Archive for June, 2009

Swine Flu at School Update


This evening, Tom will be running out to get some small bottles of hand sanitizer and travel tissue packs for the girls — a requirement at school now apparently.

Over the last week, the rumor mill has been really churning, with parents worried that the Ministry of Health was going to close down primary and secondary schools after the elections because of Swine Flu fears, essentially moving up winter vacation.

Sure enough, we did get a notice today, Tuesday, but it was a cancellation of all extracurricular activities, parent events, and conferences.

We’ll see what comes next. Speculation is rife that Swine Flu numbers are much worse than the government has been reporting and that after the election Sunday, it would all leak out and result in Mexico-like restrictions on public events, schools etc.

We’ll see…

Brokeback Reeves, 14 Day Update


Damn, I still can’t tie my shoes! I feel totally ridiculous having Tom lace up my tennies for me, but what can I do?

On the other hand, I am able to successfully make my way through the rest — dressing, showering, and misc. personal hygiene. More good news: I can lean forward with my torso much more substantially, which means I can reach things lower down, though I avoid trying to pick up things off of the floor…still a bit too far. Light giggling is now tolerated by the old respiratory system, but outright guffawing is out. I can obtain a near full range of motion overhead with my right arm (fractured side). I can sleep on my stomach with my head either way. Raising and lowering my body, sitting or standing, is getting easier and smoother every day.

Still unfortunate: I am really noticing a lot of rib pain under my right breast — in some sleeping positions, my ribs hurt more than my fractured vertebrae! Sneezing and coughing, especially if unexpected, immediately put me in a panting house-of-pain world-of-hurt that I can only compare to the worst of natural childbirth in terms of scale. And I used to like sneezing… .

All in all though, it is remarkable how far I have come in two weeks. The change is so dramatic, it makes me question how bad the first 3 or 4 days really were. (Whenever I do that, Tom chimes in and assures me they were as horrible as I remember!)

Cross your fingers that I will be suitably recovered for my zillion hours of traveling back to Portland in two weeks. It’s a race!

Spinal Fracture Recovery Posts: Day 1 | Day 5 | Day 14 | Month 3 |

Two Girls on Women Winning

As I’ve mentioned before, the Zs have been working on media training as a part of home school. One of their tasks is to improve their delivery of this inspirational short poem that summarizes Cammi Granato’s ice hockey career and the empowerment women engender from sports. (It’s from an old Nike advertisement, which I posted the words to previously.)

They were just so damn cute selling this bit of girl power verbiage, I had to stitch together a montage of their work! Watch it below.

Charming Museo de Artes Plásticas


If you find yourself, on a beautiful crisp winter Saturday with your children away at an overnight, and you want to stretch your legs and see how your broken vertebrae can handle a longer walk — I suggest a getaway in the park!

Specifically, the Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívari. This is a small, very cozy modern art museum that shows a rotating collection of 19th and 20th century Argentinian artists. It is utterly approachable and features a variety of exhibits, a quaint store, a sculpture garden, and they offer courses as well. (When we were there yesterday, there was a class of sculptors tapping away at pieces of wood.)

One of my favorite aspects of this museum is the little cafe that opens onto the sculpture garden and features both indoor and outdoor seating. The service has always been gracious, they have an amazing plato de frutas and they are supposed to have fabulous desserts. (I always seem to get the fruit when there, so I can’t vouch for the postres personally!)

Summer Infinite Jest Fest


We just joined the group of people at Infinite Summer, devoting ourselves to reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest over the summer — about 75 pages a week. That meant a purchase at the Amazon store, downloads to the Kindles, and we were ready.

This book is giving us the opportunity to run the Kindle through its paces. The first thing I have LOVED is the built-in dictionary. DFW likes to use a lot of archaic and unusual words (concupiscence, festschrift, and deliquesce, to name three), so the Kindle dictionary has been a boon. Although, there have been a few words that we’ve had to look up online:

Kekulean Knot: which is how he described a tie, and is a reference to the scientist who discovered the structure of benzene and how he came upon his inspiration.

Incunabular: which means “extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.”

Infinite Jest also features a really long set of endnotes that you must read along with the book. Happily, the Kindle makes this easy; we can bip back and forth between the two seamlessly. It is pretty cool how it takes you exactly to the endnote specified and exactly back to where you were in the text. There is one problem though — last night, I wanted to go to bed, but was stuck in a 14-page endnote, and the Kindle wouldn’t let me go back to my spot in the book until I came to the termination point of the endnote. I grudgingly finished it so I could bookmark my page in the main book and get some rest!

