One notable difference from U.S. culture is Argentinos frequent use of hugs and kisses (abrazos y besos).  There are many pros and cons of this type of more “hands on” culture, but it seems to me that the custom of hugging children is one that should be imitated.

Our children have really enjoyed getting hugged by their teachers, coaches and frankly everyone they meet. It is a gesture that immediately provides kids with a feeling of warmth and acceptance.  Today, Jake had basketball at the local sports club and I could see how impactful a big hug from his coach was in getting him comfortable playing in a new environment.

I can imagine the howls of the fear brigade trying to protect our kids from illicit touching, but our no hugging culture seems to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Clearly reasonable boundaries are appropriate, but to me it seems like more hugging of children would be a good thing.


Turning the corner

This week was a game changer, although it certainly didn’t start out that way.  On Monday Jake acted sick enough that we actually let him stay home from school.  while he was certainly under the weather, we suspect that had there been a baseball game to attend, he would have summoned the strength to power through.  His acting prowess turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we forced him to stay in his room all day with no TV or video games.   Unsurprisingly, Jake discovered that sitting home alone wasn’t much fun and as a result he seemed almost eager to go to school.

Tuesday Jake and Ted went to the ministry of education so that Jake could take the test that would allow him to be formally promoted to the second grade.  It seemed quite strange to be giving a test of any consequence to a 6 year old. It took three people to administer the test and afterwards, they took 15 minutes to meet and confer in order to arrive at the weighty conclusion that Jake did indeed belong in the second grade.  A very unusual system.  Regardless, we were quire proud of him and the school gave him a little certificate to mark his accomplishment so another notch on Jake’s belt to boost his confidence.

On Wednesday Jake had his first visit with a friend from school.  Camilla lived in Miami and is fluent in English so she and Jake have become fast friends.

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Looks like fun

Perhaps it was the combination of spending a full day locked in his room and a fun time with his friends, but by the end of the day Thursday, Jake even admitted that school was “pretty fun.”  Great progress!

Since Jake was promoted to second grade, naturally  we needed to celebrate as well, so we had dinner at Osaka.  We showed up at 8:45 with no reservation, so our slow movement toward  becoming Argentinos continues .

Michele also attended parents night this week for both Kate and Jake’s class.  One observation is that the parents seem to be the same here as in Palo Alto.  Some are super involved with the kids, some just want to gossip.  Some are dressed to the nines, while others show up in sweatpants.  Additionally, the parents from the school have been so incredibly welcoming and inviting.  Parents from both classes are scheduled to have welcome dinners for our family.

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Parents night                                           Yay 4th grade!

Meanwhile on Thursday we were invited to our first Argentine dinner party.  Our host was the sister of a friend of our friend Scott Darling so it wasn’t exactly a close connection.  It was even more random, because we were invited to the home of the mother of the sister of the friend of Scott’s.  In any event, these nice people welcomed us into their home and told us many things about Argentina and it’s people and culture.  The generosity and openness we have encountered has just been amazing.  We are both resolved to imitate it more in our daily lives.

Now THAT’S What I’m Talking About

This weekend we had our first “vacation” of our adventure.  We travelled to El Calafate a town in the southern Patagonia region of the country and it was, SPECTACULAR.

That's a keeper

Official Trip Photo!

We knew the place was special when we landed.

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The view from the airport

We then went off to Estancia Nibepo Aike, which is in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, a working sheep and cattle farm.  The lodgings were rustic (Michele’s version of camping). but the views were amazing.  The kids spent their time chasing sheep 

Michele and the kids try to wrangle up some sheep



This is how the experts do it

riding horses

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and skipping stones in the lake.

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The views were simply spectacular.

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The next day we took a tour of the Perito Moreno Glacier which was the highlight of the trip thus far.  The Glacier is roughly 100 square miles of ice.  At the face of the glacier it is 270 feet from top to bottom.  We first toured in a boat.

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Even Flat Stanley got into the act

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After the boat tour, we took a break for lunch, the best picnic spot ever on the opposite side of the glacier (south face).2015-03-21 13.01.02

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After lunch walk

After lunch we took a hike to see the Glacier from yet a third side which was equally spectacular.  Particular amazing was when a piece of the glacier would calve (break off).  First there is a sound of the ice breaking off followed by a pause while the chunk of ice plummets to the water followed by a loud BOOM when it splashes into the water.  We saw a number of these events and it was truly magical.

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This was a remarkable experience, not to be missed.  We then headed off to the town of El Calafate, which is a quaint tourist town that serves as a jumping off point for many local expeditions.  We stayed at Los Sauces, which we understand is owned by the President of Argentina.  It was a perfectly lovely place and the staff was very helpful and courteous. We had icecream at the famed Las Ovejitas (delicious, try the Calafate flavor) and then dinner at La Lechuna Pizza, both of which were great and, importantly we are continuing our healthy eating habits while abroad.

The next day we went on a fishing expedition with Calafate Fishing.  It was a true test of our spanish language skills!  Our guides Maxi and Frederico were great.  The setting was simply spectacular.

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The fish weren’t the giants that Ted was hoping for, but someone was pretty happy with the results.

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That night we had a proper dinner at La Tablita, a well run little parilla just outside of the main part of town.  The kids were exhausted from a couple of long days, but were magically rejuvenated when ice cream came into the picture at the meal’s end.  After a good night’s rest, we went to visit the Glacarium, a little museum about glaciers (duh) on the outskirts of town.

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Even the museums have a great views!

 We followed that up with another healthy lunch of pizza and empanadas at Casablanca and then flew back home.  A wonderful trip and great energizer for the whole family.