Argentine Politics and Culture Feed

Living in Argentina: Bienvenido Cacho Milonguero

If you aren't a Facebook friend, then you probably don't know that in February, my little family grew.  Now in addition to Maxi Novitz and JerryBrown Novitz, there is Cacho Milonguero Novitz.  It was never my intention to have two dogs, and for sure Maxi and JerryBrown were not thinking about this either.  But you know, shit happens.

I had this friend in the milonga - Juan Carlos.  He had two strokes and was hospitalized.  He had a year old puppy he called "Pichuco" that he obviously could not care for.  A good friend came and took the former Pichuco to her home, where she lived with her two cats.  Unfortunately he terrorized the cats and was a real quilombero.  She wanted him to go to a good home so she posted on Facebook that he was Juan Carlo's dog and that he needed a home.

I don't know what happened to me.  I saw this little black puppy with a sad face.  He was really cute.  His pictures and the post were shared by many people I knew, but no one wanted him.  Everyone that he was adorable, but not enough to step and say they would take him. IMG_20190209_134607613

I felt bad.  I offered to take him as a fostered dog.  I was leaving in a couple of weeks for a 6 week trip to Europe, Morocco, and Miami. (What a combination) That weekend Karin came with her daughter and the former Pichuco in a carrier.  I met her downstairs with Maxi.  Maxi was thrilled.  She could not wait until he came out of the carrier.  But the poor little guy was overwhelmed and he could only cowe before Maxi and yes, JerryBrown.  JerryBrown decided he was worthless since he didn't know how to play.

He knew no commands.  He didn't even come when you called him.  He had worms and fleas.  He seemed very sweet but meek.  That lasted until the next day when I fed him.  He turned into a snarling, snapping, biting, gargoyle.  He was scary.  He bit me, he tried to bite Maxi (she was faster) and JerryBrown escaped to his hobbit hole.  Food was obviously an issue with this guy.  Google to the rescue.  I fed him upstairs in the bathroom with the door closed.  He could eat in peace and know that no one was going to take his food away.

He didn't know how to ask to go outside.  This meant 10 walks until he got the idea he was supposed to go outside and not inside.  We would go to the pet store Puppis and he would pee on the floor there.  Male dogs mark. I never had a male dog.  But everyone loved him.  He attracted attention wherever we went.

I was leaving soon. Maxi always goes to her former dog walker in Palermo when I leave.  I sent Juan a Whats App with Cacho's picture, age, weight, etc.  Juan is in a network of dog walkers who look rescue dogs and find homes for them.  He was very optimistic about being able to place the dog formerly known as Pichuco.

Then a few days before my trip, he came and sat down next to me. He gave me "the look."  It was a sad look.  It was like he knew he would not be here permanently.  I felt bad. In that moment I realized that he was such a sweet puppy, smart, and trainable.  OK, we have to change your name.  I thought.  Since he doesn't respond to Pichuco or Troilo or Coquito. (All names people in the milonga said were his)

I believe that animals choose their own names.  I started. Cory Booker?  No response.  Negro, Negrito. (He did respond but seriously, that would not be such a great name.  Blackie.)  Houdini. (He was the great escape artist even when tied up)  Shadow. (Because he followed me everywhere)  Then one day after getting into to it with JerryBrown I told him "Sos un cachito de mierde" (You are a little shit. Cachito is from Cacho which means piece.  It's a nickname for many men) He looked up at me. "Cachito?"  He feebly wagged his tale and from then on he became Cacho or Cachito or even Cache.  He liked that name.  He came when called.

He left with Maxi to Juan's with a long list of behavior issues.  Juan is like the dog whisperer.  I was 5 days into my trip and he sent me a Whats App.  "Food isn't a problem anymore."  Throughout my trip I got Cacho and Maxi updates until one day he said that he could get him adopted.  "Noooooo"  I told him, he's ours.

It's now been 4 months.  I never felt like I shouldn't have done this.  He is a sweet dog.  I hate to say this, but much sweeter than either Maxi or especially JerryBrown.  He is learning.  I cannot get him to learn any commands in Spanish.  He rebels.  He knows them all in English: sit, down, come, and we are still working on stay and leave it.   He's difficult.  I think it's his being a male..and an Argentine male at that. Getting him fixed should help many of his macho issues.

He hasn't quite figured out that JerryBrown is the man of the house...and he is..the intruder.  Don't mess with JerryBrown.   Jerry Brown  will win everytime, and when he gets in trouble, Maxi comes and drags Cacho away by his neck.  These guys actually like each other, although sometimes it's hard to tell. IMG_20190210_191037107_BURST001 IMG_20190210_191037107_BURST001

I love watching them interact.  I suppose it's like having 3 kids.  Here we are. IMG_20190211_110618473

 


Living In Argentina: Why Are You Here

This is not going to be a post about my personal trials and tribulations in Argentina.  It is a translation of something I posted to Facebook in Spanish.  Thing is, in Spanish it was very funny, I am not sure about the translation in English.  It seems that these days I am funnier in Spanish that I am in English. Imagine that.

I am sick and tired of people who come to Argentina ; Buenos Aires, and do nothing but complain.  There is always the comparison of here, to where they came from.  I get it,  Your home country is your reference point.  However, if you are traveling, whether it be for a short time or extended time,the idea should be to broaden your horizons, to learn about a new culture, to experience the people, the food, the music. I know there are some people who travel to check a box to say they have been there.  Maybe they have different criteria.  People, can you please stop saying that pizza, ice cream, shampoo, toilet paper and whatever other stupid insignificant thing is better in the USA, Europe, Asia, Australia, or wherever it is you come from.  I don't want to hear it, and neither does anyone else.

Then there are the people who move. People have many reasons for changing their country.  Some are economic, people who think they will have more opportunities if they change their country. Others leave because of political or natural disaster like in Venezuela, Haiti, or Syria. Here you also find people who fell in love when they were on vacation, so they are here for a person. Others because they are digital nomads or retired and they believe that their money will go further. 

