jueves, 23 de octubre de 2014

Home and Garden TV in Rosario!

Helloooooo expat world!! Are you an expat who has just purchased a home in Rosario? Are you about to embark upon the headache of remodel? Well, just so happens House Hunters : Renovation is looking for 3 candidates to follow and film throughout that process!!

Are you unfamiliar with House Hunters? Click on the link to read more. They are famous for "putting their own distinctive stamp on homes, transforming plain or neglected spaces into beautiful rooms."

If you are interested, all you have to do is let me know!! I will then forward your interests to the casting producer.

martes, 21 de octubre de 2014

Fear and Failure

Yesterday, I had a student ask me how I ended up in Argentina, a question I get quite often and frankly, never grow tired of telling. But yesterday the story took a different route. I told her, as I tell everyone, how I fell in love in a way that story books might call first sight and how I threw everything to the wind, quit my job, bought a one way ticket and flew to Argentina to "oh so cliche-ly" (that would by my adverbial transformation of what usually functions only as a noun) see about a guy. In my case, it worked out, but it certainly could have gone the opposite direction. I could have arrived with stars in my eyes only to meet my disillusion on the other side of his 9x9 apartment door. He could have been a total freak, a drug addict, a rapist, a murderer or worse, MARRIED! I could have quite a perfectly good job, quit a perfectly good degree, left a perfectly good apartment located in a perfectly good part of San Francisco, only to come here and FAIL.

That is where the story diverged. You see, this student hopes and dreams of trying her luck in another country, living her life as an expat in the US or perhaps Spain, romantically freeing herself from the chains of a demanding desk job of numbers and calculations and opening herself up to adventure and new perspective. But what happens if she gets there and can't find work. What if she arrives and the guy is a creep. "Wasn't I afraid of failing?" she asked.

Actually, no, I wasn't. Not only had the thought of failure never crossed my mind but I rarely found myself feeling afraid, of anything really. I had always supposed this was a sort of filter, like so many others, I had simply never developed as a child. But as we continued going deeper into this idea of fear of failure, I realized that it had nothing to do with filters. It is that I simply do not believe failure is real. It is an illusion. A lie. Failure is merely an outcome different to that which we had imagined or hoped for. To fail, by definition, is to be unsuccessful in achieving one's goal - ONE'S OWN GOAL. But what if, in not achieving this goal, you learn and are then presented with new opportunities, is it then a failure?

When I said this to her, it was as though she had never given thought to the idea of definitions being subjective and her face took on a new light, like suddenly, in recognizing that she could not fail, that failure was not an option, her fear withered, dissipated and disappeared.

martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

New Activities for the Month of October!!!

This is just a quick post to make sure everyone knows about what is coming up in the next few weeks.

Starting October 6th we have both Spanish and English language intensives beginning

On October 11th we will have our next Barlingual Rosario meet up at Club de Fun

Finally, scheduled for the 18th of October at 16:00, we will be hosting our first English Book Club meet up! The plan is to choose fairly unknown authors or their lesser known works to then come together for an afternoon of coffee, mate, pastries and literary discussion, ALL IN ENGLISH! If you wish to attend you will need to register prior to the date.  Do so by clicking here. The cost is $100 pesos and includes the first short stories we will be discussing. After registering, we will confirm your reservation along with available times and places to pick the material. 

viernes, 12 de septiembre de 2014

Insights from a Nobody

I have been getting loads of questions lately from would be and wanting Rosario based expats regarding, not just they way of life, but also the quality of said life for those wishing to experience living abroad and locals alike, so I have decided to go ahead and make an post about some of those questions as they just may be helpful to others out there. They are in no relevant order of any kind.

How has the government default affected your corner of Argentina?

Um, perhaps I live in a bubble, but I don't see anything out of the ordinary regarding the Argentine government default in what is being referred to as the "Vulture Bonds."

There does seem to be quite a bit of hysteria coming from the US, on the other hand, and this could be because the vultures that bought said bonds live and reside there. The problem, in my humble opinion, is that most people don't clearly understand what these bonds are all about, the series of events that have taken place, nor the reasoning behind the Argentine government defaulting.

While I am of course no expert, I would wager to say that 93% is a majority vote and that because a mere 7% decided not to accept the agreed upon settlement, this entire situation seems to have been blown out of proportions thanks to scandalous media monkeys looking to create hysteria among a group of people who won't even remember what they were riled up about just a few short months from now. Oh yeah, that and the fact that no one is talking about how the judge that seems to be pioneering the whole resistance allegedly forms part of that 7%. 

How hard is it to get a visa to spend approximately 6 months in Argentina?

