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A recommendation. And a toast.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We've started drinking caipirinha on sweltering afternoons. It's a Brazilian cocktail, made with cachaça, a sugarcane-based alcohol, and lots of lime, sugar and ice.

Here we pass it around in a small, metal ice-bucket filled to the top with lime halves and ice cubes, and, being all Argentinian, we slurp it through a bombilla. (The bombilla is an essential piece of maté gear. I'm planning to share some maté tips and terminology soon). It is:
What more could you want?

And to my dear (old) friend on her birthday:

Happy birthday!

How I would love to be slurping back one of these (or anything else) with you! Even if there is chaos, kids running around, interrupting us, nursing, crying, tugging and playing, partners needing attention. If only there weren't 10,000 kilometres or so between us.

I hope you're having a great day, and that your cuties are lavishing love upon you. Sending lots of love your way -

Clink, clink.

Time for a holiday

Monday, January 25, 2010

It looks like I am moving from being a stay-at-home mom to being a stay-at-home and work-at-home mom. This is a good thing. I'm pretty sure.

But it has really ratcheted up the tension around here. I'm not too sure why. I guess there aren't enough hours in a day, and without any convincing childcare arrangement yet in place, we are both anxious to carve out and protect our time - work time, together time, sleep time, (free time - ha  ha!), defensively marking out our territory. Or maybe that isn't really it at all. I don't know.

But I am headed off on holidays tomorrow for a week of cousin-bonding and outdoor play, so there will be some down-time - with no work obligations and no computer in sight - for us to figure things out. And we will. I am really looking forward to the re-connect and all the family time.

I'm also looking forward to some time with my beloved notebook.

If nothing else, blogging has helped me find a good reason to have a notebook. I've always wanted a good reason, a purpose, for a notebook.

Now, when the power is out, when I can't get to the computer, when it is too nice outside - I've started jotting down ideas and writing parts of blog posts in my notebook. They don't have to be complete, or edited, or follow any logical flow, because the notebook is supplementary to the blog; it is not a reflection or an expression of me, and it does not have to be anything more than a behind-the-scenes tool and accessory.

This is a total breakthrough in my perfectionist little world, and I find it incredibly liberating. I really dig my notebook now.

... In other news, although I won't be able to contribute this time around, I thought I would mention the upcoming deadline (Feb. 2) for the new Carnival of Natural Parenting. I hope to participate eventually (I'm slow at these things), but the February carnival has a great theme:
Love and partners: How has a co-parent supported your dedication to natural parenting - or not? 
Go check it out.

Okay then, I am off for a little holiday. I hope to to prepare a few quicky blog posts for my absence, but with packing and cleaning and nursing my teething toddler and playing dinosaur with my needy preschooler, this may or may not happen.

I will return, though, with some fresh perspective and hopefully with some bloggable scribbles in my notebook. I already have a few that I'm working on...

Welcome to my new site design

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ta da! 

I am very happy and a little bit terrified to present a new design for my blog.

I'm semi-satisfied with it all. I know I could have really benefited from knowing a thing or two about colour, design, and html. In my mind it is about a hundred times more attractive and original, so try to imagine that when you look at it...

But, it feels more like home now. And finally getting it out there means I can stop fiddling with it all. Unlikely, though.

There will be some new content soon too - I'm working on 'about me' and 'about macondo' pages. It's all pretty much ready, I just have to read it over another hundred times or so. And wonder some more if it's too cheesy and I should just scrap it. (About me: I am obsessive, and I tend to be cheesy.)

It's funny, orange used to be one of my least favourite colours. It's been growing on me over the last few years, and lately has zoomed into first place (in the colour race in my head). I want orange walls (well, one orange wall would do), orange towels and orange sheets. A good, strong orange. Not so much for my clothes, but for my space.

And the only thing I knew when I started this blog was that it had to be orange and brown. I am normally very indecisive, so being so sure of that is kind of strange for me. But there you have it.

I would love to know what you think, and please do let me know if you have any suggestions (content or design) or if anything isn't working or seems wrong.

the broken transformer

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In a recent storm here in Macondo-land, a transformer blew, knocking out power in three provinces in northern Argentina. Yes, three provinces.

Now, the power goes out here all the time. I like to write about it so much (when I have power) that I am starting a new 'power outages' label today. I like to be organized.

Okay, so the power goes out all the time because the power grid is old and inefficient and insufficient.

Three provinces depended on that transformer.

It took more than 3 weeks to fix the transformer. (That is 3 weeks of scorching 40-50° heat, with frequent, sudden blackouts, often lasting 4+ hours at a time.)

