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Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'll Be Frika

With a new baby our ability to be adventurous in finding new restaurants has been limited. Distance to home, stroller accessibility and speed of service have become the new necessities of restaurants I support. Luckily, it helps that I have great friends, with small children of their own, to recommend new places that fit all of my new criteria.

Enter be Frika (Recoleta, Junin esq. French; 4821-0010) a recommendation that came from a recent weekday lunch with friends. I had never been to be Frika, so I didn't know what to expect, but I can honestly say: I had a fever - and the recipe is more mini-burgers.

Jon and I are a bit snobby when it comes to mini burgers, considering that our go-to restaurant in DC was Matchbox, one of the best mini-burger spots around. Not only that, but finding good "American" food in Argentina is a bit of a challenge. All things considered, be Frika is a pretty great spot with fresh food and a comfortable atmosphere.

There are two locations, in Recoleta (corner of Junin and French) and Palermo Hollywood (Humboldt 1726), we visited the Recoleta location, an easy to find lime-green building, and I went back for lunch again a few days later. Their full menu is served on a clipboard and is available in English and (of course) Spanish. There are a few appetizers, mostly the kinds of things you would find on a bar menu, mozzarella sticks and other fried treats, salads and desserts - but their claim to fame is the selection of mini-burgers. They offer two categories of burgers, classic and premium, and three different types of french fries (rustic, waffle and regular). In each burger category there are all sorts of options, between the protein; beef, chicken or veggie, the cheese and the toppings, there is something for everyone. The burgers are available individually, or you can order "the pair" with a side of fries for $30 - $35 pesos (US$7.50 - $8.30). If you are interested in a full lunch, you can order two or three mix and match burgers with fries of your choice and a drink (including beer) for $35 - $39 pesos.

If you're jonesing for some mini-burgers, this is the place to go. The patties are seasoned well and the waffle fries are tasty (although more reminiscent of potato-chips than fries). This is the closest we've found to a US style-burger, even if it takes two to fill you up. For those new moms out there, the dining room is a tight space, but stroller accessible. There are two stories with no elevator, so first floor dining is a must. The service is a bit lax, especially if they have a full dining room, but no worse than any other casual restaurant we've attended.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adventures in Baby Cribs

Cribs, one of the most important pieces of furniture in your child's life.  Anyone who has purchased one of these items knows that there are all sorts of regulations, from the space between the bars to the firmness of the mattress, to the chemicals used in the paint, there are a zillion things to consider.  Knowing all of these things, we made the conscious decision to buy a bona fide Argentine crib.

This decision has been a bit more than we bargained for. 

We bought our crib on Belgrano Street at a shop called Quartos (Av Belgrano 2610, 4943-1227).  For those that don't know, Belgrano Street has blocks of furniture shops lining both sides of the street, each one just slightly different than the next.  We went store to store searching for the perfect crib, and we chose Quartos because they had both the crib we liked and the matching dresser/changing table.  This is where the frustration began. 
Hooray!  The crib is finally here!

Issue #1:  The Delivery.

We purchased our crib on November 6, 2010 with the promise of delivery within 45 days.  To be exact, the salesman, Oscar, said that he thought it would be delivered before Christmas.  Delivery actually occurred on January 17, complete with an added charge, an additional $140 pesos - a detail that was omitted from our original "grand total" bill. 

Issue #2:  The Invasion.

Three months to the day after our crib finally arrived, we realized that the delivery brought more than just furniture into our home.  The wood platform that supports the crib's mattress has termites.  Disgusting little bugs eating away at our little girl's bed.  Immediate action was required.  Luckily, we had Grammy and Papa in town to assist in the deconstruction, thorough cleaning, de-bugging and reconstruction of the crib.  We did everything we could to be sure that all of the little buggers were gone for good.  As a side note, I have called Quartos repeatedly to see if they would replace this part of the crib, each time they say that they will call me back.  I have yet to receive a call. 

