Another Meme: 7 Random Things About Me

7 RANDOM THINGS

7 RANDOM THINGS

1. I have not had a TV in over 9 years. This is technically a lie. I have had a TV now in my apartment for about 2 months. I have still not turned it on though. On the other hand, because I have not built up an immunity to TV, when I see it in other people’s houses or in bars I am completely transfixed by the magical moving pictures.

2. For years my dream job was to be a rabbi. But that was just to read the books, I didn’t like the social aspect of it all and I didn’t like praying at all. Later a dream of mine was to be to be a professional magician but I decided that it was too manipulative and stopped. I prefer jugglers to magicians though I can barely juggle. My new dream job is to be a storyteller or a game designer or both.

4. When I was very young (2 or 3 years old) I had the belief that I came into the world with perfect knowledge, however the moment I learned a new word I would cease, forever, to be able to understand what it was meant to express. For a long time I was scared to learn new words. I still believe this to some degree though I am no longer scared.

3. Keeping with words, I have written 3 pages in my journal almost every day for the last 6 months.

7. I love games. A lot. I just like them in general. Among my favorites: Go, Chess (though it’s a bit competative), Truco, Settlers of Catan, Casino, Egyptian Rat Screw. I like games you can win together. Like games? Live in Buenos Aires? Let me know and maybe we play.

5. I once did a joke documentary by driving around the USA for three months with my friend. We asked people on the street, in bars, in restaurants, on boats for jokes and we recorded them on audio tape. We did it because no one can remember jokes and what if everyone forgot all their jokes at the exact same moment? It wouldn’t be funny…

6. Yesterday Pip tagged me to do this meme thing. I didn’t know what it entailed and I was at work so I was a bit of a grouch about it. Full disclosure, I got freaked out that someone could tell me what to write in my blog. Which is silly. Sorry Pip, it turns out that this is actually fun to do. And now, because you can make people do things by tagging them:

I HEREBY TAG EVERYONE READING THIS RIGHT NOW TO DO THIS LIST. YEAH, THAT MEANS YOU. NO LOOKING AWAY. YOU’VE BEEN TAGGED. DO IT NOW!!!! THERE IS NO ESCAPE!!! BWAAAJAJJAJAJA!!!

Expats and Local Holidays: Dia de Amigo

 

HAPPY FRIENDS DAY!!!!

HAPPY FRIENDS DAY!!!!

Today is Friends Day in Argentina, a holiday about which I am intensely ambivalent. First, let me say that the idea is great: a moment to honor the friendships that have endured and the new ones you’ve discovered. Just lovely. However, I have a few reasons to be a little skeptical. Firstly, I don’t have a lot of friends. Secondly, locals take it pretty seriously and last year I didn’t know that it was significant. Some folks called me up to hang out cause it was friends day and were a bit insulted when I said that I’d hang out with them later and that night I felt a little tired. Lastly, I think that it’s just an opportunity to insult folks WAITING to happen. I mean, seeing as there are different friend groups it could be fairly easy to unintentionally blow folks off. I’m really scared that there’s someone I forgot to call…

So let me just say publicly to all my blog friends out there, where ever you may be. Happy Friends Day!!!! And here’s a joke for you about keeping up relationships while overseas:

So this Irishman goes into a bar and orders three beers. The bartender thinks that this is a little weird but serves them up and the Irishman drinks them over the evening and heads home. The Irishman becomes a regular of the bar and each time he comes in he orders the three beers. The bartender thinks this is strange and one day suggests his ordering one beer after another so they’ll be fresher when he’s drinking them. “Oh, you don’t understand” says the Irishman. “The other two beers aren’t for me, they’re for my brothers back in Ireland. When I left we all made a pact that when we drank we would drink for the other two and in this way we’d remember each other.”

This goes on for some time until one day the Irishman comes in with a terribly sad look on his face. He walks slowly up to the bar and orders only two beers. The bartender immediately says “Oh, I’m so sorry about your brother.” “No no… ” Says the Irishman sadly “My brothers are fine. I quit drinking.”

Dungeon Dorks and the expat hierarchy

Monsters in Buenos Aires
So I was checking out this forum on Buenos Aires Expats and came across some guy starting up a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game.

This was apparently his second post and he wrote:

Hi all,

I’m starting a D&D group (preferably in English) to meet in about a month. If anyone is interested, I’ve set up a website at http://dnd.meetup.com/1024/ to discuss it. And if you have questions, as I’m sure some of you will, please feel free to contact me via the Contact Me link on that page.

