El primero dia

Today was our first full day in Buenos Aires and it was a great start to our adventure.  We did entirely mundane things, but each of those things presented cultural and language challenges.  Michele figured out how to order her special coffee drink in Spanish


(Look familiar?)

I managed to purchase some time for my cell phone which required me to recite my cell phone number in Spanish.

We had an interesting encounter when we went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of things for delivery. It turns out that the “welcome” package we had received earlier in the day from our relocation service, was in fact a package intended for the apartment next door.  While we sat at home and waited, the grocery store was unwilling to deliver our groceries until we returned the errant package.  We had to first convince them that we weren’t grocery thieves before they would make our delivery.  This problem would have been challenging enough in English, but in Spanish it was down right comical.

Best part of the day was we had a proper Argentine lunch.  It started at 1:30 lasted about 2 hours, began with an appertif, involved a full bottle of wine and multiple courses and was down right delicious.  We ate at La Parolaccia, (Av Cervino 3561) which is a lovely Italian place a couple of blocks from our apartment.  The family sitting next to us was there when we arrived and was still there when we left so we still have much to learn

We have further adjusted to the Argentine schedule by having dinner at Akira Nikkei (Cavia 3090) at 9:30 pm with our children.  When we wrapped up around 11 pm, there were still families with children on their way in!

We are still feeling a little lost and disoriented.  Moving to a new house is hard because every little thing needs to get fixed. Moving to a new area is hard because you don’t know where to go for the basics (dinner, shopping, shoe repair).  Moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language is hard for obvious reasons.  Doing all three things at once, well, let’s just say it’s an experience.  We are loving every second of it!

Making friends

We believe that the sooner our kids make friends here in Argentina, the better.  As entertaining as we are, the kids are happier with other kids.  On our second day, we wandered around a local park (Plaza Alemania) and had our first success in this area.  Unsurprisingly, Kate led the way in this regard.  We were no more than 10 feet into the park before Kate had found some playmates.  The kids spoke only in Spanish and when I asked Kate afterwards what they talked about she said “I don’t know.”  Not sure whether that is the classic “I don’t know” meaning “I don’t want to tell you” or an actual “I don’t know” but either way, we were thrilled.

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Kate on the run

Predictably Jake took a little longer to get going.  We happened upon a full on soccer (futbol) game. Jake was wearing a jersey of a local soccer club (Boca Juniors) so naturally the other kids asked him to play.  He refused of course.  After numerous methodologies of coaxing him to play (including Michele bravely taking a stab at playing with heels on), he finally took the field and acquitted himself quite well.  The high point of our trip to date.

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Jake showing them how we do in the 650

After the games had wrapped up, we quenched our thirst in a proper Argentine manner at a cafe for an hour.  I then met up with the CEO of an Argentine company I’m involved with (www.satellogic.com/) and then went home to watch the Boca Juniors 3-1 victory over Olivas.  A local seafood place (Nemo) for dinner at 9:00pm and then back home.  We are starting to go native.  Now if we could only learn to speak Spanish….

Stormy weather

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The view from my office in BA.

We want to ensure that this blog doesn’t give the Facebook version of our trip (i.e. only the good stuff) so we think it’s important to tell about some of the difficulties we have encountered.

Last night after we put the kids to bed, we heard Kate sobbing.  We went to see what was the matter and she was beside herself crying “I’m so homesick.  I miss my friends. I miss my house and my room and Oakley.  I know this is a big adventure but I’m just so sad.” it was heartbreaking.  When I tried to lighten the mood, Kate even swore that she missed Sunday School and practicing her piano! (If only I had recorded that).  After some hugs and a couple of stories she was back to her normal self but it was a difficult moment.

We’ve also had some, how shall we say, digestive issues caused by a local fish house (Nemo on Cabello).  Last night we waited two hours for our sushi delivery and what we received was more appropriate for a cat than a person (Itame on Salguero).  My IT equipment has failed along multiple dimensions and doing work has proven more difficult than I had planned.  Perhaps most difficult is just feeling overwhelmed.  We have so much to do (getting the house set up, school interviews, hiring help for various issues around the house) that it feels like we are wrestling an octopus. (The fact that these are first world problems is duly noted).

We are , however, philosophical about all of these little bumps in the road.  Everything at home ran smoothly, ironed out after many years of getting things just right.  Learning to absorb these little inconveniences with a smile is an important part of this journey and is part of the growth experience that we desire for our family.

