Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrating New Year's Eve Abroad

New Year's Eve was bittersweet. It's the first one I've celebrated with my parents in seven years, but it's also the first one I've celebrated without my spouse since we met.

While some of my cousins decided to celebrate together, my folks and I decided to celebrate privately and quietly in their home.   
My dad barbecued goat, cow brains, and sausages
My mother was busy in the kitchen baking potato wedges, Armenian empanadas, and Argentinean empanadas.
The triangular shaped Empanadas are Armenian. They are very similar to the Arabian empanadas but the taste of the ground beef, and the shape of the space at the center differs. The Empanadas on the lower right hand side of the photo are called Empanadas criollas. 
The first plate on the left is a basic salad with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. The middle plate are the potato wedges I mentioned earlier, and the third plate is chimichurri. Chimichurri is a seasoned sauce that you can pour over any type of meat.
I tried some of the goat. It was okay, but I'm not a fan of the texture. I also hate cowbrains because of the way it jiggles in my mouth. It tastes like phlegm.
I decided to go for the safest route and make myself a choripan. A choripan is a sausage sandwiched in a bread. As you can see from the picture above, I added some of the salad along with potato wedges and chimichurri. 
My mom placed an assortment of peanuts, sugar coated candy and turron (nougat) for dessert. Turron varies by texture and color. Focus on the bigger plate. The turron on the upper right hand side is white and has a tougher texture with peanuts cut in half. I don't like this type of turron because chewing through it is difficult. I prefer the softer turron which is on the lower left hand side of the plate. It's brown and soft like peanut butter and easier on the teeth.

My mom also made a delicious fruit salad for dessert
Later tonight we're going to toast to 2013 with Sidra, which is like a champagne.

I want to thank all of my readers and followers. In the coming months I'll blog about an upcoming trip to the capital of Buenos Aires, my continued efforts to validate my U.S. diploma and transcripts, plus more amazing photos and videos of Cordoba. Until next time, have a safe and happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Attending College In Argentina – What You’ll Need And What Careers Work

One of the wonderful advantages of studying in Argentina is that public universities are free. Textbooks are not free, but you are given the option of buying photocopied versions of the textbook. There is a small fee for being enrolled but it’s such a minor amount that it’s laughable.

A term at a university is broken down by years, (year 1, year 2, year 3, etc) instead of the 3-4 month terms per year more commonly seen in the United States.

Most degrees last five years, and when you are done, you will have earned the equivalent of a Master’s Degree.

Here’s the catch. When I went to apply I provided the registrar with my diploma, college transcripts, and vocational certificates, but she told me they were invalid. Why? Because it didn’t have an apostille. I didn't know what this was at the time, much less that I needed it. 
What You Need To Be Admitted Into An Argentinean University
  • Apostille your high school diploma and transcripts (do the same for any other degree)
  • Have your diploma and transcripts translated and legalized
  • Take your diploma and transcripts to the ministry of education in Buenos Aires to have them validated
  • Return to the university of your choice with the diploma and transcript apostilled, notarized, translated, and legalized.
  • If you only have a transcript then don’t even bother taking these steps. The ministry of education will only validate documents if they come with both the diploma and the transcripts. You can't present one or the other by themselves.
Careers you can choose
There isn’t a high demand for lawyers, psychiatrists, or social workers in Argentina. If you’re interested in these fields, I’d reconsider. Why aren’t these careers very popular in Argentina? I'll break it down for you.

Lawyers: For starters, the concept of suing someone at the drop of a hat (which is very common in the U.S.) is not a common practice in Argentina. Most issues are solved amicably and diplomatically so the need for a lawyer is seriously diminished. You won’t find anyone purposely faking a slip and fall at a store in order to collect money either. It’s not to say there aren’t one or two bad apples, but most of these cases get ridiculed and tossed out of court unless death has occurred as a result of an action.
Immigration Lawyer: It's not really needed in Argentina because there are no deportation laws.

Divorce Lawyer: The divorce rate in Argentina is too small. This is mostly because until recently, it was seen as a social taboo in Argentinean society, especially among the older generation. Plus, most Argentineans live by the following motto, “Work things out because things in Argentina must last”.
Psychologists And Psychiatrists: If you have to become one then I’d recommend being a child therapist. Mental health problems are not as heavily advertised or as popular here as they are in the United States. Argentineans don’t dwell on mental or eating disorders as much. Again, it’s not to say there aren’t people who suffer from it, but it’s not that common. Also, Argentineans tend to deal with their own issues privately among family. The use of going to a therapist to discuss personal issues, couple's therapy, family counseling, with a stranger is considered by some to be an embarrassment to the individual and their family.