Thanks for your interest.

D&D is a game where you play out the role of a mythical character like the elves and warriors and stuff. It’s like Lord of the Rings meets choose your own adventure except the possabilities are endless. I used to play this game with my older brothers. I always used to be a halfling thief and most of what I did was get sent upstairs to get them drinks and snacks. I was 10 years old and it was awesome.

I mean, one of the best ways you can get introduced into a place is to go with what you know. If you like to draw, find the local artists. If you like to play polo, join the local polo club. But what if what you know is something fairly unknown in where you are? A better idea would have been to try to find local gamers and access the city that way.

But even more interesting was a comment on the post. This other guy had commented 204 times so he probably sets a lot of the tone over on BA expats. He wrote:

Not sure if you’ll thank me again for my interest but I find your interest in that game rather surprising. There you are in that beautiful country and you want to play D&D.

I saw this text on your page “Also, if anyone has suggestions for a good, safe first meeting location, I’m all ears!”, if you’re looking for a safe place to meet people then I’ll go ahead and suggest Villa Lugano, it’s a beautiful part of town where you’ll feel right at home.

Best of luck

What a jerk! The tone of this comment raises the ambivilence that expats play in eachothers lives. From what I understand, this forum is for expats trying to network with other expats to share experiences, solve problems, and hang out at the monthly dinners. Why then is someone so entrenched in the community so negative? Are there levels or circles of expats and this guy somehow broke the rules? Is this newcomer not “cool” enough to comment on an expat forum? It’s funny how you can travel 10,000 miles and still feel like you’re back in high school.

Expat Meme

I found this meme on Avoiding Crisis: 210 Days of Self-Exploration.

Name five things you love in your new country

  1. My Friends
  2. No coffee to go
  3. More cultural events than you can wave a stick at
  4. How technology hasn’t completely isolated people
  5. Late nights

Name four things you miss from your native country

  1. My family and friends
  2. My sense of balance and stablity
  3. My ability to communicate
  4. Neighborhood restaurants with spicy “international” food (mexican, thai, indian, etc.)

Name three things that annoy you in your new country

  1. No bike lanes
  2. Relative expense of technology
  3. The garantia system of renting apartments

Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you when you arrived) in your new country

  1. Everyone has little dogs
  2. The fashion

Name one thing you would miss in your new country if you had to leave

  1. Kissing on the cheek

The Buenos Aires Housing Hunt ABCs

VILLA CRESPO OR BUST

VILLA CRESPO OR BUST

I wrote this list while waiting in line to see what turned out to be a small dank apartment.

A is for Arte. “Estoy arte de esperando aca en el frio.”

B is for Blanco. They like you to be earning in “blanco” in order to get a place.

C is for Clarin. Clarin is really the only place people seem to advertise. If anyone knows a better way let me know.

D is for Dormitorio. 2 ambientes does not equal 2 dormitorios.

E is for Entendido. Es entendido que 2 meses de comission es demasiado y esperado.

F is for”Friend”. Anyone who calls you “friend” in English is on my list of people who will cheat you.

G is for Garantia. It needs to be from Capital and a family member.

H is for habitable. As opposed to desirable.

I is for Inmobilaria. Spanish for “bottomfeeder”

J is for Ja Ja Ja. What you think when you see the poor SOB at the end of a line to see a lame apartment that the guy showing you says was reserved yesterday.

K is for Kapitalistas. nuff sed

L is for Living/Comedor/Cocina. A room where apparently everything happens.

LL is for Llamar. As in “El depto esta reservado pero es posible que la garantia seria mal y si venis lunes, demasiado temprano puedes dejar cien mangos con nosotros te tal vez te llamamos.”

M is for Modern. Modern apartments are smaller, stuffier, have less light, and portenos prefer them.

N is for Nathan. The apartment looker.

O is for Opinion. You will generally want a second one…

P is for PH. Portenos love them cause they have no gastos.

Q is for Quito. As in “Things are cheaper in Quito, Ecuador.”

R is for Renovar. “No vamos a renovar este departmento. Lo pintas vos.”

There is no RR in the expat housing hunt. We can’t pronounce it.

S is for Sabado. Most of the house showings happen on Saturday afternoon. Yay!

T is for trampa. Like advertising an apartment saying you don’t need a garantia and then trying to sell you the garantia you don’t need…

U is for ups! As in “Ups! No tenemos las llaves para abrir el depto. Lo siento, parece que estuviste esperando aca chupando el frio… Llamanos mas tarde en la semana.”

