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The Big City

It’s been crazy coming home and being thrown right back into life–I went to work the day after I arrived.

I am the Marketing Director at a landscape architecture firm and things are buzzing at the office. Now just six weeks back on the U.S. and I have helped run a booth at a conference, presented at an interview and attended another conference on top of the normal proposals, reorganizing the office and trying to settle into the American culture again.

Hugo and I have been picking away at our “Getting Settled” checklist and over the weekend finally bought some winter attire. He has his green card and social security card and is now just on pins and needles wanting full time work. Luckily my boss has kept Hugo busy with some office remodels and a business close by my office had him on the waiting list to hire.

Me? Going a little crazy and I still haven’t changed my last name, which means there’s normally a pause before I decide which I should use. “In this case should I use my legally documented name offer can I use my married name?” I use both on my company emails. Confusing.

What is going well? I am girlishly in love. Having a salary from a nice boss is always a plus, too.

Thank you to all who have helped us along the way, even with your happy thoughts sent in our general direction.

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Who knew?

Who knew I would find it so difficult to “assimilate” when returning to the U.S.A.? I didn’t. But it has been particularly challenging after spending 11 months and 2.2 weeks in Argentina. (Hugo won’t let me claim the full year–I’m a couple weeks shy, he says.) I can’t imagine what it has been like for Hugo so I will just have to say he finally is beginning to like it here. Thank goodness for that!

Now for a ridiculously short version of the past year. . .

In September 2011 I flew down to Buenos Aires, Argentina where a very anxious fiance and his sister were waiting for me in the airport. Apparently they were an hour early and spent 30 minutes in the wrong terminal. His sister said, “Maybe she decided not to come.” Eeek! Upon finding they were in the wrong terminal they quickly ran to the correct terminal and didn’t have to wait much longer. “There she is! She’s over here,” Hugo yelled across to his sister who was too short to see over the crowd. “I can’t see her! Find her and bring her over,” she recommended. I must admit I saw him but was so nervous I kept right on talking with an older woman I met on the plane. When I did see him it was just as the lady said, “It’s just like a movie!” We forgot both English and Spanish, but neither mattered at that moment.

It was cold the day I arrived but I just was not. Perhaps it was because I was still boiling hot from the Utah summer I’d left, but in any case I continually declined putting on anything heavier than my windbreaker. At one point his sister said (in Spanish, of course), “Aren’t you cold?” I answered incorrectly, “Estoy caliente.” At first Hugo and his sister just stared at each other. “What?” Hugo explained what I actually said (you’ll have to ask an Argentine). “Oh! I didn’t mean that!” Then they laughed while my face became hotter and hotter as the seconds rolled on.

Fast forward. . . 

After a 16 hour bus ride to his home town of Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena, I was anything but smelling or looking precious, let alone pretty. “Please, before we see anyone, can you take me somewhere to shower?” “Uh-huh.” Yeah right! He took me straight to his mother’s house. Hugo, you will never live that one down.

His family was very kind, though I am not entirely sure if they were truly prepared for the girl from the U.S. I honestly don’t remember too much about this visit. I am sorry to say I was so tired that all I really remember is they were very kind. And then we went to pick up Lizet.

What a happy moment it was to meet Lizet in person for the first time! What an adorable little girl! She looked at me as if I were some unexpected present. I was afraid of overwhelming her so I waited for her lead. Hugo turned to us in the back seat and said, “Lizet, do you want to hug her?”

“Yes.”

“Then hug her!”

I thought it was a funny way to start things off between us, but I was glad someone gave us permission for the first hug. Hugo was very sweet and as I went around town buying toiletries and other items he stayed with my suitcases while Lizet pointed out pretty colors for towels and the “right brands” for shampoo and toothpaste. She was a doll. I miss her more than some might think I should miss a little girl who is not my own. She feels so much like a little girl who should be mine. I love her so much.

And then. . . well, I lived at a woman’s house until we were married on October 7th. Yes, we have already celebrated 1 year of marriage. We were married civilly because of their laws and unfortunately, because of confusion with our religious leaders, were not able to be married in the temple. (I cried and cried when I found our paperwork had been cancelled. The good news is it is in full swing again.)

I moved in with Hugo and Gustavo (a mentally handicapped man he cared for) right then and there and began an eventful first year of marriage.

(To be continued. . . )

Me and Hugo after the Saturday morning session of LDS General Conference in the LDS Conference Center. October 2012

Ñoquis is one of my favorite Argentine dishes and in over 7 months I hadn’t had it once! Finally Hugo assented since Sunday would be the 29th–the day noquis are “supposed” to be eaten. He said we’d buy some pre-made.

Hmmm. . . Not what I had in mind, but okay. Sunday came around and we hadn’t purchased any: Hooray! I told Hugo we would just make them at his mom’s house. “Okay.”

Hugo, his mom and I set to work washing potatoes and preparing the sauce. Hugo came in and out as his mom (Lucia) and I had taken charge of rolling out the dough, cutting and making the fork impressions on each. Once we had enough to boil Mom called out, “Cook #3, where are you? Where is cook #3?” I found him watching the kids playing video games and dragged him in to boil the noodles while Mom and I continued with our portion. After much labor we had made an enormous mound of noquis and a delicious sauce. Hugo and I sat at the table with his parents and ate while my brothers-in-law, nephews, nieces and Lizet gratefully took their much awaited meal to the other room.