And lastly, since we are doing this with each other, and as a part of the larger community, we have been taking notes on the Kindle as we’re reading so we can discuss items of interest together at a later date. After you are through gagging, you will be happy to know the thumb typing on the Qwerty keyboard is fine as long as you don’t want to write a thesis.

What do we think of the book so far? It’s complicated and intriguing…but we’ve only just begun. It is fair to say that we are enjoying it so far.

Beso Interrupted


When picking up the girls from school, there are always droves of parents waiting outside of the institution’s gates, naturally congregating into groups of 2, 3 and 4 people having intense conversations.

Now, as we’ve talked about in the past, part of the greeting ritual here in Argentina is that when you see people you know, regardless of how engrossed in each other they may be, you barge in and insert yourself, giving everyone the Argentine cheek buss to say hello.

As an American, I have the hardest time doing this. It is literally impossible for me to bust up a discussion amongst people happily chatting just so I can kiss everyone. I can’t help it — I feel rude! Especially if I break into a particularly heated conversation and have nothing to say or add to it.

Not kissing everyone at all times, of course, leads me to the funny situation of being rude in this culture while trying not to violate cultural norms of rudeness from my own country. *sigh* It’s so complicated!

I had an interesting greeting situation happen a while back though that taught me the cheek smooching thaaang is not entirely universal.

You see, I was at a weekend birthday party pick up that involved a bus dropping off our kids outside of the school grounds. I was the second parent there waiting, the first was a dad whom I didn’t really know. We nodded and said, “Hi.” After that, about 5 or 6 dads came, and each one stayed equidistant from the others. They would all nod to each other and offer a short “Como te vas?” or “Como andas?”

It wasn’t until a Porteño mom showed up, floating around kissing all of the equidistant dads, that the cheek bussing started. I was intrigued.

I remember hearing that the beso greeting is relatively new here in Argentina, and, in fact, some older residents are not really fond of the the cheek press/air smack upon arrival or departure. Perhaps these middle-aged dads are on the cusp of the custom, and left to their own devices, are not so comfortable with it themselves!

Swine Flu Notices for Kids


Zoe and Zelda have been telling me for a while that fear of swine flu is the reason that their school has not been visiting the soccer and hockey fields for sport days this winter.

At first, I didn’t believe the girls. I mean, hasn’t it been proven that going outside in winter doesn’t make children sick? And hasn’t it been proven that keeping tons of snotty-nosed kids cooped up together does make them sick? I thought perhaps it was a language misunderstanding…but now I’m suspecting the Zs may be right!

Yesterday, they brought home a sticker, pictured above, that is supposed to inform them about how to prevent the spread of swine flu. The notice advises young people to use a disposable tissue over their nose and mouth whenever they sneeze or cough.

As an experiment, I asked the Zs to translate the sticker for me. They took one look at the picture and said, a little unsure, “when you cough, cover your mouth with your elbow?”

Advertising 101: pictures should match the message!

Brokeback Reeves, 5 Day Update


Below are some musings, observations, and concerns that I have had since fracturing two vertebrae five days ago.

Concern. I spend a lot of time laying on my back. Since I am not able to lift my head significantly, I have a deep and abiding worry that I will rub a bald spot on the rear of my scalp, such as a baby does!

Observation. I started my period the day after my spinal break…what more can you say but, “of course you did.”

Musing. Just like with my knee surgery last year, it is odd to have an injury which isolates you so much from others just when you need to be touched. There is now nothing I like better that to have Tom lightly press his hand on the skin of my back, especially where the break occurred. (It gives him the willies, but it feels fabulous!) I miss having the kids in my lap, freely hugging them, snuggling in bed with Tom…blah blah blah.

Observation. My ass is still bruised from that damned backboard!

Musing. I believe that this injury has reactivated my junior high craziness. During those years, I was often sent into the hall from class to recover myself after laughing fits of hilarity that occurred for no reason except the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be guffawing. Currently, laughing is probably the second most painful event that happens to me, behind coughing, but I still get these entirely inappropriate urges to giggle just because I’m not supposed to — and this perverseness is absolutely killing me. I get to the point where I’m frozen in pain, unable to breathe, and I have to banish Tom from the room because our desire to laugh feeds off each other…

Concern. I think that I may have some bruised ribs as well. Now that my back isn’t quite so painful, I am realizing that I feel real twinges in my ribcage during respiratory events, like, you know, breathing deeply!