Social Workers: This is one of the more popular career choices. Unfortunately there are so many people that have entered this field that the demand isn’t that great. Therefore it’s a dead end unless you have pull with a hospital or institution.
Career recommendations: Become a national translator. You can pick German, French, Italian, or English. You can also earn an education degree for these particular languages which will open doors for you if you want to teach at a primary school, high school, or university.

Other career options that are in high demand in Argentina are biochemist, chemist, and medical doctor.
So remember to apostille, notarize, translate, and legalize your diplomas and transcripts before attending college. Then pick the career that best matches your desires and Argentina's needs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Downtown Cordoba Argentina - Video Tour

It’s been 6 months since I’ve been in Argentina. In lieu of an expat report, I created a video tour, compiled from footage I’ve taken of the downtown area of Cordoba. I hope you all enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reasons You Need Apostilles In Argentina And How To Get Them

Apostilles legalize foreign documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses, high school diplomas, College Diplomas, student transcripts, and background checks. I highly recommend that you get your documents apostilled and notarized in your home country before coming to Argentina. You will need them if you want to apply for residency, attend a university, and possibly work. Without an apostille, your documents are worth less than toilet paper in Argentina.

When I first started searching for ways to get my documents apostilled, I tried searching for companies in the U.S. in order to get our documents done via mail. However, this would have been too expensive. Most agents who handle Apostilles enjoy taking advantage of an expats' desperate situation.

Where To Get An Apostille
Unfortunately, I can only answer for the United States, though the answer might be similar for any other country in the world. In the U.S., you can acquire an apostille by going to city hall. At most, you'll spend 50 U.S. dollars per document, if that. You'll have to get your documents notarized before getting an apostille.

What Happens If You're Not In Your Native Country
If you are already living in a foreign country, you can send an affidavit authorizing a family member, like a spouse, to act on your behalf in order to get your documents apostilled and notarized. Keep in mind that the affidavit must be notarized and legalized before sending it abroad through some form of express mail service.

Can't I Get An Apostille From A U.S. Embassy?
U.S. embassies will not provide apostilles.

What To Do Afterwards
Once you have successfully gotten apostilles for your documents, you will need to have them translated and legalized in Argentina before presenting them to immigration or the university.
In Conclusion
I cannot stress enough the need to avoid agencies that want to charge you 88 dollars, 200 dollars, or 300 dollars to put an apostille per document. Be wary of agencies that feed on your fear. If you however, feel that you have no other choice and need to get this done immediately, then by all means, use an agency. In the United States, UPS can do it for 188 dollars per documents and charges 300 dollars.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Racism in Argentina

Racism in Argentina is very different from racism in the United States. In the U.S., you’ll find that there is a great deal of hate crimes against Jews, Blacks, Muslims, etc. Argentineans on the other hand don’t usually resort to violence if they dislike a particular race or culture.

I’ve observed that Argentineans will discuss a topic that is considered racist amongst friends or family, either in their own home or at a restaurant or shopping center. This conversation usually ensues because of an initial political conversation. For example, a discussion about the war in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands can lead to a slur about someone from the United Kingdom. A discussion about cultural contamination and excessive immigration could lead to slurs about neighboring countries, like Peru or Colombia. Rest assured that they will in no way come after a Peruvian, Colombian, or Chilean with a bat to hurt or kill them. Argentina was founded by immigrants from all over the world, not just Spain. Their constitution includes a creed that welcomes all immigrants to Argentina who wish to seek knowledge to better themselves and the country.

The list I am about to share is based on topics of discussion I’ve had with Argentineans or topics I’ve seen discussed in news programs. Please note that some Argentineans may feel this way while others don’t. Also, these observations do not reflect my personal opinion as I have been raised in the United States where the cultural diversity is much greater and my upbringing has given me an open-mindedness that unfortunately, some people in the world seriously lack.

United Kingdom
Some Argentineans, especially those over 40, hold a strong grudge against the British because of the war over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. To this day, there are streets, and even a city named Malvinas. There are even signs on the highways that state that the Malvinas Islands belong to Argentina. The younger generation doesn’t seem to harbor the same type of resentment. Some Argentinean teenagers even walk the streets with shirts symbolizing the British flag, or the words “I love Britain”.

There are some Argentineans, even government officials, who believe that the United Kingdom wants to colonize Argentina, however untrue that might be.