Cali and Lucia Making Noquis

After eating and resting a little, we set to making homemade bread with anis. While kneading the bread we talked about food (we talked about FOOD while making food?! Yes.) and I told stories about my mischievous dad. We tried putting it all in a breadmaker to cook but couldn’t figure it out. . . so we put it in the oven. It smelled so good as it cooked!!  Can I just tell you I LOVE this bread? I love bread with herbs and spices, but most of all I really enjoyed doing something–learning–with Hugo’s mom. Thank you, Mom Centurion!

My in-laws were given a large plot of land to tend over 30 years ago. The agreement was they would receive payment for guarding the land from squatters. For over 30 years they have been on the land, set up a small farm that brings in money while at the same time providing food for themselves. In all that time they have never been paid by the owners.

Recently the owners of the land have returned (this is the second time in the past few years) and tried to get my in-laws to sign a sneaky contract that would basically kick them off the land without enough recompense. Because they have been on the land so long, they have certain legal rights that keep them from being removed (possession is 9/10s of the law sort of deal). The farm is their livelihood and they have never taken legal action against the owners for lack of payment, they would simply like the law to provide for them. Cross your fingers all works out well for them in one form or another.

Hugo Luisa Lucia and Brisa

On the other side of the law, a woman known to be connected with thieves, if she is not a thief herself, decided to use the same “possession” tactic to take over someone else’s home. The owner of the home decided to make improvements before actually moving in and has spent months doing so; a new brick fence, new tile floors, etc. At some point the thief decided the house was nice enough for her and moved in with her toddler, putting a lawyer to work at securing this home for herself.

Because the woman has a child, is not married and was “homeless”, she could easily be given home even though it in no way belongs to her AND the owner has obviously been making improvements to the home–recent visits/activity on the property. The thief was ensured by her lawyer she would be given the home and to not worry about a thing so the thief sold the property she owned–yes she was NOT homeless and actually was not without a husband (common law), either, which is another point that would work for her. This story has actually seen its end and the thief was removed (kicking and screaming after a 10-day extension) from the property because it was found out she actually DID own property and someone testified against her (Hugo).

I was remarking to Hugo yesterday that I was glad to see justice take its course–the thief received her due dessert–and we don’t always get to see that in this life. Sometimes people are able to avoid the law. I expected him to jump in with me but he surprisingly quieted and, even though he had spent weeks saying his neighbors were cowards by not helping each other and testifying against this woman, and only replied with a question trying to confirm he understood what I was saying. He in no way was trying to give me an “aha” moment, but he did.

Hugo’s parents need that law in order for true justice to be served to them. This thief tried to use the same law to steal from someone else. Dumb law? Not for Hugo’s parents. Noted: it is more often the people and not the laws that mess things up. As for justice being served, I have never stolen clothing from a store or really committed any serious “crime” worthy of jail or prison time, but I have done things I shouldn’t, whether according to the laws of the land or my own beliefs.

I speed. I do. I know I shouldn’t, but 65 mph doesn’t seem fast enough. I also have accepted “free music” from friends. I think speaking like a pirate is great, but I shouldn’t be pirating things. Not nice. All the hardworking musicians out there are wishing justice would be served on US.

A note to Justice: I will try to be better, but will you please forgive me this time?

Hugo came home with a what appeared to be a shaving kit bag. “I bought you something. It’s for your camera because you’re always leaving it at home,” he said. So now I have a small bag to carry my camera and catch scenes I probably would have missed otherwise.

For nearly every store you enter, you have to leave your bags (backpacks, purses, shopping bags) in a locker at the front of the store, pocket the key with the large numbered fob and retrieve your items before leaving.

Notice all of the mopeds/scooters? They are the most popular mode of transport and the parking spots are great: on the sidewalks right in front of the stores!

A great accommodation here is the ability you have to hail a bus. Can't make it to the bus stop or have no clue where the stop is? Stay put long enough and hail yourself a bus!

Sleeping overnight in the hospital to be first in line to set a doctors appointment.

The dogs also find refuge in the hospital. They sleep in the halls and under the patient's beds.

Santa's hot wife helped a little on Christmas Eve.

I couldn't have planned the shot much better. The owners of the cart roam through town with a megaphone calling out what they have to sell. To see it parked next to this brand new car is interesting in many ways. It's surprising that a country with so many advances still has carts on the streets. It shows the stark class division between those who live in the surrounding "country" and those with one of the few local high paying jobs.

Work Made Beautiful

Who thought preparing a proposal for a local municipality could be so stimulating? All the “how many in your firm” type questions can be boring at best. So why is it different this time? I’ll set the scene. . .

An easy 90 degrees out; 85 in the shade, which is where I am. To the right is a young mandarin orange tree leaning a little to far toward the house and chinese rose plants topped in red. To my left another slightly older tree and tall green and red grasses shading my workspace for the day. The birds are chirping high above in the trees and butterflies flutter through and around my “cubicle”. You could easily say this is one of those “happy places” they tell us to find when we are huddled inside our offices during the winter.

Blessed Argentine spring! . . . As long as we keep the fan pointed on me and can shower several times per day.

 

 

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