Found: An English (and Spanish) Church in Buenos Aires

30 Sep

It took nearly ten frustrating months of bouncing around Sunday to Sunday before we finally found a church community here in Buenos Aires that offers us a chance to be involved, make friends with people our age, speak English and Spanish, and travel less than 20 minutes to attend.

We are now regulars at San Andrés Presbyterian Church (Iglesia Presbiteriana San Andrés) in the Belgrano neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

When we walked into the church for the first time on a Sunday morning, we both knew immediately this would be our church home. The warmth and friendliness was palpable. People were joking, laughing and one couple was drinking mate in the pews. There were young and old and they seemed to be interested in one another. When the singing started, we looked at each with huge smiles. The musicians were playing in an almost Dixieland jazz style, complete with clarinet! Turns out this is a weekly occurrence.

Needless to say, we are very happy to have found San Andrés. We look forward to going on Sunday and we’re surrounded by others who seem just as happy to be there.

What makes the church even better for us is their semi-independent, English-speaking group called The Well. (Chronologically, we really found The Well first.) The Well meets every other Sunday night for a time of song, prayer and study, and since we’re still not fully understanding everything that happens on Sunday mornings, we welcome the easy comprehension.

Finding a church home was one of the last major pieces to us getting settled here in Buenos Aires. Our lives feel more complete now. Now, if we can just get those visas worked out.

**If you’re traveling to or through BA and looking to attend church, you are more than invited to meet up with us. Send us a message. No need to be shy about it.

A Long Weekend in Montevideo, Uruguay

18 Aug

Another three months went by since we last hopped the border into Uruguay to renew our tourist visas in Buenos Aires. For this trip, we went to Montevideo, Uruguay, and had a fun time in a city that goes to sleep much earlier than Buenos Aires. Here are some of the memories. Enjoy!

The pictures below are from our day at Bouza Bodega, Parque Rodó in Montevideo, and Mercado del Puerto (Port Market) where we had some amazing food in an old-style atmosphere.

My Work and the Police Mafia

30 Jun

When it came time to find a job in Argentina, I chose one with lower pay in exchange for a work visa sponsorship, health “benefits,” a local bank account, and regular hours. Six months later, I’m still in the beginning stages of obtaining a work visa – thank you bureaucracy. The health benefits turn out to be about equal to the national healthcare available for anyone inside the country. And, a local bank account is no longer an asset, since recent laws have made it basically impossible to withdraw U.S. dollars inside this country.

Regardless of this, I am increasingly grateful to have landed the job I did. I teach at an English institute that markets itself to working professionals and college students. Its methodology combines technology (think Rosetta Stone with a telenovela storyline) with in-person conversation, practice, and assessment. It’s a quality program, and its price reflects it.

The demographic of my students could not be more different than back in L.A. – except for still being English Language Learners. Some of my favorites include:

– An 80+-year-old woman whose father and husband both worked as ambassadors for Argentina. She grew up a child of the world near the Argentine embassies of France, Poland, Switzerland, and Brazil. French is her first language, Spanish her second, Portuguese her third, and English her fourth. Her royal-like upbringing and connections always make for fascinating stories (admired by Churchill, high tea with the Queen), made all the better by pepperings of multi-lingual profanity.

– A twenty-something medical student. She is Peruvian and moved here to take advantage of Argentina’s free education system. (In Argentina, you can become a doctor FOR FREE.) While going to school full-time, she also works at a pharmacy and just bought her first apartment. In my mind, she is the epitome of the AMERICAN dream, she’s whip-smart, and she doesn’t believe in dinosaurs, evolution, OR creation.

– A 30-something Brazilian flight attendant. She’s just a hoot. Plus, flight attendants put everyone else’s multi-lingual skills and traveling savvy to shame.

The students come to the institute when it fits their schedule, and I never know who I am going to see until I arrive that day. As a result, it is literally impossible to do much planning ahead of time. For anyone who has ever taught, I promise I do not take for granted my ability to clock out every day, go home and not even think about work until the following morning. It’s been a refreshing and restful change of pace.

Another difference between my current job and working back in L.A. is that every month, the Argentine police “mafia” comes to collect their check. Technically, it is a monthly pittance to a Buenos Aires police charity “foundation.” When the institute first moved to its current location, a representative came to request a charitable contribution. My boss refused … he came to work the next day to a ransacked school. The back door had been broken into and several brand-new computers stolen.

Before anyone reported it to the police, they showed up on their own, and once again, asked for a donation. The institute, like all its neighbors, has been paying them off every month since.

For anyone interested in teaching English in South America, there are plenty of jobs in B.A. It’s extremely easy to find work. It’s not so easy to make a living wage – especially while abiding by immigration policies. – If you manage a way to pay for rent, prepare for at least U.S. $600 PER ROOM, you will be able to make enough to pay for your other expenses. If you have teaching experience, another way to go is to teach at an international school outside the city – apply in advance, and many of them will give you a monthly stipend for living.

If you have any more questions about working in Argentina, I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below!

“The one not jumping is a Brit!” – Argentine Soccer Chant

16 Jun

Soccer teams in Argentina don’t rely on cheerleaders to keep fans up out of their seats during a game. A voluntary “cheer mafia” made up of hard-core fans in various states of soberly disorder eagerly does this on their own from the stands. At least, so we’ve heard from our friend Galen who braved the madness and went to a Boca Juniors soccer game and experienced the “cheer mafia” firsthand.

At one point in the game, one of the men leading the cheering and singing went to their row and punched a dude who wasn’t cheering. The dude was a tourist. Then, this cheer-man grabbed one of Galen’s friends by the shirt, essentially commanding them to cheer or else face the same fate.

What Galen discovered later was that the cheering at a soccer game in Argentina is a bit of a superstition. The louder, rowdier, and more pervasive the cheering is the better the team will play. A moment of silence or a silent onlooker may be the root cause of a player’s mishap. So, it’s not that the cheer mafia are simply jerks, they’re superstitious. At least this cheer man was, Galen believed.

While cheering in the U.S. for hours on end sounds incredibly tedious — how long can you go yelling a “Yay!” here, a “Go team!” there, and an occasional collective “De-Fense!” without a break? — cheering in Buenos Aires is more like singing choruses over and over again. The crowd is one large choir, and each team has its own songbook. It’s a lot easier to sing for hours than to yell.

Friends at the Argentina vs. Ecuador soccer game

Lionel Messi before the Argentina vs. Ecuador game - June 2, 2012

The game we went to wasn’t enforced by a cheer mafia, thankfully. But they still had a songbook to sing as they watched Lionel Messi destroy Ecuador.

My favorite song from the night went like this (not my video, but taken at our game):


“Y ya lo ve, y ya lo ve, el que no salta, es un inglés.”

Which basically means, “And now you see it, and now you see it, the one not jumping is a Brit!”

Notice in the video everyone is jumping! Hilarious that they sing it at a game against Ecuador!

In the end, we were super excited to see an awesome game where (1) Argentina won, (2) Messi scored a goal, (3) the cheer mafia men were not on the lookout, and (4) we were able to sing the songbook of Argentina soccer. Good times.

After the Argentina vs. Ecuador game at River Plate Stadium