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May 2003

Tigre with friends &
we FINALLY move into the new apartment!

Thursday May 1st, 2003 – This was a federal holiday here so most everything was closed.  Alberto called and asked if we were doing anything because his friends Pinky and Monica were in town visiting him and they wanted to go to the town of Tigre north of the city, shop around, site see and have lunch.  Pinky and Monica are from Bahia Blanca where Alberto grew up and were visiting for a few days.  We weren’t planning on going anywhere so this sounded like a great idea.  It was a beautiful fall day, crystal clear, cool, perfect day for exploring.  We met them at the Retiro train station, a wonderful train station that they had recently renovated, what once was a shambles of crumbling and empty stores and kiosks is now a beautifully restored building.

We took the train to Tigre and headed for the fruit market area which has lots of restaurants and antique stores.  It was packed with people.  Ron was still recovering from his operation so he wasn’t to good at walking, but luckily it wasn’t far till we found a restaurant and had a nice parrilla grilled lunch.

Great day!

   The beautifully restored Retiro Train Station                          Monica, Pinky, Alberto and Ron

Retiro Station and Tigre

A friend emailed us a picture of Ron he found from a long time ago of Ron at his Alto.  The Alto was the world’s first personal computer designed and created at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and was the inspiration to the first computers with an icon interface, the Apple Macintosh.  I actually helped box one up for shipment to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. and it is now on display there.

Thursday May 8th, 2003 – My uncle Al LaCroix passed away.  These are some photos I took on a camping trip that I went on with them in 1976.  We’ll miss you Uncle Al!

Saturday May 10th, 2003 – Our friend Frances Perry is studying to be a sommelier and each month she creates a dining adventure with a well known chef and a winery to pair each course with the wines.  This month it was held at the beautifully restored Hotel Sofitel.  The meal was amazing, one of the best that Frances has organized.  One of the appetizers was a raw oyster on the ˝ shell with some wonderful curried jelly on it, when the chef came out to explain about the course everyone wanted to know where he purchased the oysters, good seafood is very hard to find here.  The chef was very nice but was not about to reveal where he got the seafood from, I guess they have to hide their secrets.

Sunday May 11th, 2003 – With the apartment nearing completion, we’re reminded that we don’t have any furniture!  We thought since this is Sunday that we’d go to the antique fair that is held every Sunday in San Telmo to look at furniture.  There is an art deco store there that deals in very high quality pieces and I was hoping to find a bureau or stereo cabinet.  We took the #10 bus and arrived in San Telmo around 1:30 pm.  I was starving so we decided to head right for lunch first.  There are several restaurants that feature continuous tango shows all afternoon during lunch so you can watch a show as you have lunch.  We decided to try one we haven’t been to before.  We were seated on a narrow balcony with a view of the show, hosted by the “star” attraction, a busty sexy mature woman in a slinky tango dress, she was wonderful as she belted out songs in a husky smoky voice swaying her body at the audience and the appreciative glances.  We munched away on our 7 pesos steaks (USA $2.46) french fries and salad.

After lunch we went to the art deco store, but nothing tickled my fancy and called out to me to “Buy Me, Buy Me!”

Tuesday May 13th, 2003 – We shipped our Tempur-Pedic mattress down from California and we wanted the carpenter to build us a bed frame for it.  I mentioned this to my sister Phyllis and she said she once saw a photo of a Jacuzzi style bathtub mounted on a platform of glass blocks lighted from behind, she said she always wanted to have a bed made on glass blocks so that it looked like it was floating.  This sounded like a really cool idea and wanted to ask the opinions of the architects.  They also thought it could be interesting and drew up some plans for the bed.  The carpenter started making the bed and it looked really cool.

Above are the photos my sister saw.

                          The carpenter starts the bed.

Thursday May 15th , 2003 – After polls were saying Carlos Saúl Menem didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell, Menem announced he would be withdrawing from the presidential race.  This cancelled the national runoff elections that were to take place May 18th and by default gave Néstor Kirchner, 53, the presidency.