I’ve had friends who are British and I love television programs like Doctor Who, Mrs. Brown’s Boys, Miranda, and Are You Being Served. British celebrities like David Tennant, Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Catherine Tate, Miranda Hart, to name a few, are among my favorite. I don’t support the negative criticism that the UK has received in Argentina. Unfortunately, this way of thinking has created tension between certain family members and myself.
Told you there was a sign on the highway
Regarding Black People
You will hear Argentineans use the word “negro” or “negra”, which simply means black male or black female. The term is often used among Argentineans to refer to an Argentinean that is ghetto, and so the word has no bearing on the actual skin color of the individual. The number of black people in Argentina is extremely small; more so probably than in Australia. I’ve only seen three black people in Cordoba in the past 5 months. Most Argentineans will regard a black person with curiosity simply because they are not accustomed to seeing one very often. My parents had never seen a black person until they moved to the United States. To my knowledge, there has not been a racially motivated incident against a black person in Argentina.

Regarding People From Spain
People from Spain are often referred to as Gallego. This is not meant as an insult. It is how the individual uses the term in a sentence that makes it right or wrong. Some Argentineans have a strong dislike towards Spain because they claim that the Spaniards call Argentineans "Sudaca", which is a blending of two words, meaning southern shit. Argentineans also argue that when Spain was in crisis, Argentina came to their aid. So the use of the word “Sudaca” is considered a sign of ingratitude on their part.
Regarding Jewish People
This is a really touchy subject. It’s been my observation that Argentineans have strong negative feelings towards people of the Jewish faith. Again, having been raised in the States I've lived among people of all cultures, including Jews and I have no prejudices against them. Argentina does have a Nazi community, albeit secluded. Most are either war criminals or descendants of the Nazis involved in the Jewish holocaust, which were granted asylum by Argentina several decades ago. Some Argentineans I’ve spoken to claim that this has kept the Jewish community at bay … from what exactly? I don’t know.

Regarding Italians, Asians, and Middle Easterners

While you may hear Argentineans refer to Italians as "Tano", it is in no way meant as an insult. It's the equivalent of calling a Jewish person a Jew. It always depends on how the individual uses it in a sentence.  

Regardless of where they are from, Asians are usually called Chino, which means Chinese in Spanish. There is a small percentage of Asians in Cordoba, and in Argentina in general, but the percentage is higher than that of the black population.
Middle Easterners 
Middle Easterners are usually called Turco which means Turk. This is ironic because there is a large Armenian community in Argentina. My maternal grandfather was Armenian and from what I'm told, he detested being called a Turco because the Turks were responsible for the Armenian genocide and the death of his family.

Other Central and South American countries (excluding Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay) Some of the older generations of Argentineans are a bit racists amongst countries in central and South America because of recent illegal migration. Argentineans fear cultural contamination in much the same way as some Americans fear cultural contamination from Mexico and Cuba in the United States. In addition, they feel that taking care of a wave of immigrants from other countries depletes jobs and government resources that are intended for Argentinean residents/citizens.
Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay
The issue Argentina has with Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay originally stemmed from territorial disputes. In modern time, the issue most Argentineans have with these countries is in their belief that these countries allegedly sold out to the United States for business and profit while Argentina has tried to avoid dealing too much with the United States for fear of cultural contamination, and hostile business takeovers.

Mercosur is an economic and political agreement that was founded in the year 1991. Its members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The whole purpose of the MERCOSUR is to gradually integrate all South American Countries and create a stronger economy. It’s my opinion that for MERCOSUR to work properly, people have to open their minds and let go of old prejudices to embraces a new beginning.

Racism Among Argentinean Provinces
My mother is from Cordoba and a lot of other provinces see Cordobeses as rude. While people from Mendoza are seen as not being very bright. The people of the province of San Juan, which is my father’s province, are seeing as stubborn people with bitter looks and bad attitudes.

Argentineans agree on one thing and that’s their strong distaste for people in Buenos Aires. They people of Buenos Aires are often called Porteños, which means "people of the port". The explanation is obvious because Buenos Aires is nearest to the sea ports. As to why they are hated, I'm told that this has something to do with the misconception that the people in the capital are stuck up. I can't really say whether this is true or not because I have not had the fortune of encountering or making any friends from Buenos Aires (as of this post). It is an unfortunate way of thinking in my opinion because this truly is a very powerful country and if all of its people were to let go of all their prejudices and unite, they could become a true world power.
Among the poorest regions of each province are people which Argentineans call Villeros (Ghetto), who live in “la villa” (the ghetto). The Villeros are often looked down upon as a scourge. If you wanted to insult someone you would call them a Villero.

The only discrimination I would truly worry about as an expat is that of work discrimination. You are more likely to face discrimination based on gender and age in Argentina rather than culture. Some people will only hire women for a certain position, others will only hire men. It’s rare to find a job posting for anyone over 31 years of age. Believe me, I know and I’m struggling with this.

