Monday, August 31, 2009

the chino

"the chino" is how people here refer to the chinese owned grocery stores.

tonight as i'm in the middle of cooking (**thai lettuce wraps) i realized i didn't have enough soy sauce. "ummm, should i go without it, no no no, run to the chino." i tell myself.

i didn't want to change from my comfy pj pants to acceptable outside pants, but i did. if it were cold outside i probably would have ditched the idea altogether. i didn't even wear a jacket outside; perfect.

luckily my chino is only one block away. i don't know why, but the two chinos that i go to always have salsa or meringue music playing. sort of funny because i rarely hear this music being played around the city. it's funny to me to hear latin music in the chino, but no complaints from me, it's just sort of odd.

so, when i walked in, i couldn't find soy sauce. "ha ha, you know...i wouldn't be surprised if a chinese store in b.a. doesn't have soy really wouldn't surprise me" i thought. my spanish isn't good, i wish it were better, but i at least have 'grocery store spanish' so asking wasn't a problem at all. i was told where it was, next to the spices on a separate shelf. there was only one kind and one least there was one.

at the register i told the little chinese girl bagging (in spanish) that i didn't need a bag. she looked at me strange. i said i have so many at home...she still looked at me strange.

no one carries cloth grocery bags and everyone seems to get a bag for any tiny purchase.
on this same topic when i went to the grocery store yesterday, after having my wine scanned at the check out, i put a bottle of wine in my purse. the cashier looked shocked (he just scanned it so it was obvious to him that i was paying for it). he tried to tell me no because of the cameras, i tried to tell him but i'm paying for it and my purse is much stronger than the plastic bag. in the end he was fine with it but i know he thought i was nuts.
**in order to make the thai chicken wraps in b.a. you need to go to china town for the hoisen sauce.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

spring is here

i had an amazing weekend in flip flops and a sundress; spring is here.

i woke up saturday morning after a little too much wine on friday night. i crawled out of bed and threw my hair in a pony tail, put on my favorite summer dress and headed out the door...realizing i should have taken my sunglasses too.

i met a friend for coffee and medialunas and then i met up with another friend for lunch where i arrived early at our determined meeting place so that i could sit in the sun. it felt amazing...really amazing. once we met up we found a restaurant that had outside seating.

later in the night...much later (1 o'clockish) i went salsa dancing (my love). i only had one salsa song before it turned to reggaeton; so i began to pout.

a 'loverboy' type of guy must have found my pouting attractive. he came up to me to dance. in spanish i told him "i don't dance reggaeton, i prefer salsa". he had loverboy qualities because he kept saying loverboyish nice things to me and touching my arm and waist like we were dating (at least he wasn't aggressive and grabbing at me so he didn't bother me). then he suggested we go upstairs. i automatically thought "where, to the make-out room?", but when he mentioned salsa, my two friends and i went upstairs to check it out. we entered a small room where there was salsa and salsa eyes widened and i smiled so big. this is what i wanted, what i needed.

just 2 songs and i was beat; i haven't danced in so long. it also didn't help that my feet are swollen from mosquito bites. they look like two stuffed sausages and it felt like i was dancing on rocks.

sunday afternoon (or my morning from staying out until 5am) came. i put my swim suit on with shorts and a tank top, went to my cafe to pick up some medialunas and went to the park to lie out, in the sun, on the grass.

after the park i ran into a friend we were chatting on the sidewalk for so long that we decided just to go to a cafe and have a smoothy together....outside in the warm evening air.

after catching up, i went grocery shopping for my week of food. no cucumbers or red instant mash potatoes, no limes (i went to a fancy big store in a fancy neighborhood too. why is grocery shopping so difficult?) umph.

i quickly forgot about not finding what i wanted. while carrying my heavy bags back to my apartment i didn't even mind, the air was so warm, my body is finally not covered in chills. i think i may be falling in love with buenos aires again.

photo: b.a. child bike seat

photos: spring in b.a.

