Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Expat in Argentina: One Year Later


One Year Ago: me with my spouse

A year’s gone by since I left the U.S. to come live in Argentina. In these twelve months I’ve seen the good and the bad, and experienced so much. I’ve found myself both fascinated and annoyed by this culture’s way of life. In some ways, Argentina is similar to life in the States, but in other ways they are worlds apart.

Although life has managed to drag me in all sorts of direction since birth, I’ve never been very good at adapting to changes. I was reluctant to come to Argentina because I knew that it wouldn’t be easy for me to adapt to Argentinian culture. Ultimately, I didn’t have a choice but to come here.
I’ve always known that you have to do what’s best for the people you love. My spouse needed a change. He’s been through a rough couple of years and I’ve seen how much that’s changed him. What’s more, coming to Argentina gave me the opportunity to provide us with a stable roof over our heads and a chance to experience a new culture, but it’s been rough … on me.
In the last year I’ve learned that the laws, customs, and values are quite different from what I was used to in the United States. I find myself clashing with everyone. Just recently I almost came to blows with someone at the public hospital because they felt that their condition took priority over my spouse’s and wanted to cut us in line. At the University of Cordoba, I attempted to find more information on the different career programs, but I couldn’t find a single person who could offer any kind of constructive advice. As far as the job search is concerned, I still can’t find a job. They laugh at anyone over the age of 25 looking to apply for a job at a bank, an office, a convenience store, a Wal-Mart or a McDonald’s. Age and gender discrimination is legal here and it sucks! I’ve found that the best job offers are in the capital of Buenos Aires. So you’re probably asking yourself, “Why don’t you move there?” There are things that tie me to Cordoba … at least for now.
The more time passes, the more disconnected I feel from my old life in the United States and the traditions I’ve learned to value and cherish. The only thing that could possibly bring me comfort is the realization that I’m adapting and integrating into my new life in Argentina … but I’d be lying if I told you this was true. I’m a man out of place. It feels as if some great force has shoved me out of time and space. I’m trapped in a limbo that I can’t get out of. I’m neither here nor there.  I don’t know who I am here or whether I’ll ever be able to fully embrace my life in Argentina.

The few things that actually brought me comfort are starting to slip away. My dream of becoming a successful writer is virtually dead. I have no one rooting for me to succeed. Everyone here says my writing is simply a hobby that I shouldn’t invest much time in. That’s probably because people in Argentina don’t seem to have dreams. Everyone’s lives are already laid out for them. You grow up. You find a job at a young age and stick with it till you retire. You have a family. You retire. You die. Dreams are irrelevant.
I’m also at that age where I know I’m going to start losing people sooner rather than later. My father’s mind is starting to go. My mother doesn’t notice it or maybe she refuses to notice it, but I see it. Although he and I have never been able to have a civilized conversation without screaming at each other, I don’t know if I’m ready to not have him in my life. Health wise, my mother’s been having respiratory problems, but the doctors are having difficulties pinpointing what is wrong with her. Despite this, I think she’s probably got another twenty years left in her. Most of my cousins, who never left Argentina, have their own lives and their own problems. Worrying about me is not a priority and as a hurtful as that sounds, it makes sense.  I never grew up here. I’m a foreigner and a perfect stranger to them. They owe me nothing.
Then there’s my spouse. Recently, he had a health scare. A trauma surgeon mistook a growth in his hand for Cancer. In 2008, his grandparents and father died of Cancer. Seeing as to how his dad died so young made us come to terms with the possibility that my spouse’s expiration date might be sixteen years from now, relatively the same age his dad was when he passed. Fortunately, the diagnosis was incorrect. My spouse dodged the Cancer bullet for the second time in the last two years.  One thing that I’m sure of is that I don’t think I could handle living here if I lost my spouse.

One Year Later: me with my spouse
Alright! So this wasn’t the bubbly one year expat blog entry I intended to write, but at least it’s honest. I owe that much to those of you who follow my blog. What will year two bring? Oh, I hope it comes with a job, new adventures, new opportunities, new friends, and THE LIFE I SO DESPERATELY NEED RIGHT NOW!
Oh … and me losing ten pounds wouldn’t hurt either. I’m just saying.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Universidad Nacional de Cordoba - Video Tour


The National University of Cordoba/Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (UNC)


·         Classes are free

·         Books and materials are sold at a low cost

·         Benefits – health insurance, bus pass, reduced lunch cost at the main student lounge (the benefits kick once you begin year one of your career)


·         No advisors to guide you in your career choices

·         Political graffiti throughout the campus

·         Stray dogs (no way to know if they’ve been vaccinated and they carry fleas and ticks)

·         You can only register between November and December. If you miss this deadline, you’ll have to wait a full year to go to school … though you can attend as an oyente, aka an observer, but you won’t earn credit

What you’ll need if you’re an international student

·         Apostille and certify your high school and college diploma and transcript in your native country

·          If you’ve gone to a technical school, apostille your certificate of completion and if possible, acquire a transcript from them and have it apostilled as well.

·         Convalidate your education at the ministry of Education in Buenos Aires (you may be able to get your education convalidated in Cordoba if you come from a country that is a member of the Mercosur. If you’re from the States like me, the UK, or Australia for example, you’ll have to make an appointment with the Ministry of Education and head to Buenos Aires for your convalidation)

Related blog entries

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Dreaded Siesta


The siesta is a sacred rest period for most Argentinians. It usually begins around 1pm. That’s when businesses shut down, and store owners and employees get to go home until around 6pm. In theory, it’s a great concept, but when you’ve lived in a country that has no siesta, this rest period can be a major inconvenience. Check the video above and you’ll see what I mean.

The word siesta means nap in English, but not every Argentinian uses this five hour rest period to sleep. Most go home to eat lunch with their families, run errands, play soccer or video games, etc. They’ll drink tea at 5pm, and then they’ll get ready to finish off the latter half of the work day (or would that be the work night?).

If you want to eat at a restaurant or get take-out or delivery during the siesta … you’re screwed! Most restaurants won’t even start up again until 8pm. which is the time Argentinians commonly eat dinner. If you want to find a mechanic who can fix your car during the siesta … you’re out of luck. Hair salons and bakeries are affected as well. The only places I’ve seen open during the siesta are the local supermarkets in the neighborhoods, and the ice cream parlor called “Grido”, which remains open through the siesta and most holidays.

It’s important to note that the siesta is not observed in business districts like “El Centro”, aka downtown Cordoba, or other urbanized regions in Argentina like the country’s capital of Buenos Aires.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Out & About in Cordoba - Video Tour

Brief video tour of the front exterior of one of Cordoba's major public hospitals - Hospital Nacional de Clinicas, Cordoba's police headquarters, and Plaza Colon.