Archive for May, 2009

Boatload of Processed American Carbs

Tonight we made a very embarrassing trip to the Carrefour, where we filled our basket with lovely processed American carbohydrates. We were completely sheepish at the checkout aisle as we unloaded our imported crap food for weekend indulgence: Pepperidge Farm cookies (Milano, Nantucket, and Brussels), Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, and some Nestle choco puff cereal…I know, it’s horrible. And don’t even get me started about how much it all costs, because, well, it’s imported!

We have more goodies on the way from the US as well — some wonderful fabulous friends in BA (thank you Tim and Lori) just returned from a stateside jaunt and brought us back peanut butter, soy butter (for Zelda, who has nut allergies), and hair dye for me (f*#king aging)!

Viva la import products!

That Flaming Meteor Is Coming at Me!


Zoe, Zelda, Tom and I attended our first 3D film today (well, actually, Tom did see Jaws 3D when he was younger, so I guess he doesn’t count). We went to a screening of Monsters vs. Aliens.

We arrived at the empty theater in the afternoon, collected our 3D glasses, and bought massive amounts of junk food and a Coke, in the hopes of keeping Tom awake. The glasses were not what I expected, they were actually a darkened “Men in Black” style shade, which looked hilarious on the girls. The tinted anteojos also provided cover for Tom when he fell asleep during the movie, which he invariably does while attending children’s cinema, only this time, it was the snoring that gave him away!

I was impressed with the effects, the 3D experience was pretty neato. We all enjoyed eating too much candy and popcorn (note to self, when Zoe’s exhausted, don’t feed her sugar). The movie, well, it was okay.

A last note on dubbing/subtitles here in Buenos Aires: US releases are in English with Spanish subtitles, unless it’s a kids movie, where the reading thing can be a problem, which means the movies for little people are dubbed. I was gratified to learn that I could fully comprehend a film targeted to the younger set!

Introducing the Kiosko, Chino, Supermercado, and the Verdulería

There are four types of stores around which our world revolves: the kiosko, the Chino, the supermercado, and the verdulería. In general, when moving to Buenos Aires, I would recommend living within one or two blocks of at least two of these four types of stores to make your life easier. Where we are now in Las Cañitas (my new favorite neighborhood), we are within two blocks of all of these essential retail concerns as well as a smattering of fabulous butchers, delis, spice stores, natural food stores…we adore it here!

The Kiosko. These are very small convenience stores that are important when you have a toilet paper emergency late at night (living with three females has made Tom very aware of this phenomenon) or if you want to re-up the minutes on your pay-as-you-go phone. We also use these establishments for emergency moneda acquisition, but you have to be canny and hard-as-nails to get actual coins out of these proprietors!

The Chino. There is a large contingent of small grocery store owners that are of Chinese descent, therefore the name for these types of stores has become, Chino. It is always amusing to freak out the owners of these markets with some Mandarin conversation at check-out, especially with two little blond-haired Chinese speakers in tow! We frequent the Chino for quick staple runs — milk, yogurt, water, rice, etc. There is generally a small produce section in the store as well, but it is usually of lower quality.

The Supermercado. The Carrefour, the Disco, and the Coto are the three most ubiquitous grocery store chains. The mega versions of these purveyors carry electronics and household items, the more modest locations are just grocery stores. If you like to feel and select your own produce, this is where you would buy it, although quality varies dramatically from store to store and day to day.

It has taken Tom awhile to master the Spanish vocabulary required for checkout at the supermercado. First he has to select between efectivo or tarjeta (cash or credit), then he has to decide if he wants home delivery. Next, they ask if he wants his purchase charged in one payment or multiple payments. Lastly, they request a documento, which is supposed to be a DNI card or a passport. Tom usually just gives them his U.S. driver’s license, which often results in a visit from a manager, who has approved its use in every case but one.

The Verdulería are produce markets that dot the city’s streets. In general, I have a hard time buying produce from these vendors because I’m not thrilled about buying food that has been sitting out in the street all day, getting covered in the chemical-laden black exhaust which spews from the buses, but it often can’t be avoided as supermarket produce is often horrible. I find that it’s also a good idea to try to get a sense of when your local Verdulería receives shipments because unless you catch it off the truck, items like lettuce sit outside and wilt in the heat within about 30 minutes of delivery.

It has been my experience (and yes, I know it is not everyone’s experience) that these operators will pass off crappy product if you appear to be a transient tourist, so don’t be shy. Ask to see all of the produce they are bagging and feel free to reject their selections. Because they pick and you don’t, relationship building with your local vegetable merchant is a good idea if you are going to be living in the city for any length of time.

Hot Macs


With our withering brain mass, we can’t remember exactly when we bought our MacBook Pros, suffice to say Tom’s was probably sometime in 2006 and mine in 2007. For the most part, we have been very happy (I was a Windows convert), but I do have three rants (of course):

The first knock is that this computer runs incredibly hot; so much so that I can’t really compute for any length of time with it on my lap. It has actually gotten to the point once or twice where I have taken it off my legs and peeled down my pants to see if I was mildly burned. In fact, Tom has taken to grabbing the ice packs I use on my knee and placing them between his limbs and the computer if he is going to have it on his lap for awhile! Ridiculous.

The second knock is the speakers, which are set to a level the bionic man would have trouble hearing. (I suppose the engineers did this because speakers generate a lot of heat, see first rant above.) We’ve noticed the biggest problem with older movies purchased on iTunes; for instance, the Karate Kid (Xmas present for the kids) is literally impossible to hear. We have used Audio Hijack to boost the speakers a bit, which helps somewhat…

The third knock is the wireless, which apparently suffers interference from the metal case around the computer and doesn’t work well if you are in any sort of challenging wireless environment. This was very apparent during our summer travels. Ian, who had the newest Apple out of the three of us, a MacBook with a white case, practically had a satellite link. I usually encountered medium to low signal strength if Ian could connect easily. And Tom, well, he would get zippo, zilch, nada, no signal at all unless he was seated right next to the router. (Talk about Tom being frustrated!)

