Archive for August, 2008

La Vida Argentina–Dancing

Tom and I would like to become reasonably skilled at basic ballroom dancing. You know, the type of dancing where you can shuffle around competently at someone’s wedding. As it currently stands, we can sway to the music and that’s about it.

“Argentine Tango?” you ask. Well, we actually took Argentine Tango lessons in Seattle 12 or 13 years ago. We loved it, but Tom felt it was a dance best left for more advanced study.

So we are going to try and build up some experience in more structured dances where Tom can feel comfortable and then we may or may not move on to Tango.

Why save this for Argentina? Because we will have time to dance–we plan on taking lessons while the girls are in school. (We have a lot of plans for when the girls are in school!)

Current Moving Strategy

Yes, I always have a strategy, and a plan!  (Tom finds it exhausting.)  The current moving plan involves minimizing time with movers.

We will soon rent a long-term storage space in a climate controlled building and then slowly pack and move things in there ourselves over the next two months.  (As soon as the Olympics are over, the TV is going into storage.)

Simultaneously, we shall be selling all kids furniture and other household items on Craigslist (which I hate–people call and say they’ll be “right over” and then they never show up).

At the end of September, we should only have a few large pieces of furniture that will require a truck to move, which we will hire out when the time comes.

Little Albino Madelines

Zoe, our resident tom boy daughter, is concerned that she will have to wear uniforms while attending school in Argentina. It’s not exactly the uniform, per se, but the fact that girls wear uniforms with skirts (gasp–skirt is the “s” word to Zoe).

Just the thought of wearing one sends her into spasms of whining angst! Quelle horreur!

Beef and Gelato

I’ve wanted to visit Argentina for years, but I can date the moment I truly became convinced it was the country for me to the moment I read the essay “Argentina On Two Steaks A Day”.

I love the entire piece (really, go read it now!), but I’ll limit myself to quoting just the opening paragraph to give you its flavor:

“The classic beginner’s mistake in Argentina is to neglect the first steak of the day. You will be tempted to just peck at it or even skip it altogether, rationalizing that you need to save yourself for the much larger steak later that night. But this is a false economy, like refusing to drink water in the early parts of a marathon. That first steak has to get you through the afternoon and half the night, until the restaurants begin to open at ten; the first steak is what primes your system to digest large quantities of animal protein, and it’s the first steak that buffers the sudden sugar rush of your afternoon ice cream cone. The midnight second steak might be more the glamorous one, standing as it does a good three inches off the plate, but all it has to do is get you up and out of the restaurant and into bed (for the love of God, don’t forget to drink water).”

Grass-fed beef. World-class gelato. What else could I possible want?

La Vida Argentina–Horseback Riding

During our time in Baires, we want to learn how to play polo! Okay, I’m just kidding. Actually, Tom and I have a much simpler equine goal: learn how to trot.

Yes, that’s right. We are incapable of trotting in a Western saddle without bouncing all over the place. (I have learned the trick of riding on a Tennessee Walker–you feel like you’re trotting, but it’s much smoother!) So one of our goals is to leave Argentina with some very basic equestrian skills under our belts, like knowing how to trot properly.

(“La Vida Argentina” posts will be a multi-part series of posts discussing what we hope to do and see while in Argentina.)

If You Let Me Play

Not to promote Nike(!), but here is another ad that completely embraces why we want to make sure the girls stay involved in sports.

When a Woman Wins…

We want the girls to continue to be active in sports while we are in South America, but we are a little concerned about the prevalence of field hockey, in which the girls have no interest, especially since it is not really played in the Pacific Northwest.

Zoe wants to continue to play soccer, but is nervous that no girls play and that all of the kids will be really good since everyone is soccer obsessed. We don’t know if they will have baseball/softball available for her.

For Zelda, we are considering martial arts since she has already informed us that she doesn’t want to play soccer in an intense environment.

I love to quote parts of this Nike ad to the girls (popular during women’s Olympic hockey fever) because it completely represents how we want our girls to live–fierce and free.

“When I invented me the world went, “What?” WOMEN DON’T PLAY HOCKEY! A place for me didn’t even exist when I first came along. When the ice opens up in front of me, wide and wild, I don’t feel like a first; I don’t feel like a guy; I just don’t see anything in my way. When a woman wins, victory is passed around like cake; everybody gets some, wallflowers and followers and fierce ruling divas alike. Play ‘cause you love it; play ‘cause you mean it. And win for a bigger world than the one you started in.” –Cammi Granato, in a Nike ad.

Me Llamo Tomás

[Even though my name is in the title of this blog, I realize that this is quickly becoming the show around here. I’ll have to work on making regular appearances, though keeping up with my wife’s torrid blogging pace may be out of the question.]

We’re off to Argentina for a year, and I don’t speak a word of Spanish.

Well, that’s not quite true. I can say: “Una cerveza, por favor.” It’s an admittedly handy phrase, but I don’t think it will be sufficient for the entire trip.  (Though I did manage to get through a week-long trip to Paris simply by asking for a favorite pastry over and over: “Un mille-feuilles, s’il vous plaît.”)

Since the girls don’t speak Spanish either, we all began Spanish lessons today. We got the Pimsleur method CDs out from the library, and now we gather around the stereo for half hour sessions:

Repeat after me:

“Perdón, no hablo español.”

“No entiendo español.”

“Hablo español un poco.”

The girls are delighted to be learning Spanish at the same time as me, since they are convinced, quite rightly, that they will quickly leave me in the dust. Not only do they have the natural advantage of youth, but they currently go to school in a Mandarin immersion program, and so are used to assimilating a foreign language.

Plus, they have a secret weapon. They can roll their “r”s. Naturally. Beautifully. “Arriba” comes out “arrrrrrrrrrrrrrriba!” when they say it.

As for me, I can’t make that sound. Can’t even come close to approximating it.

“It’s easy Daddy. Why can’t you do it?”

“It must be my German heritage. It’s the same reason my hips don’t move when I try to dance.”

“Try! Try!”

Then I try, and what comes out is a guttural, back-of-the-throat, phlegm-clearing kind of noise that sends my daughters into fits of laughter. Nothing could be funnier.

I expect that learning Spanish will provide me with plenty more opportunities to amuse them.

Fuel Filter

Good news. The minivan is repaired. Apparently the fuel filter (and fuel line where it goes through the filter) failed and that caused the gushing gas/car stopping problem! $88 dollars later, Andy had us on the road. (I think that is the cheapest auto repair we have ever had with the minivan!)

Since we are selling both cars before leaving on our trip, we were a little worried when the car broke down. Bad timing to have a major problem. Whew!

Driving My Life Away

When I lived in Taipei, London, and Madrid I didn’t own a car and was able to use a combination of taxis, public transportation, and my feet to do everything that I needed. That will be the plan while in Buenos Aires.

Avoiding car ownership is one of the reasons that we really want to make sure that we scope out neighborhoods and schools very thoroughly before committing to a long-term rental. We want reasonable access to school, a market, a gym and, of course, some good restaurants. (Do we ask too much?)