Jacarandas

I first encountered Jacaranda trees in Guatemala many years ago, and I find them amazingly beautiful. The color is so gorgeous! In Argentina, they are quite common and Buenos Aires in the spring is filled with them – it is so pretty. Here are a few shots from a bike ride earlier today.

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Two Years in Argentina!

Wow, this is crazy! Today I have now been living in Argentina for two years! Last year I wrote this nice post about my one year anniversary and now it is time for a recap of year two! I like what I wrote last year about changing as a person and I feel that holds true: I am much more calm and confident and feel that there are so many opportunities out there! I am currently considering trying to become a journalist, going back to school, running a bakery…

The last six months have of course been very different from the first 18, since I moved from the country to the city. The best thing has been the feeling of successfully establishing myself professionally and socially in the city, and I am very happy with what I am doing and with some exciting projects in the making. Freelancing and working from home has been the perfect transition to a busy city, and I honestly think I look younger, thanks to enough sleep, a good diet, and exercise! The hotel industry is fantastic but not necessarily conducive to good habits… I have made such good friends and want to say publicly thank you to all the wonderful people I have met here.

One of the biggest changes in this second year is the fact that I have stopped eating meat, which I have written about quite a bit on the blog. At first it was like my body just told me to take a break, it was hardly a conscious choice, but then I started really liking it, and I love learning more about vegetarian cooking, for instance. I eat much healthier than before and I honestly think that eating lots of avocado has been great for my skin. (I sound like a real fanatic!) In this whole time there has only been two times where I saw some meat and wanted to eat it, so even with all the asados here in Argentina it has been very easy to not eat meat. Funny how I ended last year’s anniversary post saying that the meat was actually really good!

A smaller change that is probably only funny to a few people is that I started drinking diet/light sodas. I have been a staunch opponent of diet sodas since the first time I tasted them, but somehow, about a year ago, I started drinking Coca Cola Light from time to time, and now I love Coke Zero. Before, I was quite disciplined about my soda intake (one regular Coke during the work week was my rule) because of the sugar, but now I drink it a lot! Oh well, it is not the worst vice to have.

I have to run now, but wanted to get something up on the actual day. I will edit later with some photos and maybe some more profound musings.

Posted in Buenos Aires, Campo, Daily life, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Personal | 8 Comments

La Feria de Mataderos

P1160217One of the nicest ways to spend a tourist Sunday in Buenos Aires is visiting the Feria de Mataderos, a beautiful fair that takes place in the city but celebrates traditional country culture and traditions. Mataderos is a neighborhood in the western part of the City of Buenos Aires. The fair is very large and you can enjoy a variety of activities:

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Eating: You can buy choripan (sausage sandwiches) and other cuts of meat from many different stalls. Pick the one with the longest line! You can also get many different sweets such as strawberries and other fruits dipped in almíbar (sweet sirup).  There are also some sit down restaurants.

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Shopping: When you first enter the fair, there are stalls selling all sorts of random things: children’s clothes, belts, books, toys. Then you get closer to the main area and it becomes more “serious”: arts and crafts, for instance. Then there is a whole large section dedicated to food stuffs: this is the best part! There are all sorts of sausages and other meats (fiambres), cheeses, fresh bread and pastries, wines, oils, chocolates… It’s really wonderful. P1160143Jineteada: Another street is set up as a horse show, where riders compete in corrida de sortija, a traditional gaucho sport where the riders have to go at full gallop and insert a small piece of twig in a ring suspended about three meters above the ground. This is also fun to watch, although I felt bad for the horses’ feet as they hammered the pavement… There was sand on top of the asphalt but still nothing like out in the country. I totally fell in love with a horse there, I just couldn’t leave him. Beautiful!

P1160174Music and dancing: On the main stage, in front of the original market building that is the heart of the fair, there are shows going on all day, mainly traditional folklore music. In front of the stage people dance and it was so nice to see all the older people dancing for hours.

