Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Wonders of Technology

This is probably obvious everyone -- but I am still amazed at how technology has changed the world. This morning Janalee and I are sitting at our table in Mendoza, Argentina (calling this thing a table might be bit of a stretch since it is made of plastic and wobbles like a weeble) each working on our various projects. While we are working we are listening to WNYC (NPR Station), sending email to friends and colleagues across the globe, talking to Comcast Cable on an Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone with a 703 area code (trying to disconnect our service -- I am on hold of course) and having conversations with folks in Mendoza via instant messenger. And, we are doing all of this without a single wire connecting any of our computers or telephones. To put it into perspective the computer course I took in college taught students how to program computers using punch cards! I once had a business teacher who wouldn’t allow you to write your papers on a computer because they weren’t practical – I guess that guy must be totally freaked out by now (Janalee thinks he might be dead – a comment on my age I think).

Janalee thought we should add a photo of me at the table – I didn’t want to do that to any one who might read this post. The work at home rumors are true – no shirt, no shower, no shoes. I think you can do without that picture (the rumors of me getting in better shape on this trip are still only rumors despite how photogenic I have become as you can see in my photo).

There is not much of a point to this post – just a bit of a rant to start the morning.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Scaling Aconcagua….OK, Maybe not Scaling, but Viewing

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. We’ve found a house, moved in and begun setting up (thus far, Vince hasn’t purchase a single poof—so much for his “I’m running the house now” bravado), made a lot of new friends—including Guillermo at the little deli down the street, who, when he learned we would be here for a year, gave us his number and told us to call him if we needed ANYTHING—and begun working and touring the city.

Our arrival in Mendoza was timed perfectly. A number of new Vines of Mendoza (Vinotourism’s new name) interns arrived just before us, and Michael’s parents Polly and Jo arrived just a few days after we did. In order to acquaint everyone with just a taste of what Mendoza has to offer, Michael and his business partner, Dave, charted a van and took us all to the base of Aconcagua.

What an amazing experience – Aconcagua is breathtaking – literally, at over 20,000 feet, it’s the highest mountain in the Americas. Vince and I grew up in the North American West, but neither of us had ever seen anything quite like Aconcagua up close and personal. When we arrived, the clouds were just beginning to move in. We were able to see the entire mountain for about 10 minutes before it was obscured by cloud cover. After a brief hike, we returned to a hostel just a little further down the mountain where Dave and his girlfriend Gabi had prepared an asado for us, a perfect end to a perfect day.

This is high season for climbing, so there are hikers in town from all over the world. One night we went to dinner and met a hiker leaving for base camp the next day; then later during dinner, we met a group of hikers (including a woman from Colorado) who had just finished their climb. Who knows, maybe next year at this time we’ll attempt it!


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Things are a changin' here in Mendoza

For those of you who have visited before you can see the blog has changed this morning - for those of you who this is your first visit, you will have to take my word for it.

That's not the only change in our household this morning. Since Janalee is busy working with both VinoTourism and Collaborative Communications I am in charge of furnishing the house. As you can imagine this situation has Janalee more than a little nervous. Right now she is trying to find reasons why I should wait for her input before buying anything. While I cherish her point of view, I relish the chance to give her the same level of input that I have traditionally had in our home purchases - none.

So, Amelia and I off to purchase 100 bean bag chairs (they call them "poofs" here) and all of the chrome tables we can find -- I love those things!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

We Have A House

No more saying we hope we have a house -- we actually signed the lease yesterday morning and the got the tour from the owner in the afternoon. All that is left is to purchase some furniture to put in it and we are ready to move in -- we should be in by January 28th and our month of living out of suitcases will be over. You can see photos of the our home in our photo album.

I have also added a calendar of visitors to our blog. If you think you are interested in coming to see us this year check out the calendar to see if when other folks are coming. We have a lot of room, so that is not a worry, but you might want to see who will be in town to make sure it is someone you want to hang out with!

