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A map of the world, in my opinion, doesn’t do justice to just how big a country Argentina is. This sounds kind of silly considering it is the 8th largest country in the world.  If you turn it on it’s side, it’s just as wide as the United States. We ended up spending a little under three months in Argentina, crossing the Bolivian border to enter at the beginning of December and finally exiting Argentina on the 19th of February. We spent in the neighborhood of 100 hours on buses working our way south from the Bolivian border all the way to El Calafate in the southern portion of Patagonia and eventually crossing the border into Chile at Puerto Natales, Chile.

Iceberg Reflection

All in all we had a great time in Argentina. We made a number of friends staying in hostels throughout the country that we still keep in contact with and then there is the close friendship we made with Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael. Along with the incredible sites that we’ve seen, it’s the people that we’ve had an opportunity to meet that have been the highlight our trip and will, most likely, continue to be.

Our buddy Joe from England

Our buddy, Joe, from England

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

When we tell people that we’ve meet on the road our plans to find a home in South America the first question they always seem to ask is, “Have you found any candidates yet?” Our immediate response is Salta, Argentina. We spent 2 weeks in Salta and really loved it. The people there were extremely friendly, despite being a big city it has a small town feel, & it has the prettiest square that we’ve seen in South America, by far.

Architecture in Salta

Outside of Salta, we really enjoyed our time in Patagonia. Words and pictures really can’t encompass just how incredible nearly every view is in Patagonia.  Although we really liked Patagonia, it’s just too cold most of the year for us to even contemplate making it our home someday.

Kevin in Bariloche

Kevin in Bariloche

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

El Calafate

El Calafate

Our six weeks in San Rafael was another highlight of our time in Argentina. Outside of all the previously mentioned reasons why our time there was so great for us, one of the best aspects of being there was the opportunity to meet many of Susan & Dave’s ex-pat friends. Talking with them and getting the chance the listen to them talk amongst themselves, we got a real world insider look of what’s really going on in Argentina. One that we wouldn’t have gotten just hanging out and talking to fellow travelers. As a whole, we really didn’t like what we heard. Comparatively speaking, Argentina is light years ahead of Bolivia, but it still has a lot of work to do. It doesn’t help that the current government has been very interventionist in the economy in a number of negative aspects. In some ways completely erasing the work that Nestor Kirchner’s administration did to push Argentina forward. It’s ironic and kind of sad that the current president, Nestor’s wife Christina, has been such a disaster.

San Rafael

San Rafael

 Despite all the positive aspects of Argentina, it’s the negative ones (the inflation/struggling economy, bland food, & lack of an adequate build up of local industry) that really gives us pause with regard to making it our home.

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

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It is, however, an amazing place to visit. It has something for everyone and even though we spent almost three months there, we would love to go back someday to see all the places that we missed.

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As most of you already know, our first Workaway experience didn’t go as we had hoped. So when we heard back from Susan, a writer, & Dave, a former alternative radio host, documentarian, and lifelong musician in San Rafael, we were excited, but also a bit apprehensive. They were going to be fine with us staying as long or as short a time as we wanted, so we entered San Rafael knowing that if things didn’t quite work out we be able to get out. Fortunately, things with Susan, Dave, & their 13-year-old daughter Tivoli could not have worked out any better.

Tiv, Susan & Dave

Tiv, Susan & Dave

From the moment that we arrived till the moment that we left, we were treated like a new part of the family. We spent the days working and the nights getting to know one another, either at dinner or just hanging out on the patio talking about anything & everything. Susan & Dave could not have been more accommodating hosts and our living situation couldn’t have been more ideal (especially after our previous Workaway situation). We had our own house separate from theirs. It had two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a gigantic kitchen, and a sitting area where we could hang out, read or watch movies. (We apologize for the grainy images of our accommodation – our cheap point & shoot camera was acting up on our last day & the nice camera was charging.)

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Our house

The kitchen

Our kitchen

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

Kind of like our last Workaway, Lisa & I had different responsibilities and expectations. I was needed to help Dave with the long list of outdoor projects that he was simply unable to keep up with given their vast amount of land. Lisa, on the other hand, was given the tough balancing act of being a teacher/friend to Tiv. During the mornings they did several fun projects from photography & blogging to bracelet making & painting. Tuesday & Thursday nights, Lisa & Tiv took to the kitchen to cook dinner for the 5 of us. At times it proved to be a bit of challenge for Lisa to keep Tiv focused, but all in all it was a good experience for the two of them.

TivSmiles

Our Painting

Collaborative painting by Tiv, Susan & Lisa

Their pets, who we love almost as much as we love Norma & Silverstein!

Their pets, who we love almost as much as we love Norma Jean & Silverstein!

 I spent most of my time outside doing a number of different tasks. Dave and I started off doing most of our morning work together, cutting up logs for splitting & cutting/clearing out quick-growing saplings. As time went on, Dave kind of just let me do my own thing. Some days he had a specific task that he wanted me to get done, other days I was left to my own devices. I did everything from weed-whacking, cutting down trees, splitting wood, & hanging chicken wire (they had a bat problem in their cabana). I also cleared out all the weeds & silt build up in the small canal that ran across their property.