(photo above: can you see it? there are buds on the trees)

Friday, August 28, 2009

my last student

exactly one year ago today i taught my first student. it's sort symbolic that today was my last student, even though it didn't end well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the last battle

at 8am i started the day off well. it is finally warm. i don't need to wear a jacket outside and the sun was shining very bright. i enjoyed all my morning students. i really enjoy them. saying good-bye was a little hard.

since it was my last day with the morning students i dished a little gossip to one of them. i told the student that i was asked to teach a high exec based on how i look. without surprise i got the 'ojo' (watch out) under-eye pull-down. i said that i was aware. then i learned that the exec has a camera in his office. wha??? nooo!?!? i asked why and who watches it, but the student wasn't sure, but just knew that there is a camera. the student also made a comment about how, since it was one of my last days, the exec may pull out all his weapons and try to win this war.

shit, i didn't think of it like this.

i arrive a little late to the battle grounds. when i entered his office i passed the naked lady statue. she was staring at me today. he motioned to the sofa and sat next to me. the conversation started off well. he told me that his company just received a large contract. i congratulated him. he told me he wanted to celebrate by taking me out to dinner. i felt too awkward to tell him the truth so i lied again by saying there was a happy hour where i would be meeting up with my friends. he told me to ditch them, i told him he should celebrate with his wife. he said that they live together but they haven't been together in a long time.

i kept avoiding the subject and changing the subject asking him more about the new contract. he asked me to dinner friday, then monday then tuesday. i kept saying no. he finally said "if you don't want to go to dinner with me just say so, i prefer this". so I said so. then he starts in on "why? am i too old for you, don't you find me attractive?".

i think of myself as a strong willed person, but when put in this situation i feel like a little weak girl. i really have a hard time saying to some ones face "no, i am not attracted to you, i do not want to have dinner with you and you are being inappropriate." so, i kept changing the subject acting happy about his contract, ignoring his declaration of war.

finally he brought out the big guns. he leaned into me while staring deeply and said "you have the most beautiful lips". i said thank you and continued speaking about his contract. then he said "i'm not listening to anything you're saying, i'm just watching your lips".

looking back i have so many things i would have loved to say or do, but then, at that moment i felt so helpless, so awkward, so nervous, so uncomfortable. where were all my words?

luckily when i looked down, my watch signaled that the battle was coming to an end. no winners just two losers. (i lost too because i should have stood up for myself). i began collecting my things and physically stood up. i quickly passed him and walked to the door to open it. i stood right in front of the open door and then i leaned in for the customary very normal argentine cheek kiss. we said good bye and see you tomorrow for the last class.

going back and forth in my head thinking what to do. on one side i was thinking that i should go back, be strong and stand up for myself. use this as a learning opportunity, he's not my boss and it's my last day; i have nothing to lose. the other side tells me not to go into an obvious bad situation.

i think i made the right decision... i sent my boss an urgent text message. she called and i told her it was obvious that he did not want me for english lessons. i told her what happened. she honestly and sincerely sounded shocked and pissed off at him. she sincerely apologized for his behavior and kept saying sorry. i asked her what she wanted me to do. she said "don't go!!! i will call his secretary tomorrow".

for all the bad experiences i had with my boss, she really came through in the end. she seemed sincere and thought of me before her high level important student.

.....well. it looks like that was the last teaching english story from me.

i didn't go out with a bang, but i didn't wave my white flag either.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

teaching english in b.a.

this is my last week of teaching.

before moving here i wanted to know more about teaching english in buenos aires but i couldn't find specific information and stories. it was the initial motivator for starting the blog. so, i'll try to sum up my experience for the next wave of english teachers coming to buenos aires. over all i had a good experience.

how i found work teaching english
the best advice i could give is to start networking as soon as you land. meet people, other english teachers and ask how they found work. they might even have a job lead or extra students they don't have time to teach.

i found work through an institution by sending my resume to a long list of language schools in b.a.. i just googled 'language schools in b.a.' and sent my resume to them all. it helps to have a b.a. address on your resume and a b.a. phone number too. it's my understanding that schools don't call you if you're not already in b.a.. experience and a certification is always helpful on the resume too.

all my private students i found through recommendation. i was too cautious to teach complete strangers. some of my students, through the institution, recommended me to their friends who then recommended me to others. it took me around 4 months to find my first private student, but again that was without advertising.

what is a fair hourly wage, what are others getting paid. i didn't find too much info on this. so here was my experience...

(rates are from january 2009 - august 2009)
i was paid 26 pesos an hour through the institution. after 6 months of work i asked for a raise and was granted two more peso an hour bringing my hourly rate to 28 pesos.

when i went on other interviews, at other institutions, i was offered 13 pesos at "wall street" and 25 at another that i can't remember the name.

when i first started teaching private students i charged 30 pesos per hour. after i got some more private students i raised it just for the new ones to 40 and the last student i took on 45 pesos per hour.

the work
i mostly had conversation classes; depending on the class and students. through the institute i was only given conference call simulation materials, nothing else. the first day of class i wouldn't plan anything for the student. i would ask what they wanted to improve (speaking / listening) and I would also ask in what area they wanted to improve their english (business english, general conversation), i would also ask about their interests (hobby, family, technology, politics, gossip / entertainment).

