Argentina 2, Day 24 – settling in

Seems we’re getting used to a daily routine here. I remember reading somewhere that most habits and routines (exercising, stopping nail biting, flossing, etc.) are more likely to “stick” after a period of 3 weeks. That is, if you can manage to do something for a steady 3 weeks, you reach some tipping point and you’re less likely to stop. Of course, there’s a world of 2-week quitters walking around out there…

So, we made it to through week 3 without leaving. At this point Julia’s the only one who complains, loudly and daily, about being here. She’ll be 10 on Friday and dearly wishes to be in California, or Vermont, with friends, to celebrate her birthday. She doesn’t like sharing a tiny room with her brother. She’s earned the unfortunate title of “Most Likely to be Bitten by Mosquitoes” and re-earns it daily. She’s increasingly frustrated at not being able to communicate – with any fluency – with her classmates. The names of objects and basic verbs are the first elements we learn in foreign languages, and these are inadequate when it comes to discussing nuanced, emotionally-laden, pre-adolescent topics on the playground. Chris and I joke about measuring these life experiences in “couch hours” (i.e., how many hours of psychotherapy on a couch will the person require later in life to recover from a given experience). Julia’s estimate? Immeasurable. Our estimate? I’m banking on zero, but ask us again in a few years.

Otherwise, activities of daily life continue. We don’t have a car here, so all outings require planning and time. We know our immediate neighborhood well. Eric and Julia even went solo on Sunday morning to get bread at the bakery (un kilo de pan, por favor). Fresh from the oven and pennies per serving. Within a 4-block radius we have the laundry place, the pharmacy, the fruit/vegetable store, the meat store, the chicken store (apart from big supermarkets, smaller shops specialize in either cow or chicken and never the twain shall meet), multiple bakeries and ice cream shops, and the cheese/cold cuts store. Cold cuts are fiambres in Spanish. Chris also learned recently that the word fiambre is slang for stiff, as in a cadaver. Yum. With a few more blocks, we can also get to the school supply store, the florist, the bookstore, the hardware store, the bank, the train and bus stations, and a dentist (a very nice woman whom Eric saw yesterday for a problem tooth).

It was dark when we walked home from the dentist, since the appointment had been for 6:30 pm. On the walk home we talked about why 6:30 pm is a totally normal time for Argentines to go to the dentist (the waiting room was packed when we left), the amount she charged us (70 pesos for an hour-long exam including a cleaning, a flouride treatment, a tiny x-ray, and a lesson on proper flossing techniques), why that still would be very expensive for Argentines, how much that would cost in US dollars (about $22), why that kind of appointment would have cost much more in the States, why we couldn’t afford to live here – in anything approaching the lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed – if we weren’t paid in US dollars, and why if we got regular Argentine jobs here, we wouldn’t be paid in US dollars. It takes about 25 minutes to walk home from the dentist, long enough for meaningful conversations. Especially now that we know which houses have the really scary barking dogs that we have to avoid.

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