P1160125How to get there: From Villa Crespo, we took the 55 bus, which starts in Belgrano and passes through Palermo. Very cheap and on a Sunday there was no traffic, so we got there in less than 45 minutes. A taxi would probably have been maybe 150 pesos.

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Random tips for foreigners in Buenos Aires

In my little series on practical information for foreigners wanting to live in Buenos Aires, it is now time for the “doesn’t really fit anywhere else but good to know”-section. Random bits of advice for happy living in this city!

  1. Work from home. Buenos Aires is a wonderful city, but as any large capital there is a lot of traffic. This means that if you can work from home, you will save yourself time and aggravation. I consistently say that public transport is good here, and I really believe that, but it is still nice not to have to be packed together on the Subte every morning.
  2. If you can’t work from home, live close to work. (Both of these points of course require a somewhat perfect world where you can simply decide what you want to do and where housing prices are of no concern!) This way you can walk to work or rely on a short commute. When I lived in DC, I walked to work, it was 35 minutes and a nice stroll. I think anything up to 40-45 minutes is fine, and a 40-minute walk is much less stressful than a half hour bus ride. My favorite thing with walking is that you know exactly how long it will take – traffic doesn’t slow you down.
  3. If you can’t work from home or live close to your work, ride your bike! Buenos Aires has quite a lot of bike lanes now and the network keeps expanding. There are also a few helpful rules in place, for instance, parking garages must keep your bicycle for a very low price.
  4. Avoid the Línea D on the Subte. This is just my personal preference – it seems to be way more packed than any other metro line, and the wagons seem smaller to me. I usually say that rush hour in Buenos Aires is from 15:00 until 20:00 but on the Línea D you might find yourself completely sandwiched in at 11:00 in the morning as well. The reason is of course that it goes through heavily populated areas like Palermo and Belgrano, where there are lots of tall buildings and new ones pop up every day. Sometimes I have taken the Línea D at five or six in the afternoon and once I had to wait until the 3rd train to get on, and this was at the starting point of the line! In the morning, coming into the city, if you live closer in to the city, it is very difficult to get on.
  5. Shop in your small local stores. For some reason, checking out at the super market in Buenos Aires always seems to take longer than necessary, while at my local verdulería or dietética things always move smoothly. I go to the supermarkets sometimes, to stock up on the basics, but usually limit it to once a week. I do, however, usually avoid the Chinese supermarkets, as the ones close to me have high prices and sometimes expired good.
  6. Research restaurants. There are lots of fantastic restaurants in Buenos Aires, but there are also a lot of mediocre ones. Of course we will all stop by random places from time to time, but if you want something special, check out a few reviews or ask your friends for recommendations. I do, however, love the big restaurant on the corner, where everyone in the neighborhood goes, but I love it for the atmosphere, not the food! :)
  7. Smile! As in many big cities, people often hurry along and don’t look all that friendly. Shake it up by smiling! All sorts of nice things will come of that.
Posted in Buenos Aires, Daily life, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Practical info, Preparation, Work | Leave a comment

Work for foreigners in Buenos Aires

In my little series of practical info or helpful hints for foreigners, I thought I’d write a little bit about what to think about before coming here. (You can also read about housing and health insurance which I wrote about earlier.) Buenos Aires is different from many other Latin American cities in that it is a city people move to just because they want to. I don’t know a lot of people who just dreamed about making a new life in Bogotá (which is a great city), or San Salvador, but I know lots of people who moved to Buenos Aires just because they like the city or because they want to dance tango seven nights a week. This means that many foreigners arrive without a job and only with a lose idea of what they will do once here. Here is my very non-comprehensive list of tips for those who you want to move here! I came here with a job already in place, but know enough people who didn’t to know how things work, more or less.