There is no need to get a tourist visa for 6 months. When you enter Argentina as a tourist they allow you a 90 day tourist visa. When this is close to expiring most people simply plan a short vacation to Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, or Paraguay. Upon re-entry to Argentina, they will again stamp your passport with another 90 day visa. If you over stay that second 90 day stretch, you can always extend it here in the immigration office. (A bit of a headache) but I believe it only costs 200 pesos. You can, however, only do this 1 time consecutively. It is important to note that these options may get a bit difficult if you plan on staying for more than a few years. On another note, if you are looking to get a documented job while here, good luck. There are very few companies willing to go through the paperwork and it is a long difficult process that usually leaves expats balding and slightly nuts.
Does Rosario have a large expat/English speaking population?

I wouldn't say large, but there are quite a few expats living in Rosario. Though we are not all friends, we likely know or know of each other in one way or another. I cross paths with some of them quite often as we seem to work in similar circles, teaching English, drinking beer at Fenicia, etc, but most all of them also speak Spanish. It is difficult to integrate into a culture or society without speaking the local language, not just in Rosario, but in any society.

How much Portuguese has bled into the Spanish of Argentina?

I would say very little. Argentine Spanish, or castellano rioplatense, seems to have far more influence from the historical Italian immigrants than to its Brazilian neighbors. Many Argentinians do, however, speak Portuguese.

Will I be able to communicate with Mexicans or other Central Americans with what I learn from Spanish in Rosario?
When you learn Spanish with us, you will learn the Argentine pronunciation as it is essential to getting around here in Rosario, but the basic structure of the Spanish language is the same as any other Spanish speaking country. What happens in each country is that
some choice words might change and some pronunciation might differ but the language, the way it is built, never changes. And we always teach the most common tendencies for changing pronunciation so that,the day you arrive to Chile, you are prepared for the difference.
At first, this may be difficult in the same way that, as an English speaker from the US, you might find it impossible to understand an Australian surfer. But with time you will find clarity through these differences.

Do Argentinians like yoga? Are there many studios?
Yoga has become quite popular in the past few years and there are studios of all sorts spread out across the city. In face, there is now even a Bikram studio. Some studios are more commercial that others and some teach a very superficial idea of yoga, leaning more towards a stretching class more than anything else, but, nonetheless, the community is quite active in practicing. I study here.

What kind of health insurance should I get before traveling?

Health insurance companies may want to kill me for saying this, but, it has been my experience that it is not entirely necessary to have health insurance while traveling in Argentina. Because Argentina has fairly efficient public healthcare, in the case of an emergency you will be treated at the public (tax payer paid) hospitals. In the case that you have some sort of health problem that is not an emergency, you can easily go to any private healthcare clinic, pay 100 pesos (roughly U$D 10) for an appointment with a clinician, who will likely refer you to the appropriate place for testing, in the case it is needed, and, finally write you a prescription for whatever necessary. Each of these appointments will cost you around $100 pesos and you will pay full price for the medication, but, in the end, it won't likely cost more than U$D 50.

What's the population density of Rosario?

Rosario is said to have a population of around 1 million people. Of those 1 million, they say that a fair amount live in or around the city limits. The density is roughly 17,300 square miles and is broken up into neighborhoods though it doesn't have the suburban feel. In each neighborhood there is a sort of commercial center, though there is only 1 downtown area which is referred to as "El Centro.''

Can I get around on a bike? Does the city have a lot of good running/biking paths?

Yes, but I don't recommend doing this without before hand analyzing the way traffic functions in Rosario. It is something a kin to anarchy, and so, there is a madness to the chaos, a reason to the rhyme, but, it can be learned. There are several bike paths that can get you from one side of the city to the other and this has helped greatly with cycling accidents. Though, they are often abused by motorcyclists, so you still need to ride defensively.

Where should I look for a cheap plane ticket?

I just got a pretty cheap ticket using ebookers.com, though I had to search for quite a while and be flexible with my days. If you are coming to Rosario, you can do via Buenos Aires or, you can, for a bit more money, arrive directly to Rosario. Which I can't recommend enough. Arriving to Buenos Aires means waiting for the shuttle (Manuel Tienda de Leon) to bring you to Rosario. And, while their service is efficient and friendly enough, it is another 5 hours on a bus after what was likely a 15 hour plane ride.

Should I come with dollars? What is this stuff I hear about Blue rate and Official rate.

This is a great question and a difficult one to answer. Some time back, in her attempt to eliminate or minimalism money laundering, the president of Argentina, made it more and more difficult to buy US dollars, obliging all people to show where the money had come from and assuring they weren't doing dirty business. At this very same moment, a group of powerful money men decided that this was their opportunity to buy and sell dollars on an illegal market at 50 - 80% higher, making a huge profit margin off what is pure speculation.

