Sunday, February 7, 2016

Annual Collective Gathering Food Festival 2016

Every year around the end of January through the first week of February, the people of Cordoba and its neighboring cities can look forward to the Annual Collective Gathering Food Festival (Encuentro Anual De Colectividades).
It's held in Altagracia, a city on the outskirts of Cordoba. There are kiosks selling food from a variety of countries from around the world like Iraq, Mexico, Poland, Germany, Cuba, the United States, Spain, Uruguay, Italy, Armenia and South Africa.
 
The food is delicious but you'll need a lot of Argentine pesos to enjoy it. The cost of each item or meal varies from 40 Argentine pesos ($2.79 USD) to 166 Argentine pesos ($11.56 USD).
Of course not every food item was a clear winner. I bought a cheesecake which was frozen solid. I could have broken a car window with it. In fairness, the lady did warn me that she had to freeze the cheesecake to keep it from going bad. I ended up breaking 4 plastic spoons trying to dig into it. In the end, the frustration soured the taste.
One of my friends ordered a paella from the 'Spain' booth and wasn't too happy with the taste of it or the fact that the rice had more chicken in it than actual seafood, which a paella apparently needs.
The desserts however were real good, particularly those from Poland and Germany. They offered some of the softest cakes ever. It was far better than the dry, bland cakes that most local supermarkets offer.
Musical guests were also in attendance throughout the festival but they weren't anyone I would recognize. My knowledge of Latino performers are limited to Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias (neither of which were present). Beyond that, I know nothing.
All in all, I would totally recommend the festival if you're interested in sampling some delicious international food, listen to good music, do a little shopping, spend quality time with your friends and family and drink the night away.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Argentina Now Charges For Plastic Bags To Save The Environment

On October 2015, supermarkets across Argentina started charging 40 cents per plastic bag to encourage the Argentine people to start using those eco-friendly reusable bags. Some mom and pop shops have even stopped providing plastic bags altogether and it has some people hopping mad!

While the concept certainly seems like a noble effort to save the environment, this change has had a few setbacks.

For starters, the law states that supermarkets can't charge for plastic bags and people have been voicing their outrage on social media. Unfortunately, this hasn't stopped supermarkets like Libertad, Disco, VEA, Super Mami or Walmart from continuing to charge their customers for bags. Also, as upset as customers are they are continuing to buy plastic bags, which seems to defeat the policy's intended purpose. 
Some claim that this is a cheap tactic from supermarket chains to milk even more money from customers. Now honestly, I crap more expensive things than a 40 cent bag so I don't mind paying a little extra to get 5 or 6 bags to put my groceries in. However, since the cost of a lot of supermarket items continue to rise like crazy despite the change in government, it's clear that it will continue to become an issue with some of the locals.

So why don't I jump on the eco-friendly train and buy reusable grocery bags? It's simple. I use plastic bags to throw my trash out on a daily basis. Now you're probably asking yourself, "Why don't I just buy a large black bag and throw it out on garbage day (which is everyday here except for Saturdays)?"
In a lot of neighborhoods, black bags are an issue because some assume that black bags contain something valuable. So they'll rip it apart with a knife or bare hands and then leave the homeowner to do all the clean up. This has happened to me and several of my neighbors on many occasions.

Buying a garbage can is also out of the question. There are shady people lurking and sometimes they can be that next door neighbor that waves at you every time they see you. You can certainly buy yourself a trash can but it will likely vanish the moment you turn your back on it.
So now when I go to the supermarket I get the option to buy a green or black plastic grocery bag. The green is for dry trash like bread crumbs, paper, plastic bottles and anything else that's not mushy or wet. The black is for the soggy stuff like leftover spaghetti or stew that we simply don't feel like keeping in the fridge. Both bags are made with biodegradable material and trust me it shows and feels like they are because the material is SO CHEAP!