Anyhow, below you will find some of the milestones that I reached today:

  • I laid down in, and got up from, a prone position without Tom’s assistance today. (“All by self!” as the Zs used to say.) Really, it was rather weird, since I couldn’t even contemplate getting out of bed yesterday.
  • This morning, I was able to lay in bed on both my left and ride side, albeit briefly!
  • Used the bathroom all by myself. (I know, TMI.)
  • Am rising and sitting down in a more true squat fashion instead of an exaggerated plié with my back rigidly straight. Yes, that’s right, I’ve got a little forward degree of freedom with my torso that wasn’t there yesterday.
  • Baked some home-made biscuits from scratch. (With a little help from my hubby…okay, a lot of assistance, and I was exhausted afterward, but still!)

Spinal Fracture Recovery Posts: Day 1 | Day 5 | Day 14 | Month 3 |

Checking Out, Argentina Style


Yes, I’m still ruminating on the retail experience here in Buenos Aires. (My thoughts are trending this way since I’m preparing a short presentation on retail districts for an upcoming conference when I’m back in the US.)

Checking out, actually putting money on the table to purchase goods, often takes more time than shopping for said items here in Argentina! Each store seems to have its own byzantine system for processing customer purchases.

Example 1: Buying a Microphone. In maybe an 800 square foot instrument store, we worked with four different people to buy our microphone. Staff1 is who we approached when we entered the establishment. Staff1 referred us to Staff2, the person we talked to when we had called the store. Once we selected our microphone and presented Staff2 with our credit card, he walked us over to Staff3, maybe 15 feet away, who processed the cards. When Staff3 was done, we had to return our paperwork back to Staff2, who double-checked everything.

At this point, I figured we would get the microphone, but no, Staff2 whisked it away and ran it up to the front of the store and handed it to Staff4, who was standing by the entrance. With puzzled expressions, we walked out of the tienda, and were graciously handed our purchase by Staff4 as we opened the doors to leave.

Example 2: Purchasing School Supplies. This process is always an adventure. The Zs get VERY SPECIFIC lists of requirements (down to the color of notebooks…). The store near the girls’ school where we buy their supplies has three types of merchandise: 1) items accessible to customers; 2) items customers can see but not access; and 3) many many unseen and inaccessible items. We completely give up and do not try to locate anything on our own. We take our number, secure a clerk, and walk through the lists with them one by one.

Once we have a Zoe-pile and a Zelda-pile of goods on the counter, the fun really begins! First, they move the items, stack by stack, to a computer near the back of the store and hand enter every selection into that computer. A printout for each girl’s stuff is generated from this procedure. Then, each mound needs to be ferried to the counter at the front of the store, where the list and the pile of supplies are methodically cross-checked, item-by-item, to make sure they match. Finally, when all the checking and double checking is complete, Tom steps forward and pays! (Usually this is when the girls have completely melted down and are just sitting on the floor in a heap.)

Shopping, American Style


Americans, on average, will touch a towel six times before buying it (if memory serves, from the book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill).

I find that here in Argentina, I am a very American consumer in a retail environment that has a different set of rules!

While searching for goods when we first arrived in Baires, we were surprised at the number of stores that were locked to meet inventory control objectives. Customers had to be buzzed in the front door. While I understand the reasons for the lack of free access to the interior of the store, I have since learned that it has a tangible downward effect on my desire to purchase!

The other aspect to purchasing that took us an eon to figure out was that nearly every retailer had basement or mezzanine storage with a ton of stuff stashed away. That meant if we wanted something, we had to ask for it — which doesn’t always occur to me while shopping! I look around, and if it’s not there, I give up. (So much for my vaunted persistence.)

For example, a friend of mine from Oregon, who was here on an extended leave for 3 months, wanted to find a mattress pad for her bed. After going into about a zillion mattress stores and not seeing any, she finally asked. It turns out that all of the shops probably had them, they just didn’t display them in their limited space because the pads aren’t sexy to merchandise and they take up a lot of room.

We still make the mistake of not asking. Recently, as we looked for tights that would match the girls’ school uniforms, we never considered our little neighborhood sock store, because most of their inventory appeared to be on display. When I finally did inquire (after I spotted some adult tights), I learned that they do carry them in children’s sizes, but keep them sequestered away for some reason.

Which brings me to my last example, the dreaded, but entertaining, Ferretería, also known as the local neighborhood hardware store, which in our barrio always seems to be manned by an ancient curmudgeon talking to us from behind an iron-barred window. To his rear is a vast sea of crap rising up to the ceiling in uneven rows that create dark aisles, through which he disappears to retrieve whatever we have requested.

Needless to say, with Tom’s limited Spanish, he doesn’t really enjoy his trips to the local hardware store, where he has to communicate with an unhappy Archie Bunker type for his macho homeware needs! A man’s work is never done…

It’s funny, you don’t realize how ingrained your shopping habits can get until you have to change them!

Photo by Flickr user [marcel] used under a Creative Commons license.