Issue #3:  The Sheets.
Most cribs in Argentina are bigger than those in the US, and the style that we chose was the most popular on the market, a style that will eventually become a toddler bed.  In all of the planning that we did when shopping for a crib, we didn't consider the fact that: larger crib = larger mattress = the need for larger sheets.  We received a few adorable crib sheets from our baby shower in the US, but they were too small (both in length and width).  I shopped all over the city for sheets that would fit our crib mattress and the only ones I found that fit were extremely thin, see-through, white and cost $75 each.  Fortunately for us, our incredible cleaning lady, Candy, is a whiz with a sewing machine and has added material to our US crib sheets to create this adorable result.  I have no idea how she did it, but they fit perfectly and look adorable. 

Whew!  That was a lot of problem solving for one little piece of furniture.  We are still hopeful for a long life from the crib, but we will certainly take more care in thinking through our future furniture purchases.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Legalizing Your Baby: US Passport

Today we successfully completed Step 2 in what I have dubbed the "Legalizing Your Baby" process. This step is perhaps the most important one for us because once it is complete, Gretchen will officially be a United States citizen.

Before you even think about starting the US Passport process, you first need to have a Certificado de Nacimiento. Once that is in order, let the passport application begin! To set the scene for our situation, Jon and I are both US citizens living in Argentina with work visas. Jon is a naturalized US citizen, but this was not addressed during our application process. So our daughter is eligible to be a US citizen because of us, but we need to apply for her citizenship status. Here is the step-by-step:

  1. Make an appointment to apply for a passport with the Embassy. Be sure to print out the appointment conversation and bring it with you to the Embassy.
  2. Go to the "reporting a birth abroad" section of the US Embassy website (and read it very carefully). This is where it is very important to read directions, and to have all of the documents listed on the website with you at your appointment.
  3. Both parents and the applying child need to attend the appointment. When you arrive at the Embassy there is a window to the left of the entrance - go straight to this window. Don't wait in the line of people applying for visas, it's generally a really long line.
  4. Be sure to also bring your US passports, without the passports you will not be admitted. (We found this out the hard way, my poor mom had to turn around and go home because she only had a drivers license.)
Our appointment was this past Friday, here is how it went.

We were admitted directly into the Embassy without waiting in line. After they took our electronics and liquids (keep this in mind if you have a formula-fed baby, no liquids are allowed inside the Embassy), we were told to proceed to window 15 inside the Embassy waiting room. We waited for 10 minutes and then were called up to window 15 - which is where they collected all of the paperwork listed on the US Embassy site referenced above. We then proceeded to the cashier window, paid our US$210 and waited for the next step.

Here is where our appointment took a ridiculous twist.
Original Photo
All of our paperwork was in order, however the passport photos we provided were too close up to Gretchen's face so we to have new photos taken. The agent collecting our paperwork said that she would start the application process, but we needed to bring in new photos before they could fully apply for her passport. She gave us the option of going to a photo shop and getting pictures done OR there is a "guy in the park" that takes photos and knows the requirements. This was great news! We could go to the guy in the park across the street and have pictures done in 15 minutes without needed to return to the Embassy another day. So we ventured across the street to find the Photo Guy. The Embassy guards gave us the directions to the Photo Guy: "he sits by the second big tree across the street", and this is exactly where we found him.

The Photo Guy photo
The Photo Guy is a very enterprising man that sits by the second big tree across the street from the US Embassy and takes pictures until 12:30pm Mon - Fri. When I approached him to take Gretchen's picture, he directed me to the backseat of an old beat up car that had a white sheet hanging in the back seat. Let me describe the state of this vehicle; there was at least an inch of dog hair in the car floor, it smelled of booze and sweat and the front passenger's seat had been replaced by a tree stump with a pillow on top. I held my infant daughter up against the white sheet while the Photo Guy sat on the tree stump and took her picture. The result is the lovely photo on your right. Then the Photo Guy went into the car parked in front of the photo lab car and developed the pictures.

That's right. My infant daughter's passport photo was taken in the back seat of a homeless man's car while she wore a bib that said "fabulous". Whatever works.

After we reentered the Embassy and turning in our Photo Guy photos, we waited for another 15 minutes for our consultation. We answered a few minutes of questions, signed a few documents and Gretchen's passport was ready for processing. We then proceeded to the DHL line in the next building over to prepay for the delivery of the passport. This was very similar to my experience with renewing Jon's US passport last July. The nice part this time around was that we were allowed to cut ahead of the DHL line because we had a baby with us - score! We were given a receipt that we need to show when the passport is delivered and we were on our way.

