Monday, September 8, 2014

Marriage Reconciliation At Johnny B. Good

When Zach and I got married in NY in 2012, we thought it was going to last forever. Then the stress that came with moving abroad to Argentina practically tore us apart. We were separated and our 12 year relationship, of which we had spent a year and a half married, had come to an end.

During our 8 months separation, we realized that we still loved each other and needed one another to get through the challenges we faced since we moved here. So we are officially back together!
To celebrate, we went to a restaurant that I’ve been dying to go to since we moved here two years ago. It’s called Johnny B. Good and is located in the heart of Nueva Cordoba.
The place offers a variety of Americanized dishes. The first thing we noticed as we came in is how much it reminded us of Uno’s Chicago Grill or Chili’s, two of our favorite restaurants back home in the States.

We got there at noon but were afraid that they weren’t serving yet. We’ve had some previous experiences with other restaurants in Cordoba where they won’t serve you unless it’s 1 pm. I’m not talking about the fast food restaurants of course but the fancier restaurants. So it was very nice of Johnny B. Good to open their doors at 12. We were one of the first customers.
 The menu had an assortment of appetizers, main courses, and my favorite, desserts. Zach and I started out with the potato skins. They’re not exactly like the ones they serve in the States but it’s close enough. The inside is stuffed with cheese and there’s no way you can avoid noticing how thick these puppies are. Potato Skins are usually thin and have cheddar and bacon bits sprinkled over them. These were gigantic but still delicious.
Then I went ahead and ordered the Philly Cheesesteak which I haven’t had in ages. They call it the Golden Baguette here and it only costs 83 Argentine pesos (9.86 USD as of the 9/8/14 exchange rate).
Zach had a burger with huge onion rings, not those scrawny shriveled up things they give you at BK. The bacon wasn’t really bacon because it’s hard to find in Argentina. They have something similar here but the texture isn’t the same. It’s softer and feels raw in your mouth, but Zach loved the burger just the same. The cost was about the same as the Philly Cheesesteak.
We were stuffed but decided to go ahead and push our stomachs beyond their limit and order some dessert.
 Zach had something that looked like an Oreo ice cream cookie with vanilla sauce on the side. While I had a brownie cup … well … it’s kind of difficult to explain. The first layer is whip cream with a layer of fruit, followed by a layer of "Dulce de Leche" (A caramel-like spread that is very popular here) and a brownie crumbled at the bottom of the glass cup.

With drinks (non-alcoholic), the bill came up to 425 Argentine pesos (50 USD as of the 9/8/14 exchange rate).

All in all, it was money well spent to celebrate our reconciliation.
Debating whether or not to go into the book fair
Afterwards we went walking around the city and saw that the annual book fair was in full bloom in Plaza San Martin. I’ve covered the last two fairs but this year I felt that there wasn’t anything new or special to report. Zach and I went through the fair rather quickly. We were looking for novels in English but since they don’t sell those here much, the bookstores that take part in the fair didn’t bother to bring their small selection of English novels.
The fair did serve one purpose and that was to kill time until our movie started. In case I haven’t mentioned it, we have a history of going to the movies over the last 12 years. Our ticket stub collection is almost as big as the thousands of DVDs we own. We watched the comedy “Sex Tape” with Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz. We were the only people who laughed at the jokes because we were used to that type of humor but the film wasn’t that good.

On a different note, Zach recently became the proud uncle of a beautiful baby girl (I guess that by marriage that makes me an uncle too) and we'd like to take the time to congratulate his brother and his wife for their new addition.

I would also like to congratulate my very dear friend Amber and her husband Chris on the birth of baby Nathan.

We love and miss our friends and family back in the States but are grateful for the wonderful friends we've made during our stay here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Going Global At Global Village 2014 In Cordoba Argentina

Global Village was an event held at Studio Theater in Cordoba Capital Argentina. It brings people from diverse cultures and backgrounds together to share and to celebrate their uniqueness with music, dancing, information and most importantly, food!
There were tables representing Spain, Croatia, Paraguay, Cuba, the Middle East, Poland, Germany, Canada and Italy (and if I’m forgetting anyone I am deeply sorry).
 There were performers entertaining us with Polish dancing. Performers from other countries like Germany and Italy performed as well. Enjoy this short video I made of the event.
I loved that everyone at the event respected the different cultures present at this event. I’ve recently dealt with three separate situations where this was not the case, leaving me a little disheartened. So Global Village was a very refreshing experience and frankly it gives me hope that it will open people’s minds to allowing people of all cultures and walks of life to express themselves freely without the fear of prejudice.
I'm looking forward to the next event and I hope that people from other cultures will be encouraged to participate as well.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Product Pricing Comparison: Argentina Then And Now

So the international rumor mill suggests that Argentina’s economy is hitting an all-time low. So I decided to do a bit of pricing comparison with products I spot-checked last year versus the actual cost today. Have the prices dropped? Do they ever in any part of the world? The answer would be no. However, are things really that drastic? Let’s find out.

On July 29th, 2014, the cost of the US dollar in Argentine pesos was: 8.19
On August 1st, 2014, the cost of the US dollar in Argentine pesos was: 8.23
On August 4th, 2014, the cost of the US dollar in Argentine pesos was: 8.26
On August 8th, 2014, the cost of the US dollar in Argentine pesos was: 8.27
On August 24th, 2014, the cost of the US dollar in Argentine pesos was: 8.39
On September 2nd, 2014, the cost of the US dollar in Argentine pesos was: 8.40

The photo on the left is the cost of the product from a year ago. The one on the right is the current price.
Yikes! That's a 3.10 increase in Argentine pesos. In US dollars this would cost you $1.04.