At the Estancia

After a week of settling in and handling mundane tasks like shopping for school uniforms, we were excited for our first “mini adventure” a visit to La Sofia Estancia.  Estancia in Argentina is best translated as ranch and there are both working estancias and tourist estancias for folks like us (and even locals) to go for the weekend and unwind.

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Kate and Jake were pretty excited about going.

At the tourist estancias, they feed you well and promptly after we arrived around 1pm we were greeted with a feast of traditional asado (barbecue) from the parilla (grill).

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Asado is a multi-course carnivores delight consisting of various types of sausage, including my favorite morcilla, ribs, flank steak, pork and every other possible animal part you could considering throwing on a grill.  After a few hours to digest, we went on our first ride.  As a suburban kid from New Jersey, I’m naturally an extraordinarily talented equestrian and feel right at home on a horse.

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Definitely my new Facebook profile picture.

Fortunately, my kids have had a bit more exposure to the equestrian world.  Kate has been taking riding lessons for a couple of years and is very comfortable on a horse and Jake has been on a couple of rides before so he was game as well.  They had a great time riding around in the wide open fields.

Off they go

Kate’s favorite thing was that she was able easily outrun her Dad.

The audio at the end is worth a listen

Well, that and the fact that we found a frog in the swimming pool.  That was another highlight.

One of the special things about La Sofia is that, the owners use it as a place to train polo horses.  As a result, the animals we were riding were simply magnificent.  It’s a bit like asking a beginner to play on a Steinway grand piano, but even we could appreciate what amazing animals we were riding.  We even got a little polo lesson.  It’s pretty tricky but after a while we got the hang of it.

I really hope she doesn’t end up wanting to play this game

Overall, it was a terrific weekend get away.  Just being in such a beautiful and peaceful place was just what we needed after a couple of hectic weeks of moving and getting settled.

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It felt odd coming back “home” to our apartment, but we are all happy to be back and preparing for the first day of school tomorrow.

“The first days are the hardest days”

We try not to be the type of obnoxious parents that are always bragging about how great their kids are,  in this post however, we are throwing that rule right out the window.

Today was Kate’s first day at Belgrano Day School and the first day of school overall since the school year begins in February here in Buenos Aires.  The first day of school can be a tough day for lots of kids  and the first day at a new school can be particularly daunting.  Facing the first day at a new school in a new country where you really don’t speak the language, well that’s just a lot to ask from a 9 year old.  But that’s exactly what Kate did today.

The day started promptly at 8:00 am.  We walked with Kate through a large assembly, where parents and students were gathering to begin the new year. Kate lined up at the place assigned to her section with her brand new classmates and immediately began talking to someone.  “I’ve got a new friend,” she whispered to us discretely, before returning to her conversation.  When the assembly ended, Kate waived good bye to us and marched off with her classmates to begin the day.

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Kate in her uniform, ready to go!

By the time Michele picked her up at 4:00 pm Kate was pretty well tuckered out.  We’ve learned that the day wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns and that there were some difficult moments.  To be expected.  The important thing is that she got through it and we consider this to be a great start.

At the initial school assembly, the positively wonderful Headmistress of the Primary School, Andrea Pelliccia, told the kids,        “[t]he one thing we ask, is that you do your best.”  That’s what Kate did today and we could not be prouder.

Positive vibrations

Tuesday was Jake’s first day of school and he did great.  Everything we said about Kate in the previous post, applies equally to Jake.  It wasn’t easy, but he made it through the day and we couldn’t be prouder.

One of the tactics we employed involved the power of positive thinking.  Specifically, we gave Jake a positive phrase for him to say to put himself in a good frame of mind about the upcoming challenge.  This video shows how it worked

Si se puede!

Jake repeated this phrase to me approximately 300 times and I think it really worked.  It also gave him a way adjust his frame of mind when things were going badly during the day.  It’s not a panacea but it was useful.

Michele and I also had an interesting day fighting our way through the bowels of the Argentine bureaucracy, attempting to get some documentation for the kids’ school.  It was truly daunting and left us with a particular appreciation for American efficiency.  The Argentine system makes the DMV seem like calling an Uber!

Today I had my first lunch time empanada feast at Doña Eulogia (Castex 3425).   Who knew you could cram so much deliciousness into a little meat pie?  Out of this world.  It will certainly not be my last visit.

This afternoon the kids came home with, dare I say, a little spring in their step.  Kate enjoyed playing her new sport, field hockey, and Jake had to admit that he kind of enjoyed school.