V is for vender. Much more popular than alquiler.

W is for Why do I even want to move? My apartment is just fine as it is.

X is for eXnat – A blog that feels your pain.

Y is for Y are you reading to the end?

Z is for Ze end of zis list.

Who are these expats?

EXPATS

EXPATS

Due to a recent comment on my blog I want to clear up what exactly this expat thing is. An expat is someone who’s living in a place that they do fundamentally identify with. This is very different from an immigrant. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on expats:

The difference between an expatriate and an immigrant is that immigrants (for the most part) commit themselves to becoming a part of their country of residence, whereas expatriates are usually only temporarily placed in the host country and most of the time plan on returning to their home country, so they never adopt the culture in the host country – though some may end up never actually returning, with the distinction then becoming more a matter of their own viewpoint.

Expats retain their culture and identity as being apart from their host country. And ambivalence on return is key. Expats run the gamut. There are expats who have definite plans to return, vague and shifting plans to return, and no plans whatsoever to return. However, all of them fundamentally identify either with their country of origin or some other group independent of the country they live in. Or they’re in love and they don’t care where they live: home is where the heart is.

My Nature

TIGRE TREE

TIGRE TREE

One of the big changes for me in moving to Buenos Aires is from small city to big city. I have no idea how many people live in Buenos Aires but I’m told 12 million. That’s a lot. A LOT. But the consequences aren’t so much in having a barrage of folks around you at all times (which is new for me) but more than anything not being able to escape so easily. Everywhere I’ve ever lived before there has been nature of one form or another around but in Buenos Aires all you have are parks. Admittedly fairly close there are tree filled places but it’s not that accessible to get there without a car and no one I know just goes there for the nature.

When they think of nature most folks think of Tigre which is a lovely little vacation place just up the road. It’s at a river delta and there is a maze of islands you can get to by quaint wooden ferry boats. This weekend was freezing but I needed my nature fix and headed with some friends to what I can only call their vacation house in Tigre. It’s more of a cabin on stilts than anything as there is no running water or bathroom. However, that just makes it all the more attractive.

WHY THE HOUSE IS ON STILTS

WHY THE HOUSE IS ON STILTS

It was cold. Unusually cold. So cold, in fact, that it snowed for the first time in over 50 years. I am not making this up. It was really really cold. That didn’t stop us from participating in the awesome outdoorsy tradition of campfire cooking. We stepped out from Argentine asado tradition by having only roasted veggies. No meat. Yum! And there was something about the cold that made the intensity of the experience, the sheer feeling of being alive and out of the city just incredible.

COLDER THAN IT LOOKS

COLDER THAN IT LOOKS

Being away from the natural world has been a huge change for me. It felt wonderful to get back to my hippy tree hugging roots. Even as snow comes down outside, Spring is coming soon and I’m looking for good places to go camping on long weekends. If anyone has an idea, let me know 🙂

Expat Housing Hunt: Not getting the memo

NO ENTIENDO

NO ENTIENDO

Today might have been one of the most frustrating days of my time in Buenos Aires. It started off great. It started off with a haircut.

Hair cuts are awesome and they just completely change your perspective. Any time you want to get new perspective, cut your hair. Even if no one else notices, you know you’re different and you get to look at that stranger in the mirror. Maybe it’s symbolic of cutting away the old. Think about it: they cut away the oldest parts of your hair, leaving the newest growth. I haven’t cut my hair for 9 months but today I woke up early and took Diva and Kiki’s advice and got a hair cut.

I didn’t know how to describe a regular haircut so I asked for a “classic” haircut. “Oh, classic like short in the front and long in the back?” asked the barber. Only in Buenos Aires could a mullet be a classic haircut.

While I was waiting for the haircut I read the Clarin and wrote out all the apartments I would visit later in the day. Apartment hunting is tricky in Buenos Aires because no one is renting right now and everyone wants to rent. It’s much easier to sell the property instead of renting and the prices are great for selling and there’s lots of demand. If you’re anything but first in line to get an apartment you are nothing at all. You’ll simply be viewing an apartment that someone else wanted so you have to go super early to get the good deals.

Also the rents right now are terrible (and probably only getting worse). However today tons of great deals came out. I couldn’t believe it and I made a whole list of all the houses I would visit, planning out the order and everything.

Well, I got to my first place early. A half hour early. Usually someone shows up soon afterwards and there are at least 5 people at the time when the apartment starts being shown. This time there was no one, which was really strange. Even stranger was that no one came to show the apartment either. Well, I went on to the next one on my list. And waited. And waited. And nothing. No one there either. So I went to the next one. No one. I went to all six or seven on my list. Nothing.

