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The First Apartment in Buenos Aires: A Familiar One

9 Jul

When I traveled down to Buenos Aires back in 2006, I rented a studio apartment for $250 per month. That same studio apartment is available when Maggie and I arrive in October, so we’ll be renting it for at least the first 6 weeks we are in BA. Inflation has been really high over the past several years, so we’ll be paying $400 for a month.

Here are several pictures of what it looked like then. We are really hoping it isn’t red anymore! Either way, we’ll take it for the 6 weeks.

Looking up to the entrance from the outside stairs.

The owner, Graciela, thought it would be good to pose for future advertising of the room, but this photo fails in so many ways. It's the only one I have to show what this side of the room looks like.

The kitchenette.

The sliding glass door is the only entrance and window. The wood floors are nice.

It's got AC and a TV that didn't really work.

Smallest bathroom I've ever been in. It's a wet room really, meaning that there's no shower curtain. See my shampoo there?

The view.

This is the place we’ll call home for our first 6 weeks in Buenos Aires. I can’t imagine staying there beyond that. But, it will be hard to find something larger for the same price.

Click here to open a Google map of the apartment’s location.

The apartment isn’t located in the most hip or interesting of neighborhoods. It’s in a neighborhood called San Cristobal. If you zoom in on the map in satellite mode, you’ll see actual satellites on the roof of the TV station next door. They film some popular TV shows there.

Two tickets to Buenos Aires for less than $800

16 Jun

I couldn’t sleep tonight, so I crawled out of bed and started searching for flights to Buenos Aires. Good thing, because I just purchased two tickets for a total of $762!! No lie!

Here’s how.

Occasionally, I check the cost of flights from various mid and eastern cities in the U.S. to Buenos Aires: Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami. Mostly they are all equally priced, with the cheapest round trip tickets fluctuating between $1,200 to $1600. When I got out of bed tonight I expected to see the same.

Instead, when I checked the flights from Miami, I saw “$815.” I did the requisite wiping of the eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating from lack of sleep. It was still there: $815 web fare special rate for a round trip ticket.

I knew I needed to grab them immediately, but Maggie was asleep. I certainly was not going to buy the tickets without her knowledge. I’ve already learned that lesson! Should I wake her up or stay up all night and ask her when she wakes up hoping the special rate didn’t disappear? I decided to wait.

And then I remembered our credit card, which we use for everything! I logged into the rewards system and it said we had just over 77,000 miles. Using their internal flight search, I found the same flight I had found on

One ticket cost 75,000 reward miles or $750! I re-wiped my eyes and verified I read it correctly. What I thought was a good deal originally just got cut in half!

This time I had to wake up Maggie. Three-quarters asleep still, she said, “Why wouldn’t you buy that? Get it!”

So it turns out, our decision to get the overly advertised Capital One “No Hassle” Venture Credit Card paid off. You know that card. Just think of a viking asking, “What’s in YOUR wallet?”

The fact that we used that one card for about 95% of our purchases since being married helped us save a lot of money. I still can’t believe it. We just purchased one ticket completely with reward miles we’ve been accumulating for close to a year and the other ticket for only $762 (after the service fee was added). Amazing!

I guess we’re really going now. No turning back! We depart from Miami on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, for the beautiful city of Buenos Aires with a layover in Mexico City.

I do wonder if Maggie will remember me asking her.

Thinking Too Much About Passports

31 May

As we plan our move to South America, one of the most annoying aspects we have to deal with is gaining permission to enter and eventually stay there. I wish we could just go and then people there could see us for who we are and welcome us based on our character or some other quality, like playing an oboe.

Instead, we have to jump through the hoops. When I stop and think about it, I get it. Despite my annoyance at the whole bureaucratic process, I understand why a Passport is a good thing.

Venturing into someone else’s claimed territory unannounced or without proper credentials is often a sure way to get into trouble. It’s universal.

If you don’t have the proper credentials, you can’t go backstage at a concert, you can’t walk into the Pentagon, and you certainly can’t just stop by to visit Donald Trump at his home(s). At any of these places, there’s a team of security ready to pounce on you if venture too far without proper credentials and clearance. Cain had to be “marked” as he entered into new territory so people would not kill him. Gabriel, in the movie The Mission, had to impress the locals through his oboe playing.

While I still find it annoying that people are unable to travel more freely, I can appreciate the value of a Passport given how fearful we all are of each other. A Passport is a decent answer to a universal problem. I am thankful that as long as we pay the dues and pass through through all the hoops, we’ll be welcomed upon arrival and not tossed out. This is a good thing.

And so, Maggie and I have updated our Passports. That’s step one to making sure we have the proper credentials. Now we need to look into immunizations and visas. Those are much more time-consuming.

Passport book renewal fee: $110 x 2 = $220
Process length: 6-10 weeks
More info at U.S. State Department website

Before We Age: Preventing a Mid-Life Crisis

23 May

Why we entitled our blog “Before We Age.”

From a young age, I remember hearing enough people voice a wistfulness for not doing something while they were still young and able. Those voices have shaped me. Their wisdom to “seize the day” and “do it while you can” have been a guiding factor in many of my life transitions.

For example, I left a corporate gig in Houston to study Family Therapy at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, even though I didn’t really want to be a Family Therapist. Many of my fellow students and professors rightly asked me with the most confused facial expressions possible, “Why?”

Eventually, I learned to half-jokingly tell them I was preventing a mid-life crisis.

One day I’ll want to go to grad school to study this stuff, but won’t be able to because I’ll have bills to pay and kids to feed. I just thought I’d get it out of the way, so I don’t go crazy later.” No one ever seemed to walk away satisfied by that!

But that’s it. I still think that way. I don’t want to be wistful about my life when I get older. I want to live a life of as few regrets as possible. I want to love people, serve God, and enjoy this life while God allows me to.

Sometimes the decision is to stay put for a while and invest in people. Other times the decision is to go after the unique moment. For the past 4 1/2 years I’ve tried to serve well at SPCC, even though there were times I wanted to leave. If had I left with everyone else, I would have regretted it. I stayed and God blessed.

Going to Argentina is the same thing: it’s a unique moment that must be followed. It’s us trying to heed the wisdom of so many wistful adults and the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 12:1:

Remember your Creator

in the days of your youth,

before the days of trouble come

and the years approach when you will say,

“I find no pleasure in them.”

Moving to Argentina is about us taking these last few “pre-parent” years of our life to enjoy a unique opportunity. It’s about us enjoying the days of our youth since God only gives us these years once.

But if you ask me again, I’ll just tell you that I’m preventing a mid-life crisis.