each sunday i would send an email to each of my students confirming the class date and time (sometimes over 30 emails). i would usually get emails back canceling the class, asking for another date and time or just confirming. also in the email i would tell them what we were going to do in the next class. sometimes i would email them a link to an article to read, sometimes i would ask them to watch a video on the internet or i would give them a magazine. depending on their motivation level i would ask them to choose an article or i would choose it for them.

in the very beginning i would just choose a topic and a few questions on that topic. i would ask 5 or 6 questions related to one topic like: what is healthcare like in b.a., what are the school systems like, or the university system, etc... the students seemed to like teaching me.

hours ranged every month (see below). it seemed like each month i got 5 new students, lost 3 students and then lost 1 more. the number of students were never consistent. when people would ask me how many students i had i could never answer since each week was different. students would go on vacation or have meetings and the worst was when the swine flu hit. businesses canceled their classes, and all high school or university students went on an early winter break.

if you work for an institute, ask what their cancellation policy is. i was still paid for the class if a student did not cancel more than 24 hours in advance.

ask for a raise! in the 8 months i taught 26 pesos went from $7.80 to $6.80 while my rent, which is quoted in dollars, went from 1155 to 1330 pesos per month. so, with each month i made less dollars but paid more pesos each month for my apartment.

some private students i would meet in a cafe for class. some students paid for what i was drinking while others didn't. so in those cases i usually made 20 pesos per hour since i spent around 10 pesos on coffee or tea.

if i could go back and do things differently? i would take more spanish classes. i would make more time in my schedule to take more spanish classes too. between classes i would have tried a different cafe each time instead of going to a comfortable favorite. also between classes i would have taken more free time to explore the city.

here is a summary of how many hours i worked each month. based on the hourly rate (above) you can estimate how much money i was able to make from january 2009 to august 2009.

14 hours - through the institution

30 hours - through the institution

46 hours - through the institution
05 hours - private students

64 hours - through the institution
12 hours - private students

70 hours - through the institution
23 hours - private students

92 hours - through the institution
36 hours - private students

16 hours - through the institution
15 hours - private students

65 hours - through the institution
22 hours - private students

bad liar

from what i am told argentines are good liars. (and i have been told this more than argentines)

i on the other hand am a bad liar; i need practice.

so today i'm with a student that i get strange "i wouldn't mind taking you home" vibes from. he asks what i'm doing after class. i anticipate he'll ask me to dinner so i say i have another class ( i didn't, just me trying to lie). we end class and he actually ends up asking me to dinner another night this week. i couldn't think of a lie fast enough so i said maybe. ( i don't want to put myself in a situation)

when i leave his office he says that he's leaving too. we ride the elevator down together. the doors open at the lobby. when i go to get off, he puts his hand on my arm suggesting that we will continue down another floor to the parking garage.

i accept the ride, forgetting that i previously lied. when he asks me where i'm going i say the name of my neighborhood. he asks 'i thought you had to teach another class in the centro?'

bad liar.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

gas is on

....and there are showers and cooking too, which come along with the new gas in my apartment.

i'm buenos aires tuff, 12 days without showering or my apartment that is.

(i'll admit, it wasn't really tuff at all. the owner of my apartment was super accommodating and very prompt with calling all the workers and dealing with the gas company.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

smthng young to look at: update

so i arrived at the office to teach or be canoodled...the secretary greeted me saying "he's waiting for you".

i enter his office and the first thing i see is a naked lady statue. i'm not offended by naked lady statues, but in this context it made me feel uncomfortable. i thought the lady without clothes was foreshadowing something.

however and thankfully, the class wasn't creepy. he was a respectable man and didn't make any uncomfortable comments.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

smthng young to look at

on friday my boss called me. in a very nice way she asked me to pick up a new student. i told her "it's my last week of teaching". she said she knew, but a high level executive is traveling to the states soon. he saw me in the hallway in the office and specifically requested me to teach him.

she even said this "he saw you in the hallway and requested you.", not that he heard i was a fantastic teacher...but rather "he saw me". if i were in the states i would be pissed that someone wanted me to teach them because of how i looked rather than my skill. but here, somehow it seems normal.

i told her the days i could, she asked me for more days, i said no (because i didn't want to spend 45 min to travel to his office just for 1 hour and then 45 min back and only make a couple pesos) she offered to pay for a taxi so that i could teach him....again, she said "he's specifically asking for you. he's an important person." so i agreed.

it makes me feel dirty..... some exec wants something young to look and he's being obvious about it. i should have asked if he has any special request on what i should wear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

work clothes

on tuesday i had an internal argument with myself about shopping.
side one: i need clothing for my new job. side two: you should wait until you earn money. side one: but then i won't have the time to shop for clothes. side two: you should go shopping.

so, i headed out to zara (sort of like express at home) to buy a couple basics.

