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October 2000

A trip to the interior of
Argentina, La Cumbre

Sunday Sept 10th– The day of our “Life Part Deux” party! We weren’t sure what to expect as we were late sending off the invitations for the party so we didn’t ask for an RSVP.  We invited 200 people including children, so like most large parties we planned on a certain percentage of “no shows”.  The night before Ron dreamt no one came and we had tons of food left over.  Since most of the party was to be held on an outside deck, I dreamt that it rained.  What an optimistic bunch we are!  The party was to start at 3pm, we showed up around 2:30 and Ron says, “how much you want to bet your family is there already?”  My mom is never late so I wasn’t about to take him up on that bet. The family showed up at 2:45pm, only 15 minutes early.  We met the caterer and the disc jockey who I told to play Tango / Latin / Salsa music. The disc jockey was very nice but had to ask us, “Why the tango theme?”  We told him the whole story and he wished us luck, he also said he bought some great new tango CDs that he was going to give us as a gift.  The party was fantastic!  I wasn't sure what to expect as I just set everything up by just talking to the caterer, but it couldn't have been more perfect.  Just the fact that I didn’t do any work made the party great for me.  The DJ’s selection of music was perfect!  People even got up and started dancing!  We had an open bar (with my family, you have to!) and tons of great food; smoked salmon, caviar potatoes, huge shrimp, toasted points with chopped olives (the only thing I was not impressed with), hummus, spinach in filo dough, Mediterranean tomatoes with goat cheese, scallops on skewers, chicken kabobs, home made potato chips and salsa, fruit plates, little custard cakes, chocolate dipped strawberries, etc.  They kept coming out with fresh food the entire time, it was wonderful.  Every time I turned around there was a new face to say, "I'm so glad you're here" too.  It was on an outside deck, the weather was perfect so we didn't use the inside area at all.  Even as it closed down around 8pm it was still very nice to be in shorts.  Of course I was so busy talking to everyone I barely ate anything and only had 3 drinks in 5 hours.  That's a record for me!  Every time I tried to walk 10 feet to get my camera I got stopped 6 times, unfortunately, I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted but it sure was great to see everyone in such a fun setting!

Monday Sept 11th through Wednesday Sept 20thThis time was a total blur for me.  I have no idea what I did. The last 2 times we moved Ron somehowhad a Navy 2 week reserve mission and I ended up doing everything by myself.  This time Ron wanted to work until Friday September 22nd (leaving only one week before we were leaving, to pack and move) to get the last few Adobe stock options the could, so I told him, “I’m not doing anything while you’re at work.”  At night we would do some packing and taking things to Good Will, but during the day I didn’t do any packing. I would later regret this immensely.

Thurday Sept 21st – We rent a 15 foot truck from the temporary storage unit we had in Mountain View to move things down to our new storage unit in Hollister.  We had called around for prices on storage units and it turned out Hollister is about 1/3 cheaper then Gilroy, which is only 15 miles away, so Hollister is where our storage unit is.  We unloaded the truck and stacked things as efficiently as we could saying to ourselves, “we’ll probably never see this stuff again!” We race back to Mountain View to get the truck back in time before they close.

Friday Sept 22nd– We had been working with Crown Relocations to get some things shipped to Argentina and get our residency established with the lawyer.  They had wanted to come out and give us an estimate but we weren’t sure how much we wanted to bring.  I asked them to give us an estimate of sizes and weights, I mean if a 3x3x3 foot box costs $10,000 dollars to ship, we wouldn’t take anything with us, but if a 5x5x5 box costs $800 and because of the economy of scales a 10x10x10 box costs $1,200, then we may take more stuff with us.  I thought this was a reasonable request to make of a company that their sole purpose in life is to ship things internationally, but for some reason they wouldn’t give us an estimate.  We finally just decided to start stacking boxes to one side of the garage that we wanted to take with us.  I then called Crown and the woman we were working with, Lynn, wasn’t in, so I left her a voicemail message that we were leaving for Argentina a week from this Sunday and time is running out.

Saturday Sept 23rd –  I had sent a letter to the Argentine Consulate in Los Angeles to ask about the requirements for obtaining residency.  One of the requirements was for an original birth certificate, Ron searched for mine and couldn’t find it so I called information for the phone number of the hospital I was born in, she couldn’t find that but when I told her that what I wanted she pulled up the “birth and death records” department.  I phoned them and got a lengthy voice automation system, but damn if it wasn’t perfectly designed with the exact information you needed in a logically organized menu fashion.  Amazing.  I obtained the needed information and went to the local “Mailboxes Etc.” to FedEx off everything to Michigan for my birth certificate.  In my letter I put the fact that I was leaving in 8 days so could they please do everything they could in order to get it to me in time.  Hope springs eternal!  Could a government agency really work efficiently and get me my birth certificate in time???  While surfing the web for the phone number for the hospital I was born in, somehow I found a website about a cat litter box that uses regular non-clumping litter and doesn’t smell.  I’m not sure if I wrote about this already or not, but for some unknown reason they don’t have clumping cat litter in Buenos Aires.  For cat owners, this stuff is the best thing since sliced bread. I was joking that I could import clumping cat litter into Buenos Aires to make money.  Out of the couple of ideas I have to make money, I could just envision importing oil tankers full of clumping cat litter in Argentina.  It sounds so bizarre, it’s probably the only idea I have that will actually make any money!  Anyways, I saw this advertisement for the cat litter box and sent off for that too, hoping it would get to me before we left for Argentina.

Sunday Sept 24thPacking, packing and more packing!

           Ron had that couch over 20 years, we ended up                                  Caught Ron packing something!
                          giving it to GoodWill.                                                 We'll probably never see that stuff again!

Can't believe we got everything out of the house on time!

These pictures make me ill to look at them!

Monday Sept 25th— I called Crown Relocation again and Lynn still wasn’t in.  I told the person I was talking too about our dilemma and how time was running out.  She said they were fully booked and there was no way they could come and pick up our stuff for shipment before Sunday.  I tried to remain calm as I couldn’t believe what I was hearing (this was to become the first of MANY times during this final week that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!).  I told her Lynn knew of our schedule and she had to do SOMETHING!  She said she would call Lynn and get back to me. I tried to remain calm.

Ron’s old Navy pilot friend, Chip, and his wife Tracy invited us over for brunch. They had moved from Los Altos to a beautiful home in Lafayette about 2 years ago and we had never seen the home before.  The home is fantastic and Chip and Tracy made us a wonderful brunch (with Champagne of course!) and we got caught up each other’s lives.  It’s amazing how with good friends you can just pick up from where ever you are, even after not seeing each other for a few years.  I told them about my ideas on importing cat litter and they agreed I would be the cat litter king of Buenos Aires.

Tuesday Sept 26th The Argentine Consulate in Los Angeles said that I could get the paperwork for getting the cats into Argentina notarized at something called the “Apostille” in Sacramento.  This would save me a trip to the consulate in LA to have it done.  I call the “Apostille” in Sacramento to verify everything and she says, “Don’t you realize it’s about a 10 day process to get all the paperwork done?”  With only 6 days left to do everything, I start to feel like I’m going to throw up. My personal effects are one thing, but my cats?!?!?!?  If they can’t go, I’m not going.  I talk to her about options.  She says that the health certificates need to be signed by the vet and have their signature notarized in person as they sign it, then you take that document to the county clerk to have the notary’s signature notarized, then you take that to the “Apostille” in San Francisco to have the county clerks signature notarized.  As I hold the phone to my head, I say, “No problem…..”  I stare in disbelief at a blank wall, I am going to throw up now for sure!  I call the vet to schedule shots for Scarlet and Loretta and the vet doesn’t have any openings until Thursday. I mention that we’re leaving on Sunday and I decide to call our other vet who can take us in 1.5 hours.  I’m there!  I then go to Yahoo.com, type in “notary” and find several notarys that will travel to your location.  I schedule this all to happen and leave with the howling cats as Ron stays home to continue packing.  The notary shows up at the vets and she has 4 copies of the health certificates for each cat.  “Why 4 copies?”, I ask, “don’t know”, she says, “that’s what they require”.  Ok….  The notary asks if I want my signature on the documents, I’m not sure, but don’t want to have any hiccups in customs because my signature isn’t on the documents. The notary charges $20 for the site visit and $10 per signature so this costs me $180.  The vet charges me $150 for the rabies and booster shots but nothing extra for filling out and signing all 8 health certificates.

I then get the relieved cats home and head off to the county clerks.  This costs me $20 per document or another $160 to have the notary’s signature notarized.  These are becoming VERY expensive cats!