So, as a tourist, there are pro's and con's. The number 1 pro is that you can get a lot more bang for your buck, the con is that if you don't know where to sell, you will likely get a few fake bills in the mix. Con number 2 is that delinquents assume tourists are traveling with dollars on them so they are prime targets for robbers.

If you do not bring dollars, however, there are three options for getting money:

ATM - you can only take pesos out of the ATM and this will always be at an official rate (8,4 vs 14,2)

Xoom - Most of our students are using this service. You basically transfer money from your account to theirs and they give you a halfway point between the official and nonofficial rate and only charge a small fee. I have never used this service but it seems quite reliable.

Trip to Uruguay - When you go to renew your visa in Uruguay, you can take advantage of the fact that you can pull dollars out of the ATM's there. This may not last for long as all things abused tend to be eliminated, but, for now, this is an option.

viernes, 13 de junio de 2014

Every Penny Helps!

Hey all you expats! A fellow expat has had an accident and we have started a donation site for him to cover some of the rehabilitation costs and loss of income.

Please click below and give what you can!! Then ask your friends to do the same! Thank you for your help!

jueves, 12 de junio de 2014

7 reasons Rosario is not for Tourists

I originally wrote this piece for the annual expats writing contest, and, though it didn't warrant a win, I think it might be worth the read, so here it is.

7 Reasons Rosario is Not for Tourists

I arrived to Rosario on a day when the word excruciating fell short of its meaning and the word melting combined did an absolute injustice to the definition of things. It was January 27th, 2006 and, while it sounds quite cliche, I had come here to “see about a guy.”  Dripping with sweat and absorbed in my nervousness, I descended the steps of an air conditioned microcosm into an entirely new life: A new home, a new relationship, a new language and culture, a new career, and above all else, a new perspective.

Allow me to begin by saying, because this is my experience, it is completely  tainted with the color of my opinion; and I’d hope no one takes what I am about to say too terribly seriously. Rosario is not for tourists and here are 7 reasons why:

1. Rosario is NOT Cool 

London is cool. Paris is cool. Even Mexico City is cool, but I am nearly certain you have never heard the likes of a San Francisco hipster saying, something to the sort of, “Yeah, I’m gonna move to Rosario, Argentina to work on my music.” In fact, “cool” places on the map for expats are places like Bali, Beijing, or Thailand, exotic places, seductive places, places with white sand beaches where you can live for under 10 dollars a day. In this respect, Rosario simply fails to apply.

2. No landmarks to Mark the Map

There are no mystical and majestic trails to Machu Picchu.  We have no architectural claims to fame, drawing the international attention of the masses like that of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Louvre in Paris.  And, in comparison to Buenos Aires, we are not even particularly recognized for the Argentinean Tango or professional soccer teams.  I digress, there is, without a doubt, a love-hate relationship between the two rivaling local soccer teams. In Rosario, you are either a fan of Central or a fan of Newells, leaving absolutely no middle ground.  However, despite this professional rivalry, when people think Argentina, they think Maradona, they think Boca Juniors.

3. Rosario is not a Destination City

Unfortunately, and due to the relatively closeness of Rosario to Buenos Aires, the city  is erroneously presented by both the national and local touristic entities as a “48 hour city.” What does that mean? It means that, “according to officials,” you can apparently get to know the city, connect with the locals, and partake in cultural exchanges, all in just 2 days. I repeat, Rosario is not for tourists and in fact, it never has been. Even the Camino Real, stretching from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru, conveniently calculated Rosario as a rest spot along the way. With this being said, Rosario has always been treated as nothing more than a place to lay sleepy and worn heads, whereby breaking up the extended northbound adventure to somewhere more adventurous, some more important destination city.

4. No Right of Way

As a pedestrian you are an absolute minority. There are stop signs, but no one uses them, there are of course crosswalks, but you will have to fight tongue and fist to use them with any sense of priority. To an outsider, this appears to be outright anarchy, and trust me, it is. But there is a sort of method to this madness. Always look both ways, never think you have the right of way and always assume they will run you over. This is called being a defensive walker.

5. Language Barriers

One of the characteristics that clearly separates Rosario from the classic definition of what we consider to be a “tourist destination,” is the grand barrier of communication. While, in the previous 10 years there has been a noticeable focus placed on the learning of foreign languages such as English and French, the majority of the “pueblo” continue speaking only their native language: Spanish. So if you are looking for language tourism, then Rosario is definitely a good choice.