Saturday May 17th, 2003 – Ron was getting very impatient about the completion of the apartment.  I told him I didn’t want to move into the apartment and sleep on the floor, but he insisted on having the architects give us a move in date, it was orginally supposed to be finished on April 25th, but with a remodel of this scope, I expected delays, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” became my mantra.  The architects told us that the apartment would be ready to move in on Monday May 19th, Ron quickly stated that he was going to have the movers deliver our furniture and things from California on May 20th.  I told Ron, “Do you really expect it to be done on the 19th?”  Why don’t you schedule it for the following Monday?  Ron “hmmmpfed” and reluctantly said, “OK”.

I had to find some movers to move our things from the rented apartment, I emailed our list to ask for recommendations and a friend of ours, Claudine, recommended some movers that her husband Juan has been using for years.  She said they’re very trustworthy and reliable.  I asked her, “What about breakage?  Do they cover that?”  Claudine said they probably didn’t since they weren’t some big moving company, just some guys who did moves for a living using their truck, but she wasn’t sure as they’d never broken anything.  I gave Dardo a call and communicated that we wanted his help moving, he couldn’t speak a word of English but I was able to communicate well enough with him to schedule a time to move and how much it would cost.   Here, movers have big wicker baskets called “canastas” that they give you to store your things in for moving instead of card board boxes.  This actually makes a whole lot of sense as you don’t have to buy boxes and then throw them away, they just give you the baskets, you fill them up, then when they’re delivered you empty them and they retrieve them, everything is used again, very smart!  Dardo came by and dropped off 10 canastas for us to fill.

Went to dinner at Miguel and Eduardo’s house, we had a wonderful time as always, but it’s very frustrating trying to speak in Spanish, we really need to get back into Spanish lessons.  I’ve learned a new saying in Spanish for when people wonder why we can’t speak fluent Spanish after 2.5 years here, “ˇEstamos vago!” which means, “We are lazy!”

Sunday May 18th, 2003 – I belong to an email list of expatriates who live in Argentina.  The list is great for getting recommendations or asking questions like, “What can you substitute for sour cream here?”  Today there was an email from someone who was very frustrated in how things are different here then in their home country.

I responded with an email that instead of missing home, which is only natural, love and enjoy what a new place has to offer.  I fell in love with Argentina when I vacationed here in 1996.   Today, we went for a flu shot at the hospital, in Spanish the word for flu is “gripe”.  I love the word "gripe" pronounced, for us Yankees, as "GREE-PAY", what a great pronunciation for such an awful cold.  The extremely cute and courteous nurse said to me, "Why are you HERE??"  No Argentine can understand why someone would leave "California" to come here.  I told her, "Do you know what a beautiful country you have here?  Sure you have problems, what place in the world doesn't have problems?  This is a wonderful place to live!"  Of course, she was just puzzled, looked uncertain and was sure I was crazy.

I love Argentina!

So in response to the email about being frustrated here, I come up with a list of what I like about here.

What I love about Argentina.................

  • People who dress to go have afternoon coffee with friends and actually take the time to have a nice conversation, talking for hours over one cortado (an espresso coffee “cut” with milk) and the servers don't look annoyed that they're staying too long.
  • Ordering 4 media lunas (croissants) for 2 pesos (USA 73 cents) and they wrap them in paper with ribbon, like a little gift.
  • Having a café and they fill the table with a little glass of seltzer water, a juice (in the morning), and little cookies, all for the price of a coffee
  • Waiters/waitresses who actually seem to care about serving you and they're wearing bow ties and vests in a neighborhood restaurant
  • Buying 2 HUGE filet mignon steaks in the supermarket for 5 pesos (USA $1.81) that are the best you ever had, EVER
  • The porteros (doormen) that I don't know personally, but walk by every day, and I say "Buenos Tardes" to and they greet me in return
  • The friendly street vendors who sit on the sidewalk and sell better quality vegetables then in the supermarket (why is that?)
  • The guy in the "San Antonio" fish market who waves at me every day even though Ron does all the shopping and I've never been in there
  • Walking through a park and seeing someone pick up a kid they've never seen, spinning them around and talking to them as if they're a real person, and the parent doesn't freak out thinking someone is molesting their kid
  • Did I mention ladies in fur coats??  Being from California fur is such a NO NO, but God they look elegant and beautiful in their furs, don't they?!!??!?!
  • Ordering cat food and litter sand and they deliver
  • Walking down the street at 9 am and all the porteros are polishing the brass on the doorways, AND they look happy
  • The store that makes fresh pasta that is to DIE FOR, even though we have to go to another store that makes a better salsa sauce to put on it (which is also TO DIE FOR)
  • Flowers on every other corner, even if you don't buy some, you can smell them as you walk by
  • Watching the dog walkers gather the dogs for their walks, and the dogs are all behaving and not fighting
  • I laugh every time I see a dog carrying his/her own leash in their mouth
  • I laugh every time I see the old dogs with gray muzzles and whiskers who the dog walkers don't even bother to leash because they're not going to run off for NOBODY, they just follow all the dog butts as they walk down the street
  • Hearing the knife sharpener play his pan flute as he makes his way down the street, the pan flute seems to be only used by knife sharpeners, they ring your bell to ask you if you want any knives sharpened and if you didn't hear the flutes first, you pick up your reception phone and you hear 20 of your neighbors saying "Hola? Hola?"
  • Feeling that rush of adrenaline when you find cheddar cheese, the funny thing is I don't even like cheddar cheese, but when you can't have something, it makes you crave it.