So now we wait. Just like with a passport renewal, we were told that Gretchen's passport would be delivered to us in 10 working days. All things considered, we were at the Embassy for a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes which includes our make-shift photo shoot.

Next up, Step 3: getting an Argentine passport for our little portena.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Abril is for Abuelos

    Yes, April is the month of grandparent introductions.  Our poor moms and dads have had to wait FOREVER to meet our their little princess - and baby Gretchen could not be more excited to meet her abuelos, she talks about it all the time.
    Her (now too small) "Grandma Makes Me Happy" shirt
    My mom's arrival today begins our month of visitors.  We are thrilled to make the introductions and pretty excited to have some extra sets of hands around the house.  Additionally, we will now have help while going through the subsequent appointments for Gretchen's paperwork

    Above all, it's great to know that even though we are 5,600 miles away from our families, they are happy to hop a plane to come down to visit.  We are making sure to order up some extra cuteness from Gretchen to make the trip worth their while. 

    Here is a taste of said cuteness:

    I have to admit, she's worth the trip.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Legalizing Your Baby: DNI and Certificado de Nacamiento

    Now that we have a beautiful baby girl, we need to make her legal. 

    As I promised in my Buenos Aires Birth Day post, I will keep you updated on the paperwork processes of documenting a birth abroad.  As with any international paperwork, there are lots of steps - and like most processes in Argentina, everyone has a different rendition of what was required so we had our fingers crossed on Monday when we began the process. 

    The first step is to get a DNI (Documento National de Identidad) and Certificado de Nacimiento (Birth Certificate).  This process varies by hospital, in Sanitario de la Trinidad if at least one of the parents are Argentine nationals they can register at the hospital.  In our case, we're both extranjeros so we have to go to the Civil Registry and apply for our documents in person.  Here is the step by step:
    1. Call to make an appointment with the Civil Registry (4373-8441/45).
    2. Bring the following items to your appointment:
      1. Both parent's original DNIs and Passports
      2. A copy of both parent's DNIs and Passports
      3. An original marriage license (if you were not married in Argentina the license has to have an apostille stamp - which is basically an internationally recognized notary stamp)
      4. The "Partida" form issued at birth.  This form is filled out by the midwife or doctor involved in delivery and there are very specific instructions on how to complete the form.  Be sure to check the form for completeness before heading to the registry office. 
    3. Our appointment was located at Uruguay 753, between Cordoba and Viamonte.
    4. Once inside the building, there is a main information desk that you check in with.  They will direct you to the correct window.
    Here is where it got a little dicey.  We gave all of our documents to the clerk and she began by calling us up to answer a few questions.  We had a translator with us because although our Spanish is pretty decent, we didn't want to leave it to chance.  For reasons unknown (maybe because our guy wasn't a "certified" translator) the clerk said that we were not able to use the translator and one of us needed to answer the questions for ourselves.  I took the lead because my Spanish is slightly stronger than my husbands, and I filled out the first form she provided.  After this, she insisted on my husband answering the rest of the questions - and she added that if he asked me or the translator for help she would void our appointment and we would have to start over.  Por suerte, Jon passed that test with flying colors. (Side note: When Jon and I got married, I legally changed my last name to his but failed to change my passport to my new name.  Because of this, Argentina will not recognize my married name and instead of making it an issue I have continued to use my maiden name in all of my Argentine documentation.  I have been told that this is why Jon had to answer all of the questions regarding Gretchen, because in Argentina, legally, her and I have different last names therefore I am not her legal parent.  I don't know if this is true, but it was definitely an interesting point...)

    We were given Gretchen's DNI on the spot and handed a receipt with instructions to return in two days to retrieve her birth certificate (we have up to a month to claim the certificate, according to the receipt). 

    Now that we have her DNI number, we are able to make an appointment to receive her Argentine passport.  As soon as we have her birth certificate, we can make an appointment with the US Embassy to receive her American passport, so this first step was critical. 

    To celebrate this important milestone, Gretchen and I celebrated by doing the most American thing we could find.  I got my first 30 cm sub from Subway.  It was delicious.