shows up on time at 8:45am, we're off to the train station.  We hope we have everything as we say goodbye to the cats.  On the train we sigh with relief, even if we forgot something, it's too late to go back. The shuttle meets us at the train station in Millbrae and takes us to the airport; I’m glad we're avoiding all of the construction.  The United terminal is PACKED, thank god we're flying American and we walk right up to the desk, then I think "where are all of THEIR customers?”, no matter, we walk right up and check in.  First a 4.5 hour flight to Miami, then we just barely get on our connecting flight, hope the luggage made it.  The plane is a new 767, neat video screens in the back of everyone's chair gives you customized viewing options, but the remote control is in the arm rest, bad design, Ron keeps leaning on mine and changing the channel during my movie! We try and sleep on the plane, there's actually quite a bit of room, but it's impossible to have a good sleep on an airplane.

Thursday July 20th - We arrive at the Buenos Aires airport, a taxi driver spots us immediately as we head out and offers us a ride, Ron needs to stop in the bathroom and the taxi driver and I try to speak to each other, me using my poor Spanish, him using his poor English.  We actually communicate quite well, he compliments me on my Spanish (who's he kidding) and says it's very cold and hopes we have jackets.  We pull them out and we head into town at 9am during rush hour traffic, the highway is packed.  We get to the hotel around 9:30am and luckily they let us check in. Mom got us a room at the Sheraton Libertador and it's VERY nice, thank god everyone at the check in desk can speak English.  We immediately take a nap just as the hotel manager calls us and makes sure everything is to our liking. We stroll around town and then find a restaurant called Fridays at 8pm, NO ONE is in the restaurant.  This isn't the chain "Fridays" but a very nice restaurant, I have Bife de Lomo, the wonderful, cheap, Argentine filet mignon, and it’s fantastic!  Ron tries Bife de Lomo cooked with some sauce, which is good, but not as good as the filet by itself.  We leave at 9:30pm and one other couple has come in for dinner.  Argentines usually don't go out to dinner until 9 or 9:30pm. This is going to take some getting used to.  We go back to our hotels bar and have a nice after dinner cognac, how civilized, how wonderful life is!

Friday July 21st - We get a very good nights sleep, probably our first since before going to the family reunion in Michigan on July 13th.  Since the 12th we've been staying up late getting things ready to go and getting very little sleep, then the reunion we were up late seeing everyone, then the rush to get ready to go to Buenos Aires.  Now we're here!  We call one of my contacts to locate an apartment and Elaina wants to take us out that afternoon, fantastic!  Her co-worker, Fernando, takes us to see an apartment and it's pretty dismal, the next slightly better, then the 3rd neither Ron or I can remember to save our lives, the 4th, WOW!  You wouldn't believe this place, it's HUGE, with 9-foot ceilings, wood paneling in every room, great antique Victorian furniture.  We are blown away; it's AWESOME, but also quite expensive!  Ron quickly says the relatives will never leave if we rent this place and they see it (in jest of course), but it does seem too big for 2 people and the guests we hope to constantly have!  Still, it's beautiful and we realize that we can afford a VERY cool apartment in Buenos Aires.  The last apartment has been rented, so we head home and setup a time to meet again on Monday to see more apartments.  We ask the hotel for a recommendation and they send us to "La Chachara" a very nice parilla restaurant.  We get there at 9pm and at least we're not the only ones in the restaurant.  The restaurant has lots of animal trophies everywhere, very cool atmosphere.  We go back to the hotel bar for a drink and meet Shiela.  Ask us about Shiela sometime!

Saturday July 22nd - We head off to walk through some neighborhoods; we want to be sure we're looking in the right place for an apartment.  It's a VERY cold day and the wind seems to go through our jackets, I keep thinking I should buy a sweater but never do.  We stop outside the Recoleta cemetery where Eva Peron is buried and have a beer.  Looking around I see lots of fur coats, very politically incorrect in California, but here they are still the fashion of elegance, knowing this I can appreciate the beauty of the coats and the woman wearing them.  Leaving the restaurant we find it's getting even colder.  We walk some more and take the subway home. This night’s recommendation takes us to an Italian restaurant (at 9pm of course) and we have a very good meal. We head for the bar and the usual bartender isn't there.  We decide to have an Irish and Keoke coffees, we explain the ingredients to the bartender who can barely speak English but smiles constantly, he shakes his head but sets off to make them, he thinks we're crazy.

Sunday July 23rd - San Telmo is our destination today, they have an open-air market every Sunday with public Tango dancing.  Lots and lots of antiques, if we were already living here I would have bought several things.  They have a dance area where anyone can dance to the Tango if the mood hits them, an old couple dances and everyone applauds, they were pretty good!  We have a light lunch of empanadas and beer then walk home, a VERY long walk but at least it wasn't as cold as yesterday. Dinner is uneventful.  The bartender in our hotel is relieved when we order a brandy and a Manhattan instead of the complicated coffee drinks. We play dominos on the bar and Ron kills me.


Monday July 24th Ron’s Birthday!  Took me the whole day to remember it, ooops!  Met again with Fernando to look at more apartments, first we checked out a few hotels for the next 3 weeks of our stay, one was pretty bad, 2 were pretty good, still the price is a little expensive and we hope to contact someone else about a short term rental.  We have a few minutes before meeting Fernando so we stop for a bite to eat. We order what we thought was a sandwich and get some ham and cheese between 2 crackers for $3.30.  Hmmmm, really have to learn the language!  We order 2 cafés and get some nice cookies to go with them.  Fernando takes us to 5 apartments, only one is worth considering, the others were either too noisy or too small.  We ask Fernando if we can go out tomorrow to look at more and also take another look at the awesome apartment we saw the first day.  Ron and I stop on the way home in a nice cafe for a beer and all they have is Budweiser in the bottle, we decline and move on.  Good thing, we found a great café right on the main drag called “Nueve de Julio” where things are usually expensive, we ordered our “chopp” beers and received a platter of meat balls, cheese, ham, chicken wings, olives, peanuts, crackers, potato chips, little ham sandwich and some kind of pounded and breaded meat.  All this with the beers for $7.00.  Must have been happy hour!  We note the time and know we’ll be back.  We stroll the streets looking for a good place for dinner and decide on a place called Tancat on Paraguay 645, very good and worth going back to.

Tuesday July 25thSince the time is running out on the Sheraton hotel, we look for a temporary apartment in The Buenos Aires Herald newspaper.  We leave a message with a company and Olga calls us back immediately, she sounds very nice with a great sense of humor.  We schedule time to go out looking at short and long term apartments the next morning.  We ask the front desk for a dinner recommendation and they send us to “La Lilas” in Puerta Madera.  Puerta Madera was a run down warehouse section near the waterfront, they have since gone and refurbished the buildings and now they are trendy shops and restaurants. “La Lilas” is a beef grill restaurant that is filled with business people, Norte Americanos are everywhere and you hear English spoken at every other table.  The serving staff is extremely efficient and dinner is fantastic, the beef here in Argentina is the best you’ll ever taste.

Wednesday July 26thThe first place that Olga shows is VERY nice, however, there’s always something negative about every apartment.  This one is large with great architectural detail and a large balcony, but it’s only on the 2nd floor of a busy street and it’s pretty noisy, it is one we are keeping open as an option.  We look at a few other apartments which are just so-so.  We look at a temporary apartment which seems great, small, but lots of light and in our budget of $60 a night.  We walk around town and decide for a light dinner of a small pizza and beer.  I was hoping the pizza would be small but it turns out to be a pretty good size and we end up feeling stuft.  We have one last brandy and Manhattan at the hotel bar, we’re going to miss this place.

Thursday July 27thWe met with Olga at 9:30 am to see an apartment that is registered with the city as a historical landmark, very impressive architecture and rooms, but it’s also on a busy street.  After living on such a quiet street like Sierra Vista in Mountain View for the last 10 years it’s hard to hear constant traffic, and this is the winter where the windows are closed, in the summer it will be worse.  We realize we want to live in the city and there’s bound to be noise, but the drone of constant traffic is hard to deal with.  We have seen a few quiet apartments and one is actually quite nice, but a little run down and the bathrooms need repair.  I think it’s currently one of our top choices because of the view, being quiet and also having lots of light.  We head over to sign the papers for the temporary apartment, it is a very formal legal agreement with an inventory of items in the apartment.  The owner shows us how to turn on and off the apartment heater and then gets to the water heater and says “oh, that NEVER needs relighting” (insert omen here) and doesn’t show us how to relight it.  Then it comes time to pay and the only way is with cash.  We’re a little surprised because we’re talking about $1,500 dollars here for 3 weeks plus security deposit, we explain the situation and it’s becoming clearer that we may have some problems dealing with large dollar amounts.  Olga is a U.S.A. resident and now lives in Buenos Aires, she starts explaining how the banks work.  Seems you can’t get a checking account if you’re a foreigner without a residence visa and you can only get a 3 month savings account because that is the length of a tourist visa (which is what we plan on using while living here).  To cash a check at a bank can cost you a 10% service charge, outrageous!  We checked out of the Sheraton and move into our new temporary apartment!  We meet with the other realtor, Fernando, to look at a few apartments; one is very quiet with 2 balconies but very boring architecturally and the rooms are too small, one is nice but has no balcony and seems kind of closed in, one is perfect in design and architecture, but right on a busy road, sigh…  the search continues.  On the way home we stop for incidentals for the apartment, some toilet paper, milk, cereal, then I spot some nice cheese and the wine!  We get some snacks to christen the new apartment!  We go out for dinner and find a sushi restaurant, I’m surprised there are not more Asians here, maybe it is hard for them to immigrate here.  We have seen very few Chinese, Japanese or African Americans.  Since I found a Japanese restaurant, at least I know I can survive here, now I need to find a good Chinese joint with pot stickers and Chinese Chicken Salad.