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We usually worked until around 12:30 or 1:00. In summer it just gets too hot to be working outside & plus you would be disturbing your neighbors during siesta. In Argentina & South America as a whole, businesses and people pretty much shut down around 1:00PM to take a break from the day and relax. They don’t start up again until around 5:00PM. It is a bit of shock at first to go into a big city or small town for that matter and see no businesses open, but you eventually get used to it and come to expect it, especially when the afternoon temperatures are pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Triumph

 Susan & Dave were also gracious enough to take us to almost all the social gatherings of their friends. On Friday evenings they had a few Expat friends over for a friendly, low stakes game of poker. It was a pot luck so everyone brought food. There wasn’t a bad cook among them so we ate some great food. Sunday afternoons, we did pretty much the same thing at a friend of theirs house. Expect the game on Sunday wasn’t poker, but Ba-Chi-Ball. Even though we didn’t have our AARP cards, they let us play. They also took us to a few others parties, including a New Year’s Eve party where was had a great Asado (Argentine BBQ) which included a goat roasting over an open fire and some great people.

Us, Malcolm & Sue At Poker Night

Us, Malcolm & Sue (British Expats) At Poker Night

The Circus - Yeah, that's right!

The Circus – Yeah, that’s right!

New Year's Eve 2013

New Year’s Eve 2013

White water rafting in Valle Grande

White water rafting in Valle Grande

Our time with Susan, Dave, & Tiv was outstanding. They couldn’t be nicer people & they defiantly couldn’t have treated us any better. Our time in San Rafael flew by, but we couldn’t stay there forever. We’ve left San Rafael, but we have more now than when we first arrived. We’ve added 3 new family members that we can’t wait to see again.

SR Family For now, it’s goodbye to San Rafael & hello to Bariloche, the gateway to Patagonia!

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Week 10 - Blue Eyed Girl - Tivoli in San Rafael, Argentina

Week 10 – Blue Eyed Girl – Tivoli in San Rafael, Argentina

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Who’s got 2 thumbs & totally fixed our computer?

This gal!!!!

It must be said that we are just independent travelers.  We’re not getting paid by any hostels or websites to promote their services.  We just like to keep other travelers informed, in case they decide to visit the same places we do.  We put a lot of our trust on the reviews & recommendations of other travelers, so we’d like to pay it forward.  We’re so happy that we found Jodanga Backpacker’s Hostel on HostelBookers.com!  Before leaving La Paz, I did some research on accommodation in Santa Cruz (de la Sierra) & based on the many reviews that I skimmed, it was clear that Jodanga was the highest rated & it was pretty clear why.

Modern Design

Clean Facilities

Pool (yes please!)

Other Great Perks Include:

  • English Speaking Staff
  • Free WiFi
  • Pool Table
  • Kitchen
  • Food & Beverages Available
  • TV/Movie Room
  • Lockers/Luggage Storage

Jodanga was our first dorm experience together.  I’d done it before while traveling in Europe, but this was Corey’s first time.  We’re both super happy that all the double rooms were booked when we arrived, because we finally got to meet other travelers & we ended up making a few friends!

We originally planned to stay in Santa Cruz for 2 nights.  In the end, we spent a total of 4 nights at Jodanga Hostel.  Three of which were at the start of our stay in Santa Cruz & another 1 when we returned from Samaipata.  The only reason we didn’t stay longer was because of the Bolivian Census.  Basically, Bolivia does their census in 1 day & pretty much everything was shut down, including the hostel for 2 nights.  Luckily, we found another place, Hotel Bolivia & we’ve been there since (a total of 5 nights so far).  It’s more expensive & definitely doesn’t stack up to Jodanga, but the location can’t be beat, since we’re right in the city center!

We’re hoping to catch up with the blog as much as possible before heading to Argentina by the end of the week! Until then, enjoy this giant moth we found napping on a sidewalk in Santa Cruz:

(we placed a travel sized bag of tissues next to it for reference)

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We just wanted to wish everyone in the States a Merry Turkey Day!!!!

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– Corey & Lisa –

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Photo blog to make up for lack of photos in the previous post . . .

Before leaving Wisconsin, Corey’s folks took us out for dinner one last time!

Norma Jean getting acclimated with her new digs

Catching up with Leader’s Club (YMCA) buddies!

Catching up with high school buddies!

Sorting our inventory (Lisa’s clothes)

Enjoying our favorite restaurants!

Relaxing in Raleigh with the Davis family

Organizing everything (again & again!)

See you in La Paz!

Thank you EVERYONE for making our last few months in Wisconsin & North Carolina so much fun!  It was nice to see you all one last time . . . after a couple of weeks of catching up with family & friends in Raleigh, we’re finally off to Bolivia!