I have many Argentine friends who say Argentines are rude, but I have never experienced that, I think Argentines are one of the most courteous, polite and friendly people I've ever met.  Maybe they treat me different because I'm a foreigner, with my accent I'll never be confused with a native.  Sure, sometimes you have to play "snow plow" when walking down the sidewalks (because they don't seem to notice you or care) but I still don't worry when I see a bunch of teenagers walking towards me at 2 am in the morning, in the USA I would change sides of the streets in such a situation, but here I'm not worried at all.

Friday May 23rd, 2003 – Today is the day that they are supposed to be finished with the apartment.  We went there about noon and there were 7 workers in the apartment, there was dust and debris everywhere.  We both groaned because the movers where coming the next morning to move our things from one apartment to the next.  We talked with the architects who assured us it would be finished that evening.  We went back to the other apartment to continue packing.

Cats love boxes!

Packing up the Old Apartment

We returned about 8 pm that night and could not believe our eyes, the apartment was empty and it looked fantastic!  What a difference 8 hours can make.  Alberto and Ricardo, the architects, were still there and we praised them for their work and finishing on time.  They told us that the cleaning lady went to the hospital after she left our apartment because they were rushing her the entire day but she couldn’t clean because there were workers everywhere in her way.

We returned home and continued packing, I hate packing, I told Ron we are dieing in the new apartment, we are never, EVER, moving again.

Saturday May 24th, 2003 – I wanted to take some pictures of the empty apartment before we moved in, so I asked Ron to go over to the new apartment before the movers showed up.  Luckily Ron was able to snap some photos while the apartment was empty.

Empty Apartment Pics - Before we moved in!

Dardo’s crew showed up promptly at 8:30 am to move us.  There are only certain hours where you are allowed to move into and out of an apartment so that you don’t block traffic during rush hour.  His workers came in and eyeballed how much stuff we had, and then started carting things off.  I went outside to check on the truck and make sure our things were being watched and not stolen.  They had one guy at the bottom of the service elevator who would load up the dolly and take it out to the truck parked across the street, another worker was in the truck storing things, everything looked secure so I went back to the apartment to help the mover get the boxes out.  I would stack them near the rear service door and he would fill up the service elevator and then come back for more.  They were very fast and efficient.

Once they arrived at the apartment I instructed them to put the canastas and boxes in the center of the room, I quickly started unloading the canastas so they could take them with them when they left.

Sunday May 25th, 2003 – Néstor Kirchner, 53, the governor of a sparsely populated province in Patagonia is sworn in as Argentina’s new president.

Spent all day Saturday and Sunday cleaning out the closets and cupboards so that we could store our things properly.  Like any move there were boxes EVERYWHERE and what was once a nice, clean empty apartment looked like a war zone.  We were still sleeping in our rented apartment as we didn’t have a bed or anything to sit on in the new place.