Sometimes you don't have a choice, but when you do, you should choose somewhere to live that you like. When you change your country, you must change your mindset.  You should forget everything you knew, in order to accept your new culture. If you don't and you are always comparing, or looking for things that you had or used from your home country, guaranteed, you will be miserable. Unfortunately these people make everyone around them miserable.  It's a good thing misery loves company because these people will hopefully find each other.

My neighbor is a perfect example of this.  He is in Argentina because his girlfriend is Argentine.  She is lovely.  He is a jerk. Until yesterday I bit my tongue and did not say much to his constant tirades of how Europe is better than Argentina. (It takes great effort for me to keep my mouth shut) Dude have you heard about Brexit? The Yellow Vests in France? Italy on the verge of a financial meltdown? 

Yesterday we crossed paths and he went into one of his long speeches lambasting Argentina. He was angry about rising prices.  (He actually lives in Euros not pesos, so he should not be complaining as much as those of us who have to live in pesos)  We have over 40% inflation in Argentina. You need to be prudent and look for good prices.  They exist, but you have to find them. He was complaining about the prices in Coto. (Coto is one of the large supermarket chains here)

"No, no, no," I told him. "Coto is super expensive. You should shop in the smaller stores." He glared at me.  "On Calasanz there is small store that sells cheeses, ham, and other cold cuts for cheap prices." Instead of listening to me he continues ranting how Coto raised the price of pategras 4 times in 2 months. "This place where I shop is the cheapest in the barrio. This guy has actually lowered his prices on some items."  Instead of listening to me he continues ranting about Coto and his fucking pategras cheese.

"Look," I say to him, You should buy your cheese and ham from the guy on Calasanz near Rivadavia. "Is it Chinese?" he asks?  "I won't shop where the Chinese are owners, they are dirty."  I ignore this and continue on. "Supermercado Dia is good for things like yogurt, milk, queso blanco (it is kind of like sour cream) "Oh Dia, I don't like that place.  They are horrible in Spain. People in Spain hate them." he says.  "BTW", I tell him, "The Chinos (it is what people here call the supermarkets owned by the Chinese) are the best place to buy cleaning and paper products."  "No, no, no.  didn't you listen to me?  I won't shop in a Chino.  I don't want to support people who are trying to take over the world.  They are buying everyone and everything." 

"In Spain and Europe people shop in the big chains.  They are the best.  They have the lowest prices." I respond to him, "Not here. The big chains are the most expensive. Everyone knows that.  The few times I go to Coto or Disco I am shocked at how expensive they are." "Well not in Europe." he responds. "In Europe they are the best places to shop, and the cheapest."

That's is, I have lost my patience. "Listen you shithead, you are not in Europe,  you are in Argentina.  In Argentina the big chains are the most expensive, but you can shop there and complain." The idiot completely ignores me to continue complaining.  I want to slap him. Now he starts on the tourism. "There is no tourism in Argentina, Barcelona has more tourists than all of Argentina." "Fair enough" I start to explain to him that before the current government there was the problem with exchanging money, there were few planes. These things have been corrected and tourism is now up."  "It will never be as good as Spain.  No one wants to come to Argentina."

That does it. "You are such an asshole, why are you here? Why don't you just go back to Europe if it is so horrible here?" He is shocked. "You called me an asshole?" he asks.  "Yes I did.  Get the fuck out of here. No one wants to hear your constant complaining. If  Europe or Spain or wherever is better, then go. Good Riddance."  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

*Original Post in Spanish

Estoy harto de gente viene para pasear, vivir y siempre todo esta mejor en EEUU o Europa o cualquier país. Hoy mi vecino (de Europa) estaba quejando sobre los precios en Coto. Explique es mejor a comprar quesos en la quesería sobre Calasanz, los lácteos en Dia, los productos de limpieza en el chino..y no. Me dijo no va a Dia, porque odio en España. No va al Chino porque ellos están comprando el mundo. Me informó como en España las cadenas grandes son mejores a comprar. Yo explique acá no, son mas caro. Siguió peleando como mejor es España hasta yo como Argentina adaptada dije "Andate de España boludo, porque acá no es España, es Argentina. Si no te gusta y todo esta mejor en España, andate." Que se yo...

 


Living in Argentina: Not Dead Yet

Social media is amazing.  I recently learned that I moved back to the USA and that I am dead. I wonder what I died of?  I find it humorous that people still find me newsworthy.  I had my 15 minutes of fame, and now I have crawled back into my hole...more or less. I can tell you unequivocally, the rumors of my demise are false (the dog and cat are not writing this post) and I have not moved back to the USA.  I only go back once a year to get my Old Navy wardrobe, Costco vitamins, and my contact lenses.  Otherwise, I would most likely never go back, although never is a strong word.

Argentines never fail to mention my American intonation when I speak (intonation is not the same as pronunciation), however, I feel more Argentine than American. Most bicultural people will tell you that it is like having a split personality.  You are but you aren't.  You don't really fit in anywhere. You love your adopted country, but it is not always easy.

Fifteen  years is a long time to live somewhere, anywhere.  You adapt. I now think eating dinner at 9:00 or 10:00 pm is normal.  I cannot eat dinner at 6:00 pm or 7pm.  That is merienda here. (Some kind of snack)  Things not being straightforward are now normal to me.  I now am an ace at figuring out the subtext. My favorite are the men who are bigger than me, look at me menacingly, and try to convince me I am wrong.  People like building administrators.  They don't scare me.  I just stretch and look up at them and give them shit right back.  Which shocks them.  I have the 3 strikes; woman, foreigner, blond.  

I learned how to get what I need or want.  You need "friends," and you need the Internet... and Facebook. (ugh)  I could never live without the Internet.  The Internet is my friend.  As a former business analyst it is easy to figure out what is fact and what is fiction.  Facebook needs no explanation.

So what exactly am I doing with my life?  I am teaching English...in China..on a virtual platform.  I love it. I have learned so much about Chinese culture.  I work for a great company.  What I don't like is getting up at 5:00 AM to start teaching at 6:00 AM.  I have never been a morning person so it has been a cultural revolution to be peppy and bright eyed so early in the morning.

I am traveling.  Last year this time I was in India.  That was a wonderful experience.  I had no culture shock.  After living here, nothing really bothers me.  I can imagine coming from the 1st world it could shocking.  I went to the USA, Iguazu Falls, and of course Chile.  Next year 2019, I will be traveling quite a bit.  It's either now or never.  Never is not an option.