  1. Yes, you can teach English. No, it does not pay well. As I have mentioned before, porteños love learning and classes and many take language classes, such as English, and many prefer native teachers. However, this does not mean that teaching English or other language is in any way an easy way to make money. If you are certified and have a degree in teaching or language, you might be able to score a good job at a private school or good academy. If not, you will probably be stringing together work from language institutes, often in the black, and private classes. This means you might be traveling a lot around town, unless you can receive the students at home. If there is travel involved, that can take up a lot of time. You need to have a cancellation policy and ask for payment beforehand, usually once a month, to avoid no-shows. You will also need to think about how to deal with course materials. Many simply use photocopies of text books to save money.
  2. Other types of jobs: Immigration wise, Argentina is more open than most countries. If a company wants to hire you, they usually can: they have to be part of a registry of companies allowed to hire foreigners (apparently it is not too hard to get registered) and then you go through a series of steps to be hired legally. This way you get a work visa (usually for one year at a time). This usually works for more professional type jobs. (If you are from a Mercosur country it is even easier than this.)
  3. Restaurant/bars/service sector jobs: Most of these are in the black, at least to begin with, but I do see quite a few foreigners in these jobs, and not only from Spanish speaking countries. Of course, your Spanish needs to be good even if the clientele is mainly tourists. Also, the pay is low and the hours long.
  4. Your best bet: Lining up something before you leave your home country. If you see this more as an extended vacation or a sabbatical, you can save up money before you arrive and change your foreign currency to pesos once you are here. Or, if you consider staying longer, try to get freelance work or any kind of work that allows you to work remotely. You will be much more comfortable and your money will go a long way here. Also, freelancing can be fun and liberating if you are used to an office job. However, it also means no or very little security. For instance, no Norwegian welfare state to catch me! This means you need to be careful with your saving, be responsible and buy health insurance, and have a back-up plan in case something happens.
  5. Good luck and have fun!
Posted in Buenos Aires, Daily life, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Practical info, Preparation, Work | 1 Comment

Buenos Aires: A wild and crazy ride

“Wild, wonderful, West Virginia” – this is one of my favorite license plate slogans in the US. I like to apply it to Buenos Aires as well; it can definitely be both of those things! I realized today I have not blogged a single time in September, the first month in two years without any blog posts, so I need to change that. And the reason is pretty simple – there’s just so much going on! I have been here five months now, and it has, indeed, been a fun ride. I came because of a very cool job offer (which I have not blogged about yet) but then all sorts of other things started happening as well. I am very conscious of the fact that life in Argentina is not easy for most people, that the economy is a mess, and that the political situation is rather depressing. However, as a privileged foreigners I have things happen here that I can’t see happening anywhere else that I have lived, especially not in Norway.

Example: over the course of the last week, I have both been practicing to sing back-up (a very small piece on one song, but still!) on a recording, to take place in a week, and acted as a hand-model in a photo/video production for a purse. How funny!! I am not a fantastic singer, and I don’t have amazing hands, but both are great experiences and things that make me think that every day is adventure here. I have been interviewed on the radio, I have played polo with great players, I have sailed the Paraná river, I have danced lots, I have done some very interesting things professionally… I go running in beautiful parks, yesterday I biked for two hours on great bike paths – in the rain, which means most people here doesn’t go out, so we could go as fast as we wanted. I sometimes sell my baked goods, which I think is hilarious. I sing more than I have in a long time. I study languages. I go the movies and to theater. I have met interesting and crazy people. And the polo season has started, which means free matches at the Campo de Polo in Palermo. And in a month or so, the jacarandas will be blooming! I am so lucky!!

One part of my Buenos Aires honeymoon is over, though: I loved the fact that my apartment was really quiet, even though it is close to a big avenue. However, that all changed two weeks ago: I have construction on one side, and demolition on the other. And they start EARLY… BsAs is a noisy city, no doubt about it. And it doesn’t go great with my home office… Oh well!