I honestly never expected this policy of charging for plastic bags to last beyond Christmas let alone the end of January 2016. At this time it remains unclear whether the government will step up to the plate and stop these supermarket chains from charging for shopping bags.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Argentina Bids Farewell To The Kirchnerista Movement And Welcomes Change In Macri

Cristina Kirchner
The Kirchnerista/Peronista came to an end when Argentinians voted for Mauricio Macri who represents the The Republican Proposal/Cambiemos (Let's Change) Movement on November 22nd, 2015. 
Mauricio Macri
Back in October, there was a vote that was meant to narrow down the presidential candidates to just two. As I reported in a previous post, the voting system is fairly simple. 





It involves a sheet of paper with the face and name of the candidate along with the names of all the elected officials that they represent. In other words, one vote counts for all offices in that party. The ballot was then sealed in an envelope and placed in a box by the edge of the table where voters must first sign in before going into a private room to vote.

It came down to Daniel Scioli who represents the same party as the current Argentine president, Cristina Kirchner and Mauricio Macri who represents a completely different ideology. The people spoke and Scioli lost. However, Cristina Kirchner has mentioned that she would run for president in 2019. If she succeeds, this would be her 3rd term, which is a concept I found ironic since in the States a president can only serve a maximum of two terms.  


I'm not going to get into the political stuff of who is better or who is worse because I honestly don't know. I do know that when Macri takes office on December 10th, things will change. Whether it's for the best or the worst remains to be seen. While some of his agendas seem promising, such as allowing import and export to once again flow freely in Argentina, research suggests that he was involved in the financial crisis that struck Argentina in 2001-2002. So … am I little worried? Hell yeah.

Allegations of voting fraud (like the Gore/Bush voting scandal) were made but a recount of the voting ballots on November 30th determined that Macri was indeed the winner. 


For Argentine citizens, voting is not an option. Having dual citizenship allowed me the privilege of adding my voice to the chorus of millions that wanted what was best for this country. 


Now there's only one thing left to do and that is to concentrate on the elections back home for 2016. Being thousands of miles away and with a budget too limited to return even for a visit means that I have to vote as an absentee voter. 

So how do I do this? 

I went to this site: 
www.votefromabroad.org 

It was super easy. I just had to add the last address that I lived in when I was in the U.S., my social security number and answer some generic questions such as whether I was interested in voting for every state election or just the major ones like the presidential election. After that, I just had to print the form out, sign it and send it to the voting district back home.  

Since the mail in Argentina is not very reliable when sending or receiving things abroad, I have no way of knowing whether they will receive it. Since I'm not the kind of person to leave things to chance I will probably find an expat that is traveling home and have them send the application through the U.S. postal service. 

Then it's just a matter of getting my ballot in the mail when the time comes (and hope it actually gets to me) so I can vote. I will tell you (and I better not get any nasty comments for this) that I am a Democrat so it's a safe bet I won't be voting for Donald Trump. But even if I'd been a Republican I wouldn't have done it either. 

There are some people back home in the States and even some expats that I've met that don't vote for their own personal reasons (and I'm not bashing anyone so don't start hating me). I'll just end this entry by saying that voting for change in one country is wonderful but to get to vote for two countries is beyond a right or a privilege … it is an honor. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Views On Suicide And The Tower Of Death In Cordoba

Earlier this year, a friend invited me to a lecture on suicide at the National University of Cordoba (UNC). I learned some interesting facts, some of which surprised the hell out of me.

The professor identified herself as a suicidologist, a profession within the psychiatric field that I never even knew existed and seeing that this lecture was held at the UNC I was ready to call B.S. to anything she was saying. But at the incessant request of a friend I decided to stay.

I learned that health insurance in Argentina will cover injuries related to suicide attempts but life insurance won't. So anyone planning on offing themselves in the hopes of leaving their family with a large sum of life insurance money is out of luck.


The Highest Suicide Rates In The Country
Buenos Aires has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. I can only assume that this is the result of the high level of stress of living in a big city. As you may know from my previous blog entries, Buenos Aires, particularly the CABA region is very Manhattanish and trust me. Manhattan was beautiful but super stressful. I imagine that life in B.A. is equally stressful.