Take care and we will see you soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Learning to say Helado (as well as Boca, Manos Y Pie Enfermedad)

Well it has been a wild first nine days. As I write that I am having a hard time believing we have been here for nine days. The last nine days have been filled with fun, great time with old friends, meeting new friends and a little bit of worry as well. There really is nothing liking jumping in with both feet. So where to start on our story so far? I guess I will start with some of the fun things we have been doing and work my way to some of the things that have been challenging:

Helado: Mia has found a new favorite place the Ferruccio Soppelsa Heladaria – a great ice cream shop she refers to as the “blue” place. I am not sure why she calls it that since the shop is white, but when she asks I know what she wants: Milk Shake en Chocolate. I think in our first nine days she has been there 7 times. Probably a little indulgent, but she has really needed the protein and calories – more on that in a minute.

Asado: We got to experience our first asado and it was great fun. And, it gave us another opportunity to celebrate Janalee’s birthday (interestingly she has been 29 almost as long as we have been together). The asado was hosted by Pablo a new friend and a business partner of Michael. Mia spent a good part of the day playing with all kinds of new friends – you can see the pictures in our photo album. After a few hours of swimming we moved onto eating carne and chorizo that had been cooking for two or three hours (and drinking wine of course) – not a bad way to spend the day.

Casa: We have made some progress on a house, or at least we think we have. It is an amazing place with four bedrooms, a pool, a recently updated kitchen and a tree growing in the living room. Probably much larger than we need, but we are planning on having a bunch of visitors and we thought – “why not”.

Boca, Manos Y Pie Enfermedad: Amelia has contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease which is not terribly serious, but has had us worried nonetheless. We think she probably got it our last week in the states and it is now in full blossom. Her situation has been somewhat complicated by the an attack from about 6 million mosquitoes on her legs. Between the disease and the mosquitoes her body has been covered with red welts and her nose has been running for a week. We did get our first experience with the Argentine medical system – which went really well. I think the thing that surprised us the most is that the doctor kissed Mia on the head several times – reminded me of going to the doctor when I was a child. Thank goodness our new friend Jime (pronounced HE MAY) was there to help – we probably would have come home thinking Mia had hoof and mouth disease.

This marks two times that our posts have been a bit too long. The next post will have to be much shorter. We hope you are all well – with special thoughts going out to Silas Newsome who broke his jaw last week. Maybe his parents should bring him down to each Milk Shakes with Amelia ;).

Take care – and we will talk to you all soon.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Janalee's First Entry -- Our Adventures at Carrefour

Hola Amigos! Now that we’ve officially arrived, I thought I would give the blogging thing a try. Have patience, this is my first post. I might take awhile to get the hang of it!

I think we’re all still a little shell-shocked. None of us has ever moved on a plane before. When we moved to Washington, DC from Arizona, we packed up all our stuff, loaded it into a Ryder truck and drove cross country… this time, after saying goodbye to our house, storage shed and many friends, we simply got on a plane with a few bags and took off. It’s great to be traveling so lightly, but frankly it also feels a little strange—like we’re part of a country ballad or something weird like that.

We’re staying at our friend Michael’s until we find a house, which may be fairly soon (at least I’m sure Michael hopes so—when he said “mi casa, su casa,” I don’t think he anticipated one piece of luggage fully loaded with every possible item Heavy Baby—Amelia’s favorite doll—might need). Later today, we’re meeting a friend of his to go house hunting. She’s already got five places lined up for us to see in La Quinta (the fifth district of Mendoza), so I’m sure we’ll find something soon. We may also look at apartments. There are some lovely buildings near General San Martin Park (http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/119875.html; I borrowed this picture from someone else’s blog—do you think that violates some kind of blogging code???), a huge park laced with walking paths, ponds and lakes, etc. that spans most of the length of the city. Yesterday, after taking a long and much-needed nap, we picked up some empanadas—deliciosio!—and then walked to the park for a small picnic.

