Archive for September, 2008

PT Cruiser Update

Not a ton of interest in my sweet little car that everyone says I was demographically too young to be driving. (Okay, maybe I’m the right demographic now, but I was in my thirties when I bought it. *laugh*)

Does it bear repeating that this is a crappy economy in which to be selling a car?

We did have one gentleman propose exchanging the car for a one-week time share in a property in Eastern Oregon. Mmmm hmmmm, that’s what I want, a week of sweltering desert every year in lieu of my car.

Someone also called about it today, so we shall see if they show up to look at it, since this is Craig’s List after all. (It probably means that we will sell it since we had started entertaining the notion of keeping it for our return.)

Kinda in Love with My Kindle

We have been pondering solutions for obtaining books during our travels. (I mean really, what are we to do now that we are leaving the best library system in the country?)

How do we combat reading withdrawal? Buy a Kindle!!!

We recently received the Amazon Kindle in the mail and it is pretty cool. I’ve finished reading a book on it already and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Shopping on Amazon and downloading books directly to the Kindle was very intuitive and incredibly fast.

We were able to download the new Neal Stephenson early (before it gets shipped to booksellers) for $10 less than list. Pretty cool.

The screen is interesting–it’s not back lit and uses an ink technology that rewrites every page, making it very easy on the eyes. I tried it out in full sun today and it was easier to read than a book in full sun.

The only knock is that it’s a bit heavy if you are going to be holding it the entire time.

But, that is more than compensated for by the fact that you can lay it down flat anywhere and read while still having the use of your hands (like reading while I dry my hair–hee hee).

School House Rock

Okay, this is a total aside, but I just have to write about it.

All of us who grew up in the seventies remember School House Rock very fondly. (Come on, Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?)

These songs are amazing–they really do teach. Zoe has fallen a bit behind in her times tables because they get squeezed in (read: ignored) in the Chinese part of her school day. So, we have begun listening to Multiplication Rock in the car on the way home from school.

After only one ride, her 4s, 6s and 7s were solid, and her 8s were almost perfect.

My personal favorite is the sixes, shown below. (Although Naughty Number Nine is a close second!!!)

The girls really like eight, which was my favorite when I was a girl!

Face-to-Face Gets It Done

I remember during my first job working for an American aerospace company, I was given the task of trying to get my hands on an unusual alloy of aluminum for some stress tests.

What did I do?

I got on the telephone with Reynolds and Alcoa. Just randomly started calling people until I found some scrap pieces of what I needed, and paid for them to be shipped to my company.

After I moved to Taiwan, this model for problem solving didn’t work. Everything had to be done face-to-face. It was not possible to call someone up out of the blue and get something done. Heck, you would even be lucky to have your call taken if you rang someone without an introduction.

This has been our experience in trying to prepare for Argentina. It is very difficult to get anything meaningful done via long distance–even with the Web (which didn’t exist when I worked in Taiwan).

So, while I’m looking forward to getting to Argentina, I anticipate that first month there with feelings of trepidation because we’re going to really be putting in some serious hours of face-to-face time vetting schools and looking at apartments.

Perhaps we should locate a massage therapist first!

We Awaken from a Dream

Ian has recently obtained a position as a teaching assistant at a bilingual elementary school in Buenos Aires.

In our dreams, the girls attend this school where Ian teaches (getting to see their Uncle in the afternoons) solving all of our “finding school problems” before we arrive in Buenos Aires.

Alas, it is probably a pipe dream. They don’t like relatives of teachers to attend the school. And, Ian says the kids are a bit out of control. Of course, it’s hard to know if it’s the school, if it’s cultural, or if Ian isn’t used to the joy of teaching elementary school rug rats!! (Nothing like hanging out with grade-school aged children to help him appreciate the high school students he taught!)

So the dream is probably dead, but it was lovely while it lasted!

Cash Economy Baby!

I remember my first visit to the American Express office in Taipei, Taiwan.

I was there to receive a wire transfer for a business transaction, which was then converted from dollars to yuan, leaving me with a large bag of dough that I had to transport across town for my transaction.

I was startled to learn that carting around large amounts of cash was not unusual!!

Many people were streaming out of the American Express office with duffel bags stuffed with bills. I never really got used to it. I always felt that I was leaving the bank with a target on my back.

Argentina seems to be much the same. We will show up and pay the balance on our short-term rental with cash. Many Argentines don’t have bank accounts, or they keep limited amounts in the bank after the 2001 financial crisis. Everyone wants Euros and US Dollars (in that order). Cash is king!

*Sigh* It looks like we’re going off the grid! (I will miss the automated Quicken download of all of our expenditures from credit cards. I don’t want to hand-enter cash transactions!)

Rent Temporary Apartment–Check!

We appear to have secured a short-term apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires!!! Yahhhh.

The good news? There’s room for Ian (my brother) to stay if he’s over on a late night babysitting gig (I’m not sure that’s good news to him…). The bad news? It’s a bit caro, as they say.

We will be living there for one month (hopefully). The timing of our housing/school strategy is this: live in a nice, fully furnished place for one month, during which time we must find a school for the girls and figure out a more affordable long-term housing solution.

Forking over the dough for the swankier short-term flat seemed like it might pay off in terms of stress relief. This way we don’t have to worry about a) trying to locate a long-term apartment from overseas; or b) trying to find housing right away while staying in a hotel. And, it means that we will have a nice place to come home to after pounding the pavement looking at schools and long-term apartments for a month.

Yes, this is a massive rationalization to spend way too much on a short-term rental, but we’re good with that!

The Zs are Getting Nervous

Tom was putting the girls to bed the other night and he said to them, “Can you believe that you’re going back to school in a few days and then we’re moving to Argentina a month after that?”

“No Dad, we can’t believe it.” They then admitted to some trepidations about our trip!

At dinner the next night, we talked about what was making them nervous:

  • “I’m afraid we aren’t going to find a place to live,” said Zoe.

  • “Speaking Spanish,” confirmed Zelda.

  • “Going to a new school,” added Zoe.

  • “Everything Mommy, I’m pretty nervous about everything. This is a big move for me you know…I’ve only done a little move and now we’re going to a new city and a new country…and a new continent,” opined Zelda in her usual adult fashion.

I had no idea that finding a place to live was such a concern! We also talked about the fact that many of the things that make them nervous, make Tom and I nervous as well. (I don’t know if that reassured them though!)

It’s all becoming real. They’re being good sports, but it’s definitely starting to freak them out a bit–and us too!

La Vida Argentina–Cooking

Tom and I would like to take our cooking skills to the next level and get to a point where we would shop daily at local markets, pick up what’s fresh, and make our meals sans recipes. The idea being that we would actually have the time to experiment with and enjoy cooking again.

And, of course, Tom would like to become an expert in cooking (and eating) all types of grass-fed beef.

You know, it occurs to me that quantifying all of the stuff we want to do while taking our sabbatical really puts the pressure on!

What if we don’t do any of it?!? What if we turn into blobby ugly Americans who refuse to speak Spanish, stay at home all day watching American TV shows, and then we come home early?