Another document we need for our Visas is a “Clearance Letter” that shows we don’t have any police record.  The sheriff’s office is right down the street from the county clerks so I go there to get my police report.  After taking a number and waiting for 45 minutes, the woman at the desk says that they don’t issue “Clearance Letters” in that office and shows me a form letter that I need to have my fingerprints taken and then sent to Sacramento to obtain my “Clearance Letter”.  “This process should only take 28 days” it says.  I will be so relieved when this week is over.

Wednesday Sept 27thMy sister Cindy wants to buy my car, a Dodge Stealth sports car, and a friend of ours is interested in buying our Pontiac Grand Am, another detail we are relieved to be done with.  I had cleaned out our pantry and had several boxes of unopened food that I wanted to donate to some charity but wasn’t sure where to take them and didn’t really have time to call around.  I called Cindy and told her I can drop off the Stealth (so she can drive it for a few days to be sure she wants it) on my way up to San Francisco to see the “Apostille”.  I mention the unopened food and she says to bring it by her work and they’ll take care of distributing the food, perfect.  It’s great to see her friends at work one last time as I drop off several boxes of food and ½ filled bottles of booze!  They seemed pleased to get the food and the booze!  One more thing taken care of, I found that I need to do little things so I feel I’m accomplishing something, otherwise I get too overwhelmed by everything we need to do in the next 5 days. I get up to San Francisco and drive down a street with beautiful Victorian homes, wow, what a neat neighborhood, why haven’t I ever gone down this street before??  It’s funny, but when you’re about to leave a place everything looks, sounds and smells different.  I get to the “Apostille” and it costs me another $166 to get the final notarizations.  I notice that I just used my last check for the “Apostille”, hmmmm, I wonder where the hell I stored my box of blank checks.  As I drive home I feel like at least I have the cat’s paperwork in place.  We order a delivered pizza for dinner as we pack more boxes.  It seems like we’re making progress, but then you’ll open a closet or cabinet somewhere and whimper slightly as you feel like we’ll never get it all done.  Tonight is Chinese carry out.

Thursday Sept 28thWe rented a 15 foot truck for the next 2 days to take things to our storage unit in Hollister.  We take our massive bed apart and carry it downstairs, god it’s heavy.  We also take our heavy oak desk downstairs.  Ron says, “shoot me if I ever buy heavy oak furniture again”, you bet I will!  We fill up the truck and head to Hollister.  We try and pack things efficiently in our storage unit, it’s getting full.  Ron is getting tired and he falls off the back of the truck onto our fake fichus tree.  I panic and just know I’m going to jump down off the truck and see a bone sticking out the side of Ron’s leg.  He’s getting up saying how he’s sorry he broke the tree, I tell him I don’t care about the damn tree, I care that he’s in one piece.  Luckily, he didn’t hurt himself bad.  We get home in time to have dinner with our friend John Hammond.  We don’t really have time to go out to dinner but John lives in Aptos, south of Santa Cruz and we had already planned on meeting ½ way between our homes in Los Gatos.  We didn’t call him in time to cancel so we decide to go out to dinner so we didn’t stand him up.  John had traveled to Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam and had some wonderful stories to tell.  It was great to see John, get caught up on our friendship and hear his traveling stories. It was a much needed break from packing.

Friday Sept 29thThe gate on our storage unit in Hollister usually closes automatically by 7pm. We are running out of time so I ask Ron to call the place to see if they can keep it open a bit longer then usual. The woman who runs it with her husband says “No problem, I’ll just key into the computer so that it will stay open till 9pm.”  We thank her profusely.  As we drive down to Hollister I wonder how we’re going to have time to get everything in the storage unit before the gate closes at 9pm.  I remember that there is an empty storage unit next to ours and I mention to Ron that we could store things in there temporarily overnight, so that when we’re there tomorrow to pack the final things in, we can then organize it really well.  Ron doesn’t like the idea of “commandeering” the empty storage unit, but it turns out to be a moot point anyways.  After driving all the way to Hollister, Ron discovers he forgot the key to our storage unit.  We don’t have any choice but to put everything in the empty unit next to ours.  We get home around 10:30 and drop the truck off in the nightly drop off lot.

Saturday Sept 30thRon wakes me at 6am for our last day of packing.  The house looks foreboding, too much to do, too little time.  I go to return the hand cart we rented and I rent a Chevy Astro van to take our last items to the storage unit in Hollister. The movers come from the relocation company and build a moving crate onsite for the Grand Father clock my dad built me.  I really wanted to take the clock with us as we’ve both grown to love it’s brassy gonging.  The movers start putting the things we want to take with us into their truck, they repackage things as necessary and pack up weird shaped items like our bikes.  They are fast and efficient, we should have paid them to pack up everything and save us all this grief.  They itemized everything, 91 boxes, oh my!  Where the hell are we going to put all this stuff once it arrives in Buenos Aires?  Too late now to prune any of it down.  I have no idea what the shipping charges are going to cost as they never really gave us an estimate. I have to fill out an itemized inventory sheet to estimate the value of the shipment for insurance reasons.  Ron hears me say $35,000 and he thinks that’s what the shipping is going to cost. I tell him that’s the estimated value of the shipment and he almost faints with relief.  They finish loading, I sign some release papers and they drive off, one less thing to worry about. 

I want to Federal Express our application for our “Clearance Letter” document for our Visas to the Secretary of State in Sacramento.  I get my fingerprints taken, first time in my life. Seems a little weird.  I go to the “Mailboxes Etc.” and discover that they can’t FedEx off the package because I want to enclose a postage paid envelope to go from Sacramento to Argentina.  She says I need to go to the FedEx office in Sunnyvale to do an international delivery.  I get to the FedEx office and discover that the address they gave me in Sacramento is a PO Box and FedEx can’t deliver to a PO Box.  I think of options and figure that I’ll get a US Postage Express envelope and put the international FedEx envelope inside of that, then ask my mom to mail it for me on Monday!

I get back to the house and Ron has filled up the Astro van with stuff for the storage unit.  I drive that to Hollister as Ron stays home to pack.  I get there about 3:30.  The gate is usually only open to 7pm but I ask the girl if she can set the gate to stay open till 9pm like the manager did for me last night.  She says she’s not allowed to do that, only the manager can do it and they aren’t there right now.  I try and think of more options, hmmmm, well that’s that, not enough time to make another trip to Hollister before 7pm, we’ll just ask one of our neighbors if we can store some stuff in their garage until we get back in February. As I leave I ask if the managers have returned yet, she says they have, but she isn’t supposed to bother them, aaaack! Now I know what going postal feels like.  I tell the kid this is really important and she talks to them.  The manager comes out and says “No problem, I’ll be around all night”. Wow, what a great guy!  I get home, fill up the van one last time and return again to Hollister (it’s about 1.5 hours each way).  It’s now 8pm and the guy is waiting in the office and opens the gate for me.  I empty the van in 22 minutes and tell the manager how much this means to me.  He keeps saying, “It’s nothing”.  Well, it’s something to me and as my Aunt Hazel would say, “he earned another jewel in his crown for heaven!”  I get home around 9:30pm and Ron is almost done packing. We decide to have a drink and then take the rental van back to the nightly drop off lot.  I ask Ron if he has his house keys before he shuts the door on the van.  He shows them to me and then proceeds to put the keys back down on the seat and lock them in the van.  We don’t realize this until we get home and can’t get in the house.  I give him another one of those, “I can’t believe this happening”, speeches.  Luckily, we always kept a spare key hidden in the backyard so we are able to get in our house.

I start vacuuming the house.  The cats have been increasingly unnerved by the goings on for the last month, seeing us box and remove everything from the house and all their cat toys disappearing, where are those going?!!!?  With all the furniture gone they are really freaked out as to what is going to happen next.  We get to bed at 3:30am.