Meanwhile, the province pressured the national government to send an additional, new transformer, to improve and increase the capacity of the system. Local newspapers celebrated that it took only 15 days to get it, compared to 4 years for a neighbouring region. Now it's expected to take 'several months' to submit a request for assistance with its installation.

As the new transformer made its way along the highway, we started getting news of sightings: yesterday I saw it just past town X; this afternoon I passed it pulling into the service station...

The final stretch - several kilometres on a side road off the highway. Then a big storm hits and predictably washes out that road, as it gets washed out every time it rains.

Presumably, conditions will allow the coveted part to make it to its destination today. Then we will hope that it eventually gets installed. And that another transformer doesn't blow anytime soon.

This is just a tiny little local anecdote.

For me, it has been a nuisance - it has gotten in the way of my work schedule, made skyping with my family unpredictable, made my kids' heat rashes get worse, and ruined the ice-cream treats at the Monster's friend's birthday party. We have had to dump our dairy products and cook up everything in our freezer.

But we have clean water. Screens on our windows. A pediatrician/close friend on our speed dial. Emergency funds.

In Macondo-like places, it is the way such things affect the marginalized (women, children, the elderly, the poor, the disabled, the sick), and the way they compound with other such events and circumstances, that poverty becomes entrenched and disasters become particularly devastating.

I started writing this piece before events in Haiti compelled me to give it a more serious tone. To remember the big picture.

Of course this isn't a post about Haiti. (But you should really check out all of these links. And these great ways to give.)

This isn't even a post about the devastating effects of underdevelopment: poverty and hunger and disease and crime and illiteracy.

And it's not about the political and economic forces at play that produce and exacerbate underdevelopment.

It is just an anecdote; I haven't connected all the dots or tried to get at the big picture (as some of the links above do).

But I will say this:

Of course underdevelopment is not the work of the devil. But neither is it the product of bad luck, mere corruption, incompetence or a bad attitude. It is history, complicity, economic and political and military bullying, accumulation by dispossession.

The big picture includes all these dots, not just the devastation and the misery, staggering as it may be.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Yeah, I should have known that it would happen the very first time I reached for the only cute, funky pair of underwear I own. The ones I bought on a trendy Toronto street a few years ago, feeling all good to be supporting a local designer. It was the very first time I put them on since I started packing on the pounds in my last pregnancy.

After 2 years, 1 month and 23 days, I got my period back. That's pregnancy plus 16 and a half months of breastfeeding.

My underwear will be just fine. But it sure makes me wonder why I didn't leave them there in the drawer a little longer, next to all those damn condoms we've been using Just In Case.

Oh, and I feel crappy, crabby, crampy. Ick. But it also feels good to know that everything is still in order.


Friday, January 15, 2010

In the car, heading to our friends' place for a swim (in the pool, NOT the lagoon):

- Monster: Mommy, I'm really lucky to have you guys for my family.

Completely unsolicited, uncoached, unexpected. Yes, I melted.

Sure makes up for being growled at ferociously when the bad moods strike our little guy, who at any given moment transforms into a:
  • dinosaur
  • monster
  • lion
  • jaguar
  • hyena 
  • wolf
  • wolf-eater
  • monkey without a tail
NOTE: Make sure you ask. Nothing offends a grumpy carnivore more than mistaking it for the grumpy carnivore it was being five minutes ago.

I'm going to be making some design changes here soon. Just to let you know in case things get a bit wonky for a while.

true jungle tales

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I know it sounds a little extreme when I say I live in the jungle. It's not like I have to machete my way to the bathroom or anything. We have a car, running water, an internet connection (albeit a really really really crappy one). But recent events have made me feel more justified than ever in my jungly contentions.

As if seeing the odd howler monkey or toucan weren't enough.


Our close friends got a puppy. A little black lab. They named her Fiona, and as soon as she stopped nipping at our ankles every chance she got, she was a kid favourite.

Fiona romped around with the kids for 2 months, and then - gulp! - got eaten by an alligator in our friends' lagoon!!!!!

The monster, forever a brilliant little wordsmith, coined the new term - fyummy - and consistently uses it now when he likes the food. Little did he know.



I've done my share of trekking, hiking, camping and roughing it. I've been to some of the most beautiful places in the Americas and in Australia and New Zealand. But always with my water-proof hiking boots, high-tech backpack, super lightweight tent, miracle stove, 1st aid kit and so on . I am such a gringa that way. (Alas, I got rid of all this stuff in the big move to Argentina, except for the 1st aid of course. Again, what a gringa.).