Do I still dance?  Yes, but not so much.  Maybe once a week.  Sometimes twice.  Tango is not the same as it was when I first came here 18 years ago.  Most of the milongueros and milongueras have died.  The level of dance has suffered.  People either shuffle around the dance floor, or they do steps.  I try to go to places where there are few or no tourists.  Sorry guys.  I know this is your grown up Disneyland dance vacation, but I can't bear to listen to:

  1. You are the best dancer in  your community and there is no one  else for you to dance with (I would hate to see how they dance in your community ...if you are the best)
  2. How you bought 400 new pair of shoes 
  3. Who you know, like I care, I live here.
  4. How you are being way overcharged to take lessons from name brands who don't know how to teach
  5. What countries you go to to dance (You know, I stopped taking my shoes when I travel, that is yet another blog post)
  6. My absolute favorite - how you know more about what it is like to live here and dance here, than people who actually live here and dance here.
  7. There is no good food here...wrong wrong wrong

Now that I have nothing to sell, I can be my normal snarky self.  Maybe you don't like it. That's OK.  You can call me names,  I don't care.  Gigi (AKA Louise) understands.  She is my partner in snark. I am back, and not from the dead. From the bowels of Caballito where I reside with JerryBrown and Maxi. Hasta la próxima...

 

 


Living In Argentina: Catcalls and Piropos

In light of the sexual harassment scandals, I am weighing in with my dos centavos.  I don't think that there is a woman who has not suffered sexual harassment.  It comes in many forms; from the co-worker or boss propositioning you, the date who makes it easier to say yes than no, and sexual innuendos that are not welcome.

The first time someone catcalled me I was 17 years old and walking home from school.  I had to walk by a construction site to get home.  It had been raining and the area was muddy.  I remember one of the men calling out to me "Hey, do you want to come play in the mud with me?"  I was speechless.  I put my head down and continued walking.  I felt embarrassed and maybe a little scared.

7 years later on a trip to New York with a boyfriend it happened again.  Another construction worker.  I was walking to get to the Guggenheim.  In those days I was a super fashionista.  I remember I was wearing my red Fiorucci jeans and cowboy boots.  Funny the things we remember. When I walked by the construction site a guy yelled "Hey!  You got a great ass."  I remembered looking around.  He could not be possibly talking to me.  I have had body dysmorphia since I was born.  "Yeah, you!" he called.  I remember smiling and waving.  Obviously it made such an impact that I still remember it 40 years later.

Flash forward.  The first time I went to Argentina, I was overwhelmed.  Men had no problems telling me that I was "hermosa" or that I had beautiful eyes, coming from politically correct California, I was tongue tied.  This did not happen.  Men did not dare do this.  

Then on my third trip, I experienced my first of many "piropos."  I was walking out of the apartment building where I was staying.  A man stopped in front of me and clutched his chest. "I'm dying." he said. I was alarmed. I asked him if he was OK.  "I'm dying, I know that I am dying because an angel with golden hair just dropped out of the sky." he chanted, then laughed, and continued walking, leaving me perplexed.  

The piropo has its beginning in Spain, 17th, 18th century Spain. (Some say Italy too, but I am not going to write the eternal history in this blog post.) It started with the aristocracy.  In those days a man could not go up to a woman and say "Hey, you're hot, let's go get a drink."  People needed to be introduced. When a man wanted to show his interest in a woman, he would give her a piropo which was a piece of poetry, with the intention of capturing her interest.  Along with that came the laying down of the cloak for a lady to cross the street so as not to muddy her dainty little feet, and the serenading with music.  After all this gallantry, he might be able to find out her name, in order to speak with her father.  These customs carried themselves to Latin America where the Spanish were settling (and trying to conquer).  The custom eventually spread to all the classes.

When I first moved to Argentina, I was unnerved by men constantly telling me that I was beautiful.   It is kind of a lift to your day to hear "rubia hermosa" (beautiful blond ) "lindos ojos", (pretty eyes) and even the ones by the older gents who spun poetry.  Seriously at my age, it feels good. Most of the time I don't even notice, I have gotten so used to it.

Then in 2010 I went back to the Bay Area for a visit.  That was when I realized I had been Argentinizied.  For many reasons.  I had been so used to the men in our milongas here commenting on my hair, or my dress or my perfume, that it seemed weird not to have someone say anything to me.  Very boring and safe small talk. I mentioned it to a few of my women friends, and the reaction was very strong. "Why do you need to be validated by a man?" was the most common response.  Validation had absolutely nothing to do with it.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very independent and do not need anyone or anything to validate me.  It is nice to hear that you look good, smell good, and are attractive.  Funny thing, those are the same women who literally throw themselves at the Argentine men in our milongas when they are here in Buenos Aires.

However, not all piropos are nice.  There are the ones where they talk about your body parts and what they want to do them.  Those are gross.  Disgusting. Sick.  Those are catcalls. One day when I was walking to the subte, I passed a group of construction workers.  They began to say disgusting things .  I had a Relato Salvaje moment.  I stomped over to them and got in their faces, "Do you have a sister?  Do you have a mother?  Do you have a daughter?"  I demanded.  "How would you like some guy to talk to them, like you just talked to me?"  Not a word.  They said nothing.  The next day when I walked by, none of them said anything.  I scared the hell out of them, I suppose.

 An Argentine woman who received one of the disgusting catcalls about her body, went to the police station and made a complaint.  There is now a law about sexual harassment by catcalls.  (Acoso Callejero)  This, is a good thing.   No one should be subjected to the disgusting comments by men  who have no concept of what is offensive.  Machismo is alive and well in Argentina.

I often see in the expat forums in Facebook how many of the foreign women are chagrined by the piropos on the street.  They hate them.  It doesn't matter if they are the spun poetry, or the random compliment, they hate them.  

There is a difference between an ugly cat call, and the poetry of a piropo.  The sad thing is the poetica piropo is disappearing.  The milonga is the exception, where men still practice this art, but on the street, it is unusual to hear this form of poetry in motion.