Sunday Oct 1stWe wake up at about 7am, we had a whole 3.5 hours of sleep.  Sister Cindy, boyfriend Viktor and my mom show up promptly at 8am to take us to the airport.  We fill up Viktor’s van with our luggage and then Cindy says, “You’re leaving all this stuff for the new owner?”  In our hurry to pack we had left some household goods such as paper towels, Kleenex, clothes detergent, some wine and beer in the fridge, etc. for the new owner.  Cindy asks if she can have them and starts filling up the van with stuff.  Last we go to put the cats in their carriers.  I find Loretta and put him in his carrier, I then look for Scarlet and I find her cowering in my closet.  I bring her out and put her in the carrier only to discover that she was so scared that she peed on my shorts, great way to start a 14 hour flight!  Ron told everyone we were leaving an hour earlier then we really were so that we would get to the airport early.  That rat, I wondered why he was so relaxed, usually he’s really anxious when we travel. Our neighbor Elis waves to us from her balcony as we leave!  There is a weird sense of apprehension and relief as we drive out the driveway. Even though the van rental place isn’t open on Sundays, we stop by to see if Ron can see his keys in the van. Someone is there so Ron gets into the van and gets his keys, wow, I knew we had great karma, but that is a huge relief to not worry about his keys.  We get to the airport 2.5 hours early, and check the cats in along with our luggage. Except for Loretta occasionally meowing, they seem OK.  We go to the gate, find the closest bar and have a bloody Mary.  I go into the restroom and take off my shorts and rinse them in the sink to get the cat pee out of them.  We did have 2 hours to kill so we have a couple more bloody Mary’s and it starts to sink in that we’ve done all we can, it’s too late to do anything else, we really start to finally relax.  We sleep on the plane to Miami, I can never sleep on planes but the exhaustion from the previous week (and the 3 bloody Mary’s) help me sleep.

Monday Oct 2stWe made it here in one piece, unbelievable, somehow we got our old house empty of all of our stuff (thanks to last minute pilferage by sister Cindy and her boyfriend Viktor!) and cleaned before we left, never know how we did it. It only took 2 hours to retrieve the cats from cargo baggage in Buenos Aires, usual mix-up of them telling us to go one place, then go somewhere else, etc.  We showed up at our new apartment and our new landlord Ignacio and Olga (the woman who helped us find and rent this apartment) were waiting for us, thank god!  Olga had made us a delicious quiche and Ignacio had stocked the apartment with fresh flowers, champagne and groceries so we wouldn't have to go out as soon as we were settled!  We showered, had some quiche, and toasted our new home with champagne.  Then we took a 4 hour nap, then watched some TV and slept for another 10 hours.  I haven't lifted ONE box the whole day, I'm soooooooo happy about THAT (but I still feel like a truck ran over me from all the moving we did before we left)!

 

Tuesday Oct 3rdI can't believe how relaxed the cats seem in their new home, they act as if nothing has happened, I'm really relieved, I thought they would be traumatized by the relocation but they seem fine. 

Ignacio had scheduled to have our cable internet modem installed into our new apartment today. I discover that I left the internet cable connector for the laptop in the boxes that we were having shipped, so there’s no way to test the internet connection once they install it (we only brought the laptop down with us).  I go out looking to buy a new connector.  It’s misting so I bring my umbrella and enjoy being back at my new home as I walk down the street with the light mist.  I end up on Florida Street which is one of the walking boulevards that is filled with stores.  I go into one computer store and they don’t have the cable I need for my laptop, but they’ll sell me a whole new PC internet card for $300, ouch!  I ask for a suggestion for another store that may have the connector and she points me down the street.  I go into a larger computer store that doesn’t have the part either, but they point me back in the direction I already came saying, “Gallaria Jardin”.  Finally I find the mini-mall that is filled with computer stores, ah, “Computer Mecca”!  I go into one store and the young kid behind the counter doesn’t speak any English (I think I’m going to be saying that a lot in this Diary!).  I point and grunt at my PCMCIA card making hand motions and he points up the stairs to a store that says “Notebooks”.  He looks relieved when I say “gracias” and leave.  They don’t have the connector either, but they have a new internet PC card to sell me for $95 or $99 if I use my credit card.  I figure we don’t really have a choice since we need to get on the internet, so I buy it.  “Oh yes, and I would like a network cable to go with that”, they say it will be $29. WHAT!?!?!?!  I hope that I have a cable at the apartment, so I don’t buy it. As I walk out I see another store that has cables hanging in the window, so I stop to buy one.  The cable is only $4 and I see the PC network card I just bought, “how much is that card?” I ask, $79, they say.  Oh well, it pays to shop around!  It’s still misting but it’s pleasant so I want to walk home, however, I figure the cable installers might be there so I take a taxi home.  Just as I pull up I see 4 cable installers at the entrance, great timing, except that I forget my umbrella in the cab, damn. The doorman wants the installers to go through the service entrance, must be what’s proper.  The kids work quickly and switch over the TV cable over for internet use so they don’t have to string new wire.  We sit down with the computer and the kid talks to someone on the other end of a radio phone, they do a few simple configurations and get the connection working.  Wow, our first day here and we're on the net!  Yahoo!  Next comes trying to update the website, now that we're on the net it should be easy!  We go the café next door to us for dinner and it takes a whole 15 seconds to walk back home.  We watch a little TV and then crash, we’re still pretty tired.

Wednesday Oct 4th– I try and get our website updated only to discover the CD I made of our website has a problem with it so I have trouble reading it.  Then I discover that the software I use to create these web pages is older then the software I used on the computer at home, so I have to upgrade the software.  The upgrade is only 13 megs large and I try and down load it, it takes almost 3 hours. With a cable modem this should be very fast, 3 hours to download a 13 meg file is like using a 48K modem. Ignacio calls to ask how we’re doing, I say we’re doing fine and he says that most renters call him constantly when they first move in to figure things out, he’s impressed we’re figuring everything out on our own.  I do mention the slowness with the cable modem and ask him to call the cable company for us to see if they can check the integrity of the line to see if it’s working properly.  We go to a neighborhood café that we like for dinner, this is the “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger” place that is very good, but has a limited menu, you usually don’t have much of a choice for your entrée and you get whatever they have in the kitchen that night.  I joke that Ron should ask for “bife de lomo” since that is what the waiter said they NEVER have, only “bife de chorizo”.  Well then, take it off the menu if you never have it!  Every Wednesday they have a special of “Cochinillas” (suckling roasted pig) so we both order this, it is SO GOOD!!

Thursday Oct 5thRon wants to buy a printer since ours won’t show up for several weeks (months?) until after we get our visa’s established and our personal affects shipped down.  We go to Florida Street to “Gallaria Jardin”, we walk into the store with the kid who doesn’t speak any English that I saw the day before.  We try and ask how much his printers are, but we can’t communicate.  He seems really relieved when we leave. We go into several stores and the prices all seem similar so we purchase an inexpensive printer where I got the cheap cable the day before.  We stop for a Chopp beer at our favorite café on the way home, of course it comes with chips, olives and little crackers, but we also buy a few empanadas to go with our beer.  Cheap and delicious!  We get home only to discover we don’t have paper for the printer, ugh.  Ron goes out to get some paper as I download new drivers for the printer from the internet.  We go to “The Immortals” for dinner.  This is a chain that we’ve been to before and we have a nice pasta dinner.

Friday Oct 6thSpent most of day updating the journal, it actually takes me awhile to compose my thoughts because I keep thinking of fun stuff we did, ate or drank (such a life!).  I really enjoy doing the journal but I’ve been letting it go several days because we’re so busy.  My cat, Loretta, sits on my lap while I type, I keep petting him and getting cat hair all over the computer (Ron screams at me when it’s his turn to use the computer and it’s covered in hair).  I’m so glad we brought the cats with us, they’re such great companions.

Saturday Oct 7th– A lazy Saturday.  Dinnertime rolls around and I’m in the mood for Japanese food but want to try someplace new.  I pull out the phone book and see a Japanese place with an address not far from us.  We go to find it and the storefront is a strange solid door with no sign anywhere, this place has never been a restaurant.  Don’t know what the phone book was talking about.  We decide to go to the Mexican restaurant we found before when we here in August.  The waiter recognizes us from before and welcomes us back!  We have a great dinner with margaritas on las rocas (on the rocks).

Sunday Oct 8th– I feel slightly guilty for not doing anything the day before so I tell Ron I want to get some exercise and go to the San Telmo fair.  This is a fair that is held every Sunday in the Tango / Starving Artist district of the city.  It’s a wonderful day so we walk to the subte (subway).  We get off the subte a little early so we can walk by some churches I was I reading about, they are magnificent and well worth the extra walk.  The fair is in full swing when we get there, there are tons of antiques stores that are open, and in the “Plaza Dorego” there is a flea market setup every weekend, everything from old $1million Peso notes to antique seltzer bottles.  We look for treasures, find none, and decide to have a chopp beer and a tostado mixto at an outside sidewalk café.  We listen to tango singers, drink our beer, eat our peanuts and toasted sandwich, and people watch.  Lots of fun!  We take the subte back home but we’re pretty tired by the time we get there.