 

                We christen the apartment

                                                                                            View outside our bedroom
                                                                                              window of Av Libertador

Friday July 28thWe discover the hot water faucet in the bathroom doesn’t work, Ron tries to get it working by indiscriminately turning knobs in the kitchen.  Of course in doing this he turns off the gas to the water heater and it goes out, the one that the owner says NEVER goes out!  We try and figure out how to relight it as the instructions are clearly written on the front of the water heater, in Spanish of course.  Ron indiscriminately starts turning knobs and trying to light the thing, I worry about us blowing up our first apartment and try and decipher the Spanish on the front of the heater, it’s only 2 sentences for heavens sake, it can’t be that hard to relight the pilot. Somehow we get it working without blowing ourselves up.  Ron takes a load of laundry to the cleaners and it’s only $5 for a lot of laundry, not bad!  We still can’t get the Internet access working from our apartment, they have the phone setup to use a calling card to call out.  I go to the local telephonica store to use the internet access, it’s 10 cents a minute, I use up $12.50 checking email, checking my bank account to be sure I can draw more money out, transferring some money into my checking account, emailing some relocation companies, etc.  It may sound nerdy, but I enjoy sitting at the computer for 125 minutes, makes me feel like I’m in control of my world for a little while.  Ron wants to go see “The Patriot” and there’s this great mall right in our block called “Patio Bullrich”, very trendy and expensive. We go into the movie theatre and it’s very nice, but you can’t take drinks into the theatre, I guess it keeps the place clean but a movie without popcorn and Pepsi?  It’ll take some getting used to, maybe this is just because it’s in a trendy mall; at least no one smokes in the theatre.  It’s a little late when we go for dinner and it’s cold outside, we go around the corner and there’s a nice restaurant right there!  How convenient!  We have a nice dinner of beef de lomo, just can’t get enough of the beef here.

Saturday July 29th – I tell Ron about using the internet access down the block and he wants to send some email messages, I leave him at the computer store and go back to the apartment to read, Ron comes back in a little while frustrated because all of the menus on the computer are in Spanish and he couldn’t figure out how to start up “Notepad” so that he could cut and paste his letters into Hotmail. We go to pick up the laundry and it turns out that Ron received 2 tickets, one for $5 and one for $6.50 so the total is $11.50, oops, not as cheap as we thought but still a good deal. It’s another cold night so we decide to try dinner at the café on the corner, turns out to be very good and inexpensive and the waiter can’t speak a word of English but is very nice and helpful. I order raviolis but there is some choice I need to make, the waiter repeats the choices a couple times and seeing that I’m not understanding, says something, and then “es mas bueno”, I give the guy a good tip when we leave.  They do a lot of take-out business here or maybe it’s just the cold weather, we see a delivery girl take out about 8 orders in the time it takes us to have dinner.  I ask for a take-out container for my dinner, this is the second time I’ve asked for a take-out and it seems to be OK, I don’t get any dirty looks.

Sunday July 30th I seem to have caught a cold so we sleep in late and spend the day inside reading and figuring out how we’re going to get visas.  I write down several addresses of the U.S.A. Embassy and also the chamber of commerce, I’m hoping they can help with getting a work visa.  I go with Ron to the computer store and help him send his email messages, I tell him that all the icons are in the same place as when they’re in English but Ron has to read every word and try and decipher it, it’s driving me crazy so I push him aside to get the job done.  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes longer and you have to have lots of patience!  We finally get a phone card for the apartment but I can’t get AOL or CompuServe to work using the 100 digits you have to press before getting a dial tone.  We meet an Australian guy at the telephone/computer store and I ask him how he got setup with an Internet Service Provider (ISP).  Just like at home, he said that the local ISPs will hand out CDs with their connection software on it, I plan on checking out the malls to find a local company to try, it can’t be this hard to get online.  I read that Argentina has the 3rd highest internet connections per capita in the world, but you’d never guess it with how weird the phones are here.  The Australian guy is very friendly and gives us his phone number if we need anything, sometimes people surprise you with their good intentions.  He met an Argentine woman and is planning on staying in the country for a few years, I hope to be able to call him and invite him and his girlfriend over for dinner in our new apartment when we get it.  We head out for a place for dinner, although it’s Sunday night most places are still open, we go up our side street “Monte Video”, to a main boulevard “Av Sante Fe”, there doesn’t seem to be any restaurants though, just lots of stores so we head down another main boulevard, “Av. Callao” to our hotel and find a nice restaurant, it’s 9:30 pm and the restaurant is just starting to fill up.

Monday July 31st –  We call Olga to see more apartments, she is still trying to line up some places to look at so we decide to meet tomorrow.  The owner of our apartment shows up and we give her the balance of the money we owe her, she brings over a cleaning lady so we decide to go out and do some grocery shopping.  The owner is a very nice lady and she reminds me of someone, but I can’t figure out who, it’s driving me crazy.  She speaks a little English and says that her son lives in the same building and can help us get on the Internet, that will be a big relief.  With everyday being filled with so many unknowns, and our lack of Spanish being a major frustration in being able to communicate, it’s nice to have something you know how to do to make you feel comfortable and in control.  We found a large supermarket to do our shopping, there is a smaller market by our apartment but the choices are limited and the prices seem high.  In the large supermarket it seems more “American”, not much character but lots of choices and cheap prices.  Our apartment doesn’t have a coffee maker so we decide to buy a cheapie drip coffee pot.  Coffee is only $3.25 a pound here, no wonder they drink so much coffee.  We also want to pick up some whiskey and brandy for the apartment and the cognac was $3.95 a bottle.  I’m cheap, but that seems like asking for trouble, we get some cognac that costs $9.29 a bottle and some whiskey for $9.89.  Chocolate seems inexpensive also, but walking around downtown there are some specialty chocolate stores that have VERY expensive chocolates.  Maybe I could import Sees candy and open up a chocolate shop?  I was reading in one of my books that if you are invited to someone’s house, you would bring the host some nice chocolates or flowers, never wine.  The wine here is too inexpensive and it would be kind of like bringing a roll of paper towels with you and presenting it to the host, they wouldn’t be sure why you did it.  There is an expensive, trendy mall by the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, go figure.  We have dinner there and it’s OK, nothing great.  We both try fish, my trout is tasty but smoked, Ron’s salmon was a little dry and oily, but cheaper then the trout, hmmmmm.  We really have to learn the language so we can understand the menu descriptions better.  Buenos Aires is right by the ocean, I’m not sure why seafood isn’t a larger part of their culinary culture.

Tuesday Aug 1stOlga shows us an apartment on the 23rd floor on Parana’ Street, WOW!  I love it, the views are incredible!  I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor in Green Acres, “I just adore a penthouse view…”  Next we go to an apartment on the 2nd floor, but it is in the back of the building so it is quiet, with a nice patio.  Nice, but nothing that makes you say WOW!  Next we walk for a good 12 blocks, Ron and I love to walk but Olga is a very refined woman in heels, I worry about the long walk for her, we arrive 10 minutes early so we decide to have a café and a little sweet postre (since we walked so far, we justify the calories).  Something I love about Argentina is the way they make a simple coffee and sweet cake into a presentation, we leave refreshed.  The apartment is on the 13th floor (funny, there was no 12th floor, but a 13th), it is very large with a great view and the kitchen is so bright you need sunglasses. There is a nice balcony off the formal dining room, the apartment seems too big for the 2 of us.  We agree to meet later in the day and Ron and I have a beer (called “Chopp”, not sure why) and it comes with peanuts, crackers, potato chips, cheese and ham, what a nice break.  We go back to the room and wait to hear from Olga.  Later we see another apartment, just OK, then an apartment on a very busy boulevard called “Av Cordoba”.  It is on the top floor and has a huge wrap around deck and one of the decks is about 6 feet x 40 feet and it’s GRASS!  Incredible, but it’s right on a busy road that never is quiet.  The place is HUGE and the kitchen is unbelievable, but the noise level makes it not worth considering, UNLESS…..  Because of the noise, it is very reasonable, what a shame, such a view and such a place, but the noise….  Next we go to something that you only see in a movie, it looks like an Ambassador should live there, the building is on the city’s historical list, the elevator is original from Paris, formal marble entry way, lots of guilded trim around doors, big heavy inlaid doors, marble fireplace, creaky floors, a great area for the computers, but very expensive.  Olga just wanted to show us what a few more dollars would mean in regards to the apartment.  Then we take a taxi to Palermo which is a little bit out of the city center, it’s not very far, but the neighborhood seems more suburban and relaxed, not the frantic hustle and bustle of the city center.  This is another WOW place, it is on the 2nd floor so it has a huge backyard area which is for the private use of the apartment which wraps around 3 sides and has large potted trees in it, along the side is a large family sun room which is all encased in glass with retractable shutters, on the other side of the sun room is another large patio area with a built in barbeque. Since it is a 7 minute taxi ride from the other central neighborhood we were looking at, it is about the same price, a little more, but not much.  Ron LOVES it, lots of outdoor space and ample indoor space.  The cats would love the backyard.  I want to check out the neighborhood more, so we walk home, stop to have another “Chopp” beer and talk about all seven of the apartments we saw. We’re pretty tired.  Olga had called the owner to try and help us get on the internet in the apartment, the owner put some kind of phone calling service on the phone to be able to control expenses when people rent the apartment, and it’s making it very difficult to get online in our room.  Her son, Javiar, comes down in an Argentine minute (about 45 minutes later) and tries to help us, we discover through several phone calls to ISP providers that it appears impossible to connect to the internet with the service that she put on the phone, sigh….