Original Photo Before Heat Colorization by Flickr user TheRealGrudge used under a Creative Commons license.

Tombs of Tribute


Today we strode through the Recoleta Cemetery and visited the resting place of nearly everyone for whom our neighborhood streets are named: Dorrego, LM Campos, Gorostiaga…it was a photographers dream and a feral cat lovers paradise. (The feline population was a huge draw for the Zs and their pal Emilie, although the maze-like walkways wending through the tombs were popular as well.)

Tom was a bit piqued that we didn’t locate Evita’s burial site (what I like to call results-oriented tourism), but we managed to wander and enjoy regardless! (If you have time, click on the pix to see the beautiful details from the tombs.)




Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Get Back in the Water…I Was Wrong


After living in a country for a certain number of months, you get your routine down (thankfully) and have fewer of those “expat moments” where you suddenly plunge into the cultural deep end, having no idea what the f#@k is happening around you.

We had one such “exapt moment” today when we finally decided to use the swimming pool at our new gym.

Before diving in, so to speak, we made sure we had our gym cards, knew how to enter and leave the facility, were familiar with the layout of the gym, and had used the weight and cardio area quite a bit. All systems were a go to give the pool a try.

So, today was the day. We split up at the locker rooms. Of course, my first expat moment occurred with the lockers. I needed a peso coin to use them, which I didn’t have. But, they did have a guardarropa, basically coat check for your stuff. So I used that.

Then, I tromped out the door from the locker room to the pool and was immediately stumped by the Alice in Wonderland labyrinth of doors, none of which could I open into the pool. While I was trying to figure out the door situation, a lifeguard started yelling at me in Spanish from across the way, and unfortunately I couldn’t see him because I didn’t have my glasses on (I was all goggled up, ready to swim). I scurried to place my glasses on my face, peered over at him, and after a lot of mystification, I finally figured out that he wanted me to go to the door marked medico.

I complied and was greeted by a nurse, who told me that she needed to examine me every 2 weeks in order for me to be able to swim, and she would give me a voucher with her permission to enter the pool for that length of time.

I had some trepidation about about an “exam” at the pool, but happily, it turned out that I only had to spread my toes (I’m assuming looking for fungi), flash my armpits (not sure why) and she wanted to look in my mouth as well (happy to report that I don’t have toe fungus on my tongue).

When I was finished, I inquired if she had gone through this regimen with a tall American male who didn’t speak Spanish. She said no and I went in search of my husband, who had actually managed to penetrate into the inner sanctum of the pool and was at that very moment being accosted by a lifeguard asking for his medical exam…so I rescued him!



As we were trotting around the ring yesterday, our fabulous instructor Natalia said we were going to be doing some jumping (which she so charmingly calls “shumping,” a term we have now adopted). We laughed and thought she was joking…gulp, only she wasn’t.

Now, to be clear, our jumps involved trotting over a little 1 and 1/2 foot fence, but still, we weren’t really mentally prepared to be doing any shumping and were a bit nervous prior to beginning the exercise. (We told her it was a good thing she didn’t let us know last week, or we would have worried about it for 7 days.)

So the Offermann/Reeves clan spent Tuesday afternoon practicing the transition from posting into taking a jumping position and guiding our horses and ponies over a wee little fence while trotting!

Pictured above, Tom is putting on Zoe’s polainas (“half chaps” or “short chaps”), each sporting their natty velvet helmet!

If Zoe and Zelda Wrote a Blog…


…this is what it would look like!!

The girls are generally very opposed to my sharing anything about them on the blog (so of course, I love to threaten to write about them, particularly when anything embarrassing happens in their lives). Their reticence to star in the blog does not stop them from making suggestions about possible topics though.

Today, Zoe opined that a post was the perfect forum to let everyone know about the game she calls the “addicting helicopter game.” (One of their favorite past times is finding new video games to play over the Web, and we are constantly astounded at how many new offerings they discover.)

Anyhow, Zoe somehow roped us all into playing this game tonight, each of us trying to supplant the other’s high score. Tom is currently the record holder, but I still have a few minutes left to play before going to bed…

UPDATE: Current high score in our house is 1214. Anyone score higher?

Another Nice Taxi Story!

Yesterday, Tom and I had to split up so that I could get Zoe to her overnight play date on time. (Admittedly, we were “on-time” Argentina-style, you know, about 1 1/2 hours late!)

Anyway, earlier in the day, we were at the park having a lovely picnic with friends and realized that the hour had gotten away from us, so I decided to take the keys and dash home to get Zoe ready while Tom walked Zelda to a play date with her friend Liam.

Pressed for time, Zoe and I sprinted for a taxi, got in, and then realized that while I had the keys, I had no money to pay for the cab (I forgot to get dinero from Tom)! I explained our situation to Zoe in Chinese, and told her we would beg our driver for forgiveness when we got to the apartment and ask him to wait for us downstairs while we got some efectivo (cash money).

How did the driver react? He was lovely…positively gracious, even. Our kind conductor sat downstairs and had a cigarette break while we completed our fire drill cash retrieval operation. During his forced tarriance in Las Cañitas, our hero didn’t even run his meter. Indeed, he insisted on giving me the benefit of the breakage when I first tried to pay him, since he didn’t have change (of course).

In fact, he was so good-natured, he didn’t want to accept the tip that I tried to give him for his troubles…I was ready to throw down and reach through his window and give him a big noogie, but he finally accepted my overpayment!!