Monday Oct 9th– I tell Ron I want to go to Berlitz to sign up for Spanish classes.  Ron agrees and we head off to the building which is actually very close to our apartment.  I love where we live, everything is so close, you don’t need to drive anywhere. Spring is definitely in the air, it’s nice and very breezy, the trees are starting to fill up with leaves and there’s lots of pollen blowing around.  I’m glad I don’t have allergies (knock on wood), as you can see huge clumps of pollen flowing down the street from the flowering trees.  We meet with a representative from Berlitz and she explains the pricing structure.  It’s very expensive, but I figure I’ve tried several college classes and didn’t get very far.  With Berlitz we will get personal tutoring.  I figure we’ll try them for awhile to see what the “best” teaching facility has to offer, then after awhile possibly get a private tutor out of the newspaper to save money. 

Ron wanted to buy a new showerhead for our shower, I kind of liked the intense stream of water (felt like a massaging shower head) but Ron wanted to replace the 50 year old head.  We went looking for a plumbing store, going into several bathroom designer show rooms, only to have them point us in a different direction because they didn’t sell individual pieces, just whole sets.  We finally found plumbers heaven, a very grim looking warehouse type place that had wooden bins that reached 30 feet in the air, filled with pipes, fittings, etc.  The customers all looked like professional plumbers and Ron and I waited in line.  I always try and watch what other people are doing and I noticed they had little numbers, damn, we were supposed to get a number on the way in. I go to get one and stand with Ron. Our number is finally called and we show him the showerhead, he talks rapidly in Spanish and we plead, “Ingles?” He keeps talking and motioning until we think we understand him.  We leave with a new showerhead and trepidations that we don’t have everything we’ll need.  As you leave there is a girl sitting in a wooden booth who is the cashier.  The “box” she is in is actually a beautiful piece of carpentry work and looks 80 years old.  It is a stark contrast to the warehouse / garage look of the rest of the shop. 

As we walk down the street we pass a magnificent building with “Edifico de Aguas Argentinas” on it.  It’s the offices of the water company.  Wow! It covers an entire block and is just fantastic.  I’ll have to take pictures for the website.  I later ask Olga about this building and she says it’s very old and the stone was imported from all over the world.  It looks brand new, I just don’t understand how the water company got such a fantastic building.  I wonder what our water bill will look like the first time we get it.  We continue down the street and find a great tiny hardware store that seems to have everything in the world, the store can’t be wider then 8 feet total.  We see vise grips in the window for $4 and Ron thinks we may need these to install the showerhead.  We go inside and there is a narrow 2 foot isle running down the center of the store, you couldn’t slide a single sheet of paper between anything, the store is packed so tight with things from floor to ceiling.  We say “buenos dias” to the older gentleman and explain what we want, he actually speaks very good English as he tells us how his daughter went to a university in Florida for 4 years.  He is very friendly and his store seems to have everything in the known universe. I note where his store is as we’ll probably be coming back here a lot!

We stop at our favorite bar café on Cordoba and Nueve de julio and have a chopp beer and order two empanadas, of course we get a little tapas tray with the 8 little sacred treats.  I love this place!  Four Americans come in after us and order chopp and they get different sacred treats in their tapas tray, “Hey!”, I complain to Ron, “they got the fried little things I like and we didn’t”.  Sometimes life is just not fair!

We decide to go out for dinner (who would have guessed we’d do that?).  We go to a parilla restaurant that I like in a touristy section next to the Cementerio de la Recoleta (Recoleta Cemetary) where Eva Peron is buried.  This is only about 4 blocks from our house.  For some reason the place is very empty, maybe because it’s Monday?? Last time we were here it was packed (but there was also an Argentina VS Brasil soccer game going on at the time). The waiter says the “bife de chorizo” is very good so we order that.  He brings it and I laugh out loud, it is so big it hangs over the dinner plate it is on (on all four sides).  How on earth could anyone eat all of that?  I single steak could easily serve four hungry people.  We eat about a fourth of it, along with our papa fritas (they make the worlds best French fries in Argentina) and ensalada mixta with aciete de oliva y vinagre (mixed salad with olive oil and vineger). Such simple ingredients; grilled steak, French fries, lettuce, tomatoes with olive oil and vinegar, but I would KILL for this meal.  They say Argentines cry when they go to another country and order steak, and I believe them.  The beef is incredible, you have never tasted beef so good ANYWHERE!  We have a café to top the meal off and take most of the steak home.

Tuesday Oct 10thWe decide to wash the bed sheets.  We have a washing machine, but no clothes dryer.  There is a hanging clothes dryer rack in the laundry room that has a neat pulley system to lower it to put clothes on it and then raise it for drying, but the sheets will never fit on it. 

It’s a nice, warm, sunny day so we decide to hang the sheets off our balcony.  We string a line and hang up the sheets to dry. 

Loretta wonders what the heck we're doing?

I start an “Evita” bibliography book that has lots of great Argentinean history in it. I make us a chorizo steak sandwich for lunch from the steak leftovers from the night before (and little chocolates they gave us with our coffee for dessert, I was so full from the “bife de chorizo” that I couldn’t even eat a little chocolate with my coffee).  Ron is working on the computer so I enjoy my lunch on our balcony sitting in the sun with a nice spring breeze in the air reading my book.  I feel very fortunate to be here, enjoying my steak and cheese sandwich lunch, my book, the sun on my face with cats asleep in the sun at my feet, boy am I lucky!

                        Loretta investigates the deck.                                          Lunch on our deck.

Ron at the computer.  There is a window from the laundry room looking into the office.

I don’t feel like going out for dinner so Ron goes to one of the local stores 2 doors down from us that has pasta, quiches, empanadas, etc. and gets a carry out of four large cannelloni for less then $8.  He asks for Pesto sauce and they say, “no good with this, pick something else”, so he gets a tomato sauce.  So much for the customer is always right!  There are so many little stores around us that I’m constantly stopping and noticing them, saying to Ron, “I haven’t even seen this store before, look at all this great stuff!”

We make the bed with the dried sheets and I’m thinking we should see if we can buy a clothes dryer, but then I get in and smell the sheets and remember how good sheets smell when they are dried on a clothes line.  Maybe the simpler way of doing things is better.

Wednesday Oct 11thWe attend our first Berlitz Spanish class, the teacher is very good and we have a very effective class.  Berlitz’ style is to teach the language like when you were a child learning your first language, using visual images from a book, props the teacher brings and having you repeat everything, ask and answer questions, etc.  It’s extremely interactive and relies 90% on listening and speaking.  I think this is exactly what I need, my previous Spanish classes at the college were with 30 other students, most having many years of high school Spanish, so I got left in the dust. These sessions are just Ron, the professor and myself.  It’s too early to say, but I think this time it may actually work! 

We go to the “Aleman” (German) Hospital to talk to someone about getting health insurance.  We were a little late getting there and the coordinator we were to talk to had gone to lunch so they ask us to come back tomorrow at 2pm.  We stop at a restaurant for lunch that has pictures of Paella in the window.  It turns out not to be very good, but it’s OK.  We get back to the apartment and the Fibertel Internet Modem guy left us a card that he had been there, damn, we missed him.  I had called to complain that the cable modem was slower then using dial up service, and it should be much faster.  He ends up calling on us again, checks the line, goes up on the roof and does something.  The speed increases a little bit, but it’s still almost as slow as using a modem. He says, “That’s as good as it gets but things will improve in about a month”.  The cable modem is costing us about $70 a month, we’re wondering if it’s worth it.  We first need to see what our phone bills look like, we’ve heard that they charge a per minute charge even on local calls, so if we stay on the net for several hours it “might” be a lot more then $70 a month in phone bills.

We go to “Che Buenos Aires” for dinner, this is a café near our old temporary apartment that we went to several times when we were here in August.  The waiters remember us, greet us and ask us where we’ve been.  I like this place.  We’re having dinner and I notice a man go outside, there is a tow truck there with 2 cops standing by.  He yells at them and the cops and the tow truck leave with very little interaction between them.  The man comes back into the restaurant, I notice he looks pretty overweight, and sits down with his dinner companion (who honestly looks like a 19 year old hooker), and finishes his meal.  With the physical shape he is in, the looks of his dinner companion and the fact that the cops left quickly, I wonder if he’s a politician or Mafioso!