Wednesday Aug 2ndWe decide to walk down Florida street to see if we can figure out the ISP from our apartment, one last try.  We try several stores but no one speaks English well enough to communicate our predicament.  We tell them we need to use a phone card to call out, and they all say it can’t be done, I don’t like hearing “it can’t be done”, anything is possible!  We stop in a Citibank to see if we can open an account to make local withdrawals and deposits easier.  A very attractive teller is having a hard time understanding us so she goes to get someone else who can speak English better.  It appears we need a DGI card, which is like a social security number in order to have a bank account.  She doesn’t have the exact address of the government office where you get a DGI card, although I try and clarify names, addresses and forms that are required, she sends us on our way with some vague instructions. Even though she speaks excellent English it appears they want to get rid of us because it’s too difficult to communicate.  We can’t find the DGI office, so decide to go visit the neighborhood with the apartment with the large backyard.  We take the “Subte” or subway which they have been restoring after falling into disrepair and being dangerous for pick pockets.  It is now cheap (60 cents), efficient, safe and clean and they have restored some beautiful tile murals in some of the subte stations, I’ll have to take some pictures for the web pages.  Some of the restored subway trains are very old with great old lights inside and wooden floors, very cool.  It is said to be the oldest subway in South America.  We get to the apartment and Ron likes the neighborhood, I still feel it’s too suburban and not enough action.  We call Olga and she tells us about a person she talked to at Citibank so we take a taxi there.  First I need a little lunch so we stop at a café, we order a “hamburguesa completo” and get a hamburger patty on pita bread, with white cheese and a fried egg on top, very good but wasn’t sure if I should pick it up and eat it or eat it with knife and fork.  I look around to see how others are eating and no one has a hamburguesa, I cut it in half and pick it up and see if anyone looks with horrified stares.  We go to the bank and the nice person Olga talked too doesn’t understand much English. We sign MANY papers and I hope we’re signing up for the right kind of account!  She asks if we want the account in pesos or dollars, we decide on dollars, but that means we can’t deposit pesos into the account and we can’t fund the account with a check because tourists can’t have a checking account, ugh!  Afterwards, we go to the post office so that Ron can send a transfer check from one account, to one that we can draw money on.  We walk through San Martin park and they are having a changing of some guards in front of a monument, very impressive uniforms and the soldiers walk with kind of a goose step, looks uncomfortable.  We’ll have to bring the camera next time to get a shot.  We stop for another Chopp to talk about our financial status, the apartments we’ve seen and the state of our situation.  We go home and work it out on the computer, we can only draw out so much money a day from the ATM, and we need to come up with 3 months rent, plus 2 months rent as a deposit, plus the commission for finding the apartment, all in all a sizeable amount of cash.  We figure out how much it’s going to cost, how much liquid money we have at home, how long it will take to draw it out, etc.  Looks like things are going to be tight.  We stop by the internet store so we can check our bank accounts and I want to update the web pages, I figure out my floppy doesn’t work only after deleting all of our web pages so now the site is broken. I go to dinner in a bad mood but we find a nice restaurant and all is restored with the world! 

Thursday Aug 3rdWe meet with Fernando to look at an apartment on Av Posadas on the 11th floor that we previously had seen and liked the view.  Four of the rooms have floor to ceiling windows with sliding glass doors that open to a very narrow balcony and a nice view of the river.  It has an entrance on the 3rd floor to a nice hotel and elegant shops, kind of like having your own mall.  The apartment is affordable and we consider it.  I go to draw money out of the ATM so that we can deposit it in our new CitiBank accounts, I seem to be able to only draw out $300 in US dollars, but $400 in pesos.  Doesn’t make sense to me since their Peso is pegged to our dollar.  We look for a place for dinner and see “The Immortals”, this must be some kind of chain as we had stopped at another “The Immortals” restaurant a few nights previous. It was only 8pm and the other restaurants we passed were totally empty, this one had 2 couples in it, so we decide to go in.  I hate being the ONLY people in a restaurant.  The waiter is very nice even though we can’t communicate at all.  We both try a pasta dish, mine is “raviolis mixto” and when it arrives it is a huge portion, surprisingly, the raviolis taste very light and not doughy at all.  Ron has fettuccini in tomato and garlic sauce, it is also very good.  We can’t finish nearly half of it so we ask for a doggy bag, “con gusto” our waiter says, “with pleasure”, we leave the guy a good tip.  Ron tries the rum cake which is called “sopa ingles”, “sopa” is Spanish for soup, English Soup??  Can’t figure out that translation!

Friday Aug 4thWe meet with Olga to go look at 3 apartments that we had previously seen.  The owner of the one apartment with the huge yard and sunroom won’t consider us because we don’t have a guarantor, even though we offered to pay 6 months rent in advance.  Oh well, at least that one is no longer an option and we don’t have to decide between it and the other apartments.  We look at the quiet apartment on the 2nd floor of a building, it has a nice deck off the living room and bedroom, lots of light, a good computer area and a good place for the cats litter box.  It is also a good price with a garage, doesn’t make you say WOW, but with all the apartments we’ve seen, this one is so quiet it makes it a definite option, plus it is right in the area of town I want to live in.  We walk 2 blocks to the Zsa Zsa Gabor, “I just adore a penthouse view…” apartment on the 23rd floor.  This place makes you say WOW when you walk in, the view is just incredible. After seeing the quiet apartment, this one seems noisier then I remembered, damn!  Fantastic city and river views from every room, but now I notice street noise, not a lot, but noticeable.  We can’t decide between the 2, each apartment is good for different reasons, we need to flip a coin. 

Olga and Pete

Olga takes us to an apartment we haven’t seen before in Belgrano which is a $7 taxi ride from the central neighborhood we’re in.  It has a nice view, but not worth being so far out of the city center.  We stop for a café and a “tostado mixto” (toasted ham and cheese sandwich) and have a nice talk with Olga.  She gives us some ideas on Punta del Este in Uruguay.  I think this is the town Sharon Welch told me about that she liked and Olga says this is where the elite go for vacation in January.  Sounds like a nice place to visit when we have to leave the country every 3 months to renew our tourist visas.  Olga wants to show us an apartment on the 28th floor of a historical building that covers one whole floor.  Ron almost steps backward and falls down a flight of marble stairs in he lobby, I catch his arm as I have visions of his head hitting the marble, Ron says “I could have broke the camera”, THE CAMERA!?!??!!, he could have killed himself.  After I relax, I notice the lobby is amazing, we get on the elevator and go up and up, on the 28th floor we need a key to open the elevator door, it doesn’t seem to work (each apartment seems to come with 7 different keys), the realtor tries them all and then the elevator door starts buzzing and closing on us.  Olga gives the door a try and is able to open it, but now the elevator door is stuck and keeps buzzing at us.  The apartment is amazing with lots of antiques in it, wood paneled walls, beautiful built in dressers and cabinets and views you wouldn’t believe.  It is strangely shaped, but very unique. Since we stopped and had tostado mixto late in the day, we decide not to go out for dinner and we eat our leftovers.

Saturday Aug 5thWe consider going to the zoo but Olga calls us and tells us she has some more apartments to look at, “great!” we say.  Just before we left Olga the day before I said “we have 3 good apartments to choose from, but if I had a large outside balcony or area, that would be heaven”.  I should have told her this the day we met her.  She takes us to an apartment that is very gothic with gargoyles on the outside of the building (my kind of place), the lobby is beautifully ornate with marble columns.  The elevator is original “Otis” from Paris and is like getting into a confessional booth, beautiful dark wood and brass, it makes a wonderful mechanical sound as it climbs to the 5th piso.  We enter the apartment and it has a marble entry way that opens up onto a living room with two 30 feet leaded glass windows that open up onto balconies, UNBELIEVABLE! We go upstairs to the bedroom and the bathroom has a leaded glass skylight, then out on the balcony and up a metal spiral staircase to the roof which has a huge patio area.  Like all apartments, this one has a fault and this one is that it’s in a business downtown area, which is not so great after business hours and is dead on weekends.  Next we go back to the building with the 23rd floor on Parana and look at an apartment on the 2nd floor.  It has a huge outside patio area with a little separate getaway building in the back with it’s own Franklin stove.  The apartment is very large but has a strange floor plan and is also pretty run down and would need a lot of work to make it presentable, still I love it because of the outside areas.  Next we take a taxi to see another apartment that is too small and there’s no balcony.  I think we saw it because the owner was begging Olga to show it to someone. Seeing the gothic apartment with the huge roof deck and leaded windows and the one with the large outside patio areas we are now thoroughly confused.  I think Olga senses this and jokingly says, “I’m not showing you any more apartments”.  We stop on the way home to have a Chopp beer and talk.  I like to think outside the box and come up with crazy “what if” scenarios so I say to Ron, “We hate paying rent because it feels like flushing money down the toilet, why don’t we buy the apartment with the huge deck, live in it for 2 years, then have Olga manage it for us and rent it out for us when we move onto our next adventure.  That way we’re not paying rent and we will own real estate”.  Well, this gets the old man thinking and all of a sudden he really wants to buy instead of rent, ooops, I was just throwing around ideas. We walk home and he spots a Masarati dealership and wants to buy a red one, what was in those beers?  We decide to take a taxi to Puerto Madero for dinner, I look up “corner” in my Spanish dictionary and think I have it down, we get in the cab and I ask “El esquina Libertador y Cordoba”, the cabbie says “Si” without hesitation and takes off, “that was easy” I say, then the cabbie turns in the opposite direction, I repeat “esquina Libertador y Cordoba”, the cabbie says “Si” and continues in the wrong direction.  We turn a corner and I say “aqui” so that we can get out and start walking in the right direction.  We decide to have Sushi and they want $12 for a small bottle of sake, the first Japanese place we ate in was $8, at home a large is $5.  Now I discover yet something else I’m going to import into Buenos Aires, cheap Californian sake.  At least there is a real Japanese person making the sushi, but it’s still funny to hear him speak Spanish.  We leave the restaurant and jump into a taxi, the cabbie makes a point of showing us the meter starting at $1.12 like it should.  He keeps us talking and we travel ½ mile to our hotel and the meter says $6.98, it should say something like $2.62.  I know we’re in for something.  We try and pay but he says “We don’t take coins at night”. These kind of things always catch you off guard and only later do you realize how you SHOULD have handled it.  Then he says he doesn’t have change for a US $20 which is the only bills we have, then he says “Give me $60 and I’ll give you change in Pesos”, again, at the time this is happening, the red flags weren’t waving “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson”, but I knew something was going on.  He gives me a $50 Peso note and some change, I don’t want to take the $50 Peso note because I have no idea what they look like and it could be from 20 years ago for all I know and worthless.  He then asks for the change back and gives me 10s and an old beat up 20.  At this point I was trying to write down his license plate number because I knew something was going on but I didn’t have a pen and something was “mysteriously” hanging down to partially cover his license plate.  He speeds off and we look at each other, we paid $8 for a ride that should have cost less then $3 and I hope the 20 is worth 20, and not some worthless old note.  Another lesson learned, watch the meter constantly, have small change always on you and write down the front license plate number before you get in so the cabbie can see you do it.