 


Dating With Deby: Strike3, You Are Out

It has been a week since I had my last date with the architect.  I know that I am supposed to call him, if I want to go out again.  I am not sure what to do.  I don't like all the conversation about the ex and the kids.  Argentines have this propensity to talk about the past.  Men always want to know about my exes.  I prefer not to talk about the past when you are trying to move forward.

My friends tell me that I should give him another chance.  Nice looking, educated, career oriented, etc.  OK, I send him a Whats App.  He asks if he can call.  Sure.   "I thought that I would never hear from you again." he says.  Well you almost didn't, I think to myself.  After some light bantering, he invites me to dinner.  He mentions Thursday.  I ask him "You aren't allowed out on Saturdays?"  "You want to go out with me on Saturday?" he asks.  I tell him "Yes, and you pick the place."  He tells me that he will call on Thursday to confirm.

Thursday comes and he confirms that he will pick me up at 8:30 and that we are going to a Russian restaurant.  He gives me the name so I can check it out.  I notice on their website that their menu is not  really good for celiacs.  I send him a message.  He tells me that he called the restaurant and they said they have food for celiacs.  Vamos a ver.

Saturday.  Of course comes the  call at 7:45 that he will be late. Obvio.  At almost 9 he comes to get me.  Small talk on the way to the restaurant.  It is a cute place.  Small but cute.  The waiter is anything but small and cute.  I notice nothing is marked for celiacs on the menu.  He offers me 1 dish that is made with meat.  I don't eat meat. The waiter then bellows that I am difficult.  I am a celiac and I don't eat meat.  He doesn't shut up. In my best Grandma Brown voice I tell him to lower his voice. That shuts him up.  Nobody messes with Grandma Brown.

The architect stays out of it.  Of course.  Finally I choose borscht and some pickled fish.  Food from my childhood.  I am OK with it.  The important thing is the company.  This place is also known for its many flavors and brands of vodka.  I don't really drink, but agree to have 1 shot.  

During dinner there is more conversation about his work.  It is up to me to change the conversation.  I ask him about growing up here.  He tells me several stories, all with him ending up as the victim. I see this as an emerging pattern. His cousins, his ex wife, his sons.  Uff.

When dinner is over he asks about dessert. (Again apologizing for the lack of food for me.)  I tell him I would prefer we go somewhere else.  I recommend ice cream.  I tell him Cremolatti, Daniel's, Terzo all have ice cream for celiacs.  He asks about Volta.  "They do,"  I tell him, but not that many flavors.  Besides the ice cream is much better at the other places.  He insists on Volta, because it is "pretty."  Whatever.

We arrive at Volta, which is an hour from closing.  I say nothing, because I  know the other places stay open later.  When we look at the menu, just as I said, they hardly have any flavors for celiacs, and they are out of most of the ones they do have.  This leaves me with 3 choices.  I don't want to be difficult so I select a flavor. We go to sit down.

 Half way through the ice cream, he starts to talk about his grandson.  He tells me that he hardly ever gets to see him.  His daughter-in-law lets him come by when his son is not there. Hmm.  He then whips out his cell phone to show me a message his son sent him.  I am horrified.  This message is terrible even if it was from a friend, let alone a son.  This kind of anger doesn't happen overnight.  I know.  I come from a family where I speak with almost no one.  Children who don't speak to their parents usually have reasons built up from more than just an incident or two.   I cannot believe that he shared this message with me.  This is not something you show someone on a third date.  My immediate thought, was what did he do to deserve this kind of wrath?  He saw it as a way to prove to me that he is the victim.  I am sure.

Then starts another diatribe about the ex wife, and how it is her fault.  I stop him.  "How long have you been divorced?"  I ask.  "5 years," he tells me, but we were together 30 years.  "5 years," I think to myself, "and you are still complaining about her?"  His kids were not children when they divorced.  They were adults.  He goes on his diatribe for 5 minutes.  Finally I stop him. "I don't want to talk about your ex wife or your sons anymore.  I am tired of hearing about them.  They have nothing to do with me."

He stops, and then he says "But it is my life.  Don't you want to know about me?"  "I want to have a relationship with a man, not a man and his ex wife."  I tell him.  "I want to be with someone who wants something new. "  He doesn't get it.  "Well what about your exes?" He asks. "Not important."  I tell him.  "At least not now.  Besides I am friends with most of them."  He still doesn't get it.  I am  not interested in playing therapist. I don't want to be trapped in his nightmare. I am exhausted.  "Let's go," I say to him.

When we get to my apartment, he once again apologizes for both the restaurant and the ice cream.  At this point I don't care.  Seriously, if had not brought up his ex and family, the food would not have been an issue.  I am used to having to make do.  Sorry guy, 3 strikes, you are out.

 


Dating With Deby: Three Strikes And You Are Out, Strike 2

The architect calls me on Monday and asks me out for Thursday.  He invites me to dinner.  He tells me that he wants to go for Korean food.  He tells me to choose.  I think about it.  I love Korean food, but it is not exactly a place for a date.  The best Korean restaurants are the BBQs.  Places with communal tables, florescent lighting.  I don't need a 5 star restaurant, but something a little nicer.  Besides, there is so much food at these places, it is much better to go in a group.

We speak on Thursday afternoon, to solidify the details.  I tell him I prefer we go to another restaurant.  He tells me to choose and that he will pick me up at 8:00 pm.  I decide on the African restaurant, El Buen Sabor in Villa Crespo.  I like the food there, and the owners are super nice.

At 7:45 he calls to tell me that he will be late.  I can see that this is going to be a constant in this relationship.  Yes, people are always late here, but not like this, not on a first or second meeting.  Finally at almost 9:00 he comes to get me.  I tell him about the African restaurant.  He is disappointed, but says OK.

On the way to the restaurant he talks mostly about work.  Yeah, a guy thing here.  It is to show me how "important" he is.  The conversation is mostly 1 way, because that is also how it is.  I try to interject at times, but he keeps talking.  Sometimes I raise my hand and say "Permiso para hablar?" (Permission to speak)  It is the only way to make it a 2 way conversation.  Men here are not aware that they do this, in fact they deny it.  Ask any woman and they will laugh and tell you yes, that is how they are.  Beyond mansplaining.

We arrive at the restaurant.  The owner greets me.  I met them when they first opened the place.  I am always amazed that they still remember me.  I don't go often, but I guess the hair is a dead giveaway.  I introduce the architect and we sit at a table in the corner.

He wants no part in helping to decide what to eat. He is leaving this to me.  You can look at this two ways. 1, if the food is not good, then I can be blamed, or 2. He wants to be a nice guy.  Most likely a combination.  I choose several plates, he wants double appetizers.  No problem.

 The conversation is mostly nice, low key.  First date conversation.  I change the conversation from his work.  He is not interested in mine.  He doesn't speak English and says he cannot learn. It isn't like I am conducting a class, I like to talk about my students, or the challenges.  We talk about food.  We talk about our travels.  I tell him about Bali and what an effect it had on me.  He tells me that he went to Miami and is not interested in the USA.  I tell him the USA is more than Miami and New York. (Where 90% of Argentines travel to in the USA) He prefers Europe and he wants to go to Thailand.  A common ground.  Asia.

Then in the middle of this conversation he changes it.  He tells me that his son came to visit him today.  "Great."   I say.  I remember that he told me he doesn't have much of a relationship with his sons.  "No," he says.  "He only comes to see me when he wants money." I don't comment. "He wants to go on a trip to Mexico with his friends, and his mother told him to ask me for the money."

At this point, I am assuming the son is graduating high school and he and his friends are going on a trip to celebrate.  I mention this. He responds, "No, no, no.  He graduated from high school, this is just a trip with a group of his friends."  I ask him how old his son is. Before this point I was assuming that he was young. "23," he tells me. Before I can stop myself the words fall out of my mouth. "23?  Tell him to get a job.  He isn't exactly a child."  The architect tells me no. That is not how it is here.

"Excuse me,"  I tell him, "I don't want to get involved, but at 23, he should not be asking you for money."  He proceeds to tell me that is the only time he sees his son.  That he feels like his son is a prostitute and that he should just hand him the money in a white envelope. This is passive aggressive behavior.  "Why don't you just tell him how you feel?  I say.  "Maybe it will clear the air, rather than do something like handing him an envelope, which will solve nothing."

He doesn't get it.  Then he starts to blame his ex-wife. I stop the conversation here. "Look,"  I tell him, I don't want to be involved.  It has nothing to do with me."  I don't want to hear about his ex-wife.  It is like he doesn't hear me.  He is on a roll.  "It is because of her, I cannot see my grandson."  He catches the look on my face and stops. Thank God.

I turn the conversation back to something else.  Cooking is a much safer topic.  He tells me how he loves to cook.  I tell him I do too.  I tell him about my friends, and that we are a group of people that love to cook.  He says he will invite me to his place for dinner.  I tell him, that I don't have a kitchen table.

After dinner he takes me home.  The conversation is light, until we get to my apartment.  He puts the car in park and then leans over to grab me.  This is what I hate.  Nothing ever seems to be consensual. It is like being conquered.  Uff.  No.  Not at this age.  When I was lots younger, like most women, it was easier to say yes, then push someone away.  Now I don't care. One kiss.  Then he asks about coming upstairs.  I tell him no.  "How will I ever get to know you?" he asks.  What is this, the bible?  I make it clear that I am not looking for just sex.  Sex is a part of a relationship.  I don't hop beds anymore. (Especially here with the Madonna Whore complex alive and well.) I let him know that it isn't no for ever, but I want to know someone first.  "But sex is a way to know someone." he insists. I give him my bored look.  I know what comes next. "We are both adults," he says.  I hate when they say this.  I am supposed to be guilted into having sex.  I keep my mouth shut. I don't want to argue. I open the door to his car and prepare to get out.

"Hey," he says.  I will leave it up to you, if you want to go out again.  "How about Saturday?"  I ask. This is the way to find out if he is in another relationship.  "No, I can't this Saturday. Monday?  Tuesday?"  I tell him we will talk.  I shut the door of his car, and walk into my apartment building. I am not too sure about this guy. Vamos a ver.

 


Dating With Deby: Three Strikes And You Are Out, Strike 1

I don't want you to think that I spend my days working, going to the gym, and trying to make some order in my apartment.  In addition to all that, I am still finding time to swipe. Swipe means Tinder. It is easier than all the others. Left, left, left, and then once in awhile, right.  (Left means reject and right means OK)

I mostly swipe left.  Sometimes it is truly amazing what men have on their profiles.  Pictures of their dogs, pictures of a car, pictures of a sunset.  Those are usually married guys. Left. Blank pictures. Left.  Pictures of children. Left. Fake profiles with pictures of obscure politicians or movie stars. Left.  Pictures that are obviously 10, 15, 20, years old. Left.  Then are the no way for me guys, super overweight, and just plain ugh. Left.

Every once in awhile a profile pops up that is actually interesting. Someone that doesn't look like an axe murderer or an alien from another planet, and they can actually write better in Spanish than I can. Seriously.  Swipe right.  Then, by the grace of God, they are a match.  That means they saw my picture and swiped right.

Here is the crazy thing, 80% of the men who match with me, never respond.  I send them a message or sometimes I wait a bit to see if they send me one. Nothing.  Next.  Then there is the 20%.  Some are just too weird.  I can tell from a short chat. Unmatched.  Bye.  

Every once in awhile, there is someone who is attractive, employed, and seems normal. Really.  When I saw R's profile, he was very nice looking for late 50s. An architect.   He didn't look like he would be my grandfather.  He had nice pictures and a short but nice profile, which ended with "These are my real pictures, I hope yours are too." (Famous last words)

After a couple of back and forth messages, he sent me his phone number.  "I don't like extended chats," he wrote.  "I would rather just talk."  So I sent him a Whats App and he called me.  He sounded nice.  We made a date for Sunday close to where I live.

Sunday came.  As I was walking out my door towards the cafe, he sent me a text.  He was running late.  45 minutes late. Great.  I didn't want to go back home, so I decided to continue walking, and window shop. 45 minutes later I went to the cafe to wait.

He wasn't 45 minutes late, he was an hour late.  Nice looking.  Dressed more modern than most men his age. (I hate those pants that go up to the chin, what's with that?) However, the actual photos were maybe 10 pounds or about 4 kilos ago.  He wasn't fat, he just was heavier than his pictures.  I tell myself to not be so hypocritical.

I know, most men, do not think my age and my pictures go together.  I have to tell them 80 times they are all recent pictures with no Photoshop.  The more suspicious the worst they look when we finally meet. The architect made a point several times to tell me that "age doesn't matter" and that "I look really great for my age."  I want to tell him, "at least my pictures were actual pictures, so shut up." I don't.  I am trying really hard to be nice.  Snarky does not work in Argentina.

During the coffee, I asked him if he likes spicy foods.  Yes, he likes Korean. 5 points.  Does he like to travel? Yes, and he has. 5 points.  Does he like movies? Yes, 5 points.  So far, so good, until I ask if he has kids.  He looks sad. He tells me yes, but he doesn't get to see them.  He continues with the sad look.  He says that his ex-wife came between him and his kids.  At this point, I am assuming that his kids were young when they divorced.  I tell him that is sad.  I change the subject.  I don't want to talk about sad stuff on a first date.

I tell him how I am remodeling my apartment...without an architect.  He looks concerned.  "You poor thing." he says.  I am anything but a poor thing.    "I can help you, don't worry.  Whatever you need."  he says.  Men here love the damsel in distress.  "I don't need any help,"  I tell him, "but thanks."  He keeps pushing.  I guess he thinks I am embarrassed to admit my place is a mess, which it isn't.  I really hate this.  There are two things I do not like, when people think I am stupid or when they think I am helpless.  I am  neither.

I whip out my phone.  I show him the before pictures of my place, and then the after pictures.  He is shocked.  "You designed this?"  he asked.  "Yes, all of it." I tell him and then add, "without an architect."  I show him the kitchen, the bathroom, how I changed the circulation of the upstairs.  I know, in the dating world here, I am supposed to be more meek, but it is not my nature.  I am proud of my skills.  He looks at me, "Congratulations,"  he says, "Most people have nightmares with an architect, you are amazing."  I don't want to tell him that the biggest problems are the architects.  They do whatever they want and they don't care what the client wants.  Plus they charge a fortune to make a mess of your project.  

I decide this guy is not so bad.  I am going to make history and have accept a second meeting with him.  That almost never happens with me.  But you have to live dangerously once in awhile.  

 


Living In Argentina: Customer Service Is An Oxymoron

Next time you are angry with Rogers, Xfinity or whoever is your ISP, I want you to come back to this blog post, to realize how lucky you are.  While you might not like the level of customer service in your country, here in Argentina, it rarely exists.

When I lived in Palermo I had Telecentro for my Internet/Cable/IP phone provider.  I had almost no problems with them, although this is not their reputation.  Here in Buenos Aires, they are the service you love to hate.  They don't really give you any other choice.  I found that out when I moved to Caballito.  My building is small, so I only had two choices for Internet. The other choice gave no choice for TV.  It is pretty complicated here.  My building is wired for Telecentro.

Everything was love and roses when I signed up in March.  They even gave me 3 months free as a welcome back present.  I told them I didn't want the HD TV or the HBO/Cinemax package.  TV for me is background noise.  I spend all day speaking English, and the news is my way of hearing lots of Spanish when I get home.  They said I had no choice and I could cancel in 3 months.  Welcome to Argentina.  I knew the whole cancellation route was going to be a nightmare.

In April, I lost 5 days of cable and Internet.  Do you have any idea how boring life is without Internet? At that time I only had 1Gb on my phone plan. The Internet is my addiction. Next to chocolate, blueberries, and tango.  Back to reading.  I have a Kindle app on my phone and tablets, so I downloaded my books at work, and read.  Oh, and figured out how to snark Internet from the Kiosco downstairs.  Once a geek, always a geek.  

In May I was down 2 days.  Then in June, I lost my free HD TV.  It stopped working.  I tried calling. (See next paragraph) I sent an email through the "virtual office."  I contacted them on both Facebook and Twitter.  No answers, so I disconnected the decoder and just connected the basic cable.  Then they started to charge me for the nonexistent HD service.

I sent 5 emails asking to not charge me for HD service, because I did not have it. They insisted it was working fine.  I repeated the issues with the decoder, how I rebooted, changed the cables, and I still got the Error 120 code.  This code means the decoder can't communicate with the system.  I know.  I googled it.  I wish that they would have.

A month later they sent me a message to reboot my decoder.  They never bothered to read that I had done that as well as change the cables.  I told them I had done that.  They never answered again. It took 2 more months to get them to stop billing me for HD, Cinemax/HBO.  I never got any credit for any of the down time or the billing errors.  

Last month they boosted my cable speed, AND started charging me for HBO, Cinemax, and HD.  More emails and Tweets And Facebook.  All IGNORED.  I discovered a Twitter feed for people who have been screwed by Telecentro.  They were retweeting my tweets.  Bless them.

Let me clue you in to what happens when you call our beloved Telecentro.  First, they are only open from 9 - 6. Yep.  No nights.  No weekends.  They don't really care about support, they just want to sell you stuff.  They don't need to be open at midnight to sell you stuff.  They don't care if it works, as long as they can keep selling.

Then you call during their business hours.  You get a phone tree that is so long, that you have to listen to it 3 times to understand where you need to punch the button.  I tried circumventing the phone tree. It only worked when I got knee deep in their system.  You get put on hold when you finally are able to get the selection to be able to talk to a human.  The only problem is after 5 minutes, you are disconnected.  Call back.  Disconnected again.  I can't spend my life on hold.  Not even eternal hold because you get disconnected. 

Last week my basic cable stopped working. Grrr.  More Tweets.  They ignored me.  I called.  It took me two days and 6 tries to get through.  The "customer service" rep said she would stop the billing for next month, but I had to pay for this month, even though I don't have service.  She sent me to technical support.

This is a disaster.  Their people read from a script. They are all men.  Imagine that. They hear a foreign women and decide that I am not smart enough.  Good thing they don't know I am blond.  It would be worse.  I demand to talk to someone who knows more.  I get sent to Javier who is in customer service.  He is a nice guy, but he cannot help me other to insist he will give me another worthless credit.

ENACOM is is the government entity that oversees all of the communication in Argentina.  It is no secret that they are not happy with the either the quality or the pricing of cell phones, Internet, or home phones, as well as TV and the post office.  Our new president has opened the door to competition in 2018.  He believes that price fixing and lack of competition has created this nightmare of bad and overpriced services.

 I discovered on Twitter that ENACOM has an account on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  That is all a girl like me needs.  I started a social media barrage against Telecentro copying to ENACOM.  When Telecentro said I had service, I uploaded pictures of my TV with the error codes of no signal. They kept insisting I had service.  I contacted my neighbors.  Guess what?  Two of them had no service either.  Imagine that.  I made sure that Telecentro knew that I was not the only one.

Then someone decided to actually read my tweets and posts when they noticed that they were going to ENACOM.  They changed their tone rapidly.  Apologies and that they would get on it right away.  I kept up the barrage.  At one point they told me to calm down that they were working on it, that they had found the problem. Oh, and that they would credit my account.  I won't hold my breath.

Eight days later I when I went to take Maxi out at 8:00 AM, I noticed guys with huge spools of cable and another guy with headphones on and some technological equipment to check the cables.  On the way back, I asked what they were doing.  The fellow told me that they were replacing the cables for Telecentro.  The ones on my street were in bad condition.  Imagine that.

That night, my TV service came back.  I let Telecentro know..and ENACOM.  It took 4 months to get them to acknowledge the cables for HD had problems and 7 days to acknowledge that there was a problem.  If I had not created a social media war, I am sure, that I would still be without service. 

You have no idea how much energy and time it takes to do this.  I wonder why I am tired? In addition to Telecentro, I have been fighting Edesur, the electric company for gross overbilling. That fight has been going on since January, when I found out my meter readings were from another planet.  That situation is still in the complaint department.

 


Living in Argentina: Buying a Countertop Is Worse Than Buying Shoes

Shoes are great.  I love them.  I just do not like buying them. You know what I am talking about.  Maybe you have this desire to buy a pair of purple boots, or black pumps, or sneakers.  You start checking out the stores or online. (Well here in Argentina, I don't buy online, because returning something is worse than standing in line for 20 minutes at the grocery store.)  

Maybe you are browsing at DSW or checking out Nordstroms.  You see a pair of shoes that hit you.  You check the price and ask to see your size.  That is usually when it all ends.  Most of the time, the box fits better than the shoes. 10 stores later, you begin to wonder why you even need a new pair of shoes.

Fast forward. Countertops in Argentina.  I would like to say, "Don't ask" but then I wouldn't have a blog post.  I made the decision that I wanted a black granite countertop.  There are two varieties of black in granite.  Negro absoluto, and negro brasil.  I had decided months ago I wanted the negro brasil.  Mostly because I thought the little fleck of silver would be nice to have.

Here you don't have a million choices.  You can have marble, granite, Silestone, poured cement, and aluminum.  Formica? Naah. Corian?  You would have to rob a bank to have it, the same as Silestone.  So, my options were marble and granite.  I decided on granite solely on price.  Here it is almost half of what marble would cost.

If you know me, either personally or by reading this blog, then you know, I am obsessive about details.  Here you have no choice.  If you do not do your homework, you run the risk of doing the same work 3 or 4 times, and that was not an option for me or even one that I wanted.

In what seems like another lifetime, buying a countertop in California seemed so easy.  I went to Home Depot.  I picked out what I wanted, they gave me a price, they delivered it. In one instance, my friend Martha and I installed it.  The second time around, I did it. Formica is pretty easy to install.

Flash forward a bunch of years. I need to get at least 3 or more estimates, compare them, and then decide who or where to buy from.  This sounds easy, but then again, this is Argentina, where nothing is easy.  Think shoes.

The first place I go to is on the Calle Alberdi.  I was told this place had good prices.  In my little bean brain, I had decided after many discussions with those who "know", I was not going to pay more than $15,000 pesos, that price should include someone to come measure, installation, and delivery.  That was the maximum.  Personally, I figured it should be more like $13,000.

I walk into the shop.  There were 3 people and everyone was on the phone.  No one acknowledges me. They continue their phone conversations as though I do not exist.  This, however, is normal in Buenos Aires.  No, "I'll be right with you" or anything.  Not even eye contact.  I usually give these situations around 7 minutes before I leave.

The woman gets off the phone.  No, I am sorry, or anything.  The standard "What do you want?".  Yes, seriously. Why would I wait 5 minutes or so in a store that only sells marble or granite?  I sometimes get the urge to ask if I can order lunch.  What do they think I want???

The women seems to be the mother of the two guys on the phone.  Actually, she is very pleasant.  She sees "woman alone, with an accent." That probably calculates into paying extra...for her.  Not for me. I show her my measurements.  I tell her I want granite - negro brasil.  She flips her fingers over the calculator. "$19,000," she tells me.  "Does that include measuring, delivery, and installing?" I ask.  "Oh no," she says.  "It will be $3800 more for those services."  I try to keep a straight face.  "Don't you think that this price is a little high?"  I ask?  She then tries to wow me with the fact that if they drop the countertops before they install them, and damage them, I am protected.  "QUEEE???" (what)  I thank her and leave.

The thing is they sell countertops in linear meters.  I am not and have never been a math wiz. Now armed with the actual amount I need, plus new vocabulary (who knew an opening for the stove top and sink were called trasforos) I go to Mercadolibre.  Mercadolibre is our version of Ebay.  Actually Ebay owns a part of Mercadolibre.

I start asking for estimates in my very best Spanish.  There are times when my Spanish is better than many Native speakers.  At least I know the difference between V and B. The replies start to roll in.  The highest is 18,000 and the lowest 11,800.  A little different than the one I got before.

Of course, this doesn't stop me from going to a few more places.  I stop into a place on the way home from work.  The guy's eyes light up like Christmas in July.  I know that it is better to buy the sink from the same place I get the countertop.  Again, "What do you want?"  Would someone please give these people some sales training?  It is amazing anything gets sold here.