Thursday Oct12th – We meet Olga at the “Aleman” (German) hospital, we asked her if she could go with us to sign up for our health insurance so she could be our translator if necessary.  We filled out some standard forms on previous health conditions, to which we said “No” to everything except Ron’s hernia operation 40 years ago.  They were impressed we were so healthy, I told her I don’t like hospitals so I have to stay healthy.  They took Ron for a physical, but ended up not giving him one because he said he had no prior health issues.  Ron said the doctor didn’t even take his blood pressure or even look up from her desk, nothing.  It ended up costing us $214 a month for Ron (he has plan 8) and $112 for me (I have the “joven” (young) plan).  We thought this was pretty reasonable, my previous HMO was almost $400 a month for me if I wanted to continue it after I left Xerox.  Aleman Hospital is kind of like a “Kaiser” system, there is no co-payment or deductible, you just go and they take care of everything.  It feels good to be covered just in case one of those crazy Argentine’s run us down with a car.  We offer to take Olga to lunch for being our translator and she graciously accepts and we have lunch in the hospital restaurant.  This is the restaurant that is on the 2nd floor of the hospital and has a full bar. We sit outside and it’s a glorious spring day.  This is only the 2nd time we’ve seen Olga since we arrived and get caught up on everything that’s happened during the last month.  Olga mentions that she’s going to look at some apartments for sale and would we like to join her.  We agree since we didn’t have anything planned.  She pulls out the newspaper and has several apartments that she’s circled in the classifieds, some for $25K to about $40K.  We’re kind of surprised they’re so cheap, and they’re in good neighborhoods.  She explains that there is in a recession going on in Argentina so there are plenty of bargains around at the moment.  

We leave and Olga points out the “Hiper Coto” market which looks like their version of Walmart, like a Walmart it looks like a crazy zoo inside, but you can’t beat the prices.  We shall return.  We take a taxi for only a few blocks and show up at the real estate office that’s representing the apartment for $25K.  She calls the woman on her cell phone because she can’t remember the address of the office, after hanging up Olga says the woman said that she was busy and asked her to please come another time, Olga demanded, “I’m here now, I took a taxi for this appointment, show me the apartment”.  You don’t mess with Olga.  As we walk up to the office, Olga says before we walk in the door, “Look at her, she’s not busy, she was probably eating her lunch or reading a magazine.” I notice the other woman in the office is playing solitaire on her computer.  She takes us only a few blocks to a building that the real estate agent says is 100 years old.  The front street door is impressive, the entryway is nice and the elevator is in pretty good shape.  We enter the apartment and it’s in pretty bad shape, Olga says it would need to be totally redone.  It is small, probably only 400 square feet but the ceiling is probably 12 feet tall.  The real estate agent says the ceiling is a false one and there is another 45 inches of space above it, most people tear out the ceiling and build a loft area for sleeping to increase the livable space.  Olga offers her $20K but the woman says “No”. There are some beautiful pieces of antique furniture in the apartment that looks worth $12K, I don’t know the price of antiques here, but they are marvelous.  We leave and Olga says that she does all the remodeling herself, I can’t imagine her actually doing the carpentry work, I’m guessing that she acts as the general contractor bargaining along the way for the cost of every brass nail they use to get the best price.  She says if the apartment was refurbished and in good shape it could rent for $650 to $800 a month, on a $25K investment?  That’s a 31% to 38% yearly return.  Gives us something to think about.

We ask Olga about buying a new vacuum cleaner since the one that was in the apartment looks like it was purchased before Mussolini was in power. 

The vacuum from before the time of Mussolini

She says now is a good time to buy since there are lots of sales going on for their Mother’s Day.  She suggests a store that we try and find, her directions were not too precise and we walk forever trying to find it.  Once we do the options are limited.  We finally decide to go to the “Hiper Coto” store that we had seen earlier, which is in the total opposite direction then that which we had been walking in.  We finally get there and it is truly a Walmart equivalent.  We find a cheap vacuum cleaner, some inexpensive wine and other household things. I tell Ron I’m not about to carry all this stuff home so we grab a taxi for the 10 minute, $2.48 ride home. Money WELL spent!

We decide to eat leftovers for dinner and Ron notices a pint of ice cream in the freezer that Ignacio must have put there when he bought the initial bunch of groceries for us.  He opens it up and notices there’s a few spoonfuls missing.  The day we arrived, Ignacio and Olga had been waiting for us in the apartment, since we were late getting the cats I guess one of them has a sweet tooth!

Friday Oct 13thWe had our 2nd Spanish class today.  Of course, we were so busy yesterday that we didn’t do our homework, so just like every class I’ve ever procrastinated in, we crammed and did the homework in the morning while having our coffee.  Ron and I actually did pretty good on the exercises and just as we were getting to leave, Ron says, “We can do this, we can learn Spanish!” I think the jury is still out on that one.  This time we had a new instructor named Lucilia, they had told us that they like to rotate the professors so that you get a feel for different dialects, pronunciation and accents. Like the first profesora, she was very good and very patient (a must if you’re going to teach Ron and I).  We had a very productive 1.5 hours of class.  As we leave we make appointments for next week, Ron sees the date and says “Ut, Oh, Friday the 13th”.  We find out that Argentine’s aren’t superstitious on this date, but on “Tuesday the 13th”, hmmmmm.

Ron had invited our landlord’s son, Ignacio, over for dinner since he’s been so great helping us get settled in, working with the Fibertel Internet Modem and being a general translator for us.  We’re still getting used to the gas stove / oven in our apartment so I was a little nervous about preparing a dinner.  There are flower and bakery shops everywhere in our neighborhood so the first thing we did was stop to get a nice looking chocolate cake and flowers for the apartment. In the bakery you receive the item and a receipt from one person, but then you take it over to someone else who’s sole function is to run the cash register.  I guess this is for hygiene so the baker doesn’t touch the dirty money; they actually do this at most food stores and restaurants.  We took the cake and flowers back to the apartment and went back across the street to the market to get the groceries.  This is a fairly good sized supermarket, but nothing like the “Hiper Coto” supermarket we went to the other day.  The vegetables were limited; zucchini, but no yellow squash; cilantro, but no parsley; bullion cubes, but no canned broth.  No matter, we make do with the selections but I still want to go down the street for 1.5 blocks to the next good sized supermarket called “Disco” to try and get parsley.  I love cilantro but it does have a flavor some people don’t like.  The “Disco” doesn’t have parsley either, so I just get cilantro.  There is a boy in the produce section who weighs your produce and generates a price / barcode tag and affixes it onto the bag for when you go up to the register.

I got back to the apartment and Ron started cleaning the apartment, I help him out with our new vacuum cleaner.  I wrestle with the stupid vacuum cleaner, it’s noisy and makes loud thumping sounds as I drag it around the apartment (I worry about our “never seen before” downstairs neighbors), I get tangled in the chord, the cheap attachments don’ work very well, the cord isn’t long enough so I’m constantly going from one outlet to another (of course there are 3 different kinds of prongs on appliances and not every outlet in the apartment has all 3 choices), the vacuum gives off a funny smell (hopefully because it’s new)… maybe like drying the bed sheets on the clothes line, the simpler ways of doing things are better, maybe I should just use a nice quiet broom and dust mop.  

After doing all that, I then start dinner.  Ignacio showed up right on time and we had a great dinner party.  Ron and I started with Martinis, but Ignacio said he usually drinks only water.  He brought some excellent wine dated 1989 that we had with dinner.  We had a great time talking about Argentine life and politics, seems their Vice President just resigned over some scandal that sounded very confusing.  This weekend is actually a holiday and is the Argentine’s equivalent to our “Columbus Day”.  Ignacio said he was going to their family’s 10 bedroom country home at the foot of the Andes mountains and asked if we would like to come along, “Are you kidding?!??!?!”, I asked him, “Of course we’d like to join you!” He said he hasn’t been there in years because as a child they were “forced” by their father to spend the summer months there, poor deprived children!  He said it’s almost always empty because it’s in the mountains and there’s nothing to do but breath fresh mountain air, hike and ride horses! Geez, why would anyone want to go there!  He explained that as a child, this is pretty boring because there’s nothing to do and usually there would be several relatives there along with them, so I guess it could get pretty old after awhile.  He mentioned that when he was about 14, he stood up for the rest of the family and demanded that they go somewhere fun, like the beach, for the summer instead of the country home.  We got a big laugh out of this!  Ignacio called his brother who acts as a kind of coordinator for people staying there and unfortunately 17 priests were going to be staying there this weekend because of the holiday.  We decided to go next week instead after the holiday, can’t wait.