Sunday Aug 6thOlga calls us to ask us how we’re doing.  We say we want the apartment with the large deck, but Olga says he would never accept what we want to pay.  We tell her we’ll call her back, Ron and I sit at the computer (our only sense of security) and make a spreadsheet to list the pros and cons of all 5 apartments we’re considering, (1) is quiet, lots of light, perfect neighborhood and reasonably priced, (2) the gothic apartment is just way too cool, but in a bad area and the roof patio deck seems like too much effort to get to that we won’t use it that much, (3) is large with a great outside area, but would take a lot of work to get in livable shape, lots of work to maintain the deck and it would be spending $300 over our monthly budget, (4) is large with a great outside area, but it’s a $4 taxi cab drive from the neighborhood I want and also is over our budget, (5) has the fantastic Zsa Zsa view but the outside balcony is small and it’s noisier than I think I’d be happy with. Ron likes reasonably priced, I like large outside livable area.  We debate for almost an hour and then settle on the quiet, lots of light, perfect neighborhood and reasonable priced place.  Ron says, “are you sure?”, I say “call Olga before I change my mind”.  We decide to go to the zoo for the rest of the day, it turns out to be a great idea but since it’s Sunday, the place is packed with families.  We take the “Subte” home and stop for a Chopp beer to rest our feet, then onto Recoleta park for the weekly flea market and watch some entertainers.  I see lots of cool stuff to import, Ron sees woman selling wonderful pastries and desserts.  We go to the neighborhood parrilla for dinner, we try and order “Bife de lomo” (filet mignon) like we did the first night we were there but I tell Ron to have a backup choice in case they don’t have it again.  The name of the place is “De Mingos” and they had a “Bife Chorizo De Mingo” on the menu that was $2.5 more then the “Bife de Chorizo” (New York style cut steak), Ron thinks something with the house name on it should be good so he settles on that as his second choice.  “No Bife de lome, nunca” (never).  “How about Bife Chorizo De Mingo?”, Ron asks, the waiter says “Solamente Bife de Chorizo”.  I feel like I’m in the old Saturday Night Live skit where no matter what you order, they say “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger”.  We decide on “Bife de Chorizo”, the waiter smiles approvingly. It may be the only thing on the menu, but it’s DAMN good!  “Just think how good the “Bife de lomo” would be if they had it”, Ron says.  We took our carry out containers with us and we take ½ the steak home with us, Ron tries to order dessert and guess what, they only have one dessert. Ron orders it and the waiter smiles approvingly. Great place!

Monday Aug 7thWe meet with Olga to talk about next steps on the quiet, lots of light, perfect neighborhood and reasonably priced apartment.  We meet her at her hospital because she’s getting some kind of checkup, the hospital has a great restaurant in it and we have coffee and sweet croissants. We must talk for a ½ hour before she brings up business.  I was conscience of this and purposely didn’t bring up business until she did, that was one of the things I learned in my International Business Degree is that people from the U.S.A. usually get right down to business, where in Latin cultures it’s more social and you talk about business after social discussions. I like this way of life!  We talk about buying the property, but it’s not an option without a residence visa.  Olga suggests that we not rush things, rent the quiet and reasonably priced place for 6 months, possibly get a residency visa, then go from there. Good advice!  Upon leaving the cafeteria I notice that they have a full bar, so you can get a drink if you want before going to see the doctor!  We had inquired about health insurance earlier and Olga takes us down to meet with a representative from the hospital. They talk about complete coverage plans and it seems pretty affordable, I get the “joven” (young) plan because of my age, Ron gets “Plan 8”, hah!  We take the literature and decide to see what we can work out when we get back to the U.S.A.  Since we’re going to be “tourists” here on tourists visas, our U.S.A. health insurance should cover us, but we need to check this out and verify it.  We go back to our little apartment and do some reading to relax, I update the web pages and then take them to the local “Telephonica” to get internet access so that I can update them there.  I read my email and check my bank account to be sure I’m not withdrawing too much too quickly.  Only 2 of my withdrawals have shown up on my account, I’m surprised it is taking so long for the withdrawals to show up on my account.  I have trouble with the internet connection in the store, it keeps dropping out and then the floppy I brought the web pages on doesn’t work on their computer, damn.  The internet connection has been a major hassle and the only way to get on is to go to a “internet” store.  Ron wants to go see “Una Tormento Perfecto”, “The Perfect Storm”, we didn’t have time to see it before we came here from the U.S.A.  Ron had read the book and was dying to see the movie.  It just opened here last weekend and the theatre is almost empty, weird.  The theatre is right next to our apartment in the Patio Bullrich mall.  One thing I really like is they start the coming attractions and commercials about 15 minutes before the actual movie so the movie actually starts when it says it will, what a concept!  Enjoyed the movie but left exhausted!  Went for dinner at the local restaurant on the corner and had a very nice meal.  There is a little booth next to the restaurant that sells gum, candy, cigarettes and pop.  My chair is facing so that I can see people stop to buy things, it’s amazing but ½ the people who pass stop and buy something.  Don’t know if they’re selling drugs or what, just seems odd that so many people stop to buy something.  Seems like the guy has a gold mine.

Tuesday Aug 8thI start reading a new book I brought, “Groucho – The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx” by Stefan Kanfer, I had read a review by Dick Cavett who personally knew Groucho and he said it was good.  I just started it, and it does seem intriguing and very interesting. We met with Olga to sign a “reservation” for the apartment, kind of like making an offer on a house, you give them a deposit just so that you show intent and then in 10 days we sign a contract for leasing the property.  The owner sends her son, Ignacio, to meet with us because he is very nice and speaks very good English, obviously a big plus for us so there are no misunderstandings. He asks us if we want to continue the cable TV for $47 a month, ouch, we’re too cheap to pay for cable at home at $30 a month.  If we use just the rabbit ears, we’ll only get Spanish stations and I wonder if we’ll feel too isolated without hearing any English on TV; we might have to pay the $47 a month.  Ignacio even agreed to start the rental on October 1st so we don’t have to pay a months rent for September when the unit will be empty while we go back to Mountain View to sell our condo.  The whole time we sit in the apartment we don’t hear a single noise from the busy street right in front of the building or other apartments, I think we made a very good decision.  Ron and I go next door to have a Chopp cerveza and talk about how this next step is progressing, we both feel good about our progress and decision.  We have dinner at a Guatemalan restaurant I saw a few nights ago, it had Mexican music playing and they make an excellent margarita grande, I’m in heaven.  I order fajitas and Ron orders “Enchiladas Mole”, both are excellent, I feel even better that we’ve found 2 Japanese restaurants and one good Mexican restaurant. Now if we can only find a good Chinese joint, we’ll be “in like Flynn”.  I’m still a little surprised at the lack of different cultural influences in the restaurants, maybe it’s my lack of understanding Spanish and I’m just missing it.  That’s one thing we have in California, you walk down just about any block in any town and you have a great variety of food, shops and supermarkets representing cultures from all over the world.  But that’s why we’re here, to experience something new and different and see how other cultures live.

Wednesday Aug 9thWhen we rented the small apartment we’re in temporarily, there was no coffee pot or toaster in the small kitchen and the kettle on the stove was rusty inside, I didn’t even want to boil water in it for tea.  We decided it was worth investing in a small coffee pot for the duration of our visit so we bought a $10 drip coffee pot.  We had found a metal grated pan that goes on the gas stove to make toast, kind of like you’re camping.  It worked OK, but you just had to stand there as you make toast, because you couldn’t leave it unattended.  We casually mentioned to Olga that we enjoyed the apartment but the owner really needs to get a small coffee pot and an electric toaster for the apartment.  Two days later we got a new kettle for the top of the stove, not a drip coffee maker, just a nice red kettle, an improvement.  The owner said she would bring the toaster the next day and sure enough she brings us a nice new metal grated pan toaster for the top of the stove.  We just smiled and said “gracias” since our limited Spanish made it difficult to explain that we already had that kind of toaster, we really wanted an electric one.  I called a relocation service that I saw advertised in the Buenos Aires Herald. We need to find a way to transfer our belongings that we want to bring and not pay undue taxes on our computers. The girl we spoke to, Teresa, seems very energetic and speaks great English.  I mention our concerns with the cost of shipping things, taxes on computers, bringing our cats over, buying property and obtaining residency.  Her company, Crown Relocation http://www.crownworldwide.com, has offices in 32 countries so I assume (never assume) that they would have great resources to help us with our move. We setup an appointment for Friday, their office is in the suburbs of Buenos Aires so we’ll have to take the train there, oh boy, another adventure!  Teresa said she would email me instructions on how to get to her office via the train.  I had read that the train system has only recently been privatized and is not very good, but we’re only going to the suburbs, how bad could a 45-minute train ride be??  I feel better after talking to Teresa that we have some more resources for information.  Ron wants to go to “La Boca”, the artist area of town for the afternoon, I want to take a taxi since it is on the opposite end of town but Ron wants to take the Subte, the problem is the Subte only goes so far and then it’s about another mile of walking.  I don’t mind the walk, but the neighborhood is not that great and visions of pick pockets come into my head.  Unfortunately, we get there at 5:30pm and the artists are packing up for the day, we see a few interesting paintings.  We stop for a Chopp before grabbing a taxi home.  Since our last experience with the taxi wasn’t so great, I write down the taxis license plate number and his operating license number that has his name on it.  Of course when you take precautions, it’s never necessary.  The cabbie is very nice with an honest meter.  Ron wanted to eat at our local neighborhood Parrilla because when we were there on Monday, he noticed they had a Miércoles (Wednesday) “Cochinello” special.  This is the “cheeseburger, cheeseburger” place, it’s great but there isn’t a whole lot of options if you don’t speak Spanish.  The waiter greets us and we both order the special, which turns out to be roasted piglet and it’s VERY good.  I try to order one salad to split, he says to order 2 because they’re small (“cheeseburger, cheeseburger”), don’t know why the salads are small tonight, I ordered a nice salad we could split on Monday, no matter!  We skip dessert and have a café to cap off a wonderful meal.  This is a great place and we’ll be coming back when we move to our new apartment.

