Monday, September 8, 2014

How Johnny B. Good Became The Perfect Venue For Our Marriage Reconciliation

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-month 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 it's located in the heart of Nueva Cordoba.
The restaurant 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 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 p.m. 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. 
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 was 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, which was… well… it’s kind of difficult to explain. The first layer is whipped 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. Afterwards we went walking around the city and saw that the annual book fair was in full bloom in Plaza San Martin. I covered the last two fairs, but this year I felt that there wasn’t anything new or special to report.
Debating whether or not to go into the book fair
Zach and I went through the fair rather quickly. We were looking for novels in English, but since they don’t sell many of those here, 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 before, 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. Whether we get the chance to meet our niece remains  to be seen.

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 in Argentina.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Going Global At Global Village 2014 In Cordoba, Argentina

Global Village was an event held at the 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 allow those from all cultures and walks of life to express themselves freely without the fear of prejudice.
I'm looking forward to the next event and hopefully, other cultures not present at this year's event, will be encouraged to participate as well.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Check Out 2014's Argentine Product Pricing Comparison

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! There'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 markup. 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 more affordable 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. As far what the future holds for product pricing, we'll just have to wait and see.

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. If you haven't, don't worry. You can start now. You can also follow me on Instagram. 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.

Some of the things that have helped us to handle our homesickness have been food related. For example, I'm happy to report that McDonald’s recently began offering an Americanized breakfast with bacon, scrambled eggs, and two pieces of bread that come 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 just like the one from 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, but fortunately, I’ve been able to get treatment for it thanks to the free health care 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 invite 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 let me rip the band-aid off and tell you that 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.

But before you judge me, you should know that something else had happened that helped me to make this decision. 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 entirely 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. I currently work for two, and they provide me with a sufficient number of articles to make ends meet every month... but just barely.

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 Argentinians meet at a hostel to play fun and sassy games that help non-native English speakers practice their English while enjoying some delicious muffins and cakes.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/EnglishSpeakingMuffins/

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 other themes like zombies and Superman.
It seems like a lifetime ago since Zach and I stepped out of that plane in Cordob,a 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. Would Zach and I have stayed together if we hadn't left New York. Still, we've made some friends and are attempting to make a life for ourselves here, which seems to be going okay.
Fortunately, Zach and I are still close, and married or not, we've got each other's back.