Monday Oct 16th - Ignacio called us over the weekend and let us know that we could go to his family’s country home in “La Cumbre” on Wednesday, hopefully the priests should be gone by then. He would get the bus tickets and arrange everything saying we would leave at night so that we can sleep during most of the long bus ride there.  We ask Olga if she knows anyone who can look after our cats for us, she says that her cleaning lady can stop by and take care of it for us.  She tells us that she will escort her while in our apartment since, as Olga put it, “she is in my confidence, but not yet yours”.  Ron goes over to Olga’s apartment to escort the cleaning lady back to our place so that I can show her what to do.  I show her the cat food, water bowls and litter box, using short Spanish phrases and words I’ve learned, she starts rattling off and talking to us so we call Olga on the telephone to translate.  Olga tells us her cleaning lady was just complimenting us on our Spanish and that we were perfectly bi-lingual.  These Argentines are VERY complimentary and give you much more credit then you deserve! 

Wednesday Oct 18th –  Ignacio told us to eat before we get on the bus for La Cumbre since it is a 12 hour trip and the bus doesn’t stop along the way. It is only 7:30 pm when we go next door to the Scuzi Café to have dinner, the place is full of people having cafés but not dinner.  We ask for menus and the waiter brings them over along with tablecloths and place settings and sets our table for us.  We had a nice, light dinner and when the waiter brought the check Ron asked his name (en Espanol), I was quite impressed.  We then tried to explain that we moved in next door and he would be seeing us often, however, this part didn’t go over very well and I don’t think he understood us. I guess explaining where you live is in Chapter 4 and we’re only on Chapter 2!  We left the restaurant at 8:30pm and they were just starting to setup the other tables for dinner. 

Ignacio arrived promptly at 8:45pm and we grabbed a taxi for the bus terminal.  This is the same bus terminal that we used 2 years ago to go to Pinamar and it still seems very confusing.  I asked Ignacio how he decided on which bus company to use for our trip since there are seemingly countless bus companies at the terminal.  You look down this one long row of companies and there are easily 75 different little booths, all representing a different bus company going to different places, at different times, at different dates.  He said he just started calling different companies, asking about times of departure, arrival, and the comfort of the bus. Gawd, you have to be fluent to be able to do this without having a stress attack.  We get on the bus and it’s huge, the seats are like in a first class airplane with lots of room between seats and the seats fold almost flat so that you can sleep.  They give you a little box of cookies when you get on and there is hot coffee, orange juice and a toilet on board.  The bus is very comfortable and was only $40 one way for a 12 hour bus trip which seemed reasonable to us, maybe we won’t buy a car after all.  There are TVs on board and they show a movie for the first part of the trip, after that we stretched out the seats and slept, not a bad way to travel.

Thursday Oct 19thWe awoke at 7am as the bus arrived at Cordoba, Argentina’s 2nd largest city (after Buenos Aires).  Most of the people got off the bus and we continued onto “La Cumbre”, which Ignacio informs us, means the top of the hill. La Cumbre is in the Sierra mountains about 80 kilometers north of Cordoba.  We were on the second level of the bus, sitting in the first seats, enjoying the mountainous scenery as we awoke, sipping hot coffee, feeling like we had our own private land cruiser.  The geography, flora and fauna looked similar to central California, a little arid, but greener.  We arrived at La Cumbre and walked from the station to the 10 bedroom house that has been in his family for 3 generations.  It was still early and it was nice and cool as we walked through the little town with no traffic lights.

We arrived at the house but it’s locked.  Ignacio went down the hill to the caretaker to get the keys.  When we entered, the house is filled with antiques, the floors, tile, moldings and wall paneling are incredible.  The kitchen has a modern gas stove alongside a huge wood fire stove that is now an antique and probably worth a fortune (if you could move it, it looks like it weighs a ton). Ignacio tells us that his grandfather imported everything from Europe in the 30's to install into the house.  Being in the house felt like being in a movie.  They're actually trying to sell the house and one offer was just for the house, the buyer wanted to take out all of the antiques and imported wood floors, walls, and beamed ceilings and sell them separately, then tear down the house. The house is sitting on several hectares of land but the buyer only wanted the house. Ignacio would then need to subdivide the property and sell it separately.  His family didn't want to go through the hassle of doing this since the town is so far away from Buenos Aires, so the house is still on the market.  The house is on a hill with a great view of the countryside, fantastic!  You can't help but have dreams of owning the house and tending wine vineyards.

We went out to buy some staples, coffee, toilet paper, etc.  Ignacio took us into a bakery he remembers from his childhood and bought some treats to enjoy with our coffee later.  We went out for a terrific lunch, then went back to the house for a siesta. 

After we awoke from our nap, we discover Ignacio is a “Bridge” player and our family loves to play cards.  Since there were only 3 of us, we teach Ignacio “Hearts”, he catches on very fast and I lose terribly.  As usually with “Hearts”, Ron reigns supreme and beats us both, much to the chagrin of Ignacio’s competitive card playing nature.  We play cards for several hours and then take a walk to work up an appetite for dinner.  Ignacio shows us the town’s golf course, then an incredible hotel that is also a casino.  The hotel is closed down, probably because the summer tourist season hasn’t officially started yet. Being large, ominous, closed and empty, it’s pretty spooky looking, reminds me of the “Overlook” hotel from Stephen King’s “The Shining”.  I’m glad to move on.  Ignacio hasn’t been here for a few years and says that the town is built up a lot more then when he was here last.  There are lots of new, very large vacation homes, compared to the smaller summer get-away houses he remembers from his childhood.

We end up in town for dinner, we look for a restaurant that has lots of people in it as an indicator that it’s good.  The biggest restaurant in town doesn’t have a single person in it, we continue on till we find a nice place that has lots of people eating, it turns out to be VERY good.  At the end of the meal they have puzzles they bring for you to play with as you enjoy your café.  Like most puzzles, they appear deceptively simple, which only adds to the frustration when you can’t figure it out.  After dinner we walk around the town to settle our full stomachs, there are people everywhere walking and this surprises Ignacio as he remembers the little town being devoid of any activity, he guesses that the town is growing which accounts for the increased activity.

This is taken from the living room facing the dining room.  The dark wood is beautiful.

                                                                                                          You can't really see it, but this
                                                                                                       dish cabinet next to me is incredible!

              Ignacio next to one of four fireplaces!       A portrait of his grandfather who built the house.
                  The floors are incredible, each        
         room has different wooden or tiled floors!

                       Ron and I took this room because                            There were 2 armoires in the bedroom, 
                        of the antique beds and armoires.                    they are fantastic and look like they're worth a fortune.

         The windows have large wooden shutters.                This is looking out from the front of the house.
          The house is on a hill so you can see the
            country side through the windows.

Friday Oct 20th– I get up at 8am and find Ignacio playing solitaire on the patio, we make coffee and enjoy the morning.  The birds are very noisy and he points out the parrots in the trees.  Some of them sound like monkeys screaming.  We hike up to a Christ crucifix statue on a hill overlooking the town, it looks like the one in Rio de Janiero in Brazil, but sized accordingly to fit the small town of La Cumbre!  We stop at a house that advertises smoked meats, cheeses and fish for sale.  We enter and a crazy German man starts telling us what he has to offer, his little store is interesting but looks expensive.  Ron asks about the smoked trout he saw on the sign and the man says, “His name is Harry, he’s swimming in the stream, would you like to see him?”.  Hmmmm, Ron asks, “oh, so you don’t have any smoked trout today?” and the man says “Yes, but you don’t want to see it”, ….. uh, OK…. We leave, not knowing what they crazy German was talking about.  We hike some more, have a nice lunch, and take a well deserved siesta. Afterwards, we play some cards and head off for dinner.  A very relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable day!

              Front of the house, there is a marble water well                     This is looking at the front of the house
              on the left that Ignacio said is worth over $20K.                from the driveway.  The house is kind of plain
                     They wanted to leave the fountain                              on the outside, but the interior is fantastic!
                      as a selling feature for the house.

           Along side the house there is a grape trellis.                        You can see the marble well on the left.
  
                                                                                        It's over 4 feet tall and has reliefs chiseled into it.

                    Ignacio is a bridge player so we taught                         Living room, during sunset there is
                          him Hearts, which he loved!                                  beautiful dappled sunlight reflected
                                                                                                      all over the house on the wood.

Our first night we took a walk during sunset.

The country side looks a lot like Northern California!

                 The next day we climbed the hill to                                      This was a hot day!
    the Christ statue.  Luckily there were no lightening strikes!

              After our hike, we took a siesta, then played more hearts, the weather was perfect!

                                                                                            Coffee while playing cards!