Thursday Aug 10thMy stomach feels a little queasy today so I prefer to stay home, read and take it easy.  It’s really the first day we haven’t done anything since we got here and it seems almost like a vacation, very relaxing.  Olga calls up to give us the status on the contract, Ron wants it translated into English and that’s going to cost a little extra.  Ron is still mad because we sent a check off on Aug 2nd to transfer some money from one account to another so that we could draw from it for the apartment.  The post office said it would get there in 5 days (the quickest way they could send it) and here it is 8 days later and the bank still hasn’t received it.  This is stopping us from drawing money out for the deposit on the apartment, although I’m still drawing out money from my account. I had read that Argentina’s post office is one of the most expensive in the world, and not very reliable.  Guess it hasn’t gotten any better since my guidebooks were written.  Ron goes to the store and gets some chicken soup for dinner, simple, but just what I wanted.

Friday Aug 11th We hadn’t received the email instructions from Teresa on how to get to Crown World Wide Relocation services so we gave her office a call.  A coworker, Maria, gave us instructions and we’re off!  The train station is very old with great architectural style.  However, I’m always leery around train stations, as they seem to be where a lot of pick pockets hang out.  It seems to me that they’ve improved the station since we were there 1 ½ years ago. It seems clean, well lighted, safe and bustling with people going to and from work.  We study the train schedules before approaching a ticket window, there are several different train companies and with our limited Spanish, we want to be sure to get on the right one.  The commuter trains leave about every 20 minutes and are clean, modern and electric. There are a few people who go from car to car, selling candy bars and tool kits but only after giving an impassioned speech first.  I don’t know if the money is for themselves, charity or “la revolucion”.  One guy looks like Che Guevara in military jacket, medals pinned to the front, and soldiers waving an Argentine flag on the back. We wanted to give ourselves some leeway so we arrive an hour early, after sitting in the sun for a ½ hour we decided to get a “tostado mixto” sandwich, and what else, a Chopp cerveza. Teresa meets us at the train station on time and takes us to her office, she is a native Argentine but lived in Australia for 8 months and then North Carolina for 5 years, her Australian drawl is very evident, don’t know why the North Carolina southern drawl didn’t stick. She shows us around her relocation company and introduces us to 3 of her co-workers who specialize in different areas of relocation.  Two of the women speak very little English so Teresa acts as a translator, these sessions are always very funny to me, they speak so quickly and it sounds so wonderful, but I can’t pick out hardly any words.  Here we sit in an office 8,000 miles from home talking about how we’re legally going to make this transition, open a business, obtain residency and I’m just wondering, “what the hell are we doing???!?!!”.  Of course this passes quickly as the two beautiful Argentine women laugh and tell us “everything is possible in Argentina!” When you try to take it in too quickly it seems overwhelming, but just like any task, if you break it down into little pieces that you can accomplish and feel like you’re making progress, then all it takes is perseverance and a positive attitude.  Whenever I feel stressed, I fall back on my meditation tapes I like to listen to and take a few deep slow breaths, smile, and surround myself with white positive energy, works every time!  Like most bureaucratic processes, this one is most likely solved or sped along by using a lawyer, of course hearing what needs to happen raises our eyebrows a few times.  One way is to open a business and fund a “guarantee” bank account with some money, but an Argentine has to be part owner.  Here is where the lawyer and the raised eyebrows come in, the Argentine owner (the lawyer) owns 1% of the business, you own 99%, but the lawyer also has signature authority on the “guarantee” bank account (raise eyebrows here).  When, and if you leave Argentina, the “guarantee” bank account is frozen for 6 months to make sure there are not any unpaid bills, you then get your 99% back and the lawyer gets his 1% (raise eyebrows again).  Of course, there are ways to buy the lawyer out after everything is in place… at this point they give us the lawyers name and tell us we should discuss further details with him.  More information to muddle over.

The owner of our little apartment brings by a new electric toaster, we thank her profusely, then we look for a plug to plug it into, of course the only available plug in the little kitchen has a different type of plug on it, we’ll have to buy an adapter.  I notice the microwave is plugged into a socket that would work so I unplug it to try the toaster, there are some bare wires wrapped around the prongs of the microwave plug.  This turns out to lead to the vent fan for the kitchen.  I hope she has fire insurance.  We look for a place for dinner and choose an Italian looking place in the mall, I notice they have martinis on the menu, dare I order one?!?!?!? I haven’t had one since I’ve been here. The waiter seems to speak good English so I describe what I want.  Ron orders a Manhattan.  Both drinks arrive and we know we’re in trouble, the Martini has a lemon curl in it and the Manhattan has a big slice of orange, the Martini is awful, all dry vermouth, the Manhattan doesn’t taste anything like a Manhattan, but at least it’s good.  Once we’re living here and find a restaurant we want to visit for drinks, we’ll teach them how to make a good drink.  Argentines are like the Europeans, they don’t know how to make a good “American” drink, they only seem to drink aperitifs.  The food is a bust, but the waiter is very friendly and tells us he’s a dancer and has worked on a cruise ship.  Two weeks ago he was eating caviar working on a cruise ship, now he’s working 20 hours for $15 in Argentina.  Several Argentines have told us how bad the economy is right now, I read that the unemployment was 15%, but talking to people it seems worse then that.  From my eyes, things look good, the stores, restaurants and cafés are filled with people, but I have a feeling that they are in an economic slump. 

Saturday Aug 12thWe decide to have some fun and see a tango show, we really haven’t done anything touristy since we got here as we’ve been trying to concentrate on our plans for moving here.  Last time we were here we went to “Senor Tango” which was very good, Ron looks in the tour book and calls “Sabor a Tango” (Flavor of Tango), which is the place listed above “Senor Tango”.  As soon as the little shuttle bus stopped outside the place, I knew Ron had picked the wrong one, but we were there so we figured we’d experience a new place.  The place was smaller then “Senor Tango”, more intimate and they gave us a table right next to the stage.  Right away an attractive waitress starts talking to us in Spanish, I ask “habla Ingles” and she tries her hardest, I keep saying “si” and nodding, Ron says “why do you do that when you don’t know what she’s talking about?”, I say “I think I know what she’s saying, besides I feel like a mannequin if I just sit there and don’t do or say anything”.  The meal is fine and we ask for a carry out for the steak, the waitress doesn’t understand and brings over someone else who speaks more English. I try and explain and she says “no, you don’t want to keep that, there’s a show afterwards”.  We beg and plead and she finally agrees, shaking her head she walks away, hah, now we have a nice steak for a sandwich tomorrow for lunch. The show starts and was very good, like the other tango show we saw they have a mixture of the tango band playing, tango dancers, Indian flute players and gaucho performers.  The gauchos came out and started spinning bolos around, you know, the spinning ropes with weighted ends to throw around the calves legs to catch them?  Well, these they were spinning and hitting the floor so they made nice loud cracking sounds, the guy in the front row backed up as the weighted spinning bolos were spinning (what seemed like) inches from his face.  He turns toward us and I hope those things are on there tight, I can just imagine one come flying at us!  Two of them performed some very impressive acrobatics as they twirled them around, clacking them on the wooden floor and stomping about!  I still would have felt better being a few people back when he twirled them in our direction.

Sunday Aug 13thNot a great day to go outside, it’s very cloudy, drizzling and cold.  I want to update the web pages though, so I go to the “Locotorio” where we get our internet access.  We’ve probably spent $200 there in the last 2 ½ weeks at 10 cents a minute; can’t wait to get my own access setup.  I asked Olga to look into how much a cable modem would cost for the new apartment and she said about $100 month, ouch!  It’s hard to get a straight answer about telephone charges because it varies so much.  There are 2 companies that have had a 10 year monopoly on the telephone system which will end in December of this year, then AT&T is one of the big companies who are coming into the area and hopefully things will get more competitive, cheaper and with better service.  From what I gather (everyone tells me something different) right now there is a per minute charge even for local calls or their equivalent to our 800 numbers (they use 600 and 800), so if you pay an ISP, like AOL, $20 a month for unlimited access, you still may incur a per minute charge for the price of the phone call.  I’m having a hard time getting a straight answer on this, but it may be more cost effective to go with the cable modem at $100, we’ll see.  Plus, if the telephone service is comparable to the “Locotorio” where the connection is constantly cut off and you need to reconnect, then the cable modem is looking better and better.  Sometimes the cost of something is worth the aggravation it saves you.  Since it’s Sunday, everything is closed so I have to walk until I find a “Locotorio” that is open.  Even though it’s not a great day, I still marvel at the great architecture of the buildings as I walk by, once I get a more stable internet connection I’ll start downloading more pictures to the website.  The “Locotorio” I find is by our new apartment, but the mouse on the computer is really squirrelly and annoying to use and someone has deleted ½ the applications off of it (like WRITE, which should be on every computer) so I can’t even update our web pages.  I wrestle with the mouse and read through some email, I get messages from Elis (who is taking care of our cats), mom, Favorite Aunt Cindy, Favorite Aunt Hazel and my college buddy Dean.  It’s nice to have the familiar connection with home. We decide not to fight the cold and wet weather and eat leftovers in the apartment for dinner.