American Expats in Buenos Aires Day 1 - The Arrival
http://goo.gl/QSflfp


American Expats in Buenos Aires Day 2 - The Search for KFC and Wendy's
http://goo.gl/H4U23b


American Expats in Buenos Aires Day 3 and 4 – Multicultural Mix and Racism
http://goo.gl/btniDC


Return to Buenos Aires The search For Magic Donuts And The Ministry Of Education
http://goo.gl/nhN0Ll

The province of Jujuy also has a high suicide rate among teens and young adults versus Cordoba, which according to the psychologist (clearing throat) excuse me ... suicidologist, is caused by the level of extreme poverty.

Grief Counseling For The Family
I learned that there is a group called "Padres Del Dolor" which loosely translates as "Parents Of Grief/Pain". She claimed that the organization is only available in Buenos Aires and not in Cordoba but when I went online I found a group on Facebook that is located in Cordoba. So under the guise of a grieving parent who just lost her daughter and needed a support group to speak to, I reached out to them via e-mail. They never replied.

Suicide Hotline
There are suicide hotlines available. For the one in Cordoba you simply dial 135. You can also email them at asistenciaalsuicidacba@hotmail.com. The hotline has been around since 1982. The suicidologist was a part of it for quite some time but eventually left because she did not agree with their anonymity rule. She explained that not being allowed to get the caller's name and number or having the cops trace the call severely compromises the potential suicide victim. Whereas if they could trace the call they could send someone to pick the caller up and send them to a health care facility for short term treatment. She also disagreed with the anonymity rule because there was no way for the therapist on the other line to do a follow up. Yes! You might have prevented them from killing themselves at that moment but wouldn't it be great if you could call back and check on them to make sure they don't have a relapse? In this instance, I agree with her.

On the other hand, would you really trust calling a hotline that will likely have you locked up in a psych ward for admitting that you are suicidal? Probably not.


Torre Angela
It was once the tallest building in the province of Cordoba, but eventually another building took the title. But at the time it seemed like the obvious choice for people contemplating suicide to go to. The roof was accessible to anyone and they would jump.
The suicidologist mentioned that when her patients would tell her they were going to commit suicide by jumping off of Torre Angela, she would used reverse psychology and tell them to go ahead and do it but to consider the major traffic jam they would cause when their bodies hit the street. If they landed on a car, they would likely damage it and they should consider that. She claims that this worked into knocking some sense into her patients. But I wouldn't personally book a therapy session with Ms. Congeniality here.
After a series of tragic suicides, access to the roof of Torre Angela was no longer available to just anyone.

Final Observations
My observation of the questions being asked as well as the comments made by the attendees suggests that the majority of the people there believed that suicide is a weakness and that they weren't victims. Over the last three years I've noticed that people have a similar opinion about victims of bullying and abuse.

Argentina's Stance on Bullying
http://goo.gl/vLqEcm

It seems that placing the blame on the victim and not the aggressor is preferable and convenient for certain people. Whether this mentality will change down the line remains to be seen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cordoba's Coolest Chinese Restaurant

My spouse and I knew that moving to Argentina meant giving up eating certain meals from some of our favorite restaurants. Among them was Chinese food, particularly take-out. Boy were we surprised when we found this wonderful gem in downtown Cordoba Capital, just a few blocks from Plaza San Martin.

It´s called Jardin de Jade and it was just what we were looking for to get us out of the emotional rut we were in.

Dinner Time
The sign outside says that they open at 20:00 hours (8:00 pm) but don't expect them to open exactly at that time. Be patient! They will open up eventually.

I think we were more anxious to go in because this was the first time we were going to get a taste of Chinese food in three years but how it would compare to Chinese food from the States was something we were about to find out.

