Sunday, July 26, 2009

Our New Adventure: Week 1

So Rob and I are preparing for some bicycle touring. Next to moving to another country, this has got to be one of the most challenging things I have ever done, because
  1. I am way out of shape.
  2. It's my first time ever riding a bike in any serious way. I don't even know how to shift or clip into the pedals.
  3. I'm clumsy. I haven't fallen over yet, but I will soon, I'm sure.
  4. I'm about 15 pounds overweight, which makes hills that much harder.
  5. I'm old. O.K., so I'm the same age as Lance Armstrong, but he's considered an old dog for cycling, and I have 1/1000th of his capacity.
It's been a week since I've had the bike, and I've been out every day on it. I've definitely had some "What was I thinking?" moments. The first day riding I flipped out going uphill when I had to stop and couldn't get started again, broke down crying because I was scared and panicked, and walked it down the hill. I've improved since then. I can get started on a hill now, even if I am a little clumsy about it. I've gotten used to shifting, but still have a little trouble clipping in. I'm not a very good climber, and get scared descending very fast. I haven't ridden with the panniers yet. I've been exhausted all week.

However, I've managed two hours solid in the saddle my first week, which is pretty good. I'm getting more comfortable riding with traffic, (although riding on empty country roads is what we aim for), and I can feel my body starting to adapt little by little.

We have an apartment booked in Bariloche for two months in the South American Summer, so I need to have the basic fitness to cycle daily in the Andes. I've looked at the pictures of the views from some of the rides, which as definitely kept me motivated. (That, and the hope that I will lose the extra 15 lbs.)

After I get past the "Oh my god, this is torture" phase, I can see the fun at the end of the tunnel. Rob and I can chat as we ride along, and enjoy the outdoors together. It will keep us healthy, and provide us with a way to see other parts of the world.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy. But this is definitely worth it.

This post was written, in part, for where Julia writes about her expat adventures, as well as on this blog. You can follow her in both places.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Four Biggest Things That Creep Me Out about the U.S.

I've been out of the country for a year and a half, with the exception of a couple of weeks last year. I expected to just slide right back into the culture here, like riding a bicycle with a big "Aaaaah." Not so. I feel uneasy. Whether the USA has changed or I have changed, I am not sure--probably a mixture of both.

I don't want to dwell on my existential crisis about not feeling at home in either country, but I do want to mention the biggest things that creep me out about the U.S. since I have been gone for a while.
  1. The obesity epidemic. Seriously. Yesterday I was in a coffee shop, and as I watched people walk by, I did not see one person who looked to be their ideal weight. A lot of people looked like they could shed 15 lbs. or so (including me), but there were a scary number of people that are going to (if they don't already) have serious health problems. The food portions everywhere are huge, and made of layers of carbs, fat, and salt, made to stimulate our pleasure centers. We are being manipulated into eating. If everyone were addicted to drugs there would be an outcry. But being "addicted" to eating seems to be O.K. Weird.
  2. The news. The majority of news on television is awful. It's emotional, sensationalistic, puts celebrity in front of serious issues, and just plain trashy. I'm sure a lot of Argentina news is the same way, but I don't understand enough Spanish to get it. If the food companies are manipulating our food cravings, the news stations are manipulating our emotions.
  3. The car culture. At least where I am, in the California suburbs, you have to drive to get anywhere. No corner shops or pubs where people run into each other. The only time neighbors get together is when there is a robbery or the old lady across the street died. We are all isolated from each other.
  4. Religiosity. I just spent a year and a half in a country that is 80% or so Roman Catholic, and no one mentioned God the whole time I've been there (almost-expat Americans did.) The truth is, most Argentines are religious in name only- it's a tradition more than a belief system. Religion is for weddings and funerals, Christmas and Easter, and the rest of the time, real life presides. I cannot believe the number of Americans that think the earth is 10,000 years old or younger, or believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. I know I am biased as an atheist, but I think even believers from other countries would be creeped out of they knew what most Evangelicals believe, and how serious they take it.
I still love the United States. The National Anthem makes me cry every time. But coming back after some time away has made me see it in a way I couldn't before. I feel a little more like a stranger.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Burgers and Sandwiches and Pies, Oh My!

This is a take-out menu from Marie Callendars. They don't put the calories on the sit-down menu. Check out the "The Works" Frisco burger: 1810 calories! That's a whole day's calories in one sandwich, and it doesn't include a drink or dessert. The pies are 500- 600 calories a piece. No onder half the people walking in were so big. Jeez.

Comparison of Legal/Illegal Activities between Argentina and the U.S.

I made a spreadsheet that compares what is legal/illegal in Argentina and the U.S. This is from my own general knowledge, so if you see mistakes, please leave a comment.

I would also be interested in things that are legal in one country and illegal in the other that I missed.

Link to spreadsheet

It's hard to make a generalization about either country by what each chooses to make legal/illegal, but I think the laws reflect the different religious roots. Argentina is largely Roman Catholic, and abortion is illegal, but the people generally have a "live-and-let-live" attitude to most people's personal lives. The protestant background of the U.S. generally is reflected in less restrictions on trade, but a more moralizing aspect to people's personal lives.

This post was written, in part, for where Julia writes about her expat adventures, as well as on this blog. You can follow her in both places.