A year and a half ago we packed up our belongings and headed way down south, to our new home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I really didn’t know what to expect from the “Paris of South America” as I’d read it referred to in many guidebooks. One thing I did know— I didn’t speak a word of Spanish and my life was about to get VERY interesting. I knew our time abroad was going to be a period of intense learning—emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I hoped the experience would create a strong family narrative, which would forever imprint our children (then 4 and 1) as resilient, global citizens of the world. We met many expected lessons along the way, like the challenges that come with learning a new language and finding our place in a different culture. But there were a few surprising things I learned along the way, too. Things I didn’t expect. These lessons are potentially unique to our family as each expat experience is different and deeply personal, so I don’t speak for all expats in this post. As we prepare to leave in a few short weeks, I’d like to share with you the 5 surprising things I learned while living in Argentina with children.
1: Kids get sick A LOT the first 6 months.
Our naturopath and pediatrician told me there would be a period of transition when we arrived as our bodies adapted to new bacteria and viruses. I nodded my head and thought to myself: “NO PROBLEM.” I packed an EPIC holistic first aid kit. I loaded up the kids with immune boosters before we left and during our first few weeks in Argentina. In spite of my efforts the kids were pretty sick for the first 6 months with random fevers, vomiting and long cold viruses that never seemed to end. It was incredibly challenging for me. I get pretty stressed when one of my children is sick. For some reason having a sick child strikes an internal chord of fear. Up until our move, my kids were rarely sick and usually recovered quickly if they did catch something without the use of antibiotics or other medications. So my first 6 months abroad with 2 sicko kiddos was new territory for me. I was forced to face a few of my fears. And yes, even while I was elbow deep in vomit, I knew I was learning important lessons. Turns out I was getting in touch with my true capabilities. We saw several doctors to make sure it wasn’t a parasite or something else specific to South America. It was nothing out of the ordinary they told us. Just the transition and probably due to the fact that my son had started school.
Turns out that yes, my kids were adjusting to new viruses and bacteria that come with moving to a developing country….AND also because our water filter wasn’t quite up to par. Whoopsie.
South America problems.
And hello new reverse osmosis filter!
2: Simple natural remedies DO work.
During those crazy 6 months, I was forced to walk the holistic talk, so to speak. I quickly realized I was unable to buy any additional high quality supplements or vitamins in Argentina as my kids faced new and different viruses and bacteria. I also could not get anything shipped from the USA when things got tough (employees of the US Embassy have access to a magical postal box, but we are not that lucky). I wasn’t expecting to use my holistic first aid kit (brought from the USA) and FOOD as my only course of action for an entire year and a half. Where were my herbal remedies? Where were my extra supplements?
Back in the USA, that’s where.
I had to get VERY close to nature to help my kids get better. I became really familiar with things like bone broth, garlic, the wet sock treatment, and the onion ear muff. And you know what? Simple natural remedies WORK. My kids recovered from every crazy virus they experienced here. We never had to use the Tylenol or Motrin or Benadryl that I brought for a worst case scenario. They never had to take antibiotics. We didn’t need to visit a hospital. OMG, KNOCK on WOOD (we still have 2.5 weeks here!) Garlic is our new family superhero and because my kids healed naturally, their immune systems were able to learn, remember and strengthen. And I’m happy to report that after the first 6 months, my kids were much healthier the next year.
3: It is possible to live with LESS (and to live without Amazon.com).
(Disclaimer: the middle photo above shows a shipment of supplies to take to Argentina–we aren’t that Amazon crazy!)
This is an interesting lesson because I never really thought about how much I used to rely on Amazon.com to get me through life. Out of a supplement? AMAZON.COM! Need a new kitchen utensil? AMAZON.COM! What about a flat of coconut milk? AMAZON.COM!… and delivered to your door in under 48 hours for Prime members. It was a little too easy to spend hundreds of dollars without even realizing it. I’m not gonna lie, I miss Amazon and internet purchasing in general. It took about a year for me to get rid of the frequent impulse to put something into my online shopping cart, but the impulse eventually went away. Over the last year and a half I felt like I was recovering from an addiction I didn’t even know I had. I’m pretty sure I’m now a reformed Amazon.com shopaholic, and I hope to keep it that way.
4: We saved A LOT of money.
Um, yeah….when you can’t buy whatever your heart desires… money saving happens. Not only did our online purchasing disappear, but we also stopped using credit cards here in Argentina because the exchange rate is much better if we use cash. Using cash instead of credit cards will save you money, but it will also infuriate you from time to time, TRUST ME ON THIS.
What was the outcome of our year and a half without online shopping and credit cards? We can now send our kids to college!!! JUST KIDDING (we’ll never be able to pay for all of that, HA!)…but we did save a lot even though we traveled a fair bit too.
We also got really good at identifying the difference between “needs” and “wants.” There is poverty here that we don’t see on a regular basis in the USA. Bearing witness to barefoot children on the street asking for money very quickly had us redefining our perceived “needs.” Turns out we don’t need much and I hope we take this lesson back with us to our home in the United States.
5: I have many SUPER powers.
There were moments the first 6 months that I seriously wanted to gather up my sick kids and hop on a plane to visit our ND back home. I felt alone in my attempts to heal my children while navigating a new country and language. But, I did it. And I learned that I am capable of a lot…all on my own. I knew even when times were the hardest — I was also building my own set of super powers and I experienced amazing personal growth here. I have gained so much self confidence in my abilities as a mom, holistic health educator, healer, community member and wife. I still speak Spanish like a 2 year old cave woman, but people understand what I’m saying (for the most part) and I’ve learned to laugh at myself when I make mistakes which is a precious gift and something I hope my kids are watching and internalizing. There is no need for perfection. Life is a series of perfect imperfections. We’ve seen places previously only read about in books. Now when my son studies the Andes Mountains or the glaciers in South America he can reflect on the photos and his memory of actually SEEING those places. Our family unit is closer than ever as a result of our time here, we know that geography does not make a home, our family makes a home. We’ve met so many special people, shared memorable experiences together and always remembered to be grateful for this amazing opportunity. We will miss Argentina dearly when we leave. I will forever be thankful for this experience abroad and for each and every lesson I learned along the way.