When the doors opened, we were welcomed by a friendly host, who also happens to be the restaurant's waiter and cashier.
This is me and not the friendly host.
The inside of the restaurant was beautiful. We sat down and started looking at the menu. Clearly there were some things that we were trying to translate from it but since it was in Spanish we didn't have a clue whether we were ordering egg drop soup or an egg roll. So we asked our waiter, who was patient enough to listen to our description of the food we used to eat at Chinese restaurants in the States and he matched them to items on the menu.

Here are some of the things we figured out.



  • Sopa de Huevo Revuelto is Egg Drop Soup and it will set you back $25 pesos.
  • Sopa de Wan-Tan is Wonton Soup and costs $35 pesos.
  • Pollo Frito con Salsa Agridulce is somewhat equivalent to General Tso's Chicken and costs $70 pesos.
  • Pollo con Salsa Agridulce is Sweet and Sour Chicken and costs $70 pesos.


And the rest of the translating is up to you!


I had been craving General Tso's Chicken for the longest, so I couldn't wait for the food to arrive. While we waited, my spouse and I felt like we had jumped into one of those warp tunnels from Super Mario Brothers and ended up back home in New York and the happiness was evident as we looked into each other's eyes.


When our food arrived, we dug right in. The sweet and sour chicken was on par with the one in the States. Although the General Tso's Chicken wasn't exactly the same, it was close enough. What was the difference? Well this was like a cross between sweet and sour chicken and General Tso's chicken, except the breading was overwhelmingly thick and the amount of chicken inside was small. But still, what do you expect for a plate that costs 70 pesos ($7.41 USD) plus an extra 22 pesos ($2.33 USD) for a bowl of white rice?


As time went by, other Chinese and Argentinian patrons filled the vacant restaurant as well. This was the largest concentration of Chinese people we had seen in Cordoba since we arrived. We had seen other Asians in Buenos Aires when we went on vacation two years ago, but in Cordoba we were lucky to see one or two on the streets. I really wanted to learn more about them, like if they were naturalized Argentine citizens or 1st generation citizens or residents? But I didn´t want to come off rude so I concentrated on my dinner instead which was delicious.

Lunch Time
The second time we went was for lunch and they had a buffet, but sadly it wasn't an all you can eat buffet like we were used to in the States. Here you had to grab a plate, fill it with as much food as you wanted. Then go to the register and have it weighed and then pay before you could eat. You could stay and eat the restaurant or you could take it home. I chose the latter.

The menu items in the buffet were more in tune with the stuff we were used to seeing in the States like the noodles, the egg rolls, the sweet and sour chicken and chicken wings (which granted is not Chinese but was always available on the menu as a side dish).

I took a sample of mostly everything, which only cost me 50 pesos ($5.29 USD). The truth is it would have been cheaper had I not gotten two egg rolls. When I got to the register I learned that the egg rolls are priced separately at about 8 pesos each ($0.85 cents in USD), more or less. But I didn´t mind paying extra.

I got home and tried the food and it was amazing! Actually, I almost lost all of my teeth when I bit into what I thought was a piece of sweet and sour chicken which ended up being a chicken wing. Don´t laugh. It's not funny.

If I had to choose between dinner and lunch time I would definitely choose lunch time because that´s the only time you get the buffet and I personally like picking and choosing the things I like and leaving the stuff I don't behind.
But regardless of whether you go in the afternoon or the evening, it's a wonderful place to get away from the routine of the local cuisine or Burger King and McDonald´s whose prices have been skyrocketing lately.

If you're fortunate enough to live within a 3 block radius of the restaurant you can call in your order and have it delivered or you can call it in and then pick it up if you live further away.

Jardin de Jade is located on 27 de Abril 354. It's right across from Cordoba´s public library and right next to Torre Angela, a place that used to be a top pick for people who wanted to jack knife to their deaths. But that´s a story for another time and I will get into more details about Torre Angela real soon. That´s a promise. Until next time.

#jardindejade #Chinese #restaurant #Cordoba #Argentina