2 pair of pants - 119 pesos each ($31)
2 casual shirts - 89 pesos each ($23)
2 cardigans - 99 pesos each ($26)

the pants are a little too long and the shirts could be a little tighter at the top (the size smaller was too small). so this morning i took my things to the seamstress near my apartment.

also, my coat needs a button sewn back on and the pocket has a hole in it.
my favorite pair of jeans are now too big, so i'm getting them taken in a bit.
2 pairs of pants hemmed.
2 tops taken in a bit.
109 pesos ($29)

life with no gas

this past friday i invited a friend over for dinner. i went out to pick up some items and when i returned i ran into one of my neighbors. she told me, in spanish "there's no gas". i thought "ugg, that's what all that jackhammering this morning was about."

no problem, i went to my friends house that night to cook dinner and take a shower.

the next day the owner of my apartment explained the situation. there was a gas leak detected, the gas company shut off the gas, an inspector will then come out on tuesday (since monday was a holiday) and he'll inspect each apartment in the building for a leak and to ensure each unit is upto code.

the owner is being wonderful about the situation, so i can't be mad. he's had workers over at my apartment every day installing what ever is needed to bring me up to code, i've been showering at his apartment and he's been very accommodating and he's discounted my rent so that i can eat dinner out each night since i don't have gas to cook.

i should have gas tomorrow or by next week. i should and do feel lucky. two others in my building that i know of have a gas leak. that means they won't have gas until they replace their pipes...which will be a month time frame. eek.

cooked at a friend's

38 pesos at for a sandwich and pot of tea ($10)

33 pesos for 3 tiny yucky chicken tacos and a diet coke ($8.64)

friends fed me at an asado

out to dinner with a friend. i didn't like my rice and chicken so i just picked at it (the chicken tasted funky), but he like it so he took it home for lunch for the next day and didn't let me pay for it. so so kind. so i left the tip, 7 pesos and 10 pesos for a taxi home.

friends had a work gathering at their apartment and invited me over to feed me...AND sent me home with food too!!! what a bonus! (the brownies they sent home with me didn't make it to the next day.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


August 17th, 2009
Monday was a holiday in Argentina. In the morning I went for a short jog, something I haven't done in a long time. I didn't jog much, instead a bench in my favorite park called my name. I sat down and took in some sunshine. When I opened my eyes, I was blinded by the green of the palm trees that I was sitting under. It reminded me that I have a good life.

After the jog/bench warming I went to meet a friend for ginormous medialunas.

After breakfast I went to a rooftop asado with some friends...

(photo below: this view of the city scares me. when i'm down below, walking in the streets i feel like i'm in a large town or a neighborhood. not until i see it from this view point that i realize i'm in a huge city)
(photo below: hahaha, i just noticed that that is my plate in the photo...bread and salad!!! i don't eat meat...but i love going to asados (bbq) for socializing)

Check Spelling

you will!

a year ago today i had so many questions about my future. "will i" was the title of the post..
My post one year ago read:
"Do you you ever wish you could go back to your past self and say "Don't worry, you're going to be ok"? I wish I could go back and tell my college self, who was struggling with money "Don't worry, it's all going to work out. You'll find a well paid job. Don't worry so much and for heaven sake enjoy yourself, you're in college!".

Right now, I wish I could ask my future self some questions. Will I be ok? Will I be able to easily find a job teaching English in BA, will I find a roommate and apartment? Will I make enough money to survive? Did I make the right decision or going with my heart wasn't the brightest move? Will I get mugged? Will I learn to tango or will I snub it for my beloved salsa? Will I really learn Spanish?"

Will I really make the move to Buenos Aires?
Today I can answer my past self...finally!

Dont' worry, you're going to be ok....actually more than ok. Yes, it was fairly easy to find a job teaching English. It works sending out a ton of resumes and waiting for calls and you didn't have to look for any private students.... all of them found you. Finding an apartment was fine; going with your gut is always best; It worked out well. Making the decision to follow my heart to Buenos Aires was better than a bright idea. You are very happy with life and you just found a job in your field. so, career wise and life wise, it was a good move. Nope, you haven't gotten mugged yet, but you are very cautious, so I'm thinking that has played into the not getting mugged thing. Nope you're still snubbing tango and still very much in love with salsa. Although you do have an appreciation for Tanghetto. Hmmm, the Spanish language and you learning it is still in question. You can get by and are no longer shy or embarrassed, but it's not easy.

