Wednesday, 29 March 2017

What did they bury in the back yard?

The plumber and his sidekick arrived on a scooter with a collection of long rods that have travelled down countless drains, and placed them down on our dinning room floor.  I think the plumber must have accidentally swallowed a humming bird on his way over here because he spoke so fast I could barely see his lips moving.  He could have been auditioning as a beat boxer for all the sense he made. We asked him to slow down when he spoke to us but we think that people here have had little exposure to foreigners and just speak at their normal rate.

Lion tamers put their heads inside the mouths of lions risking life and limb for the sake of entertainment.  This plumber was braver than any lion tamer.  Without a moment’s hesitation he lifted the lid off the grease trap and plunged his hand into the water past his elbow.  After fishing around he organised for his offsider to assemble the rods together.  While the plumber was pushing the rods down the drain his offsider asked for a plastic bag and started digging a hole in our back yard.  What was the plastic bag for?  What was going to go into the hole?  Did I want to know the answers to these questions?  Eventually I heard that wonderful air bubble sound and water whoosing away to goodness knows where.

As I walked the plumbers to the door I couldn’t see the plastic bag that I gave them and all the while I kept thinking, please don’t offer to shake my hand.  

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Spin cycle.

As we frequent our regular haunts, most people have become accustomed to the new family who have moved into town.  The other day in the fruit shop, a new worker went through the usual questions about where we are from etc, etc.  One of the other workers told him that it was none of his business.  Talluah was in the fruit shop today and there was a new worker there.  He tried out some of his basic English with Talluah and went through the usual questions.  At question number 3, one of the regular workers told him that we’re from Australia, we’re here for the year, we have three kids, Talluah’s studying and I teach English.  Obviously they’d heard our answers one too many times.

While Talluah was busy with her studies, the drain for the washing machine blocked up and the kitchen became a wading pool for lost penguins.  Luckily it was time for a study break and after several hundred laps with the mop, the floor is now whiter and smells fresher than it did before.  Talluah went to the Tutti 2, our local supermarket some 500 metres from our house, to buy some sort of Draino.  Marcello our shopping fairy godfather, who works at the Tutti 2, has made a point of always asking how we are and helping us find things in the shop.  Since the moment he realised that we were regular patrons he has gone out of his way for us. Talluah couldn’t find Marcello today and had to act out the blocked drain conversation with another worker who feigned business and couldn’t help.  Several minutes later, Marcello appeared with the product we needed.  The first worker must have found Marcello and told him that the Australians need something for something because something had happened.  

Depp hasn’t let the language barrier get in the way.  I spied on him today while he was having lunch at school and he was having a conversation with the boy across from him.  It turns out that Depp just talks in English and the other child speaks in Castellano.  Were not quiet sure who will give way first.  While he’s playing at home we hear all sorts of Spanglish coming from his direction.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A field guide to snails and snail mail.

Talluah has had a break through with her Spanish.  She was in line for the checkout at the supermarket and the two ladies in front of her were talking about wanting to buy snail bait as the snails are particularly bad at the moment.  Talluah did a happy dance once she realised that she understood this conversation without any context – or was it just that the ladies were speaking a bit sluggish.

The much awaited text books from Australia have arrived and Argentine bureaucracy ensured that it was not just a matter of having them delivered to our door.  Talluah received a telegram saying that the package was in aduana (customs) at La Plata and she had 72 hours to organise their pickup or else they would be returned to Australia.  This involved a signed photocopy of her passport and a letter of authority for someone else to pick up the parcel. Fortunately, a friend of a friend from school was bussing to La Plata, some 400km away.  The package was then put on the return bus and we picked it up from the local office for the princely sum of 300 pesos.  Next term, Talluah is going to choose subjects with electronic text books.

Up until now, we have been mowing the lawn by hand using a kitchen knife.  In an effort to curb the amount of mosquitoes around our house we bought an electric whipper snipper and a 15 metre extension lead to go with it.  The shopkeeper asked if I wanted the plugs too.  Was this some sort of trick question?  Would you buy a hotdog without the bun?  In a few minutes the whipper snipper, electric cord and two plugs were sitting on the bench.  Electric cords are sold buy the metre and you have to attach the plugs yourself.  A quick check on the internet to see what colour goes where in Argentina and in a record time of 45 minutes the cord had its plugs attached and the lawn was being mown.

The cold snap has seen foggy mornings at the school and the leaves on the trees in town are starting to change colour preparing for winter.  This is the first time we have experienced autumn where the leaves change colours and the trees become bare.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The local bird.

To give you an idea of what a peso is worth, here are some basic costs.  Milk and petrol both cost about 20 pesos a litre, a lemon is 4 pesos, a jar of jam is around 40 pesos and mince is around 60 pesos a kilogram.  The Argentine peso is broken up into 100 centivos.  The centivos holds such little value that most shops have their prices in whole pesos and those that don’t usually round the change in favour of the customer.  The supermarket around the corner from us has a great method for dealing with pesky centivos coins.  They have a jar of lollies on the counter and use them as change if they are ever short of centivos coins.  Just this afternoon I watched a young man take the offer of a lollipop instead of the last of his owed change.

Long life and fresh milk sell for a similar price and equally populate the supermarket shelves.  The only thing that is surprising is that milk is sold in plastic bags.

The local bird here is the mosquito.  Coils, repellents, sprays and well trained frogs are sold in every shop to help combat these creatures.     They like to hide away from the sun in long grass.  For this reason people practically scalp their lawns when they mow them.  We are in the process of pricing an electric whipper-snipper after one quote to have our lawn mown was one third the cost of our own machine.  Perhaps we sounded a little bit too foreign when we were asking the gardener for a quote.  I was riding home from school the other day and a mosquito flew into my eye.  Luckily I did a weekend workshop on Piracy for Beginners a few years back and I was able to ride home using only my good eye.  No one wears a motorbike helmet here and I was wondering how many people are blinded from being struck by a mosquito.

Another local bird here is the colibrí.  This is a very difficult bird to photograph as its wings can beat anywhere between 70 to 200 times a second as it hovers around the flowers.  Humming birds frequent the kids’ school and we have planted some flowers in our garden in the hope of attracting colibrí.

Friday, 17 March 2017

An empanada counts to 12.

Even while living in another country, grocery shopping can lose its appeal and there are days when you just don’t feel like making dinner.  I rode into the town centre to a pizza and empanada restaurant and ordered 12 empanadas.  Initially, I was just going to have ten but they lady behind the counter told me that it’s cheaper to by the dozen.  The “dozen” is an interesting concept how it has stayed strong for so many years.  Funny how the bakers got it wrong, which is embarrassing for them because even a chicken can count out a dozen.  

Most empanada shops have empanadas on display ready to be reheated but this restaurant makes them fresh to order.  I was going to wait for the empanadas to be made but I was asked if I wanted delivery.  I felt my Scrooge McDuck muscles tighten around my purse strings. 

Would you like delivery.
How much for delivery?
            For what?
For delivery.
            Oh, delivery.  I thought you said delivery.
I said it exactly the same way you did.   Delivery.
            No.  You’re saying delivery, it’s delivery.
How much is it?

is that delivery with a v or a b?

Delivery was organised and I rode home.  Ten minutes later the doorbell rang and a dozen empanadas entered our home.  They were so tasty I wish a baker had counted them out.