Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Our Train Ride Experience From Cordoba to Buenos Aires and Back Again

Argentina has 23 provinces and one federal district, which is La CABA, aka the Argentine capital. Taking a train may be the cheapest way to travel between provinces, but its destinations are currently limited. For example, you can't take a train from Cordoba to Mendoza or from Cordoba to San Juan. It wasn’t always like this though. There was a time where you could travel practically anywhere in Argentina by train. Then the regime of President Menem decided that the train system took business away from trucking distributors. So, he shut down most train service routes. Over time, those old railroad tracks turned into dumping grounds, which attract a lot of shady elements into the local neighborhoods. 
This used to be a train track
Dead trees and trash now litter this old railroad
Under the Kirchnerista presidential regime, the railroad systems became operational again. Companies like Ferrocentral were once again able to offer train services to provinces like Cordoba, which connected them with routes that lead to Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires. 
We took the train route from Cordoba to Buenos Aires

Check out the video footage we took of the scenery throughout the train ride.
On our journey to and from Buenos Aires, we noticed a whole lot of farms, soy and wheat processing plants, as well as a couple of small towns. I didn't see anything as industrialized as Cordoba City or the Capital of Buenos Aires. 
Passengers get ready to board the train. Nice beanie hat dude!

The interior of the train is similar to those used by Amtrak in the United States. There are overhead compartments that allow you to store your carry-on luggage, and footrests so you can stretch your weary legs while you sleep.   

Each cart has a men and women's restroom, which is rather convenient when the food doesn't agree with you. You can always go and buy yourself coffee, tea, soda, croissants, or a milanesa (breaded steak) sandwich, just make sure you're willing to pop a squat afterwards in one of the toilets. Something in that sandwich made my stomach hurt. You're better off bringing your own food. But would I use the train again? Absolutely! 
Some passengers might like the menu on the train ...
Others might hate it

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Encountering Our First Fellow Expat in Argentina

My spouse and I have been in Argentina for almost 16 months now. Making friends has been as difficult as finding work. For one thing, money is pretty tight and without cash we really can’t go anywhere or invite anyone to our house. On the other hand, the few Argentinians I’ve spoken to have had a rather grim view of Americans. A friendly conversation usually turns into someone accusing us of being brutal conquerors who see ourselves as perfect. That’s not who we are and that’s certainly not what America is about. Zach and I are peaceful, loving, and friendly, and a lot of our friends and family are the same way. 

I felt that the only people that could really get us and what we're going through were other expats, so I recently reached out to a fellow American living in Cordoba through Facebook. We eventually met for coffee at Patio Olmos. Then she invited my spouse and I to her birthday party. It was such a relief to speak with another American, because let’s face it, no one understands what you’re going through better than someone that’s going through the same thing. It’s been wonderful to sit with someone over coffee and compare expat experiences and discuss what our lives were like back home. 
Finding work is still a challenge in Argentina. Thankfully, my new friend was able to introduce me to an Australian expat living in Cordoba, who hired me to become a freelance writer. The experience has been great because I get to do something I love, which is writing, and get paid for it at the same time. It’s still no substitute for a permanent job, which I hope to land someday, but it’s better than nothing.     
That's me with the glasses
Quite recently, we celebrated my new expat friend’s birthday at the Catre Diem Cultural Hostel here in Cordoba Capital. Zach and I struck conversations with locals, Americans, and expats from other parts of the world as well. Afterwards we went to a club called Dorian Gray. The good thing about this club is that it's friendly to all lifestyles. In other words, it's a safe space for straight and gay people.  I’m a bit of a square, so I haven’t really frequented many clubs in my life. In fact, this was my first club experience in Argentina. Before that I went to one club in Manhattan, and another one in South Florida in my early twenties, so that's a total of three clubs in one lifetime. 
When we walked into Dorian Gray, we noticed the bar right away, but we couldn't really drink because we were both taking medication. There was also a group of actors dressed in aborigine clothing taking clients and forcing them to take part in some kind of act. It was quite interesting. 
Zach's ready to jam!
Then we headed to the dance floor with our expat friend, and her friends, and started dancing. Zach accused me of dancing like a white person. Ha-ha! He’s of Puerto Rican descent, so he’s got dance moves written into his DNA. I on the other hand, only know how to swivel my hips and shuffle my feet. Plus, I suffer from social anxiety, so I was a bit overwhelmed (despite my anti-anxiety medication). Nevertheless, I had a great time! More importantly, Zach had a great time. I haven’t seen him this alive in months. 
Speaking to other expats has broken the social ice for us here in Cordoba, and I wish I hadn't waited 16 months to do this. It not only allowed us to meet people from back home, but it helped us to make friends with English-speaking Argentinians, who were either friends, or in a relationship with our fellow expats.