Category Archives: family and friends

Argentina 2, Day 68 – Handfuls of Homespun Haiku

Barking dog chorus
One escape triggers the rest
There will be no peace

Eight invitations
Parade of birthday parties
Almost every week

Ants dig towards the light
Build a little mound of dirt
On the bathroom grate

Frutería man
Sings his favorite songs each day
From the hit show Grease

School bus late again
Flat tires leaking windows
Sixteen kids in van

Points of View

This morning as he was getting ready for school, Eric said, “I love living here. It’s like being at an awesome camp where you speak a foreign language.”

My quixotic yet fickle child. Just yesterday he was part of the chorus shouting, “Get us out of here!”

Argentina 2, Day 66 – Lousy Days

It’s really only funny in hindsight, the three weeks that the younger kids had head lice. From April 24 through some day last week, we spent a LOT of time checking, washing, combing, conditioning, removing. Julia has LOTS of hair. Some days I was resigned and stoic, other days fuming with frustration. Especially annoying was not to have a washer/dryer here at home to easily cleanse any of the peripherally contaminated items, so we had to do lots of extra hand-washing and trips to the laundromat. And our kids weren’t the only ones last month: their school held two “campañas” (campaigns) of checking to battle the uprising. The only other time they’ve had lice? During Argentina 1 in 2003. I know these infestations are world-wide, I know the bugs are indiscriminate to race, gender, ancestry, language, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation. I know there are families in Redlands dealing with this. All I know is I’ll always associate private schools in Argentina with head lice.


Somehow, Chris, Emily and I managed to stay bug-free. Thanks for small favors.
On Day 1 of the onslaught, we went to the local pharmacy and invested in their top-of-the-line, super-duper, deluxe, imported from Europe (so it must be good), nit-picking comb, named the Assy 2000. For obvious reasons this was the (sole) source of great amusement we associate with the situation. Though I still snicker at remembering Eric’s pronouncements that “Today is an Assy Day,” and my visions of little lice flying out of their hair on their Harry-Potteresque-Nimbus 2000 comb, we’re just glad it’s all over. Nothing new for over a week, and constant vigilance will allow us to return to California nit-free. But if our kids have shaved-heads next time you see us, you’ll know why.


A somewhat frustrating week of dealing with the asynchronous orbits of life. Parenting, partnering, household managing, writing as a geographer, preparing data for classes I’ll teach in September. Meanwhile every time some natural disaster occurs, like earthquakes that bury children or cyclones that swamp them, I wonder again why I’m not using my mapping skills for humanitarian work (instead of a life teaching privileged students in higher education). You might say that I’m teaching them so that they can go out and do good deeds themselves, but sometimes I don’t want to be once-removed from a real and pressing need.

Yesterday at Colegio Patris the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders hosted an all-day sports tournament with three of the other local private schools. It’s part of Patris’s celebration of their 10th anniversary. So for hours Eric played rounds of soccer and Julia played rounds of field hockey. By the time I arrived in mid-afternoon I’d missed all of Julia’s games, but others told me she played extremely well. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that she towers over her diminutive, younger peers. She now wants to play field hockey when she returns to the States, something that would be a matter of course in New England, but not so easy in Southern California. Eric’s 5th grade team also made it to the championship round but they lost in the last few moments. I got to hear the girls in his class chanting his name, which sounds like “Aihr-Reek.”

Two weeks and counting …

Living with Less – Guest Post by Chris Sinton

As a faculty member of an environmental studies program, I really need to “practicar lo que sermonear.” Our stay in City Bell has given us a chance or, more accurately, has forced us to live with a lower environmental impact. As I ask my students “what is the minimum amount of material and energy we can use and still live a safe, healthy, and happy life?” Ok, it is hard to measure the happiness part but we are relatively safe and certainly well-fed. A note on feeding: the children like to point out that I am growing at least one more chin. Maybe I will grow back my beard and hide my new collection.

In the US we have: two cars, many bikes, washer/dryer, fancy stove/oven, dishwasher, microwave, large refrigerator, assorted mixers and blenders, electric knife sharpener, central air/heat, and lots of other goodies. Here, we have a TV, an ancient fridge, a dinky stove/oven, a fraction of the pots and pans, and a quarter of the clothes we own. [We do have our computers]. It is like being in a camping cabin for three months.

How can we survive? Life without a car works because we can easily walk to get groceries, ice cream, soccer balls, etc. To get to work, I either pick up a bus near the house or, more often, walk twenty minutes to catch a bus on the main road (Camino Centenario). Total bus trip is 10-20 minutes. Eric and Julia take an overcrowded minibus to and from school. If we need to get somewhere with Emily, we take a taxi. To transport the entire family, we need two taxis (hassle but workable).

While we have reduced our transportation impact, I am not so sure about the house. The house is uninsulated and the fridge runs most of the time. A rolled up towel keeps out the draft from the gap under the front door.

On the stuff side, we get by with what we have. We do miss some of our appliances and certainly a car, but that is mostly when we need to get Emily somewhere. Most of our food seems to come locally, although bananas still come from Ecuador and other fruits from the western side of the country.

OK, lesson learned. We can get by with less. Can we go home now and fire up the big gas grill?