Monday May 26th, 2003 – This is the morning Crown Relocations delivered our things from California.  More boxes, sigh…. what were we thinking when we shipped all this stuff??  It was great to see the Grandfather clock my father built me, although one of the side glass panels was cracked and we discovered we shipped the clock without the brass weights needed for the clock to operate.  Ron emailed his son in law Scott to see if he could find the brass weights.

                      Where are we going to put this all?

Tuesday May 27th, 2003 – Went to Santorini’s, www.santorini.com.ar, a furniture store that the architects had told us about to find good furniture.  We had previously visited the store and liked their sofas and dining room chairs.  I had this idea to do the dining room chairs in two different colors of leather, kind of like a lightening bolt pattern.

Originally I imagined a lightening bolt pattern, but that looked too much like an oscilloscope readout

Like the glass bed, I thought this could be a horrible idea if it wasn’t done properly.  I was worried about spending a lot of money on a custom design and then have it turn out like something from Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse.

I made some drawings that I sent to Phyllis, my sister who is an interior designer.  She gave me assurances that it wasn’t freakishly bizarre and gave me encouragement to trust my instincts and do the dining room chairs in my custom design.

This was the basic dining room chair we wanted.         Final design for chair backs, the two lower
                                                                                          sections and the seat will be dark green,
                                                                                    the upper 2 sections will be like a cream beige color

I showed the design to the architects and the furniture store specialists and asked them for an estimate.

The store consultant showed us tons of swatches of different color leathers to pick for the sofa and chairs.  It’s so cool that you can get anything hand made here.  Little by little you can see it all coming together, like a wonderful mixture of art, love and work.  I feel so special, in the USA having custom made "anything" is just so prohibitively expensive.  Here, it seems like part of the wonderful Argentine culture, to help design it, and then have everyone participate, to the craftsperson who will make it, to the portero (doorman), to the lovely women on the street selling you vegetables.  Like a wonderful soup, a big melody of flavors, all building on each other, everyone offers an opinion and some advice, all to make something better then what you imagined on your own.  I love this place!

We made our order for 8 dining room chairs, a leather sofa, coffee table and 3 chairs for the kitchen breakfast table and returned to the apartment.  As I entered the kitchen, every time I look at the Brazilian Amarillo granite we bought for the kitchen countertops I see twinkling stars of gold, every time seeing something different, WOW!

Thursday May 29th, 2003 – We were spending every day in the new apartment trying to get it organized enough to move into.  The carpenter was finishing up the base of the glass block bed and said that he would be finished with it on Saturday, so that was the date we set to move in.

Every night we collapsed into bed, exhausted from moving, cleaning, and the general hectic-ness that comes with moving.  With every trip between the apartments we would take over more boxes or things we didn’t have time to pack for the movers to take over.

           Our first lunch in the new apartment       Just sandwiches and Pepsi Light, but it felt like a celebration

Saturday May 31st, 2003 – This was the day!  Our first night in the new apartment.  That evening it came time to put the cats in the cat carrier and move them over to the new place.  We got out the big cat carrier that we had purchased for the move down here.  I was going to put them in separate containers but then figured I’d put them both in the same one, that is unless they started attacking each other.  They were pretty quiet so I told Ron to hurry before they started getting freaked out.  Damn!, two cats in one carrier is HEAVY!  We walked over to the new apartment and Loretta started howling, people looked at us as we walked, wondering what I was doing to the poor animal to make it howl like that.  We got into the apartment and I set the carrier down on the kitchen floor.  I opened the door and waited for them to come out.  Loretta slinked out first, looking like he was walking on eggshells.  I tried to coax Scarlett out by calling her, she came out, sniffed around and then actually got BACK IN the carrier, this I could NOT believe as the cats hate the carriers.

                      YOOOOWWWWWLLLLLLLLL!!!!                                            WHHHOOOAAAAA where am I?

                                                                                                                            I like it better in here!

"Scarlett, come see your new home!"

I finally reached in and pulled her out, scratched her and gave her cooing assurances.  They were both looking terrified.  Time to make a drink and let them check out the apartment.

Our first dinner in the new apartment, I broiled                               
salmon and we had champagne!