At first I was irritated, then confused, then by about the fourth something clicked. I realized that there was something seriously wrong that I was missing here. And this is a huge part of being an expat, not knowing the rules or even if there are rules. I was filled with this idea that because it was a long weekend no one showed up or the Clarin cancelled all their ads for the day, etc. etc. It’s not like I haven’t done this same thing before too many times. I know that the Clarin keeps web ads up for awhile but I had double checked!

Super super frustrating day.

How to pick up porteñas….. NOT!

PARTIES CAN LOOK LIKE THIS

PARTIES CAN LOOK LIKE THIS

I recently had this conversation with a girl at a party.

nathan: it’d be nice to hang out sometime
her: totally
nathan: your friend has my info
her: what?
nathan: uhmm… like… if you want to…
her: you look tired
nathan: but i…
her: go to bed

I decided it was high time to figure out how to pick up girls and where else to go but the internet. Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) are always telling me that Porteñas (their fairer counterparts) are the most beautiful women in the world, so I would need some very special help to get me through this.

[ENTER BLOGOSPHERE: STAGE LEFT]

Here I recommend three diverse articles that might help.

Nightlife in Buenos Aires: Hooking up with a Porteña by A.J. Hayes

Favorite Quote: Even if you honestly can’t speak one word… suck it up and learn a few key phrases like “my Spanish is very bad” (“mi castellano es muy malo”) and “if you want, you can practice your English with me” (“si quieres, tu puedes practicar tu ingles conmigo”).

Caveat: While these techniques can be used by anyone, those are not the one night stand photos I’d post on my blog…

Picking Up Girls in B.A. Know How by Diva

Favorite Quote: Here are some examples possible situations and the correct way (I mean the porteño I-can-F…-them-all way) to behave.

Caveat: Diva has no experience in picking up girls. This may only work for picking up Diva.

Sex in Buenos Aires by David Stone

Favorite Quote: Next thing I knew, she emerged from my bathroom wearing nothing but a Sheraton bathrobe, albeit not for long.

Caveat: This approach may only work with prostitutes.

Now with all my questions answered I feel prepared to go out into the big wide world to win over the girl of my dreams! Though actually now that I think about it it sounds like a lot of trouble… It’s the long weekend and I’ll probably stay home and paint or draw or make games or something…

MEDIO CHETO

Art Por Tres: Lunch Specials in Palermo Viejo

MEDIO CHETO

MEDIO CHETO

Everyone has stupid stereotypes that have nothing to do with reality. I’m no different and one of mine favors the old and dirty over the bright and shiny. Appearance often goes a long way in Buenos Aires and I feel if an ugly restaurant can fill up a crowd of locals then it’s worth checking out. It was for this reason that I always preferred the classic Palermo classic El Preferido over it’s brighter, shinier neighbor ArtX3. The first thing ArtX3 had going against it was attractive and colorful exterior and it’s hip name, smacking of coolness, didn’t help at all. But the kicker for me was that it portended to be a Mexican restaurant which has got to be a lie.

It’s an accepted lie. While the concept of Mexican food sells, I don’t think most Porteños would want to eat it. As a culture, Argentines have a love of new cuisine that is unmatched except possibly by Nebraskans and folks from the Midwest of the USA. Restaurants here probably weigh serving hot sauce with the real possibility of a lawsuit. No worries cause most people don’t know (and aren’t interested) in what it is. Instead Mexican restaurants seem to copy the pictures they’ve seen in travel brochures. White creamy stuff? Must be Mendicrim! I can’t complain – it’s not like real Mexicans eat cheddar like we eat in our Texmex.

But I digress about these silly stereotypes of mine. The point is that for all these completely superficial reasons I avoided ArtX3 until one day the prices went up at El Preferido. Desperate to find cheaper lunch options, I noticed ArtX3’s lunch specials along and discovered a very interesting part of Porteño culture.

Now I’ve said that this is a Mexican food restaurant. However, knowing that no one actually WANTS Mexican food for lunch, the place drops the facade and serves up cheap and delicious Argentine fare to a crowd of mostly school children. The restaurant’s philosophy must be that Mexican food is nice and all but real human beings have to eat real food. And Argentine sensibility dictates that real food is Milanesa (chicken fried steak) with cheese and french fries, spaghetti, empanadas, or anything else that every other restaurant serves. Luckily I love these “stick to your ribs” dishes; they remind me of my mom’s cooking before she became vegetarian.

