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September 2002

We Find Our Apartment
To Buy!

Tuesday September 3rd, 2002 – We gave the kitties their customary belly rubs and fur brushing after returning from a long trip, then once that was out of the way we ordered sushi for dinner!  Colleen (the “Answer Goddess”) told us of this delivery place that doesn’t have a restaurant, they only do delivery service and it is excellent, very good quality sushi and now with the devaluation a delivered dinner to gorge on for two is about $15 USA.  Ron goes to China town here and gets sake in a big jug, then we call up the sushi place, zap the sake in the microwave and it’s Sushi heaven.  We order this almost once a week.  Ron will occassionaly say, “Maybe we shouldn’t order it so often, we might get tired of it!”, to which I reply, “Sushi??  Get sick of eating sushi??  What planet do you live on??”

Wednesday September 4th, 2002 – We received a call with terrible news that my Aunt Rosemary passed away.  It’s times like that this that I hate being so far from my family.  We love you Aunt Rose!

Wednesday September 11th, 2002 – Ron and I have been debating whether we should buy an apartment now.  Our stocks are in the toilet with everyone else in the world and we were going to finance the apartment by selling some stock.  We kept going back and forth with whether it was a good idea or not to invest in a country that we don’t even have legal residency in, to sell stock at such depressed values, not knowing if prices could go further down, etc.  We called our realtor friend, Olga, who helped us find and rent our current apartment 2 years ago.  She had been showing us apartments to buy before our trip to Florida and we hadn’t seen her since our return.  We invited her out to lunch at an Italian restaurant we like.  The restaurant has a great ambiance and we sat down to have a nice lunch.  It’s always great to see Olga, she’s a real cyclone of energy.  We ordered lunch and started telling Olga our concerns about purchasing an apartment.  She listened while we told her all the pros and cons that we felt.  After we both had our say, Olga said, “I’ve lived in this country over 25 years and have seen many ups and downs, everything is cyclical and I know that things will recover here, they always do!  Since prices are down, when the economy recovers, you’ll be sitting with a nice profit and you’ll be living in your own home and not paying rent!”  Apartments are ½ of what they were two years ago, so now is a good time to buy.  Sometimes it just helps to talk through your concerns for you to make your own mind up.  We finished the rest of our lunch and told Olga to continue looking for an apartment for us.  Ron and I both walked home feeling much better.

Sunday September 15th, 2002 – Alberto had us over his apartment for lunch with his friends Eduardo and Miguel.  Alberto has known Eduardo since he was 16 years old in Bahia Blanco, the town that Alberto grew up in.  Alberto made a wonderful pasta dish with a meat roast stuffed with olives and cheese which he sliced and put on top of pasta.  Alberto is a really good cook!

Wednesday September 18th, 2002 – Since we had decided to buy an apartment, I applied online for a loan in the USA.  We didn't want to cash out stock in order to buy an apartment, so I came up with this great idea (Ron groaned and rolled his eyes when I told him I had a "great idea").  I figured I could do a cash back refinance on my Fremont, California rental condo I own, then in a year, if Adobe stock recovers (cross your fingers) we'll sell some stock and pay off the mortgage.  If it doesn't recover, we'll just keep paying the mortgage until it does.  This will buy us some time in order for the USA stock market to recover so we won't have to sell stock at such depressed values.  I filled out the 12 page application and felt thrilled at the prospects of buying our own place.

However, I got to one page in the online application that was titled “Liabilities and Debts”, I thought it was odd that I could not continue past this page until I put SOMETHING in, so I put $10 owed on a credit card just to get it to advance, I guess they figure everyone has some credit card debt and couldn’t possible have a zero balance, very strange.