Monday Aug 14thI go to our local “Locotorio” and get the web pages updated, the connection only drops 3 times before I get done, I feel like I’ve won the lottery!  I started creating the invitations to our “Life Part Deux” party on September 10th and then cross checking everyone’s email addresses with their regular addresses between Ron’s and my Palm Pilots.  Geez, I have to create a spreadsheet just to keep track of things, this seems WAY to much like work!  Ron’s check that he sent off on Aug 2nd has still not arrived at the bank, it was supposed to have arrived on August 7th.  Since the check hasn’t cleared, I am the only one who can withdrawal money for the down payment on the apartment, maybe this is a trick by Ron so I have to pay it all.  We call the lawyer who was recommended by Crown World Wide Relocation to find out about visas, etc. and setup an appointment for tomorrow.  Ron has felt helpless at not being able to communicate with the banks and get things done in a proper time frame.  We can’t dial 800 numbers from here, so every time we make a call, the “Locotorio” meter is running, and like most banks you spend an eternity on hold, only to talk to a peon who can’t do anything (who then puts you on hold several times even though you ask them not to put you on hold because it’s long distance), and then have an expensive telephone charge for the frustrating experience of not getting anything accomplished!  Because he’s feeling helpless in not being able to get at his money, he needs to redirect his anger at something, so Ron attacks the computer and a spreadsheet. He starts fleshing out our budget for the next couple of months, we had done this for our financial planner, David.A.Cooper@aexp.com (who we highly recommend), so we could get our finances in order, but Ron wants to do this on a more detailed level.  I let him vent his frustration and nod encouragingly as I start my new Stephen King book. 

Tuesday Aug 15thWe take the train to go see the lawyer.  It is a glorious day, clear skies and warm weather, this place is like San Francisco in the winter, it can be cold and rainy one day and then clear and 70 the next.  The air smells like spring is right around the corner.  We enter the old train station at the far end so we can walk down the length of the huge interior lobby.  It really is an impressive building, although quite run down, it definitely has seen better days.  We do notice that they are painting some rooms and redoing the toilets so maybe a major renovation is on the way, I hope so, the building is spectacular when you imagine the grandeur and grace that the building had when it was first built. The station seems right out of a Fellini movie, but in it’s present condition, very “Kafkaesque”.  We take the train to “Martinez”, the same stop as for Crown World Wide.  We have an address and ask someone the way to Av. Libertador, good thing we asked as we both would have gone in the wrong direction.  Because we both thought we should go in the other direction, Ron asks one more person the way to Av. Libertador, just to make sure we’re going in the right direction.  Although still in Buenos Aires, “Martinez” is a suburb neighborhood 19 kilometers from the city center.  The homes are very nice and large, many with high peaked tile roofs and shutters on the windows, reminds me somehow of Germany or Switzerland.  Don’t know why they have high pitched roofs, it hasn’t snowed in Buenos Aires in 100 years.  Some of the houses have eaves of varnished wood, beautiful, but the upkeep on them! They probably have to be revarnished every year.  Some of the houses have varnished wooded gates that are so beautiful they look like something that should be inside the house, not outside.  We get to the lawyers office early so we decide to stop for a little lunch.  We meet the lawyer and it turns out his whole family is on it, the wife is the receptionist and the son and 2 daughters are also lawyers.  The son speaks the best English so he is the one who does the translating.  We tell them our situation and ask for suggestions, he explains that it’s all a simple matter of filling out the right forms, paying the right fees and notarizing the right documentation, piece of cake.  “What’s it going to cost to get all this done?”, we cautiously ask, knowing we’re speaking to a room full of lawyers!  He explains the different fees and it doesn’t seem too outrageous.  Ron and I look at each other and contemplate our situation: 1) we don’t speak Spanish, 2) Argentina is still a country that loves paperwork with everything being documented by different agencies that don’t speak to each other, 3) we don’t speak Spanish, 4) they are offering to do all the leg work and getting all the paperwork signed and notarized, 5) we don’t speak Spanish, and 6) they can get it all completed and registered in a month, tops (their words).  We were planning on visiting the US Chamber of Commerce to get ideas from them on how to proceed, but I figured they would tell us all the forms that need to be completed, filled out, notarized and paid and push us out the door to go figure it out on our own.  Here’s someone willing do it all for us for a somewhat reasonable price, seems like it would be worth it to save all the aggravation.  They leave the room for a minute and Ron and I have a quick pow-wow, Ron says, “They sure seem to know everything and I like them, lets do it!” I say, “Yes, they do seem knowledgeable and nice, but we are in a room SURROUNDED by lawyers, we need to be very careful here”.  We tell them that we’d like to proceed and they make a call to their notary only to be told there are new laws about foreigners opening businesses in Argentina (to make sure they are not laundering money). They say that they have to do some research and will get back to us by Friday.  We walk back to the train station and it seems a big relief to have the lawyers figuring it out and not us, if they’re having a hard time figuring it out, we’d never be able to do it.  We stop for a Chopp beer in the little restaurant on the corner of our apartment building and talk about our progress.  We go out for dinner and end up in the café next to our new apartment, we have a very nice, inexpensive dinner, this is going to be a nice hang out for us when we get back.  Once we’re settled, we’ll have to teach the bartender how to make Martinis and Manhattans and we’ll be all set.

Wednesday Aug 16thIt is another beautiful day.  We go to CitiBank to let them know we’ll be drawing out some cash tomorrow, seems they want to know a day in advance when you make a large withdrawal.  I ask Ron to show the teller the suspicious $20 bill we got from the taxi cab driver, the teller says it’s a fake, oh well, lesson learned, be very careful of cabbies with crooked meters.  We walk to the America Airlines office to confirm our flight for next weeks return trip home.  We enter and there are lots of people who look like they’ve been sitting there for a very long time, I think I see cobwebs on a few of them.  We take a number, 905, and I look on the overhead monitors, one green monitor reads 47 and the other red monitor reads 8, this doesn’t look good for someone with a number of 905.  Ron gets up to see what the difference is between the green and red numbers and I notice a phone on the wall that says “Reconfirmations”.  Ron comes over and I point out the phone to him, he makes a quick call and we’re done.  I feel happy that we didn’t wait 2 hours to find out we took the wrong colored ticket.  We have a nice lunch on an outside sidewalk on “Av. Nueve de Julio” in view of the city’s famous Obelisk, it is a wonderful day, nicely dressed business people scurrying around, having lunch, drinking “agua con gas” and having animated conversations; we both say that we’re going to be happy living here.  We head over to the US Chamber of Commerce.  It’s in a nice building across from the famous “Teatro Colon” opera house.  The elevator operator looks a little gruff, but I’d hate to spend 8 hours going up and down in an enclosed elevator so his disposition is not surprising, the door jolts open quickly with a loud clank that surprises you.  The lobby has lots of marble and dark, varnished wood.  The pretty receptionist is talking quickly and answers about 6 calls before there’s finally a break and she says “hola”.  We explain that we want to open a business and ask if there’s any literature or help they can provide us with, she goes and gets another pretty coworker and we repeat the same thing, she says something in English very quickly that I don’t understand, but then I catch a few words… “have a seat and when the light goes out on this phone, we’ll introduce you to yadda yadda yadda”.  Unfortunately, this is how most of our conversations go.  We sit down and wait, it IS a nice lobby to look at while you’re waiting, she comes out again in less then 10 minutes and says “yadda yadda yadda is very busy, here’s her business card and call her in the morning for an appointment, fair enough, we did come without an appointment.  We have a nice walk home but by this time we’ve been walking a lot and we want to put our feet up and take it easy.  I decide to go update the web pages and read some email and I meet a friendly guy from Holland who is using the computer, he’s here doing his thesis on something to do with Argentine’s and computers (I didn’t catch it all over the blaring music they always play at the “Locotorio”), fascinating. Turns out he is the same guy Ron met last week and is also starting an ISP company, this may come in very handy when we come back in October.  It’s about 6:30pm and the connection is dreadfully slow and keeps cutting off. I sent off some email to let people know about our going away party when we get home and also to our realtor, Royce, to see if everything is set for selling the house when we get back.  The realtor writes back and says that he has someone who wants to buy it but we have to let him know before this Friday, ack! And not only that, they want to overbid our asking price by quite a bit of money!  The house hasn’t even been put on the market yet, we’re not even home yet, and Royce may have a buyer willing to pay more then our asking price?!?!?!!  I write Royce and ask for more details (has the buyer even seen our house, are they pre-qualified?) and go back to our little apartment to tell Ron.  I try and contain myself as I casually come through the front door.  I finally tell Ron that we may have good news, someone wants to buy our house and pay more then our asking price but we have to let them know by this Friday.  Ron says, “Let’s do it”.  I feel like I’m going to be sick.  Even though we’ve worked towards this for so long, it’s still unnerving to consider I may go back to California and not even own my own house anymore.  Ron’s elated but I’m concerned.  Our usual roles have completely reversed.  I’m thinking that the house hasn’t even been put on the market yet, even if this person is willing to overbid our asking price, maybe others are willing to go even higher.  I don’t want to be greedy, but I certainly don’t want to miss an opportunity to make money that we need to live on while we’re in Argentina.  Where is that crystal ball when you need it? When in doubt, I also find it best to eat something so we go out for a nice dinner.  We enter a place that looks nice, but then we notice there is an Argentina VS Paraguay soccer game going on, Argentines love their soccer, I don’t like to eat in a place with blaring TVs.  We decide to stick it out and have an excellent Bife de Lomo dinner, I get caught up in the excitement of everyone watching the soccer game, I’m not watching it myself, but it’s hilarious when the whole restaurant shouts “aaaaaaaggggghhhhh” or “gooooooooaaaaaaaalllllllllll” all at the same time.  A cute, young couple comes in for dessert with a baby carriage (the kid is maybe 10 months old), the father props a bottle in the kid’s mouth, holds it there and intently watches the soccer game.  I see the mother tell him to check the kid every once in awhile, she could be drowning in the milk for all he knows while he continues to intently watch the soccer game.  As we leave the restaurant and walk down the street, every restaurant you look into everyone’s head is pointed in one direction and are all looking in one of the upper corners of the restaurant, hypnotized! Argentines REALLY love their soccer.