Other than being a little dazed and confused—I’m up writing at 5:30 a.m. this morning. You would be too if your friend took you to Don Mario’s, a place famous for serving steak “bigger than your head”—we’re very excited to be here.

Last night we made our first journey to Carrefour, a French grocery chain. You can find everything there—in fact, along with yogurt, fruit and cereal, we bought a little bed and bedding for Amelia. (With Heavy Baby, a few toys, and a new bed, she’s ready to move in permanently with Tio Michael!) Part of the adventure of living here is navigating places like grocery stores. In that sense, Argentina feels very European – milk comes in square cartons; peanut butter is almost impossible to find; and you can forget mac and cheese. But that’s also part of the fun. Last night I found myself completely overwhelmed with about 20 different kinds of dairy products with the name “crema” in them… I thought I was looking at yogurt, according to Tio Michael, not so. For the record, he’s not sure what they are either, but he knows they are NOT yogurt.

I can’t wait for you all to come and visit. We’ll have great fun exploring the city together… we haven’t even gotten to the wineries yet. This year will truly be an aventura grande!

Desede Mendoza

Abrazos, Janalee

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Finally, The Day Has Arrived

At least we have arrived in Argentina. The trip was great – even taking into account that we were in a plane all night. It was all worth it when we got to see the sun rise over Aconcagua which was absolutely spectacular. The pilot announcing that we are at 20,000 feet and seeing the mountain above us with the sun streaming behind the peak. Mia summed it up for all us with a resounding "Wow". After that the rest of the day has been a blur.

I have to admit that I am old enough that I am still amazed that I can sit down in airports around the world and log onto the internet wirelessly. At 7:00 AM this morning we sat down in a cafe in the Santiago, Chile airport and checked our email. I even instant messaged with a friend in Florida. I am amazed at how connected the world is. Not that Chile is some backwater, but all I had to do was open my computer in Santiago and I was online – I agree with Mia, “Wow”.

Enough waxing poetic about WiFi. The real news is that Argentina is rounding out to be as amazing as promised. The people are great. Amelia and Janalee struck up a friendship with a mother and a daughter in the Santiago airport and by the time we left everyone was taking photos and giving hugs. A photo of the event is on the right. The weather is beautiful. It is about 90 today. A great dry heat with just the right amount of breeze. All that is left is to have some of the food. So far all I have eaten is some chicken that our friend Michael cooked up with mashed potatoes. Better than eating Mia’s Clifford Crunch (a cereal for those of you without kids), but not really the great food I had been led to believe I would experience. I have only been here for three hours, so I guess I should have some patience.

That is it for today – the battery on this thing is just about to give up. We miss everyone all ready and hope you are well.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A New Year A New Country

While I would love to say we are actually in Argentina – but not quite. We are out of our house. I guess that is similar except that being OUT of a place doesn't mean you are IN a new place. Thank god our friend Zoe is letting us use her house. The photo at the top is a picture of Zoe’s place. She calls it the Castle – you can see why.

Actually that is not a picture of Zoe’s house – though Zoe’s place is plenty nice and it is a castle to us. That is a photo of The Castle at Frost Valley YMCA in Claryville, NY. We spent New Year’s Eve there with seven other families (including 9 kids under the age of 10). We had a great time. As the clock struck midnight we were drinking fine wine from Italy, dancing to fine tunes from the 70’s and generally having a fun time. You can see the photos here. We even had snow – 4 inches! I think Janalee and I enjoyed the snow more than the rest of the folks at the Castle. After all, it is 88 in Mendoza today and we are just 4 days from now we will be basking in the sun. So, what is a little snow when you are looking at days and days of sun? Does that sound like gloating? I don't mean to gloat -- just to mention that it is summer in South America.

I think that is it for today. I am writing from a coffee shop while working out the final elements of our homeowner’s insurance – I am sure that sounds like more fun that it actually is.

Next post will be from Argentina – at least in theory it will be. I guess I will believe it when we land -- until then it is just a really busy dream.