I have never tried the Mexican food at ArtX3 but the real food is excellent, especially for the price. A solid estofada con pure (meat and potatoes) will set you back 7.50 pesos. Another really wonderful part about this restaurant is that the waiter/owner has zero problem bringing me tap water with every meal without the typical judgmental sideways glance. Now that I’ve been coming in for awhile I get it without asking.

It may be bright and shiny but I recommend this place it to anyone who likes regular Argentine food and eats lunch in Palermo Viejo. Just remember to order the lunch specials – everyone else does.

What they do back home

Every expat wants to know what’s happening back in their home country. My home country? Well…

USA! USA! This guy is from Brooklyn (not Japan as the label says):

Cookie Monster + Cookie Hero = Cookie Contest

Today Buenos Aires has born witness to a Cookie Monster who was apparently left uninvited to Frank’s delectable invite. However, our top investigators (me) have now discovered the true nature of the beast.

Has Frank always been a Cookie Monster? Is it a sinister Mr. Hyde type character who comes out when the moon looks most like a round, unbitten cookie? Has Frank dabbled in the science of cookies too long and fallen prey to his own visionary yet immoral cookie experiments?

A shocked community asks in one united voice: WHO CAN SAVE US? One stands apart from the rest. He is Exnat, the Cookie Hero. He faces the Monster, challenging him to a COOKIE EATING CONTEST.

Is the MONSTER in hot milk or will Exnat’s eyes prove bigger than his cookie stomache?

Which expat are you?

HAY UNA SALIDA

THERE IS A WAY OUT

[NOTE: This this the original post. The updated list is here.]

Ok, so you’ve decided to move to a place without immigrating. You must be one of the following:

Escaping the past

Drugs, heartbreaks, failures, deaths? Leave it all behind and don’t look back. If you’re in a rut, a hole, a mire, join this group of expats who escape the black hole that was into the future of never ending possibilities. Careful though, some of those things you thought you were leaving behind just might be you.

Escaping the future

Running from the rat race, fleeing responsibility, and putting tough decisions on hold in a world of sleeping beauty they enter timeless expat-dom, the kingdom of eternal youth and no cares. Here your language skills that everyone had back home guarantee you a living wage. A little extra effort gives you a career. Sure you get paid in “monopoly money” but what this expat really wants is some space to “figure it all out.”

Working on a project

These expats save up enough to live in the former colonies without working so they can use their time to finally write that book, that masterpiece, that itch that they’ve been meaning to scratch.

Globalization

Everyone needs English. And you don’t need a degree to teach English in a foreign country you only need, well, English. Also someone has to be managers to all those American companies that are moving down South in the giant sucking sound that is the global market. Moving to another (read: 3rd world) gives a lot oppurtunities that you could never get back home. Are you making lots of money in local currency or next to nothing in dollars? No need to bother thinking about it when you’re so busy filling up your CV (international talk for resume) with goodies.

Corporate Transfer

As far as this guy is concerned he’s still in the states. Small things have changed for him like Cokes come in 1.5 liters or 2.5 liters instead of 2 liters but the rest is the same. After a year he has found no need to expand his 100 word vocabulary, the accent of which makes you cringe.

Important note: This is a pure stereotype of mine. I know no one like this.

Learn the language/dance/music/culture/etc.

Definitely the most fun, interesting, and knowledgeable, this expat generally hangs out with the “locals” and pays local prices too. They have a huge advantage over other expats in this because they immediately make local friends through their interests without trying. Other expats have to wrack their brains wondering if they like chess enough to join the chess club, etc. This expat type rarely sticks around too long before moving onto the next chapter in the story of their life.

Retired

This isn’t so much a type of expat as an attribute of any of the above groups. If this is the only attribute you have then I certainly not met you yet. Most retired expats have at least church meetings to go to. They generally hang out with 100% expats. But usually they’re taking classes, doing self exploration, or working on a project of some kind. Only back home do people just retire and do nothing.

Kicking Around

These are backpackers with fear of the road, they travel without moving. Were they travelling too long and just got tired and/or lonely? Did they really want to hit the road but never had the guts to start? Whether they’re living on their parents wallet and just jolling around, they’re close cousins of the future escapists. The big difference is that instead of escaping, they’re living in the present, without a care in the world except which party to go to next and where to find peanut butter.

Did I mistake or leave out your favorite expat? Make my list complete by adding your thoughts in the comments section and I’ll add it to the permenant list.