Sunday September 22nd, 2002 – It was a beautiful day and Ron wanted to get out of the house and do something fun.  He wanted to go to San Telmo where they have an antiques open air fair every Sunday.  We took the number 10 bus and were there in no time.  We walked around the square looking for a good place to have lunch, they have several restaurants where they have tango shows going on all day so that you can watch a show as you eat.  We’ve never tried one of these places so we thought it would be nice to try something new.  As we walked by one restaurant we could hear the tango music coming out of the balcony doors on the 2nd floor of the restaurant, a beautiful Argentine woman was standing at the bottom of the stairs beckoning us to come in and have some lunch and see the show.  How could we resist?  We climbed the narrow creaky stairs and got to the top where another beautiful Argentine woman smiled and showed us to a table, the place was packed, the tables very close to each other, people eating away, watching the show, smoking, clinking glasses, cameras snapping, conversations could be heard in several languages.  Unfortunately the main area was filled so they put us in the back room and seated us at a postage stamp sized table.  It was actually a little more quiet back there and I could see the show from the open archway between the rooms.  Ron couldn’t see the show, but people were standing and taking pictures anyways, so I couldn’t really see the show either.  The waiter came over, handed us some menus and I asked for some “agua con gas”, “¡Como no!” (meaning, “of course!”) he replied as he scurried away.  There is something here called a “parrillador”, a parrilla is the way of grilling meats, and a “parrillador” is a term for a meal of selected grilled organ meats, beef , chicken and whatever else they have.  I love all these things but have never ordered a “parrillador” before because it always looks like a TON of food.  This day I was feeling especially hungry and thought it a good time to try a “parrillador”.  The waiter came back and I ordered a mixed salad, French fries and “parrillador para dos”, he told me in Spanish that the “parrillador” is a lot of food and suggested that we order “parrillador para uno”.  I thanked him for his recommendation and then ordered a nice bottle of cheap red Argentine table wine to enjoy with our meal.  “¡Como no!” he replied as he again quickly disappeared.  He brought the red wine and seeing there was no place to put it on our tiny table, pulled up another serving table ½ the size of our current table and butted it alongside ours, making a table ALMOST large enough for two people to actually have a meal.  He corked the inexpensive wine and had me taste it.  I’m constantly amazed that waiters still respect the art of actually serving you in a restaurant here, they take great pride in their work no matter how big or small the café.  He waited for me to approve the wine, standing erect, not looking impatient, even though he was probably waiting on ½ the tables in the crowded restaurant.  The wine was a little rough around the edges, but I smiled and approved and he filled our glasses, as I looked up, he was gone again in a flash.  He brought the ensalada mixta and we had some salad with the fresh bread rolls (no butter, you never get butter with bread here).  He brought the first part of the “parrillador” which was the grilled organ meats, he told us the meat course would arrive next.  We ate the morcillas first, grilled blood sausage, one of my favorites and then the mollejas (sweet breads) and other bits of strange pieces, don’t know what they were, but I loved them all. 

We were sitting next to a table where the performers were relaxing between sets, as one would come off stage they would sit at the table, have an empanada and maybe a smoke, while another performer would get up to the stage.  It was fun to watch them as they all talked so animatedly to each other.  Two older gentlemen showed up and I imagined they were the owners of the club.  Lots of waving of hands, lighted cigarettes and eating and drinking pursued.  It was quite fun to watch them.

The asado (pork ribs), chicken and beef came next.  I can’t believe this was supposed to be a portion for one.  We listened to the boisterous tango music, the clinking of plates and utensils, humming satisfactorily at each other, washing it down with the red table wine.  Quite a wonderful meal.  We finished up EVERYTHING , nothing left on our plates, and ordered 2 café cortados, coffee “cut” with milk.  The entire lunch came out to 44 pesos or $12.30 including wine and tip. 

We walked around a little bit after lunch to look at the antiques and then headed back to pickup the bus home.