Another hard day!

Thursday Aug 17thRon goes down to the Locotorio to send an email to our realtor, Royce, and let him know that we’ll accept the offer on the house.  When he returns we head off for our appointment with the woman at the US Chamber of Commerce.  We come up to Av. Santa Fe, a major road, and we see a huge parade forming, seems it’s their equivalent of our Columbus Day.  It hasn’t started yet so we easily cross in front of the parade participants to get to the other side of the avenue.  We head down towards Nueve de julio, the city’s major thorough fare, and see the different military units represented, Navy, Marines, infantry, Antarctic Corp, Jungle Bunnies, etc, quite impressive.  We head down the closed off and empty Nueve de julio towards the Chamber of Commerce building, it is a very strange site as this road is the widest road in the world at 144 meters across and is always packed with cars no matter what time of day or night.  To see it empty and so nice and quiet makes it seem like a totally different place. We come up to a road that parallels Av. Santa Fe and see the cavalry heading the opposite direction of the parade, possibly to join them at the rear. The horses are beautiful and the soldiers are wearing their dress uniforms, I wish I had my camera.  We make our appointment at the Chamber of Commerce and the woman gives us some good information on businesses, business sectors, resources, web pages, etc.  As we head back to our apartment the parade is in full swing.  We watch for a while and see military march by in dress uniforms, battle fatigues, white parkas with skis strapped to their backpacks (the Andes ski patrol maybe?).  It’s very impressive but we want to cross the street to get to our apartment and the different groups march so closely together there are no breaks in the procession.  Things are safe in Buenos Aires and the military is very respected, but all of these marching soldiers have guns, bayonets, swords, etc. and I don’t want to piss anyone off by running between them (just in case).  Ron spots a break in the procession and we make our break for it, “perdon!, perdon!”, we squeeze through and make it to the other side!

I go to the Locotorio to see if the realtor has sent us any email on the news of our house.  Ron goes back to the apartment as I read through some other email, the connection drops out so frequently I feel like I’m going to punch the monitor, I do a few deep breathing exercises, surround myself with white, positive energy and I’m able to feel better and get through the messages I want to send off without smashing the monitor.  As I come into the apartment, Ron is talking to Royce and it appears the person has accepted our offer, we have sold our house!  All without even being there or even in the country!  Gee, I wonder how they can do that?!!??!  When we sold our last condo it took 4 months and it was very stressful, this time I didn’t even have to get the house ready by cleaning it or trimming bushes in the back yard.  Hopefully, this is a good omen that this was meant to happen and everything is just falling into place.

We meet Olga at “Scuzi”, the café next to our new apartment to go over the rental contract a half hour before we are to meet with Ignacio to do an inventory of the apartment.  We have a café and “agua con gas” as we talk about last minute details on the contract and tell her the good news about the house.  Everything seems to be coming together so nicely.  We meet Ignacio and go over the contract that we’ll sign the next day, everything seems to be in order except for a few differences in how the contract was translated in English, we ask for a few minor changes to clear up any ambiguities.
We then go over an inventory of everything that is in the apartment, noting the condition of everything, the list is very detailed but it gives me time to look over the apartment and imagine how it will be living here.  This takes a few hours so it’s a little late when we finish. We decide to go to the corner café, “Che Buenos Aires”, for dinner.  We toast to the new developments!

 Friday Aug 18thWe’re running a little late so we take a taxi to Olga’s apartment, then we walk over to the lawyers office.  Olga is surprised we’re not wearing coats, but it’s another beautiful day and besides, we’re from California, we hardly ever wear coats.  Ignacio is there, along with his mother Maria Rosa Sicardi de Cullen who owns the apartment.  Maria is impressed with the formality of Olga’s business practices, she says other realtors in the past have not been nearly as well organized or well documented. We really appreciate all the work Olga has gone through because it gives us the comfort to know that things have been done properly so there will no be misunderstandings in the future and we have legal documents that spell everything out both in Spanish and English. The lawyer said an English document is not legal in Argentina, so he makes an addendum to the Spanish version that includes the English version as an attachment.  They show us the original deed to the apartment (kind of like a title search) to be sure the apartment is really Maria’s.  It is a fascinating document that includes information from every owner of the apartment since it was built, I would love to have had a copy of it!  Ignazio tells us that since this document is all original documents that it’s extremely important and if you lose it it’s a nightmare to get recreated.  There are two copies of the lease and inventory in English and Spanish and each page needs an original signature using the same pen, this takes a little while to get through all the signatures.  Then the lawyer creates yet one more document (that we also have to sign) that says he has witnessed all of this and that it is all very legal.  We spent about 2 hours in the lawyer’s office and it only cost $100, which seems fair for all the work that was involved. We feel very comfortable with the proceedings and are very happy with our new landlord, she and her son are extremely nice and agreeable people and the fact that the son speaks English fluently and is also in a legal profession makes us even more comfortable.  While we’re waiting for the lawyer to do something, Olga hits up Ignacio for some accounting advice.  Olga, Maria and Ignacio begin speaking a million miles a second in an animated Spanish conversation, it sounds like a beautiful opera of Spanish and Italian.  I hope one day my Spanish is good enough that I can be a participant of such a conversation or at least be able to understand what the hell they’re saying! I look around the room and notice the architecture of the old building, every building I enter seems to be filled with something notable in its design.

We leave the office and Olga invites us to lunch, we head off to a great Italian restaurant.  I tell her that Ron and I love food, so anything we order in a restaurant, on purpose or by mistake, we enjoy, however, I’d really like to be able to decipher a menu with confidence.  Olga asks the waiter if we can have a menu to take home, so we can learn from it and be able to translate it, the waiter obliges us with pleasure and gives us a nice, new, clean menu to take home.  We have a nice lunch and talk about the business that we want to start when we return here, our families, vacations, trips abroad, and where is the best market in the neighborhood (Olga lives close to our new apartment).  I’m feeling more comfortable all the time. The waiter brings a cold bottle of dark Sambuca (a licorice, anise liquor) to the table for us to pour ourselves an after lunch aperitif. 

Olga mentions taking the ferry over to “Punta del Este” in Uruguay for the weekend.  She had sold an apartment to an American woman and wants to show us the area.  We’d love to go but she first needs to find someone to baby-sit her dog.  She calls us later and says she couldn’t find anyone to watch her dog, so we’ll have to do it when we return in October.  We talk to the lawyer and he says that they’ve figure out how to setup our business, residency and visas, however, they need to have us sign a document with a notary before they can begin.  Monday is a holiday and we’re leaving on Tuesday so coordinating things with the notary and getting to the airport on time is a little tricky.  Who knew not working could be so much work!

Saturday Aug 19thA VERY lazy Saturday, we get up, have coffee, Ron found this great place for sweet roles and he’s been getting the best little sweets to have with our morning coffee.  I work on the “Diary”, update the web pages, read some magazines, read my book, we make lunch (some wonderful bife de lomo from the other night along with some lasagna), read some more, Ron works on our finance spreadsheet, read some more, it starts to rain outside, just another good excuse for staying inside.  Oh my, it’s time for dinner, guess I better get off my lazy butt and go shave and shower (for the first time today)!  We go out for dinner and it’s lightly raining with some good lightening action going on, I hope Buenos Aires has good rainstorms, the rainstorms in California are a joke, it just rains, we never have lightening or thunder.  That’s one thing I miss from Michigan, good rainstorms with lots of lightening and thunder, we’ll see if Buenos Aires can compete with Michigan!  It’s actually quite warm and a little humid, we go to the Sushi restaurant we tried before and order the “especial” which is a sushi / sashimi combination for 2 that comes on an 18 inch boat.  We’re sitting in a window seat and just about everyone who passes looks in to see what’s in the boat.  I have a feeling that Argentine’s aren’t too familiar with Sushi. This place is pretty good and close to our new apartment, I hope it doesn’t go out of business.  The major problem is they charge $8 for a really tiny little bottle of hot sake, I think we’re going to bring back a large sake bottle from California and say “Fill this for $8 bucks, who are you trying to rip off!”  A very relaxing day, but I do feel pretty guilty about doing just about nothing all day! 

Sunday Aug 20thSince yesterday was such a lazy day, I want to get out and get some exercise.  Ron bought some sweet roles at the supermarket to have with our morning coffee and they are a MAJOR disappointment over the ones he was buying at the little bakery down the street, won’t make that mistake again. We head out and the streets seem very empty, not sure if it’s just because it’s Sunday or because it’s also a 4 day holiday weekend.  We stop for lunch, which is good, but the service is pretty slow and Ron gets a little impatient.  I wanted to take some pictures because we really haven’t been doing anything touristy since we got here, it’s all been trying to get an apartment, getting things setup and ready for our return, etc.  I want to walk down “Av. de Mayo” which is the major boulevard between their Congress building and “Casa Rosado”, the “Pink House” where the president has his official living quarters and entertains visiting guests.  I FINALLY take some pictures, so if you’d like to see them, just click on the buttons below.  It’s a cloudy day, so the pictures aren’t very good, but I’ll put up better ones once I get back.  When we return in October, it’ll be the beginning of spring, so I should be able to get some better shots posted.

Square by our new apartment

                                                                                                                    Teatro Colon

                     Congress Building

                                                                                                                                  Argentina Flag

Casa Rosada

We walk a LONG way so we decide to stop at one of the places we found that has the best happy hour Chopp (who’d of guessed we’d do that!).  They give you a tray with 8 different items on it that seem to vary depending on the day: empanadas, peanuts, cheese, ham, meatballs, some fried thing that tastes good (maybe mushrooms?), little crackers and potato chips.  I LOVE this place! However, when we have our Chopp it’s 6:30 and with the large lunch we had, I just don’t feel like going out for dinner so we stay in.