Saturday Oct 21st –  We take a $1.30 bus ride to the neighboring town of La Falda. It’s a very hot day and we do some window shopping and have lunch.  We get back home and play some more cards on the patio.  Spectacular sunset!  The wind is very breezy and it almost sounds like the ocean as it rustles through the trees.  The cool, breezy, spring nights make for great sleeping!

                Each room had a different pattern, the floors           Ignacio said his grandfather imported the floors from Europe.
                   look like they should be in a museum!

                              The bedrooms and bathrooms have different tile patterns.

                                                                                            One day it got too cool to
                                                                            play cards outside in the evening so we moved indoors.

          This is a casino which hasn't opened yet for summer.                      It reminded me of the "Overlook"
                                                                                                      hotel from Stephen Kings, "The Shining"
                                                                                                         Pretty spooky being all closed up!

A castle built by a European prince.

Sunday Oct 22ndIn the early morning hours there is a great thunder and lightening storm, feels great to be snuggled in a warm bed, with the sheets pulled up to your nose, listening to the wind, thunder and rain, drifting in and out of sleep.  Later, Ignacio offers that I can pick the place for lunch so I choose the big restaurant that never has anyone in it, actually I did see someone sitting in the window, but it turns out she was the cook acting as a decoy. As soon as our order was taken, she got up and went into the kitchen to cook our meal.  Other people came into the restaurant and Ignacio kept saying that if the food is bad, everyone in the restaurant will blame me because we were the first to enter, then other people saw us sitting there and must have said to themselves, “oh, look, there’s someone eating there, the food must be good!”. We actually had a very nice meal but Ignacio still thought the owner owed us a percentage of the profits of everyone who came in after us!

We leave La Cumbre and pick up our return bus at 9pm.

Monday Oct 23rd – We arrive home at 9 am and the cats seem fine, although they do seem like they missed us.  The trip to La Cumbre was terrific, but just the same, it’s good to be back in our new home.

Ron gets on the laptop and I snuggle down on the couch to read my Evita bibliography.  Just as I’m feeling like I’m going to take a siesta, Ron calls the lawyer regarding setting up our business.  They say that the paperwork is all done and we need to go to the notary to sign the papers.  Not wanting to waste time, he makes an appointment for that afternoon and grabs me off the couch.  So much for my nap.  We go to the office and meet with Monica, who doesn’t speak English, and with Laura, who does.  We go downstairs to a notary and sign the papers for the business, Laura then tells us that’s it and the business should be complete within 10 days, wow!  That was easy!

Tuesday Oct 24thRon and I fight for turns at the laptop so that I can update the website with the “La Cumbre” pictures and also get caught up on email.  I spend most of the day updating the website, only to push the pages to the web server and then discover most of the pages are broken.  Somehow I did something that tickled a bug in the software I use to create the web pages, I hadn’t run into this bug before.  I try several things to correct the problem. The laptop we’re using as our primary computer (until our home computers are shipped here from the USA) is old, slow and doesn’t have much memory.  Things that shouldn’t take long are painfully slow on this system.  It’s frustrating and I constantly curse the laptop. Ron wants to read his email, but I want to get the website working!  Ugh! We can’t get our computers shipped from home until we get our residency visas.  I ask Ron to call the lawyer who is setting up our business and obtaining our residency to find out the status of things.  He does get through to the secretary who says she needs to talk to the lawyer, Mr. Casal, to find out the next steps.  She promises to call us with an update.  Once the visas are established, it will be another 5-6 weeks to ship and receive our things from home.
I get fed up dealing with the slow computer, having to share it, the broken website, and threaten to go buy another computer before I go insane.  I just can’t go on for another 2 months like this until our other PCs arrive!  Ron grunts, says we’ll make do with the laptop, and comforts me with a beer and some cheese and crackers for a snack. He sure knows how to settle me down!

Wednesday Oct 25thWe go to our Spanish class and then afterwards go to find some picture frames to mount some photos we brought with us from home, to make the house feel more like ours.  We stop in a store and find a good deal on 5x7 picture frames for $2.  We buy 5 of them.  I notice that there is Chinese music playing and there are 3 Chinese running the store.  I mentioned before that there aren’t many Asians here and I have yet to find one good Chinese restaurant.  You can’t believe how these cravings build up after a few weeks with no good Chinese food!  We ask the store owners for a suggestion on a Chinese restaurant.  They only speak Spanish, so we try and use our Spanish skills on them.  They suggest a place only about 6 blocks away and seeing that it’s now lunchtime, it seems like a good time to try the place out.  We walk down “Av. Santa Fe”, which is a major street filled with lots of clothes boutiques along the way.  We stop in a store where Ron bought candles the other day and end up buying a few household things, the store has very nice stuff in it and is very cheap.  We’ll have to come back here! We find the restaurant and it turns out to be an all you can eat buffet for $6.  I’ve never liked buffets, very few dishes do well sitting in steam trays and I usually always put too much food on my plate.  However, I’m craving Chinese food and they DO have it on the menu posted outside, so we go in.  It turns out to be a huge place that has more choices then you can imagine, in addition to the food put out buffet style, they also have a parilla grill with food cooked to your order, a sushi chef (didn’t look that good, looked like all fake crab), stir fried wok dishes cooked to your order and a pasta chef that would toss together whatever you asked.  Because of my cravings, I decided to go for the already prepared Chinese food.  Like most decent buffets, a few of the dishes were very good, some good, most just OK.  Next time I’ll try the freshly prepared dishes cooked to your order.  It is a nice place and it does seem a great bargain for $6.  This little tiny well dressed Argentinean woman was sitting next to us, she couldn’t have weighed more then 80 pounds, and I couldn’t believe that the woman got up 6 times to get a new plate of something.  Now, she didn’t pile stuff on her plate like we did, but if she got up one more time I was going to look over and see if she was stuffing food in her purse for later.  The last 2 plates were desserts, so I guess it wasn’t all that much!

We get home and we go to the laptop to read email and Ron surprises me by saying, “I thought we were going out to buy you a new computer”.  Now, when the old man says something like that, you have to jump and do it before he changes his mind, ask no questions, just take advantage of his slip in sensibility!

We walk over to Florida y Lavalle which are the 2 pedestrian walking streets that are just jammed pack with stores.  This is where I found computer mecca the last time I was looking to buy a network card for the laptop.  We stopped at a few computer stores to check prices before we got to “Jardin Gallaria” (i.e., computer mecca) which is a mini-mall packed full of computer stores.  We looked at several stores before finding two that know how to do marketing.  It’s amazing to me that at most stores, you walk up to a window display and it’s jam packed full of stuff, but there’s no descriptions and no prices.  You have to go inside and ask questions.  I guess this is fine if you’re fluent, then they can get you in the store and try and keep you there.  But it’s not very efficient if you want to compare prices and products, it just takes way too much time.  So we found 2 stores that had several PC systems listed in easy to read posters in the windows of the stores, listing all components, memory, etc. along with the price.  We were looking at one store and the owner comes out and asks (in Spanish of course) if he can help us, we plead for “Ingles” and he runs in, grabs a kid who works for him from behind a counter and pulls him out to talk to us.  Now THAT is customer service!  The kid seems knowledgeable, and the place where they assemble and test the computers is clean, orderly and in plain view so you can watch him work.  All the PCs are assembled onsite from various manufacturer components.  I’ve built many PCs this way, but it can also mean unreliable systems if the person doing the assembly doesn’t know what they are doing or isn’t careful in assembling the components or not wearing an anti static strap.  I remember seeing slightly better priced systems downstairs so we go to check out the competition.  At the other store we go to, the systems are also assembled onsite, the person I talk to seems very competent, speaks great English, explains all the pricing, costs of upgrades I want, etc..  We thank him and take the information he gave us outside to decide what to do next.  Ron and I stand outside the store and discuss our situation, we decide to purchase a system from them and go back inside.  It’s about 6pm and we talk to the guy, tell him the system and upgrades we want.  He totals everything and asks when we want the system, I say, “how about 10am tomorrow”, he laughs and says, “how about 2pm”.  We shake, put down a $100 deposit and say, “hasta luego”!

Thursday Oct 26nd – We received our first water bill, ouch, $52 for one month, seems very expensive.  We also thought the bill wasn’t even ours because the date was 06/10/2000 – 05/12/2000.  We weren’t even here in June!  Then we realized that they display dates differently so it’s really for 10/06 through 12/05 so it’s for two months, not one.  Still seems a little expensive though.  Almost all bills have scantron codes on them and you can take them into post offices or stores that have little kiosks to pay them.  You feed the bill into the scantron reader, then start inserting bills to pay it.  Seems pretty efficient, especially since the mail is notoriously unreliable.