But not now. Now I wear flip-flops in the 45° heat, and so when my friends remind me that there could be snakes (of the deadly, biting kind) on the walk to the car on the way home, they instruct me to stomp my way there to scare them away. Stomp stomp, in the tall grass, with half-asleep monkey in my arms. Scram, snakes! 


One of our current theories for why the car alarm suddenly goes off at 3am every now and then:
Assault by giant insect. I swear.

The paid work thing. And alone time.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I just got a little mini-job. It will take up a lot of my time, last for a week, and pay quite well.

Financially, this is great news for us, as things are pretty tight around here.

Professionally, it is pretty dull stuff, translating short sports articles (booooor-iiiinnnnnng).

Operationally, it is quite complicated, as we are having frequent power outages, which last longer than usual. Sure makes it hard to have a work schedule.

Strategically, it is a chance to snag a new client who pays well and will hopefully keep the jobs coming. I would be very happy if I could make a flexible, mama-and-kid-friendly, freelance translation career work.

Secretly, I am so happy to have a concrete, productive, paying reason to hide from my kids for a while. Several hours a day. In. A. Row. To send Macondo Papa off with them and see-ya-later-guys-have-a-great-time!

As soon as I got this job, my first reaction was I am going to get all kinds of time to myself and nobody can stop me. Glee. That is the truth.

Okay, so this partly reflects my slightly unhealthy, but only lightly indulged, addiction to computer-time, and lately, to this blog and to a few others I read. I admit it. (But come on, I'm all far away and friendless and going through a major Life Transition and all, so whatever works, right?)

My glee at the prospect of pounding out uninteresting translations is also a side effect of not having been alone in 16 months, not since the monkey was born. Not when I wasn't racing to do an impossibly long list of errands before my boobs started leaking and my little guy needed me (all in a place where paying a bill means standing in line for hours and don't even get me started on trying to buy something - anything - at the pharmacy).

So here I am now, chained to the computer, using phrases like "got an ace up their sleeve" and "crush their rival" and "pin their hopes on the title." Which isn't exactly the same as catching up on the reading and writing and emailing I would like to do, but it has given me a few moments here and there. It isn't the same as 'me' time, with which I could sleep, read, run, stretch, shower! But it also is decidedly not 'mama' time.

And, the time I did spend with the kids today was better. I paid more attention, and I didn't resist being pulled into their play. These are good things.

It seems to me like what I need to do is Decide that I want to work a bit, Get some more interesting work than this, Find someone to watch the kids for a few hours a day, and Get On With It.

Update: I started writing this two days ago (yes, that's how long it takes me to write a few lines) and since then, the weirdest thing has happened. TWO interesting, challenging, big projects seem to have come my way. Still not for sure, still unclear how we will swing the childcare thing, but things are a-happening...

My bilingual toddler's first words

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The monkey turns 16 months old today. He is a chair-climbing, cupboard-inhabiting, sweaty little party animal. I keep not getting around to writing about all of his milestones, cuteness moments and drive-me-completely-batty antics.

Right now, though, he is quickly learning how to talk, and I want to record his growing Spanish-English bilingual vocabulary. It's pretty exciting to watch his language acquisition in action, and the monster gets ever-so-proud-of-himself when he teaches his brother a new word ('kaka' is a favourite).

(Unlike learning to sit up, crawl, walk and other motor skills, when he would focus solely on perfecting his latest new trick, talking seems to happen right along with everything else. He doesn't wake up in the middle of the night to try out his words, or sit patiently in a corner practicing, like he did with sitting up. He doesn't ignore his toys or his brother while he practices, like he did when he was demanding our fingers to help him toddle around. In practice, this means that he is becoming a little talker while he remains his curious, mischievous little rascal self. No rest for mama!)

At this age, his older brother was just saying his first words, all on the same day: mama, papa, blueberry. He was slow to start, but was soon a really verbal little kid. More on his bilingualism in a separate post.

But the monkey's language exposure has been very different from his older brother's. No longer in Canada, he now hears only Spanish from everyone around him, including me when I talk to anyone other than him and his brother.  

I am his only source of English, other than his books and his Skype-time with his grandparents. When he says agua, I say 'do you want some water?' I always speak English to him, unless I am speaking more for the benefit of others, like my inlaws, his admirers in the grocery store, or little play friends we meet at the beach.

I anticipate that his Spanish will quickly outshine his English, and that we will have to dedicate quite a bit of effort to ensuring he will be fluent in English. For now though, I suppose because he spends so much time alone with me, his English seems to be keeping pace.

Winning, in fact. Spanish 11, English 12.

