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?
Absolutely!
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:


USAers 



What's New?

Are you new to our Rosario expat community? Are you looking for work or fun things to do, you have come to the right place.

Here is the latest update!

JOBS
This bilingual daycare is located in Funes and is currently looking for a native kinder teacher to work either part or full time. The hours are from 9-12:00 and from 12-17:00. You will want to contact Jenny Grynblat
jennygrynblat@yahoo.co.uk

Price Waterhouse Coopers International Ltd.
This is an associate of the Price Waterhouse Co. out the U.S.
The job description is a bit vague. They are looking to feel several positions and are looking for foreigners who are graduated or currently studying economic science.
If you are interested, you will want to send your CV to Valeria.

Spansource
A little bird told me that Spansource is looking for native In-Company English teachers. I don't know much about them, but if you are looking for a job, you might check them out.

FUN 
Tuesday Nights
Every Tuesday night Spanish in Rosario is putting together a little co-ed international soccer game. This is open to anyone, regardless of talent and skill, age or gender. If you want to kick the ball around a bit, let us know!

Barlingual Rosario
You can find out about this monthly event via the Facebook Fan Page. These events are always different, and always great fun. Organized by both In-genious Idiomas and Spanish in Rosario, we have been bringing together locals and foreigners for cultural experiences and exchanges since 2012!

Rosario Free Tour
Whether you are a life long local of Rosario, a fresh fish just getting your feet wet, or a traveler just passing through, Rosario Free Tour is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. It is 100% satisfaction guaranteed because you only pay what you feel it is worth or what your budget allows you to. It is given both in English and Spanish and lasts about 2 hours, knitting an amusing and interesting twist to the commonly known history of Rosario. They meet every Saturday on the steps of the Old Customs House (Maipu and Urquiza) at 11:30am. You can't miss them!

Do you have a job to offer or want to add your good vibes to our page? Just let me know! 

lunes, 20 de enero de 2014

7 ways to stay safe in Buenos Aires

I had hoped to never have to write an article like this. Mostly because I am not a big fan of the idea of perpetuating the hysteria that revolves around safety or the lack there of in South America. But I have now come to a point where, after 8 years of being in Argentina and a very large unfortunate portion of our students, friends, family and soon to be known acquaintances having suffered the nightmare of being forced to go through the process of police reports and emergency passport renewals, I have decided it is time I write something to help those new fish out when braving the shark filled waters of Buenos Aires.

1. Get travel insurance. You will thank me.
2. Wear a money belt waistband where you can keep your passport on your body at all times. I know you think this is incredibly dorky, but the biggest nightmare you can possibly imagine is being stuck in a foreign
country where you only half way speak the language with no money, no passport and no idea what to do. The theft in Buenos Aires is pretty petty. They don't want your passport and they aren't going to beat you up to get your money belt. They are looking for quick and easy turn over of electronic devices - cameras, laptops, recorders, etc.

 3. Avoid Retiro Bus station like the plague. If you absolutely have to go there, arrive in an official taxi and leave in an official taxi. DO NOT ARRIVE OR LEAVE THERE WALKING. When you are in Retiro keep all 300 of your eyes peeled. There is no need to be afraid but DO NOT let your guard down. Keep your backpack with your most valuables on your back, buckled and on your person. Keeping it at your feet while you sip a cup of coffee is not safe. The old time trick is this: "Hey, do I need to sit down for them to take my order or do I need to go to the counter?" asks one man. And as you turn to kindly say, "The counter is just over there," another man snatches your backpack from under the table. There is no use running after them, you will never see your things again. It is all part of the process. A laptop and camera can be replaced fairly easily, a passport is a bit more of a bureaucratic headache.

4. Be aware of your surroundings. I repeat. There is no need to feel afraid, but you must be aware. If you want to take a picture on a busy street, take notice of who is around you. Have you seen the same face more than once throughout your morning walk? Are there some sketchy looking motor bikes parked and "people watching?" The majority of robberies occur in broad day light on busy streets (or one street over from the busiest streets) and it is not coincidence. They are following you, they are waiting to make sure you have a camera. When they rob you they usually say things like, "Da me la camera!" (give me your camera) They don't say, give me your purse. They don't want your purse, they just want something to sell quickly - give them the camera and let them run off.

5. Do not resist. There is this old saying that goes something like, "soldado que huye vive para otra batalla." (fleeing soldiers live for other battles) Violent crime is not huge in Argentina, but petty theft is. It is a clear sign of the obvious strata in the social system of have and have nots and a camera or laptop can easily be replaced.  The best thing to do, while it will likely injure your ego, is to simply let go. Think of it as a gift, a learning experience that will help you with the working through your detachment issues.

6. Try to blend in. It is not always easy, this I know, especially coming from an ex San Francisco resident who arrive to Argentina wearing cut off shorts and knee high red boots or you happen to be a 6 foot
something blonde from Sweden, but if you stand out, you might end up being a target. There are, of course, somethings that can't be avoided but I would say, dress like you are homeless, don't carry more than the bear necessities while you are out and about gallivanting the city, and remember, keep the most important things locked up in the hostel/hotel safe.

7. If it is not on the tourist map they give you upon arriving, don't go there unless you are accompanied by a local someone. There is likely a reason it didn't make it onto the map.

Of course, even the most cautious of people still encounter misfortunes along the road, these are just little things that hopefully help you along the way. In the case they do not, don't let something so small as a negative experience taint the color of your travels. All travelers know that there are good times and bad times and we need the rain to appreciate the sun. In fact, the lose of some personal items might end up being liberating for some.

Happy trails to you!

lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

It's that time of year again...

Do any of you other expats out there in Argentina find it difficult to get into the Holiday mood of the Christmas spirit while it is currently a brewing 100 degrees outside? Have you heard any of the familiar holiday sounds of Jingle Bells or Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer? Have you taken a stroll down Candy Cane Lane or seen a plethora of decorated store fronts or family homes? This is my problem. This ridged concept of Christmas that keeps me from "Rocking Around the Clock," this conditioned reaction to visual stimulation, climate and sound. It just doesn't feel like Christmas. I try, I swear, I do! I set up the tree and decorated the house. I turned on the Bing Crosby Holiday album, but there is no way I am going to follow the family tradition in baking cookies in this godawful warmth of a summer. I know I know, Christmas is about family and sharing and togetherness, and I plan to celebrate it as such, only this year, instead of cuddling fireside, I will be wading in my kiddie pool!