I tell this guy who probably has never heard of Dale Carnegie that I want a quote on a countertop and sink.  I tell him I want granite, specifically negro brasil, and a sink that is 22 cm deep.  (If you have ever been to Argentina you will know that they have these incredibly shallow sinks.) He immediately shows me the most expensive line.  I tell him I do not want Johnson, I want a different brand, either Starken or Mi Pileta.  He tries to tell me they are the same price.  In the end there is almost a 1500 pesos difference.  

You would think this guy would have realized that I have done my homework.  But, noooo.  He tries to talk me into Silestone, which here is almost 3 times as much as granite.  I tell him once again, I want negro brasil and I want granite.  I watch him do the numbers.  They look like they are heading in the wrong direction.  I tell him "I don't want a backsplash."  He looks surprised. "You have to have a backsplash."  Why is it these people are always telling me what I have to have? "No, I don't, and I don't want one."  He argues with me, "In Argentina we use them. Besides, how will you stop the water?" I show him pictures of countertops without backsplashes."   Then he stops. "What about your husband?" he asks.  At first, I want to say he is dead just to embarrass him, but I opt for "There is no husband, and the dog and cat gave me permission to buy whatever I want."  Well Maxi anyway, JerryBrown is always the problem.

I watch as he does the math.  I am shocked at what I see.  He writes $27,000 pesos as his end number. This is worse than shoes, it is like buying a car.  "27,000?"  I almost shriek at him.  "Does this include measuring? Delivery? Installation?"  He looks at me "You need that?" No, I am going to carry granite slabs on the bus.  He then adds another $4000 pesos.  "Are you sure this is granite and not Silestone?"  I ask.  I then get a lecture about inflation, how much things cost, and that their granite is first class.  I laugh and tell him "Sir, I am blond, but not stupid."  I refuse his written estimate and leave.

I go back to my Mercadolibre quotes and in my hacker way, figure out where the cheapest ones came from.  One from a place that does not exist.  Maybe they moved, but I am not in the mood to track them down.  The other was in front of the Flores Cemetary.  My painter and everyone else insists that I cannot go there alone.  OK, it is not in a great neighborhood, but it is a cemetery.  I decided I should make Sam go with me.

So we take a taxi there.  Just like I thought.  Tons of old ladies going to pay their respects. We go to the place I have the address for.  Sam doesn't speak Spanish.  The salesman is about 80.  He is eager to practice his mas o menos English.  I am happier to speak in Spanish.  I tell him about the quote I got from them from Mercadolibre.  It was almost 45 days ago.  Prices, of course, have gone up.  He tells me that he has to talk to the owner.  Sam and I take the bus.

Later that day, the octagenarian calls.  The price for the counter, the sink, measurements, delivery, and installation - $15,100.  I tell him I will think about it.  Two days later I hop the 132. My painter is appalled I am going alone and with my cell phone. Jeesh, if he ever saw Oakland or Detroit, he would know why I know no fear.  By the time we get to the cemetery it is me and 15 old ladies.  OK, maybe I am an old lady too, but I don't look or act like one.

The Octogenarian is there.  I tell him if he charges me $15,000 we have a deal.  He tells me that he will talk to the owner.  I am amused.  He asks if they can come today to measure, I tell him sure. Miguel who is probably in his 70s and somewhat irascible comes as promised at 7:00.  He measures, he makes comments.  It would not be an Argentine transaction without comments. He then tells me, I am only going to charge you $15,000.  This is how I came to buy my countertop, which hopefully will be delivered next week.  Buying shoes is easier.

 

 


Living in Argentina: Life in a Construction Zone

The construction started on my place in March.  We are now in May and here I am.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am obsessive about details, about making sure everything is organized and planned down to the last detail.  This is no easy feat in Argentina where what can go wrong...will go wrong.  I even plan for that, with Plan B, C, and D.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and those of  mine as well.   This video should give some idea of what my life is like these days.

I have taken on an almost zen like attitude.  I am living out of boxes in an apartment full of dust and grime.  JerryBrown is with me and Maxi continues leashless in Banfield.  I have no idea where most of my stuff is.  I can't go into 95% of the boxes, because the painter has them stacked in a way that we just won't talk about. I cringe when I look at them. My kitchen consists of a refrigerator and a microwave.  It is amazing how creative one can be.  Who knew you could make pasta in a microwave, add olive oil and parmesan, a little garlic, some pepper, and you are set.  

Taking all this into consideration, I don't think I have ever been this happy for a long time.  I even catch myself smiling...a lot.  People have noticed. There is something about my new place that is so me.  In many ways it reminds me of my place that I sold in California before I moved here.  It isn't nearly as large, but it has some similar characteristics.  Maybe the best part is that after 14 years of living here, I have finally figured out how to remodel a place. 

Buenos Aires is not a "go to Home Depot kind of place"  There are no large emporiums of places to find flooring or cool light switches or deliveries from Amazon .  We have Easy and Sodimac which are far from the same, not even close.  That means, you must scour the city to find interesting and different materials.  It means fighting with architects, workers, and everyone else.  I love it.

I have been able to use my creative energy to design exactly the kind of place I want to live in.  It is not perfect.  There are some things that I cannot change, but I love it.  I feel so at home. Not just my place but my barrio.  In a way it is like when I lived in California, but better, because I am here in Buenos Aires.

People in my barrio are so nice.  They say hello to you.  They don't snarl at me, and no one barks "Where are you from" before I can even ask for what I need.  I feel like the mascot of my barrio.  Earlier this week I popped into the hardware store on the corner to see if they had something I needed.  Actually, I wanted to buy a length of rope so I could start jumping rope on my terraza.  The owner told me he was out and that he would have some more in a few days.

When I was going to work this morning, he called out to me. First was a nice good morning, and then he let me know that the rope had come in and to stop in on my way back from work. Shocking. When I did stop in, he actually held the rope for me so we could see how much I needed.  This is not an isolated experience.  So many places where I have purchased things, the store clerks or owners know my name, they are so nice.  I can't wait until they meet Maxi.   Or maybe I can.  Los Demonios..