Wait! What? Can it be? No. That's not possible. He must have switched the images around. Sorry to disappoint you folks but the prices on these products are correct. The Gatorade on the left was once 9.50 Argentine pesos and a year later it has dropped to 7.25 Argentine pesos. That's a 2.25 drop. In US dollars this would be .88 cents.

Activia's liquid yogurt might give you the runs but you'll be 51 Argentine cents richer. The price went down from 15.50 to 14.99. In US dollars this would be $1.81.

Oh man! I was really looking forward to cleaning the wax out of my ears this weekend. Q-soft, which is basically a Q-tip has risen by 2.30 Argentine pesos. In US dollars this would be $1.69.
Oh ... SUGAR! The cost of cereal has definitely jumped in a year by a whopping 18.14 Argentine pesos. In US dollars this would be $4.41. Don't fret boys and girls! There are plenty of generic brands on sale at local supermarkets that taste just the same but at a more affordable price.
 
Hellmann's Ketchup has a nicer looking package but the price has gone up from 8.65 to 11.45 Argentine pesos That's a 2.80 mark up. In US dollars, that's $1.39.

Now you're probably wondering what the big deal is. After all, as long as expats have U.S. dollars, the prices are affordable more so in Argentina than they are in the States. That's a good point, but you need to consider the fact that every expat has a different financial situation. Those who continue to earn money in US dollars are better off than those who have depleted their supply of dollars (like yours truly) and are now solely dependent on Argentine pesos.

I should point out that a lot of these items have generic brands or have Argentine equivalent products that are (in most cases) cheaper.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Expat Report: 26 months Later

I’d like to start out by thanking the readers who have shown me their love and support on my expat blog and on my web novel blog. I’m nearly two months late writing this, but I felt it was necessary to write a blog entry honoring the last two years of my life in Argentina.

I'm happy to report that McDonald’s recently began offering an Americanized breakfast with bacon, scrambled eggs, and two pieces of bread that comes pretty close to the texture of a bagel, minus the shape or the hole in the middle.
Walmarts in Argentina now sell bacon and it tastes like home. Zach was kind enough to make some for me because I have absolutely no talent for cooking.
 The public hospital in Cordoba no longer charges (an already cheap) out-patient fee but on the downside, getting an appointment to see a doctor is a lot harder. I’ll talk more about that in a future blog article.

Now some of you know that I’ve struggled with social anxiety and depression all my life but I’ve been able to get treatment for it thanks to the free healthcare in Argentina. As my 37th birthday approached, I decided that I would try to control my condition on my own, without the need of a therapist or anti-anxiety medication. It’s been two months and I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ll admit that I wasn’t prepared for the mood swings or the unexpected anxiety attacks I’ve experienced. I find myself staying indoors a lot more these days. To compensate I try to bring my friends to my house as long as there’s money for snacks and drinks.

A lot of people have asked me how college is going so here goes. I quit. The choice wasn’t easy but I ultimately didn’t feel that the university and I meshed at all. I could spend the entire post pointing out why but I’ve done that already in a previous entry and that’s not what this entry is about. I also decided to quit back in June for another reason and it was really the deciding factor. When I got here, my family did their best to support Zach and me. Unfortunately, they have their own problems and the last thing we wanted was to be a financial burden to them so we cut the proverbial umbilical cord. My time is now spent working as a freelance writer. The amount of income I get from the articles depends mainly on the consistency of the work. Unfortunately, that’s out of my hands. It’s usually up to my freelance handlers (as I dub them) to provide me with a sufficient number of articles to make ends meet every month.

Zach has also joined the freelance writing team, but his true passion has always been in the kitchen. So he created his own website so people could order some of his amazing pastries. Visit his site: Zach’s Bake Shop at - http://darkecloude.wix.com/zachsbakeshop. Here are some photos of the amazing things he bakes.

In addition, he created a group called English & Muffins where expats and Argentineans meet at a hostel to play fun and sassy games that help non-native English speakers practice their English while enjoying his delicious muffins and cakes. https://www.facebook.com/groups/EnglishSpeakingMuffins/

Aside from the freelance writing, I’ve decided to revive my career as a fiction writer by publishing the web novel I had originally self-published through LULU.COM before I left the States. All 17 chapters of Hunter’s Vendetta are now available for your reading pleasure and it’s free but it’s also copyright protected. So I better not see the novel turned into a film without my consent ;-) Read it here - http://vendettachronicles.blogspot.com.ar/

I also celebrated my 37th birthday back in July with Zach and two new friends who threw me a surprise party. I’m usually the one planning big surprise parties for others but it’s rare that I’m the center of attention. Suffice it to say it was awesome. They decorated the house with themes related to my favorite shows like Supernatural and Star Trek and themes like zombies and Superman.
 
It seems like a lifetime ago since Zach and I stepped out of that plane in Cordoba but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about our old lives in the States. 
My friends back home have gone through things that I wish I could have been there for. I have one friend who lost her son in a terrible accident. I have another friend who got remarried and is expecting her first child. I used to ask her teasingly when she would make me an uncle. Now I won’t be there. I sometimes wonder if the choice we made was the right one or if Zach and I would still be together if we had stayed.
The truth is I don’t really have any of those answers. Fortunately, I have friends, both fellow expats and Argentineans, who continue to help me get through the rough times. I've also been lucky enough to meet kind people who have been willing to bring items back from the States, like a couple of my favorite Sci-Fi novels. Plus, as always (and possibly forever) Zach and I are always there for each other in the end.