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Silverstein “Stinky” Waller”
June 25, 2007 – April 23, 2012

A few weeks after we got married we got Norma Jean at the Waukesha County Human Society.  After a couple of months of it just being the two of us and Norma, we decided to get her a playmate.  We, the weird people that we admittedly tend to be, came up with a name for our new cat before we even walked into the Milwaukee County Human Society’s doors.  Silverstein, after the band Silverstein which is named after the poet Shel Silverstein.  This was the name Lisa first came up with and Corey loved immediately.  So as we roamed the halls of the humane society we found ourselves looking for a silver/gray cat.  They had a few, however, there was a feisty little one with tiger striping that looked pretty cool.  He was the one and we brought him home. 

Now there are two ways to introduce cats.  The right way: is to lock the new cat in a separate room and let them kind of get used to each other’s smells and then give them short times together, again to allow them to both get comfortable.  And the wrong way: is to walk in the front door, open the new cat’s carrier, and see what happens.  Poor Norma.  We choose the second way. The second Silverstein got out, he began chasing Norma all over the house, generally beating the crap out of her.  After a couple of hours of this we both began to become worried that maybe this wasn’t going to work.  We went to work the next morning hoping that by the time we got home things would have settled down at least a bit.  Luckily, they did.  When Corey got home the next afternoon the two cats were taking a nap together, best friends after a night of all out war.  One thing was very apparent after that first night.  This was Silverstein’s house.

Throughout his life Corey has had quite a few cats.  Not one of them has come even close to touching Silverstein and his incredible personality.  From his loud mouth purring to the place he choose to spend his nights, wrapped around Corey’s head even if that meant forcing him off the pillow.  Silverstein always made his presence felt.  He liked to play it up like he was a real tough guy, but reality didn’t quite match up.  He would always be the first to greet Corey when he came home, unless he thought it was a stranger and he ran away to hide under a chair.  One time we brought a dozen balloons home for one of Lisa’s picture projects and left to do some errands.  We came home to find Silverstein hiding in the kitchen drawer with all the measuring cups and spoons.  We have now idea how he managed to squeeze his fat body in there or why he was so afraid of those balloons.

When he played, he really liked it rough.  Corey could push him to the ground and roughhouse him and he would just lay there purring, happy as could be.  Sometimes Corey would even put his face in jumping range over Silverstein.  He’d jump up and hit Corey with both paws in the face, claws in because he didn’t want to hurt Corey.  

He hated company.  He usually would either hide somewhere in the bedroom or, if he was feeling brave, walk around and hiss at any stranger that got too close.  We originally tried to bring the cats up to Corey’s parents’ for holidays, but Silverstein ended that because he always ended up under a couch, hissing at people.  I guess to others he must have seemed like a big jerk, but he wasn’t like that with us.  I think that’s what made Silverstein so loveable.  He hated everyone, but loved the three of us so much.

One month ago, on April 23, 2012, we had to say goodbye to our little boy cat.  To be honest, it’s been a rough month emotionally trying to get on with a life that doesn’t include Silverstein. Some people may think it’s silly to mourn a cat, but he was one of our best friends & it’s weird to think that it’s just the three of us now: Corey, Lisa & Norma Jean.

Back in January, Silverstein started throwing up and losing his appetite.  We took him to the vet, where they put him on a couple of medications which seemed to do the trick.  He seemed like he was back to normal.  Unfortunately, this didn’t last for very  long.  Within a couple of months his previous symptoms returned, but worse  this time around.  Corey also found a weird peapod-like object in the litter box.  It could have been from either of our cats, but we assumed that it was probably from him since he wasn’t feeling well. 

 Lisa noticed blood in his stool one morning while getting ready for work & that freaked both of us out.  Obviously concerned, we brought him back to the vet, where they insisted on saying that it was probably the same thing from January & prescribed the same medication.  If, after that, he still wasn’t better, then they’d do x-rays and blood work.

After that second visit to the vet his appetite plummeted.  We tried every cat food we could find & even caved in, giving him our food: tuna, deli meat, ground turkey, anything to get him to eat.  After attempting to get him in for blood work & x-rays on a Saturday morning with no luck, the vet suggested we buy some AD to nourish him over the weekend and then get him tested the following Tuesday.  We weren’t keen on this plan, but weren’t sure what other options we had.  So, we bought the AD, which is soluble cat food that’s supposed to have an appealing aroma, in hopes that Silverstein would get something in his system.  It didn’t work.

On Sunday morning, April 22nd, we brought him to a 24 hour animal hospital in our area.  By the afternoon we learned that he probably had liver disease.  They kept him overnight & the next morning learned that not only did he have liver disease, but that his small intestine & pancreas were probably infected.  They’d have to do more tests and he’d have to wear an esophageal feeding tube for at least 3 months.  At that point the doctor was going over the costs of all these procedures and we realized we had to let him go.  Around 11:30 that Monday morning we held him while he slipped away. 

Some of Lisa’s co-workers have suggested getting a new cat, but they can’t seem to grasp just how special he was to us.  Have you ever met a cat who purred when you put him in a dress?  Or who smelled something stinky & went back not for one, but two sniffs?  Or whose preferred relaxation method was on his back?  That was Silverstein!  Not a day goes by that we don’t miss him and while we wish we had more time with him, at least we got 5 great years with our baby boy!  

Rest in peace Stinky

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