Tuesday September 24th, 2002 – I had been dying for a massage and was asking friends for a recommendation, there are lots of places that give massages, but I didn’t want to go to the wrong place and have it turn out to be a cat house.  A friend recommended someone who teaches yoga classes and gives massages.  He does a “Tao” kind of massage while you’re laying on the floor, using his feet and hands at the same time to do the massaging.  The first time I went to Ricardo he had my eyes covered with a scented cloth while he was doing the massage.  I had to “peek” out the bottom of the cloth because I really thought someone else had come into the room and there were 2 people massaging me.  Turns out it was just Ricardo using his hands and his feet at the same time, I’m still not sure how he does it but it feels fantastic.  We have a standing appointment for Tuesday mornings, Ron goes at 11:30 am and I go at 12:40.  I’m in heaven!

On the way home I constantly scan the skies looking for “Vende” (For-Sale) signs on the apartments.  I noticed a “Vende” sign on a tall building facing Plaza Vicente López, the park that is very near our current apartment and jotted down the phone number for Olga to call.

Wednesday September 25th, 2002 – Olga took us to see another 5 apartments and we think that we may have found one to buy.  The first was in a “Peña” apartment.  Peña is a famous local architect who’s buildings are highly claimed as being the best.  This apartment was incredible.  The owners were the original owners and have lived there 35 years.  We probably have looked at 100 apartments in the 2 years that we have lived here and I have never seen such quality of workmanship, not only in the design of the building, but in the extra things the owners had done to the apartment.  The first floor had beautiful slate tile on the floor and the walls were richly polished wood.  The living room had a huge private garden.  It was beautiful, but all I could think of was the maintenance that would be involved in the apartment, the apartment was very large, way more space then what we wanted.  However, Ron loved the workmanship and quality of the apartment and the garden, I saw it as a lot of apartment to clean and a large yard to tend after.  We had a large home in California and I really didn’t want to get into another big place.

The next apartment was in a building that we had previously looked at.  The location is good and it’s facing Plaza Vicente López, a prestigious address.  However, the apartment building is on the corner of two streets and one of the streets is extremely noisy with buses constantly charging around the corner.  This apartment seemed pretty small and I didn’t like the layout very much, it was in good shape though and wouldn’t need any remodeling.  I opened the windows and the apartment was very noisy from the street traffic below.

Later that afternoon Olga made an appointment on the apartment in the same tall building that I spotted the sign for on my way home from my massage.  This apartment was on the other side of the building from the other apartment we looked at, away from the street with the noisy buses on it.  I always told Olga, you don’t need to sell us on the virtues of an apartment, I will know it as soon as I walk in.  Well, this was it.  I walked in and WOW!  The apartment is on the 19th floor and has incredible views, most buildings in our neighborhood are usually between 8 and 12 stories but this one has 20, so being on the 19th floor you have unobstructed city views on 3 sides including the river separating Argentina and Uruguay.  Just incredible!  I walked into the kitchen and there were 3 large windows with a fantastic view.  I tried to keep my excitement down when I started to notice the actual interior.  I quickly realized the apartment needs a small nuclear device exploded in every room, it is in horrible condition.  It appeared that it had been remodeled in the 70s and they dropped the ceiling by almost 2 feet with strange recessed coved lighting, it gave the entire apartment a feeling of the ceiling dropping on your head, all the rooms except the kitchen had been done that way.  The bathroom tile was ghastly and the kitchen was no better with tiles of golden flowers in them, YUCK!  But the VIEWS!!!!  The apartment was 118 square meters, just the right size for the two of us, not too small and not too large.  It had a garage and the expenses were low and it’s facing Plaza Vicente López which is a prestigious address, good for resale value.  Olga was telling us that an apartment in this location, with this view, is highly marketable.  The only reason this one had been on the market so long was because of the current economic crisis here and the fact that it needs a total remodel.  I was very excited at the prospect that we may have found “the” apartment.

We're almost at the top, great views!

