744 hours left...to pack up my life.
44,640 minutes left...'til I board that plane.
2,678,400 seconds...before starting over.
The rest of my life...to be happy.
[Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires]
Has the economy put a crimp in your vacation plans? Perhaps you're an armchair traveler? Well, if you'd prefer to explore the charms of Buenos Aires from the comfort of your living room, then I urge you to check out the superb panoramic photography of 360 Cities. The amazing, high-resolution images really pull you into the scene in a way that a traditional photo cannot. Should you tire of Buenos Aires (!), there are numerous other cities around the world available for virtual exploration.
Thanks to Taos Turner over at The Argentine Post for sharing!
"All human beings are interconnected, one with all other elements in creation." - Henry ReedImagine my surprise when one day I received the following comment on my blog:
"What a great blog, Katie!!! I'm a necochense living in Canada since 2000, and I found your blog by pure chance (thank you Google Alerts!).... Regards from Waterloo, Ontario. Thanks for bringing me a little piece of my hometown through great text and pictures."I never expected my blog to generate much interest among the people of Necochea, and I certainly never thought a necochense in the Great White North would be reading it! Yet the author of this flattering comment is none other than fellow blogger Gabriel Almada, whose blog Live from Waterloo chronicles his day-to-day life with his wife and children after they made the decision to emigrate from Argentina to Canada (read the complete story here). Though he spent many years in Buenos Aires and now calls Waterloo home, Gabriel still feels a strong connection to his childhood home of Necochea. And thus a friendship, albeit a virtual one, was formed based on our commonality of a small city on the coast of Argentina.
After reading many of Gabriel's blog posts, it was easy to see that my new friend in the blogosphere is a good-natured, humorous and sincere person with an interesting story to tell. His observations and anecdotes are warm and funny, and above all, genuine.
One evening last week I had the great fortune of meeting Gabriel face to face here in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He happened to be traveling to New Jersey on business, and he made the effort to come down to Philly to share a burger, fries and a friendly chat with me. The conversation flowed easily, and it was fun to get some insider information about Necochea. Finally the employees of Five Guys dimmed the neon "OPEN" sign, and Gabriel and I said our goodbyes.
The world may be a big place but don't discount the possibility that a friend may be closer than you realize.
I encourage you to visit Democrats Abroad or Republicans Abroad to learn more about participating in the political process as an overseas voter. Regardless of your political persuasion, get involved.
If you're a member of the Democratic Party and you're living in Argentina, your chance to make a difference starts now! Elections for the Executive Committee of Democrats Abroad Argentina (DAA) are now underway. Join DAA now and have your say in the future of the organization. Don't delay - voting closes January 31, 2009.
The New York Times just published "The 44 Places to Go in 2009," a compilation of "this year's most compelling destinations, awash in sublime landscapes, cutting-edge art, gala music festivals, and stylish new resorts." There were definitely some quirky selections in my opinion (#1 Beirut and #36 Kazakhstan aren't exactly at the top of my list), and only two locations in South America made the cut – the Galápagos Islands and Florianópolis, Brazil.
Of the 44 hot spots, I've been to 3: #2 Washington, D.C., #5 Las Vegas (when I was 7 years old!), and #43...a Pennsylvania farm?! Well, I've seen more than my fair share of Pennsylvania farms! Who knew I was so ahead of the curve on that one? Why am I moving to Argentina!?
Here's what those of you who haven't made it to #43 are missing out on.
Before you get too excited, I'm not talking about that kind of honeymoon. I'm referring to the honeymoon stage of culture shock, a phenomenon that all immigrants and expats experience as they begin their lives in a new country.
"Culture shock occurs when our '...cultural clues, the signs and symbols which guide social interaction, are stripped away. ...A difficult part of this process for adults is the experience of feeling like children again, of not knowing instinctively the "right" thing to do' (Piet-Pelon & Hornby, 1992, p.2)." 
Various sources describe the stages of culture shock using different terms, but the general consensus goes something like this:
During the honeymoon stage, everything is rainbows, puppies, butterflies, sunshine and bubbles. After that, it all goes to hell in a handbasket. But fear not! There is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel! In the final stage, described as the recovery phase or at-ease-at-last phase by Losses in Translation, you will find your inner zen:
"You have now understood that there are different ways to live your life and that no way is really better than another, just different. Finally, you have become comfortable in the new place – it's not so bad. Most importantly, your sense of humour will have returned and you find you are able to look at yourself and laugh."