In Conclusion
Despite what you’ve just read, you need to know that Argentina is a very beautiful, rich and peaceful country. Most people will be quite helpful to foreigners if they ask for help. You will never find someone that says, “Wait a minute! Before I help you, you need to tell me where you’re from!” Please don’t be discouraged. Argentina is always changing and always growing and with the introduction of music and American television and movies, the younger generation is becoming more open minded.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Shopping in Cordoba Argentina

Shopping seems to be a big deal for a lot of tourists and expats. It’s certainly a big deal for me. I can’t speak for every other province in Argentina, but Cordoba has a wide variety of shopping centers. They say pictures are worth a thousand words so I decided to share some of the pictures I’ve taken while I was out in the city.
If you're looking for comic books or collectibles then go to Crossover Comics. It's located at  Av. Gral Paz 174 Local 5.
 Paseo de las Flores (Path of the Flowers) is the entrance to a vast labyrinth of strip malls. You can find just about anything here, including restaurants, McDonalds, bookstores, DVD stores, clothing stores and more.
As long as you're walking around you might as well enjoy some of the beautiful architecture in Cordoba.
Of course, if you're looking for a good old fashioned mall then I recommend Patio Olmos which contains a food court, a movie theater, a bowling alley and all types of stores.
 The food court has a variety of cafe's, traditional Argentinean food, as well as a McDonald's and Burger King.
You have several places to choose from when doing groceries. There are mom and pop convenience stores in every neighborhood, but if you need more variety, you can visit some amazing supermarkets, like Vea, Libertad, Carrefour, Disco, and of course, Wal-Mart. Here's an interior look at some of the supermarkets in Cordoba.
 I know I've mentioned this in a previous entry, but if you happen to be in Cordoba and you're craving coffee from Starbucks, then you're in luck. It's located inAvenida Colón 608.
I hope you've enjoyed the pictures, and the info, and that you find some of it useful in your visit or integration as an expat. Please rate or comment if you have a chance so I don't feel like I'm writing to myself. ;-)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

11 Years Together And Still Going Strong

I met my spouse in 2001. We were both waiting for our creative writing club to start. At first, I didn't think he'd like me, but at our very first meeting, we both realized we had a lot in common, like our love for "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," and our passion for writing fiction. 
He was bubbly, and cheerful, which was the exact opposite of who I was. But somehow, we grew closer each time we met. 
By November 25, 2001, we officially became a couple, and for the next 11 years, we've written, laughed, grieved, healed, and traveled together. We've also helped each other grow as human beings. 
One of the things we loved doing was going on road trips. Little did we realize that we'd be traveling all the way to Argentina several years later. We also never imagined that gay marriage would become legal, but it did, and as of this post, we've been legally married for 8 months.
So, in honor of our 11-year anniversary, I decided to share some photos of ourselves over the years. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Argentina

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. If you're from the States, you know that no Thanksgiving meal is complete without a turkey, stuffing, gravy, yams, corn, Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie and several other assorted plates. But if you're hubby's of Puerto Rican descent, like mine is, then you also include some Pernil, a slow-roasted marinated pork leg, and of course, arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas). But how do you celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t observe the tradition? 
My spouse and I decided that we’d go to Walmart to buy our Thanksgiving meal. We hoped that since the store is from the U.S., that they’d have all the items we’d need. We were wrong! 
We found the turkey, well at least we think it was turkey, but it seemed way too big to feed just the two of us, and even if we’d bought it, there would have been no way to thaw it, and prepare it in time for dinner. So we decided to go for another alternative: chicken! 
I should point out that turkey is extremely uncommon in Argentina. At best, you can order it in thin slices, like ham. Walmart is the only place that I've seen turkey, and I've only seen it sold during November.

We bought the ingredients we needed to make the stuffing and gravy. Since we couldn't find the vegetables that are common in a traditional Thanksgiving feast, we decided to blend Argentine and American cuisine, which included ingredients for Argentine empanadas. Fortunately, we also found something at Walmart that is difficult to find in Argentina… Mac and Cheese.  
We started cooking as soon as we got home. My spouse insisted that I help him, and I'm so glad that he did. I’ve never cooked with him before and it was a very enjoyable experience that brought us closer together. 
Once the food was done, we called my parents (his in-laws) over. The meal consisted of chicken, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, Mac and Cheese, empanadas and bread with pesto sauce. We gave thanks for everything good that happened to us over the past twelve months. Then we dug in and enjoyed our unconventional meal. 
My spouse and I both agreed that while we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving many times in our lives, this was one of those rare moments where the true meaning of the holiday was observed. There was no family drama (backstabbing, gossiping), which, unfortunately, we've encountered in the past. It was a small circle of people full of love and respect for each other. 
I may have started a brand new Thanksgiving tradition in Argentina. I hope you all had a great holiday, like we did. I’m looking forward to next year.