I wanted to go see Austin Powers’ “GoldMember”  I found the first two installments incredibly funny.  Ron went to get tickets and found out that it was only showing one day a week, we thought this odd as it had just come out here, but then we figured it had something to do with subtitling a comedy like Austin Powers that uses constant sexual innuendo in his language.  I find humor the hardest thing to understand in Spanish, I’ll read a comic in the paper that is only 3 panels long and there’s only 5 words in each panel, I can read and understand all the words, but have no idea what the comic means or why it’s funny.  Sure enough, the movie started and there were parts where Ron and I were cracking up laughing and the rest of the audience was silent.  It was funny to read the subtitles and see how they tried to translate things, like “shaggalicious”, “On contrare baby, I think you can't resist me.” or “I think you're shagadelic baby, you're switched on, you're smashing.”  I thought it was pretty funny, but not nearly as good as the first two.

We walked back to our apartment and our doorman Miguel was there.  I had previously asked him to ask the owner of the apartment below us to see how much she charges for the rent.  Our lease with our current landlord is expiring at the end of the month and we wanted to find out what is a good price for apartments at the moment.  He said that he had spoken to the owner and then he asked us in Spanish, “How much do you want to pay?”  I just cracked up laughing, an Argentine will never give you a price, NEVER!  No matter how much you push them, they will just say, “How much do you want to pay?”  I told him in Spanish, “No, we want to know how much the owner is asking for the rent!”

He then said that the owner wants 1,500 pesos in rent, much less then what we’re currently paying our landlord.

Thursday September 26th, 2002 – I talked with a friend from the gym, Sergio, about purchasing the apartment and then I remembered that he’s also an architect.  We talked about going over to his apartment and talking about the job and possibly seeing his portfolio of previous jobs.

I was talking to Ron about the two apartments we saw, Ron liked the more expensive garden apartment, I liked the cheaper apartment with the great views.  We debated the pros and cons of both apartments, we’re both pretty tired of looking at apartments and we finally think we found two that we liked.  We decided to make an offer on the cheaper apartment.

Friday September 27th, 2002 – I called the loan agent to see what the status of my refinanced loan was and got her voice mail, no big surprise there.  I asked her to email me with an update.  We wanted to see the apartment again with another architect friend Pablo.  Before we made an offer we wanted to be sure that we could do what we wanted to with the apartment.  We showed up at the apartment and the other realtor let us in.  Pablo agreed that the apartment needs a total remodel but also said that he thought the building was a good building and of course the view and location were excellent.  I told Pablo some of the ideas I had for the apartment.  Many apartments here come with something called a “dependencia” which is a small room for the maid to live in with an attached small bathroom.  We will never have a live in maid, so I told Pablo that I wanted to use the dependencia as a master bathroom suite for the bedroom.  He suggested that for resale value it’s important to leave the dependencia because many Argentines still have maids, however, I told him I didn’t really want to leave a room empty just to make the resale value higher.  We’re hopefully going to live in the apartment a long time and I want to be able to use the space as I want.  I’ve always dreamed of having a shower without an enclosure and really want to use the space as a nice bathroom with city views.

The floorplan, lower bottom left corner is elevators, “cocina” is the kitchen with 3 large windows, above that is the maid’s quarters that I want to convert into a master bathroom with a shower with a view.  At the top right are the 2 bedrooms, “Comedor” is where the living room is with a balcony facing Plaza Vicente López.

After leaving the apartment we told Olga that we wanted to make a bid on the apartment, I also wanted to do this as soon as possible so that they would stop showing the apartment to prospective buyers.  We were all very happy after such a long process of looking for apartments.

Saturday September 28th, 2002 – We went to the other realtor’s office to make a bid on the apartment.  It was raining like crazy and we showed up soaked from the knees down.  When we met Olga she said that this was good luck, like when it rains on your wedding day.  I was not so sure.

Olga translated for us as the other realtor made up the offer agreement.  The apartment had been on the market for many months, probably because the apartment needs a total remodeling, and we decided to make an offer of less then what the listed price was.  The realtor filled out the offer letter and Olga translated it for us and we signed it.  The realtor said that he would present the offer to the owner and get back to us by Monday morning with his decision.

Monday September 30th , 2002 – We waited to hear from Olga to see if the owner accepted our offer.