Solid day today.  We are starting to get the hang of this.

La cultura

One of the nice things about our trip is that we are not only living in another country but we have also exchanged our suburban life for life in a big city.  We love living in Palo Alto for many reasons, but urban life certainly has it’s advantages.  This weekend we began to enjoy them.

On Saturday morning, Jake and I played a rousing game of futbol in the park next to our hotel.  Afterwards, the entire family visited Malba which is literally next door to our apartment building.  The Malba is a spectacular museum featuring numerous Latin American artists.  We were fortunate to see the amazing works of Antonio Berni whose paintings are on special exhibit this month

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From the special exhibit.

The permanent collection contains work from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and a host of other  prominent artists.  It is a gem of a museum and one that we look forward to visiting many more times.

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Frida self portrait

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Che what’s up?

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Berni from the permanent collection.

After touring the museum we walked down toward the center of town where we passed, the United Nations Plaza with the famous flower statute (the pedals open and close each day)

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Got it

and the classic Greek architecture of Buenos Aires University, which deserves its own Rocky statue.

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Gonna fly now!

We then visited El Museo Participativo De Ciencias a children’s museum where it the kids are not allowed NOT to touch.  It’s science and technology similar to the Children’s Discovery Museum and San Jose.

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Probihido NO tocar

After a day of kids’ type events, Michele and I managed our first night out without them.  We are doing our best to adjust to the Buenos Aires lifestyle so we decided to start the night with a cocktail at 8 and then go to dinner at 9.  Well when we stopped into Caracas, a cute little spot in trendy Palermo Soho, it was just us and the bartender.  I tried to acclimate myself by ordering the Argentinian aperitif Frenet Branca.  It tasted like a cross between Jagermeister and dishwasher detergent, but I finished it so as not to look bad.  We then had an amazing dinner at Unik though at 9:00 the only people in the restaurant were us and 4 Chinese tourists and the staff spoke English to us as soon as we walked in the door.  Our meal was lovely (particularly Michele’s egg appetizer) and we look forward to visiting again.  By the time we left at 11, the restaurant was starting to get going.  Not sure if we will ever make this adjustment.

Today we were invited to yet another Asado in the suburbs.  The Argentines have been so warm and welcoming to us, and it has made us consider how we can be more kind and inviting to strangers when they move to our community.

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After the required post Asado nap we finished the day watching from our balcony where we could see Ringo Star (of all people) and his band playing to an outdoor concert.

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The view from our apartment

A nice urban weekend.  Looking forward to many more.

4 meals a day

One thing that Michele and I had been struggling to figure out is how the Argentines can eat dinner so late.  I get so damn hungry by 7:30, that I’m ready to eat my arm.  However, when we showed up 10 minutes after  our 8:30 dinner reservation last night at Bernata, they had yet to open the doors of the restaurant!

The secret is the the merienda a meal which the Argentinos eat between lunch and dinner (around 5:00). This meal usually consists of tea and some type of bread type dish (Michele prefers cookies). It is particularly useful to soothe the savage beasts (aka our children) when they come home after school at 4:30.

Now we need to figure out how the Argentines seem so skinny despite eating four meals a day.  One thing is for sure, we are not shopping here:

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La semana posada

A report from week #3.  First,we had some genuine sickness as everyone but Ted ended up spending some time worshipping the porcelain altar.  Second, Jake got promoted to second grade.  This was met with, how shall we say, mild degrees of enthusiasm.  Jake conceded that he now hates school less, but still doesn’t like it.

A bit of insight into our schedule.  A cab picks us up at 7:30 to drive us to school.

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School, yay!

The first two weeks the drive to school was only about 15-20 minutes so we thought this would be a piece of cake.  Apparently, however, our school opened two weeks early.  Now that the other schools have started and the city is back in full swing after February (their summer) ended, it is 25-30 minutes each way.

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Mucho traffico

After our first full week at school, we figured it would be good to celebrate with a nice Friday night family dinner.  We fed the kids an early evening snack to tide them over until dinner time while the adults leisurely sipped wine and had a little bite on our patio overlooking Buenos Aires.  We then strolled over to nearby Bella Italia Grille (3706 Segui) to have a proper dinner at the Argentine hour of 8:45.  What could possibly go wrong?

Total kid meltdown.  Jake was basically asleep face down in his pasta while Kate was demanding that we take a cab for the 8 block journey back to our house. We scarfed down what was otherwise a lovely dinner, stuck the cork in the wine bottle and left.  In the midst of this mayhem around 9:45 another couple walked in with kids who couldn’t have been more than 3 and 5 years old to begin their meal.  So we are still trying to get the hang of this whole Argentine eating thing.