Monday Aug 21stIt rained a lot last night, Ron said that he got up in the middle of the night and saw a large stream of water flowing down the street.  It’s raining outside right now, so it looks like our last full day in Buenos Aires is going to be a little dreary.  As we walk down the street, Ron notices that there are little wrought iron fences around most trees along the sidewalk and on the top of the little spires of these short fences are perfectly polished brass balls, who polishes those things we wonder?  As you walk down the street you are constantly seeing people polishing the brass around doors, windows, intercoms, mailbox slots, etc. (and probably the little wrought iron fences around trees!)  When we were at our new apartment I asked Ignacio where the mailboxes were since I had never seen any in all the time we were looking at apartments.  He mentioned that they don’t have mailboxes and that the doorman delivers your mail to you, almost every apartment building has a doorman, I think it’s mandated by the government to help give employment to people.  I actually kind of like it, as you walk down the road there’s always a doorman in every apartment lobby, the heads don’t move, but their eyes follow you from one direction to the next like the busts in Disneyland’s haunted house.

Royce called and said the buyer will be leaving the country on Sept 5th, so he’d like to get the contract process going as soon as possible for selling our home.  Ron gives Royce the fax number at the Locatoria and we ask them to call us when we get his fax.  Incoming faxes are $1 a page, outgoing is $1 plus phone charges, the contract was 7 pages and when it was received it came in on one big roll. Ron signed all the right places and then the woman tried to fax back the whole roll.  It froze up after 2 pages (probably because the other fax was expecting individual pages) and then she couldn’t get the roll out of the fax machine. She decides to cut it at the page break areas and then yanks it out of the machine.  She then dials and it says “ocupado”, so she waits, then tries to resend it.  All in all it took $39.50 to receive and send an 8 page fax to the USA.  Who says this isn’t the digital age?

This will probably be the last installment of the “Diary” until we get home on Wednesday.  Tomorrow we drop off as much clothes as we can at our new apartment (no reason to carry them back to California and then just carry them back), meet with the owner of the little apartment we’ve been renting to return the keys, then meet with the notary to get the legal process of starting our business to obtain residency, then off to the airport for a LONG flight home. Looking forward to seeing family and friends back home, seeing my pussy cats and getting some good Chinese food! Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the first phase in our journey here as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, keep coming back, the journeys will continue as we sell our house and get ready for the big move and getting the pussy cats psyched up for their first plane ride!  Can you imagine 2 cats howling for 12 hours straight?  Their voices are going to be mighty horse!

Tuesday Aug 22ndRon gets up early (he always gets fidgety when we travel).  We take a taxi over to our new apartment with our 2 suitcases filled with stuff we want to leave behind (mostly dirty laundry). Maria, the owner, arrives and tries to find the keys for the apartment, she dumps out a big bag of keys and is going through them.  How many apartments do they own?  Then I realize that there are about 10 keys that go with the apartment, I guess we’ll figure them all out when we return.  I love the keys in Argentina, even new locks come with large skeleton style keys that are so cool looking, however, they may be a pain to carry as the keys are large and heavy.  We walk back to the temporary apartment with our empty suitcases, it’s a fine day and the air seems fresh after the rain.  We get in contact with the owner of our temporary apartment in order to return the keys to her, she helps us get a ride to the notary and the airport via something called a “Remis”, it’s basically a driver who takes you somewhere for a set fee and is usually cheaper then a taxi for longer distances.  Although we had dropped off 2 full suitcases to our new apartment, Ron finishes packing and the suitcases are STILL full.  I guess that’s what happens when you try and pack a suitcase, it always fills up no matter what you try and put in it.  The “Remis” driver shows up on time and takes us to the notary, they usher us in and present us with a 2 page official looking document to sign, in Spanish of course.  One of the women can speak a little English so she explains what the documents are that we’re signing, everything seems in order.  Ron asks for a copy of the document, I notice their copier is a Xerox, so I show them my old Xerox business card and give them a thumbs up! The woman explains that we’ll receive a copy from the lawyer, hmmm, OK, don’t know why she can’t make a copy right there to give to us!  This only takes 10 minutes and we’re off to the airport.  We wanted to leave a lot of time in case the notary took longer then expected, so we get to the airport several hours early.  What is one to do, but find a café and order a Chopp beer and tostado mixto.  The flight home is pleasant enough, but like any long flight, you’re very ready to get off the thing when it lands. 

Wednesday Aug 23rdThe flight arrives in Miami at 5am and our connecting flight doesn’t leave till 7am, ugh!  I look for a place to buy a drink because I’m feeling very dehydrated, nothing is open yet, I settle for the stale tasting water at a drinking fountain. We arrive at San Francisco SFO and walk out to meet the free shuttle to the train station, we wait about 45 minutes before we ask someone about the shuttle (the shuttle is supposed to come every 30 minutes).  Turns out with the new construction at the airport, they decided to move the shuttle pick up to a different place.  We trudge down the stairs with our suitcases and pick up the shuttle, I notice a sign in the window that says “NOTICE” and tells about the shuttle picking up people in a new place.  Wish that sign was posted a month ago when we used the shuttle last!  We get home and greet the cats, they are very happy to see us and we’re very happy to see them.  The house looks great, but it no longer feels like our home anymore, it feels like when you go back to the house you grew up in, it seems different, not yours. We get our second wind, shower, shave and go to “Ming’s” in Palo Alto for a Chinese food fix.  I can’t believe I’ve lived in Mountain View for over 18 years and we just started coming to this place, they have the best Chinese Chicken Salad in the world and the rest of the meal is fantastic!  We come home and go to bed early.

Thursday Aug 24thRon goes to work and I jump on my computer, as lame as it sounds it’s great to have my own PC with my own internet connection.  I update the web pages so all the buttons work again! Still a little fuzzy from the trip home, don’t do much the whole day.  We do go to CitiBank to open up a joint account for when we’re down in Buenos Aires.  Seems there’s still not a whole lot of communication between countries even within the same corporation. I ask to talk to someone in the U.S.A. who is the Argentine expert or liaison, they tell me to call the Buenos Aires office for details, sigh.  The woman says it costs $40 to wire money to another account because it needs to go through the US treasury, I guess to check for money laundering.  We’re thinking of wiring enough money down for 6 months living expenses, but maybe we’ll just use our ATM cards to withdrawal money.  Ron wants me to get me an CitiBank / American Airlines credit card so that I earn miles when making purchases, Ron received a card and has been racking up the points.  The woman asks me “You didn’t put down a work phone number” and I tell her “Well, I quit work to do this move down to Buenos Aires. I plan on doing consulting to make money”, she says “But you no longer have a verifiable income stream, we can’t give you a credit card”.  Silence….. I look at her, she looks at me, I blink, silence, she blinks, more silence, reality sets in, I no longer have a job, they won’t give me a credit card, aaaack!  Funny how this “reality” stuff creeps up on you when you’re not expecting it.

Friday Aug 25thWe’re feeling overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done within the next month.   Royce comes over with more papers for Ron to sign and we discuss next steps on completing things.  Royce has been doing all the work, so there’s really not much to do except PACK! I am not looking forward to this! This is my mom’s last day of work, she finally decided to retire.  I give her a call and see if she’s doing anything for dinner, she isn’t so we offer to take her out somewhere.  We leave the house at 4:30pm and the traffic is bumper to bumper the entire time, it takes us 1.5 hours to go 35 miles.  I think I discovered the real reason for leaving the bay area.  My sister Cindy and Viktor are also at my mom’s house and we go out for a real nice Persian dinner.  Although my mom has enjoyed her job of 14 years at the St. Francis Hotel, she seems to glow from realizing she doesn’t have to get up at 4:30am on Monday morning and go to work.

Saturday Aug 26thRon works on getting all of his accounts electronically setup to be able to move money around via the internet.  I’ve already done this with most of my accounts.  Another lazy day, when the going gets tough, the tough go out to “Sono Sushi” for dinner, rent a DVD and spend some quality time petting the cats while watching “Isn’t She Great?” with Bette Midler.  You have to relax SOMETIME!

Sunday Aug 27thWe have our yearly home owners association meeting.  Paul in #8 has a nice large deck in his backyard and has been hosting the meetings for the last 10 years, we all bring a chair to sit in and Paul supplies the wine.  We also brought along a few bottles of wine to contribute, but Paul’s wine is much better then ours, so we drink his!  Hah! It’s great to see everyone.  We get to tell them about all of our adventures and then the good news with selling the house so quickly and for more then the asking price.  We mention the new owners name and David in #5 laughs and says that he used to work with the guy several years ago at Apple.  This is actually a very small valley.  George joked about naming the recycling center after us; several of us in the complex helped design and build an area around the dumpster for recycling containers, many people from the complex helped so it wasn’t just us that did the work, but it was a nice gesture and we all got a good laugh out of it. Someday there may be a brass plaque with our names on it, right next to the garbage!  Hah!  I am really going to miss this complex, the people are great and we’ve had a great 10 years here.  Peggy gave us a cat picture frame and also a framed picture of many of the people from the complex with a signed card, it was really great!  Stuart brought some very fine scotch for after the “official” homeowners meeting.  We drank wine and fine scotch, ate pizza and laughed on into the night!  You couldn’t ask for better neighbors, I’d be happy if we can find people ½ as friendly in our new apartment.

Monday Aug 28th- The house inspector came to look over the house and we got to meet the new owner.  He seems about my age, I don’t know how he can afford the place, he must be a stereotypical Silicon Valley computer professional with stock options.  I couldn’t even afford to buy my own house.  We go to visit the caterer for our party on September 10th at the “Faz” restaurant, everything seems to be falling into place.