Yes, you really moved to Buenos Aires!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

photos: caballito

caballito is a neighborhood centrally located in the city of buenos aires.

(photo below: "perro" means dog)
(photo below: traditional buenos aires house number plates)
(photo below: little sale signs)
(photo below: young men throwing bricks up to the second floor)
(photo below: school bus stop)


it's more complicated than i thought. i don't know if my dentist in the states is at fault or it's the dentist here, but i'm thinking it's the dentist in the states.

the tooth that i need a root canal on was fine until 2007. in 2007 i had a small cavity that was filled. only 2 years later the filling cracked, the tooth became infected and killed the nerves. in order to keep the tooth i needed a root canal.

last week when i went to the dentist, a root canal specialist came to the office to do the procedure, my dentist here didn't do it, she's a generalist. when the root canal specialist looked into my mouth she said i had nice fillings. i asked "the metal ones or the white ones". she said the metal ones (the ones i've had since i was a kid).

when i went in a couple days later my dentist told me that the tooth was worse than she thought and that i would need a minor surgery to fix it. my heart sank. surgery? she explained that it would be simple, and quick but it needed to be done if i didn't want to have a sensation in the tooth when i ate.

a day later i called my dentist in the states. why did a 2 year old filling crack and will the other white fillings crack too? is this surgery really necessary?...unfortunately he's on vacation so i'll have to wait until monday for my answers.

in order to have the surgery i had to have a blood test done. my dentist here gave me all the info: where to go, what time, how much it would cost, etc...

so, this morning (saturday) i woke up at 7:45. when i walked out the door the air was warm and the city was quite. i took a bus to the laboratory that wasn't too far away. some people on the bus still had their party clothes on from the night before, i wasn't sure what the other people were doing on the bus so early in the morning on saturday.

i arrived at the lab at 8:25am. i showed the man at the front desk the paper my dentist gave me, pointed to my arm and said "blood" in spanish. he pointed to the back and told me to make a left. when i entered a small, but clean and modern room a woman gave me a slip of paper with the time i arrived. i grabbed a ticket (like one you see at the deli) and i sat down. i noticed a sign on the wall indicating that the pregnant ladies, people with children and those in wheelchairs did not need to take a number, they could go straight up to the cashier. (pretty nice i thought). just a couple minutes of waiting and my number was called. i gave the slip of paper to the woman. she asked me a couple questions and i gave her 70 pesos($18.50). she gave me another slip of paper and told me to listen for my last name. i didn't even sit down for 2 min and my name was called, my blood was taken and i left...all within a 1/2 hour.

(from stories i've heard about the quickness of medical care, my story is not normal) just lucky i guess.

so, so far i've paid:
450 pesos for the root canal ($118)
370 pesos for the post and temporary tooth ($97)
70 pesos for the blood test ($18)
more to come....

spring is coming

yesterday was a beautiful warm day in buenos aires and today is the same. yesterday it was in the upper 60's and today....75!!!

this coming week it will be back in the 50's, but it's nice to know that spring is almost here!

good news

last week i was extended an offer for a new job!

.....and, with great excitement i accepted the position.

it gives me goosebumps when i think that a year ago, i was planning to move here to teach english but using teaching as a spring board to find a job in my field.

with accepting the position i agreed to stay for one year. it's like Tina made the decision for me, so, no more thoughts about moving home. this will be my home for the next year or more. it feels like a new beginning.

me + Tina + 1 year

gum like m&ms

last week i gave a group of my students, who work together on the same floor, a gift from the u.s.. i really like that group of students. i have great conversations with them and great rapport with them as well. so, i brought back some "jelly belly jelly beans" for them. since i gave them to them last week, this week i got to ask what they thought.

all of them said "they're weird". one described them like gum but with the hard shell of an m&m. they told me their favorite flavors and said they really tasted like what the box said they were. but again, they reiterated that they were weird. one student said "i would eat one and think it was gross, but then i'd quickly try another. they're addicting".

Friday, August 14, 2009

blog birthday

one year ago today i started this blog. my intention was to help others or give other people an idea of what it takes to move abroad. there weren't too many in-depth blogs about life as an english teacher in buenos aires, so i thought i'd start one.

for me, it's blossomed into a way to keep in-touch with family and friends and it's also a way for me to look back, remember my first year here and see how far i've come.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

photos: p.mad

a while back i received a text message from a native argentine that said "let's meet in p.mad". p.mad? where is that? a bar?....ohhhh, the neighborhood of "puerto madero!"

here are some photos from p.mad....