The rest of the fin de semana (weekend) was much better as we went to a terrific estancia, La Estancia Candelaria del Monte.  The place is quaint and rustic, but what really set it apart was the amazing service.  Incredibly hospitable staff who made us feel at home and really tailored the experience for us.

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Horsing around

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The kids particularly loved the various dogs and cats that were running loose around the property.  There was some movement to take Salt and Pepper (the two 3 month old kittens) back with us to BA, but luckily cooler heads prevailed.  These dogs followed us around wherever we went (you can see them in front of Michele and Kate in the video below)

Happy Trails!

The horseback riding was particularly fun here because the Estancia is a working farm.  The owner, Sebastian, let us practice our riding by rounding up some cattle and herding them from one side of the pasture to the other.  Kate was particularly enthusiastic about hooting at the cows using a sound that is best written as “Oogah! Oogah!” but uttered in a low grunting tone.  This was a great family activity as it required coordination amongst all the riders to keep the cattle moving in the proper direction.

We also had some time for some horsing around in the pool


Though perhaps upon viewing this video it seems that papa needs to layoff the empanadas.  As an homage to the gauchos we rode with Ted has added something to his fashion repertoire.  Palo Alto friends should brace themselves to see this around town soon.

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Muy guapo

Hasta pronto!

Una mes

A full one month into our journey, we feel good about what we’ve accomplished.  The initial period of the trip is really about laying a foundation upon which the rest of the adventure can be built.  While we certainly have had a number of fun experiences, we believe the best is yet to come.

Kate continues to amaze us with her attitude.  Today was “family day” for her school where the families go out to the sports fields and watch the kids from third grade and up play (sorry Jake).

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Kate playing “hockey” as they call it here

Mad skills

Watching Kate take directions in Spanish, at least half of which she cannot understand, has given us a new appreciation for how difficult this transition is.  Kate seems to be taking it all in stride, managing to understand enough to get by without being concerned about what she can’t understand.  Amazing.

Jake is also making progress.  Thursday was really a turning point for him where he had a good day at school and played with a bunch of different kids.  He is still tentative and a bit unwilling to reach out to people he doesn’t know, but he has made significant strides and we think he’s turned the corner.  In a way, we think the difficulties he is having will make this trip a more valuable experience for him.

Nerd parents in Argentina also fly drones

Michele and Ted have also had an interesting week.  On Monday, Ted went and visited Noah Mamet, the U.S. Ambassador at his home in the Bosh Palace.  It was fascinating to hear about  the many tasks that the ambassador has on his plate.  It’s quite a job.


Our Ambassadors home in Buneos Aires.  Nice Digs!

On Tuesday Ted went to visit some folks at Globant an Argentine technology company that recently had its IPO on the NYSE. On Thursday we had our first tennis lesson at Club De Amigos.  Unfortunately a new language does not magically transform our tennis game, but we had fun and are looking forward to playing more regularly.  After tennis, we had a nice lunch at trendy Casa Cavia which was good fun.  Ted was very jealous of Michele’s wine, but he had to go to work (which began after lunch since California is now 4 hours behind). On Friday, Michele started a new series of Spanish lessons, while Ted hobnobbed over lunch with the local VCs from Kaszek ventures.  Ted has been using every taxi cab ride as an impromptu Spanish lesson much to the delight/alarm of the local drivers, but he intends to join Michele for more formal instruction.

One interesting learning is the impact of the various import restrictions and duties on the Argentine people.  It is very difficult to get certain goods here.  The electronics are at least 5 years behind the US and the prices are extraordinarily high.  It’s one thing to understand the theory behind trade barriers, but to see it how they function in the real world is eye opening.

One cultural difference we’ve observed is how closely connected people are with one another here.  At home in the States, it seems that friendships are secondary obligations that people fill in after work and family matters are addressed.  Here it seems that friendships are on equal footing with work and family and that social circles are more tightly and frequently connected.  For example, the parents of kids in Kate’s class have a chat group in WhatsApp that routinely gets over 100 messages a day. These folks are consistently together, in person or remotely.   My new friend Morgan Friedman contends that there is a tradeoff between effectiveness and maintaining this connectedness and he wants to bridge both worlds. It’s too early for us to have any such observations, but it does seem to be a delightful part of Argentine life.