Well, Amen to that!
I read a lot of tips online about how to deal with the transition, and I can tell you that all advice is not created equal. Click here for some well-thought-out and helpful tips from Losses In Translation on how to handle culture shock. In the meantime, I'll be packing my bags for the honeymoon.
 Dealing with Culture Shock
I don't expect everyone to agree with or understand my decision to live in Argentina. So you think I'm an idiot for leaving the U.S.? Fine - you're entitled to your opinion, but you should either a) keep it to yourself or b) have a sound argument to back it up. It really gets under my skin when people question my choices or comment negatively when in fact they know very little (or nothing) about Argentina, its culture, the people, or my motivations for moving there. I know I shouldn't let this sort of thing bother me, but I hate having to defend myself and the choices I've made.
It seems to me that if someone barely knows that Argentina is located in the southern hemisphere, thinks that Portuguese is the country's official language, or just met me five minutes beforehand (as in the case of one "advisor" at a party), then that person has little right to launch negative criticism at me. I'm certainly not an expert on Argentina, but I have traveled there four times and lived there for a four-month stretch. I've also had lengthy conversations with my Argentine boyfriend and his family about the realities of living in Argentina. I am not going into this blindly, so why am I being subjected to advice given in such a manner?
I stumbled upon this blog entry from Yanqui Mike, and I feel that his post is the perfect complement to mine. I would love to whip out a copy of his blog post the next time someone starts down that no-good path with me...but I'll refrain. Maybe.
Thank you to all of you who have been supportive and given me true, heartfelt advice. That will always be appreciated and welcomed.
Hey kids, it's Girl Scout Cookie Time once again! I could bore you with childhood memories of my days in the Girl Scouts, but let's get on to the good stuff—the cookies. This year, Little Brownie Bakers (one of two official bakers for the Girl Scouts) will debut a new variety—dulce de leche cookies!
According to the Girl Scouts, "New for 2009, and inspired by the classic confections of Latin America, these sweet, indulgent cookies are rich with milk caramel chips and stripes."
Here's the kicker though…this new variety will not be available in the Philadelphia area! The Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania source their cookies from ABC Bakers instead of Little Brownie Bakers, and ABC Bakers does not produce the dulce de leche cookies (yet). According to Wikipedia, the Girl Scouts give some leeway to the bakeries as far as the varieties, the names, and the composition of the cookies produced each year, which accounts for the differences in cookies around the country.
Well, if I can't have dulce de leche in my cookies, I can certainly mix it with my cookies! I discovered this recipe for Thank Heaven for Little Girl (Scout)s Samoa Cheese Tart on the Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy food blog. This combination of my favorite Girl Scout Cookie variety, Samoas/Caramel deLites, with dulce de leche deserves some sort of prize. Warning: have a rag handy to wipe the drool from your keyboard when reading this recipe.
Some factoids about Girl Scout Cookies:
- The first Girl Scout Cookies were baked and sold in Philadelphia. Back then, a box of 44 cookies cost only 23 cents!
- Do-Si-Dos/Peanut Butter Sandwiches used to be called Gauchos! Between the dulce de leche and the gauchos, there definitely seems to be a strange Girl Scout Cookie-Argentina connection.
If you'd like to read about the Girl Guides in Argentina, click here [site is primarily written in Spanish]. I wonder if they sell alfajores? ;)
[Photo credit: Kayak49]
All in all, the Aires del Mar looks like a great addition to the city's hotel offerings.
View Larger Map
In my travels on my favorite photo-sharing site, Flickr, I discovered something called Project 365. Those who embark on the project seek to document their lives, one day at a time, with a photo. Sometimes the project revolves around a theme such as self-portraits, but the overarching idea is to capture a moment every day with the camera. Since my first year in Argentina promises to be filled with new faces, places, foods and experiences, I decided to take the plunge and jump on the 365 bandwagon! Time will still pass quickly, but at least I'll be able to look back on that first year and relive it through my pictures.
Many begin their projects on January 1st (certainly a logical point to start from!), but I plan to start clicking on February 28th - the day I leave for Argentina. I'll be posting all of my 365 photos to a special set on Flickr, and I'll include a link here on the front page of my blog.
Intrigued by the Project 365 idea? Read more about it here on Photojojo.
There's no doubt in my mind that a host of new experiences await me in 2009. I wish nothing but the best for all of my friends and family in the New Year! May we all be blessed with health, prosperity and happiness in the coming year.