We go to pick up the PC at 2:30 pm, I’m pleasantly surprised to find it’s ready, I kind of expected it not to be ready.  We pay cash for the PC and take a taxi home, me smiling all the way!  No more slow laptop, I’m soooo happy!  Once inside our house, there’s nothing worse then a computer geek with a new toy, I want to open every box, undue every twist tie.  I ask Ron if he can go get us some empanadas for lunch, this way I get him out of my hair and I get to set everything up.  He brings us back lunch as I’m plugging everything together. The empanadas are only $1.20 each and they’re so good, 2 make a light lunch, I told Ron to get us 3, yummm!  I still can’t believe that McDonalds stays in business here when you can get a great lunch of 3 yummy empanadas with flaky crusts for the price of one of their lousy, soggy hamburgers.  I start loading Windows 2000 onto the new PC, it’s so fast!  Ron is happy using the laptop without me bugging him, I’m happy playing with my new toy!   I get the software loaded but the network card isn’t working, probably a hardware conflict.  I want to open the case to look at the card and see how they have it configured but I noticed that they placed an inspection seal on the side of the computer so that you can’t open the case without breaking the seal.  I suspect that if I break the seal, the warranty is voided.  I’ll work on it tomorrow.

Friday Oct 27th –  We walk to our Spanish class and it is a gorgeous day! The school is only about 6 blocks away and a 6 minute walk.  Just like every class I’ve ever taken, you figure out the EXACT time it takes to get to class without being late, in this case, 6 minutes!  It’s warm as we walk without jackets, the sky is crystal clear and a beautiful blue color, the morning light is bouncing off the magnificent buildings surrounding the posh “Plaza Vicente Lopez” park, the air smells clean, fresh and full of spring scents from the flowering plants in the park. Wow, this is great!  We get to class and la professora Lucila puts us through the ringer yet again, it’s weird, but I actually can understand more and more of what she says.  Hope springs eternal.  She mentions a wonderful museum that we haven’t been to yet that is very near our apartment, we’ll have to check it out this weekend.  It’s funny but since we got here, we haven’t really done anything very touristy, we’ve been too busy trying to get the house in order and get settled in.  We have our first guests arriving in a week, so that will give us plenty of opportunity to play tourist!

We walk home and Ron wants to stop in a nursery store to see the spring plants.  This store is almost directly across from our apartment and I never noticed it before, all of the little stores around us are open and closed at different times during the day so as you walk down the street the storefronts seem to change by the hour because one will be lit up, the next one dark (for siesta).  Then the next time you walk by, the other store is dark (afternoon café) and the other one is now open.  It’s very entertaining to stop and look in a store you never noticed before, even though you’ve walked by it many times before. 

Since it’s spring, the plants all look very healthy, in full bloom, and totally irresistible.  I love plants but since our recent move from our old house, I’ve been reluctant to buy anything, I really want to cut down on my clutter. But my resistance quickly disappears as I start snatching up flowering plants for our patio.  Oh well, it was good while it lasted.  Just before the clerk rings up the final total, we notice a little wooden parrot on a stick to put in a plant.  More irresistible junk, and right by the checkout register. There should be a law against such marketing.  We leave the store $38 poorer, but lots of happy plants in our arms.

We get home and I start working on my computer again. Ron is thrilled to have the laptop back as his sole machine, without me bugging him when he’ll be done so that I can use it.  I work on getting the Ethernet card working, it locks up, I reformat the drive and start over.  The PC starts doing inconsistent things, from my years of working with PCs this usually means a hardware problem, not good for a brand new machine.  I start the drive formatting AGAIN and decide to do something constructive, so I pot our new plants in the containers we bought.  The cats look thrilled to have some plants to play with on the patio.

The PC locks up AGAIN, I’m convinced it’s a hardware problem and call the store.  I explain what I did and they say to bring it in today or tomorrow.  Not wanting this to drag on forever, I grab the PC, Ron and a taxi and head for the store.  We wait at the PC store while the kid tries to fix it, he’s having problems so he asks us to come back in a ½ hour.  When in doubt, go window shopping!  We actually find something that Ron has been looking for for quite awhile.  He once saw a guy in the fitness center that had headphones that kind of hang around your ear like an earring. They are better then headphones when you exercise because they don’t slide off your head and they’re better then the new breed of headphones that just stick in your ear, which we both find uncomfortable.  We head back to the store and the kid explains that he can’t figure out what is wrong.  Good thing I didn’t break their inspection seal, they would have just washed their hands of the problem saying I did something to the PC.  I explained to him that at work a few years ago, one of my responsibilities was PC assembly and hardware repair and I’ll never do that job again, NEVER!  In almost 4 years, PCs are still a bitch to work on and still not easy to configure!  He says to call him around 1pm the next day.  I leave him with the computer, unhappy that I don’t have my computer to take home, but happy that it’s now HIS problem and not mine to get it working.

Ron asks about dinner and since we’ve been good this week and have had salad for dinner several times, I say, “Let’s go out to La Chacra for dinner.”  This is an excellent parrilla restaurant that we went to the last time we were here. This restaurant is nicely appointed with lots of dark wood, huge beams, waiters in white tuxes and animal trophies on the walls.  We have visited this restaurant twice, our first time we ordered classic "bife de lomo" and had the most wonderful steak dinner, it was fantastic! The portions are huge so we picked one entrée, "bife de lomo medallions”, which Ron and I shared. The waiters happily obliged us splitting the meal.  The entrée was two huge “bife de lomo” steaks and was perfect to split with two people.  With this we had an ensalada mixto and papa fritas.  The whole meal was simple, classic flavors, prepared perfectly, and could not have been improved upon.

This time we ordered “ensalada julio” which was very good with hard boiled egg, lettuce, tomatoes, green olives and canned tuna. Our entrées were “tournedos de lomo” and “tenderloins La Chacra”.  Both steaks were excellent, but were covered in a sauce that could have been better, the tournedos sauce was particularly heavy.  There were also vegetables accompanying this that were not of the best preparation, they seemed overly boiled and lacking in taste.  For dessert we split an order of “sweet milk pancakes” that had dulce in it, a very good way to top off the meal with a café! Dulce is an Argentine staple that is sweet milk cooked down so much it’s like caramel, VERY sweet and VERY good!

Over all I would say that this is an excellent classic parrilla restaurant that is a great place for a nice evening out, or to take people from out of town.  It has a nice atmosphere, a big stuft steer at the entrance of the restaurant, English translated menus, a great parrilla barbeque in the window and a nice view of the parrilla chefs as you enter.  From this last visit though, I would stick to classic parrilla and not forge into the more “prepared” dinners that include sauces and accompanying vegetables.  *** out of 5 stars from me!

On the walk home we had to cross “Nueve de julio” boulevard, the huge 144 meter wide boulevard that is the widest in the world. The evening was very warm and the “Obelisk” looked very cool as we crossed the road.  There was a juggler with flame torches who would run out in front of the stopped cars and perform while the light was red.  Every few minutes the light would change, he’d run around to collect a few coins, then dodge traffic to get out of the way of the crazy Argentine motorists.  He’d run back, soak his torches in gas, and then when the light turned red again, he’d do it all over again.  A whole new show every 5 minutes!  I don’t know if he was crazier for juggling flaming torches, or crazier for staying in traffic trying to collect coins as the cars tried to speed past.  Seems a tough way to make a living!

Saturday Oct 28thWe start rearranging the “office” area to accommodate the larger monitor on my new PC.  We struggle to remove a shelf so the monitor will fit on the desk, of course the hardest screws to access are the longest, most secure and hardest to remove, the “Book of Hoyle” applies universally, even in Argentina!  We remove the shelf and it looks pretty good.  Next little Saturday project is that Ron tries to figure out why the bathroom sink is leaking.  We remove the pedestal and see that there is some caulking that was not applied very well,  Ron goes off and tries to find some sealant.  One o’clock arrives and I call the computer store about my PC, as I expected they haven’t figured out the problem yet and ask for more time.  Sigh…. I was SOOOO looking forward to a fast computer again.  Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  They say to call on Monday.  Ron and I are back to one computer for the weekend, more waiting for one person to finish so the other can use it. 

The day is clear, skies are blue, but it’s kind of chilly.  I make a nice cup of hot tea to have while I update my journal with a cat sleeping at my feet.  Ron is whistling some melody while he cleans up the kitchen using something that smells like pine trees.  Life is good!