I have some trips and things to blog about, so I will probably backdate those to make it look like I wrote more than one blog post in September. :)

Posted in Buenos Aires, Norsk i Argentina, Noruega en Argentina, Personal | 4 Comments

Housing for foreigners in Buenos Aires

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This is what I want…

I get questions about rentals in Buenos Aires all the time, especially medium-term, so I figured I’d make a little summary. I divide them in three broad categories:

  1. Short-term rentals geared towards foreign tourists
  2. Medium-term rentals, which are usually furnished, temporary rentals used both by foreigners and by Argentineans, such as students from other parts of the country
  3. Long-term rentals mainly accessible to Argentineans or others with a guarantee

1. Short-term vacation rentals: There are lots of options for tourists, and this is what I did when I came to Argentina on vacation several years ago. After the 2001 crisis, many people invested in property and make good money renting them out to foreigners in dollars. The typical websites for this is VRBO (vacation rentals by owner) and AirBnB, but there are plenty of others specific to Buenos Aires as well. You can also use Craigslist Buenos Aires for this. For tourists, I think the nicest areas to stay are Recoleta, Palermo Chico/Barrio Parque/Botánico, and Palermo Soho. (To me, Palermo Hollywood is a little too far from the action and a little dead during the day. Microcentro is too noisy and not nice at night, and San Telmo, while of course quintessentially Buenos Aires and beautiful, just seems to get more and more insecure.) These rentals are usually paid in dollars, through either credit cards, PayPal, or cash. (Often you pay a part of it before arrival and the rest in cash when you get here.) These rentals can be both whole apartments and houses, or a single room.

2. The medium-term rentals, alquileres temporarios, is sort of a mix of the fancy rentals geared towards tourists, and more basic apartments often rented by students, both foreign and national. You can often get a good discount on an AirBnB rental if you contact the owner and negotiate a price – they might be interested in giving you a really good deal if you stay for several months, because it of course makes it easier for them and secures them a long-term income, especially in low season. What you can do is take it off AirBnB; the trick is to not write your email, because the system will block the message, but you can write something like “please contact me on my full name at the server that starts with G.” Temporary rentals are usually always furnished and contracts are usually up to six months, sometimes with the option of renewal. You can find these rentals through agents (who usually take 20% commission) or websites such as SoloDueños, Craigslist, ZonaProp, CompartoDepto, and others.

Foreigners often resort to these because of the restrictions on the longer term rentals. The good thing is of course the flexibility, the bad thing is that if you are here to stay, you may not want a place that is all furnished. I find that the rentals geared towards tourists are usually very nicely decorated but with a lot of stuff, paintings, etc. which makes it harder to make it your own. The ones used more by students tend to have simpler furniture (furuhelvete as we would say in Norway – pine, pine, pine) but that also usually means that you can do a little more with the place. I asked my landlady to take away as many decorative cushions etc. as possible, I am not using any of their lines, and I will ask them to paint the bedroom white for a cleaner look. I put on white lines and towels to make everything look simpler and bigger and I stuffed most of the decorative items in a closet. Now, if there was a way to wish away the red accent wall in the living room… Oh, and don’t be too scared by the ads – while apartments in Norway are usually styled and photographed by professionals, here the ads are simpler and there are often random people and animals in the apartment photos!

...and this is what you might get

…and this is what you might get

3. The long-term rentals are regulated by strict laws, and tenant rights are quite strong, so these contracts require a few things that most foreigners do not have, especially not early on:

  • Garantía: This is a guarantee granted by a friend, family member or employer who has to be a property owner, preferably in Buenos Aires proper (CABA, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires). Basically the grantor promises to pay rent if the renter does not pay, and to intervene if the renter does not vacate the premises when he or she has to. Of course you have to be pretty close to someone if they are going to agree to give you this guarantee, so it is not an option for new arrivals without family here, unless their company provides it. I do know that sometimes rental agencies or owners will accept you without the guarantee if you pay a large deposit or agree to a higher price, but I have not been able to do this.
  • Some require a pay slip from your job.
  • Deposit: It varies a lot what the deposit is, but usually at least two months rent.
  • Commission if you go through an agency.

After some time here, it is usually easier to get into this third rental market, because you start making more contacts and find out about things through word of mouth, but if you can find a good temporary rental, that is a great option as well. The websites are basically the same as for the temporary rentals. The big difference is of course the price – the long term rentals, which are basically all in pesos, are really quite economical compared to most places. Then again, you need furniture and often items such as fridges, washer etc. which are big investments.

Happy renting!

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