Chinese Jump Rope

Chinese Jump Rope

Guest Post by Julia I. Sinton


Since our school has no playground and not very much space to run around the kids need something to do during a total of an hour worth of recess. The boys usually take up the little space to play soccer but mostly the girls don’t really want to play soccer on the muddy grass. So the girls now jump rope or Chinese jump rope. If you want to play any of these you have to bring your own ball or rope. I decided to do Chinese Jump rope rather than plain jump rope. After learning the rules and getting pretty good at it I got my own rope for less than one dollar. Now I can practice at home and at school. I taught Eric and my Mom how to do it although my mom likes just holding the rope rather than jumping!

Here are the steps:
First you jump on one of the sides, then the other side.
Next you jump into the middle.
Then you jump outside then jump on both sides.
That was just ankles, now you have to repeat the same except its at knee height and then waist height.

Day in Buenos Aires, Tierra Santa




Our next and final stop was Tierra Santa, a Holy Land theme park smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s located RIGHT next to the small, domestic airport so I’ve been intrigued each time I fly over and see it from the air. All I knew by reputation was that a large Jesus emerged from the mountain-side. A must see.


Rachel thought so too, and accompanied by Max and Luca in their double-stroller, we were the gentiles with wheels. The boys enjoyed the multitudes of small (plaster) animals all around, and the planes roaring overhead.


A very interesting place to visit. Might have been better if we’d known all the biblical stories, but maybe not. I’ll let the pictures tell the story (note the one of Emily and others welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem). They’ve done a great job at being diverse – there was also a mosque, a synagogue, a tribute to Gandhi, and some Buddhas for sale at the gift shop. We came home with fun memories, lots of pictures, and a snow globe.


On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Emily swims at a local pool. We chose the hour – noon to 1pm – for its paucity of other visitors. In the hour earlier a group of older woman balance yellow balls over their heads whilst twirling and kicking their legs underwater; Emily was quite relieved that she didn’t have to join them. During Emily’s hour, a few men swim laps in other lanes, but she has the instructor – Dario – all to herself. He’s a charming young man in his mid-20’s who laughs together with Emily over his poor English pronounciation (“kick your legs” comes out more like “kick your lips”); the only English words he knows are swimming-related.

Dario’s with her in the water the whole time, offering suggestions (kick your lips) and guiding her to the edge when she tires. Normally he teaches from pool-side, and the other swimmers at that hour are friends, or acquaintainces, and aren’t accustomed to seeing him in the water. Of course the custom of kissing on the cheek when greeting can’t be overlooked, even if one person is floating in a 2-meter pool and the other person is 2 meters tall and standing on the pool side. And both are men and wearing nothing but speedos. So Dario pushes himself up on the side of the pool, and the other person bends down, and they kiss and greet. Maybe that’s what he means by “kick your lips”?

>yet another nice weekend in Argentina

Since that storm back in March, it’s been sunny and warm, or sunny and cool, but not yet sunny and really too cold, and did I say yet that it just keeps on being sunny? It’s definitely fall (leaves are everywhere, pumpkins are in the markets), and it may be a lot colder soon. Scarves, hats, and mittens are showing up in window displays. But for now we still spend many outdoor afternoons – as long as you bring a sweater along.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Buenos Aires with friends Rachel and Gustavo (and their 3 kids). I dropped off an assortment of my recently-read books for Rachel, including Ann Patchett’s Patron Saint of Liars, Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, Amy Hempel’s Collected Short Stories. Good fiction in English is something we all crave overseas. This winter my sister-in-law Laura introduced me to which works well for learning new titles too.

Soon we were joined by Julia Calhoun and her husband Rod Steel. Julia completes the triumvarate of women who lived together in a cool apartment near Praça de Londres in Lisbon in 1988-1989 (we three were fellow English teachers that year). Julia and Rod live in São Paulo and came down to visit Buenos Aires (and us old friends) for the weekend. Their 2-yr old son Blake stayed in Brazil with his grandparents (and for those of you who scrutinize people’s photos closely, yes, Julia is expecting baby #2!). We didn’t have nearly enough time to catch up as much as I’d wanted to, and I didn’t get to talk with Rod at all about his current documentary project on Santeria. Time for a visit to Brazil …

The truncated afternoon was our fault, we had already made plans for Chris and me to attend a concert of the Nuevo Cuarteto Argentino, playing Mozart and Dvorak in a small performance hall here in City Bell. Fantastic music with lots of “Bravos!” at the end.

off to Mendoza

Last weekend we had two sets of visitors. Elvi came down on Saturday afternoon from Buenos Aires with her sister, Jacqui. On Sunday we were joined by my brother, Kevin Stuart, and his friend Tom Henriksen. Kevin and Tom both live in Los Angeles and have been friends since junior high (i.e., a long time). They’d arrived in Buenos Aires a few days earlier and had already experienced more night life and urban excitement than is even possible down here in tranquil City Bell. Kevin delivered MANY paperback books that I’d ordered for the kids, enough to keep up with their voracious reading habits until we leave, and then after a delicious asado we took off for the airport. Destination: Mendoza, a city on the western edge of the country, up next to the Andes. Mendoza is the center of Argentina’s wine production, with about 70% of the grapes grown in the province. Kevin’s a wine distributor and was interested in seeing what the Argentine fuss was all about. Tom and I were only too happy to accompany him on the journey. And as the kids said, mom was in need of “recharging her batteries.”