More or less in order of appearance:

First words in Spanish

  • hola (hi)
  • (yes)
  • caca*
  • este (this)
  • allá (there)
  • agua (water)
  • mama (mama, papa, brother)*
  • más (more)
  • 'má (tomá, here/take this)
  • ya está (all done)
  • nana (banana)*
First words in English
  • bye
  • bvuh (booby)
  • kaka*
  • coco (cracker-cookie)
  • gogo (yogurt)
  • mbk (book)
  • mama (mama, papa, brother)*
  • ball
  • mouth
  • cheese
  • shoes
  • nana (banana)*
Unknown additional language
  • aach (with a guturral, back of the throat, Chanukah-style 'ch': help me / open this)

    *Banana, kaka (caca) and mama get listed twice because they work in both languages. For now, he calls everyone in this house "mama", and he uses "kaka" to refer to: kaka, bum, penis, pee, diaper, toilet, potty, bathroom. Gotta love the multi-purpose utility of it all!


    EDITED TO ADD: I forgot two of my favourites - upa (pick me up) and goal/gol (exclaimed loudly and happily, with arms in the air). I guess that means English and Spanish are tied, for now.

    Such yumminess

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    I am deeply in love with my partner - Macondo Papa. Enamorada. (Some things sound better in Spanish.)

    We met 11 years ago today, on a long-distance, overnight bus in southern Mexico. We have since been to 8 countries together, lived in 4 cities and 7 houses. We have officially immigrated to each other's countries. We have been travelers, students, unemployed, under-employed, self-employed, over-employed, co-employed. We have two little boys. We are family.

    We fall in and out of magic - or rather, we fall into magic and slip out of it, and, thankfully, deliciously, fall into it yet again. But my deep, true love for him never wavers. There isn't a drop in me that doesn't love him totally. There are so few things that I know with such certainty.

    He is smart, beautiful, real, funny and loving. He is passionate and brave. He sings. He whistles. He has gorgeous eyes (and eyebrows!), a killer smile, and perfect hands. He is the most open-minded, open-hearted partner, lover, papa, thinker and political being.

    He is not crunchy, or mushy, like me. He is yummy. He is sharp and cynical and critical and delightfully anti-social. He is full of edges. He challenges me. I fall short of him in so many ways.

    I am so lucky.

    F: Te amo.

    Argentina's first same-sex marriage

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Photo: First same-sex marriage in Latin America. DyN.

    As promised, I have been diligently reading and collecting links about the unfolding struggle to legalize same-sex marriage in Argentina. I was started to feel a bit daunted by the task of translating all the ups and downs and back-and-forths of the legal wrangling that has been going on.

    So imagine my delight at not only having some good news to report, but also a few English-language links that do some of the work for me.

    The good news: A same-sex couple was successfully married on December 28th in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It is the first gay marriage in all of Latin America and the Caribbean; a very important milestone for the region, both legally and symbolically.

    This is wonderful news for the couple - Alex Freyre and José María Di Bello - and indeed for the movement to legalize same-sex marriage. But it does not mean that same-sex marriage is now legal in Argentina. Any others trying to follow in their footsteps will - for now - be turned away and denied the right to matrimony (and to adopt, to inherit, to get a shared loan, etc.).

    The bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which was on the verge of being voted on and probably passed in Congress just a month ago, was shuffled aside at the last minute.

    Unrelated to the political wrangling at the national level, there was a surprise ruling in a Buenos Aires appeals court, authorizing Freyre and Di Bello to get married in Buenos Aires. They scheduled the big day for December 1st, World AIDS Day (they are both AIDS activists), but at the last minute, a federal court overturned the ruling.

    Then, the governor of Argentina's southern-most province issued a decree ordering the Civil Registry to recognize the earlier ruling that had authorized the marriage. And so this historic wedding took place in Ushuaia. It sets an important precedent for the legal and political move to extend the right to marry to all same-sex couples.

    As it stands, the ruling in question and the governor's decree apply only to this case. There are several other cases, other couples, in different courts in Argentina, including the Supreme Court - demanding that denying them their right to marry is discriminatory and unconstitutional. For now, the legal struggle is being played out on a case-by-case basis.

    If Congress passes the bill that was shuffled aside, couples will not be required to ask permission, to get lawyers, to await rulings. They will not be at the mercy of sympathetic or unsympathetic judges and timely or lengthy legal proceedings. They will not necessarily be subjected to the gaze of the media.

    It seems likely that this will come to pass in the new year. Unsurprisingly, the Church is not amused (Spanish).

    Watch out folks, this gay marriage thing is contagious - coming soon to a country near you!


    And, for a little piece of Mama in Macondo trivia:

    Guess who else got married in Ushuaia? Yup, that was another, colder Macondo I used to live in, but that was a whole decade ago!
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