6. Closed for Remodel

You know your city is not quite ready for the wave of tourism when, in the peak summer months the local museums and apparent attractions are accompanied by signs that read: Closed for Remodel.

7. No Planes

We do indeed have an airport, in fact, it is even referred to as an international airport. But, for reasons beyond my understanding, our airport has habitually lost contract after contract, somehow managing to manage a mere 1 international flight per day, and, in the last year, that too has been suspended. Why? You might ask, closed for remodel. So, if you are a tourist and you plan Rosario as your destination city, you will have little choice but to come by bus.

What is the attraction then? Why has this pueblo, dressed up in high heels like a metropolis, continued to grow with expats and immigrants alike, sprawling along the banks of this chocolate colored river surrounded by miles and miles of the mono cultivated transgenic soybean?

I will tell you.  It is exactly because Rosario is not for tourists that Rosario brews a desire to stay a little longer, rest a while, take a load off, and find a home while away from home.

Over the course of the past 8 years, I have watched people “just passing through,” decide to stay indefinitely. In my time as the director of Spanish in Rosario, a local Spanish school for travelers, I have been graced by the presence of countless people who have booked for a week and stayed a month, reserved a month and stayed a year and some who have come on a whim and never left, myself included.

And the overall consensus, comes down to this:

Rosario is not for tourists because the word tourist encompasses the idea of someone traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for less than one consecutive year in the name of leisure, business and other purposes. These are the people that risk little to nothing, opening their hearts a wee bit at a time, convincing themselves they are living and experiencing while under a supposed illusionary control of their minds and their sentiments, safely untouched by the and pain of what it means to be an expat or immigrant.

No, Rosario is not for tourists because the very day you set foot in this oversized town disguising itself as a city you will find such an abundant amount of welcoming energy, such an immense amount of, “come meet my family” you will have no choice but to stay. Your desire to spend time inside your head, to “find yourself within” will be greeted with a kiss on the cheek and more invitations to BBQ’s than your stomach can bear.

And as for the language barrier, people will go out of their way to yell the words rather than speak them, in hopes that their speaking louder will, by force of inertia, suddenly create a state of understanding. And, you know, I think it works.  Because in the end, all the understanding needed is found in a smile.

When you become an expat, you no longer fit into the category of tourist. When you immigrate, you become one with your community, which is exactly what Rosario is about and precisely why some people, those who are open enough to see what is before them and exposed enough to accept it, come for 48 hours and stay for a time undetermined. - See more at: http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/738/7-reasons-rosario-is-not-for-tourists#sthash.ppA3mea5.dpuf

viernes, 21 de febrero de 2014

Being "American" in "America"

There is this funny thing that happens each time a new "yanqui" comes to town. Many, not all, refer to themselves as an "American." And, in fact, they are. Let's be honest with ourselves, the name of their country, of my country, is called "The United States of America." The problem is, and bear with me here, that many people fail to recognize that Argentinians, Bolivians, Peruvians, and all of the other Latin American's that reside south of the good ole U.S. of A, are also Americans. Albeit South Americans, but, nonetheless, Americans.
All too often, we are tempted to touch the untouchable subjects of politics, religion and futbol (soccer) at the BBQ table, which means I frequently I hear complaints of ignorance and annoyance about this very minimal failure to be "politically correct."

So, after much thinking and brewing of my response to this, by god I do believe I have come up with an answer! And it is not all that ignorant I will have you know.

United States Americans refer to themselves as "Americans" for short not because they are ignorant or unknowing, or because they think of themselves as a superior class, they do this because this a mouth full to say, "Hi, nice to meet you, my name is Stephanie and I am a United States American."  In the US, and I would wager to say, in the world, are in to shortening things, Michael becomes Mike, Stephanie becomes Steph, Jason becomes Jay, Claudio becomes Clau...Are you following me? Lets be realistic, Argentinean aren't saying, "we are Argentinean South Americans." Furthermore, it is not just because we are lazy, it is a linguistically related error!

In both English and Spanish there are adjectives to describe nationalities, she is from Peru, she is Peruvian, He is from France, he is French. I have realized that the problem is in the way the language is built, in the way we are taught to speak. In Spanish, if you are from the United States (of America)  you are estadounidense but something funny happens in English, if you are from the United States (of America) there is no other adjective to use other than American! So, we have two choices, we can either refer to ourselves in a way that makes the world think we are egocentric (which we might be, but that is beside the argument,) or we have to build longer sentences referring to our home land rather than an adjective that describes our person.

How do we then fix this dispute? I propose we create a new adjective for people from the United States: