Short 3 Season 2 ¨Education Technicalities¨

Hi! This week we have a short:

How Kindergarten, Grammar School, Secondary School and University work in Argentina.

And cultural differences regarding “the college experience”.

And the 7th, 8th and 9th Law of Asado!

Image credits: clarkstown67 on Flicker


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Agree or Disagree: Americans Get More Done Because They Go To Bed And Get Up Earlier

“The Early Bird Gets the Worm”.

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

So we all know that Argentines go to bed super late, eat dinner super late, and therefore get up later and are less productive in the morning hours. I am defining the morning hours as the time before lunch.

Now while I would agree that there may be the same amount of hours before lunch time spent by both cultures, since Argentines also eat lunch later, I also think that simply getting up earlier and beginning the productive part of the day earlier makes societies more productive per hour spent.

This implies, quite simply, that earlier morning hours are more productive than Afternoon hours. I capitalize Afternoon because I literally mean after 12 noon.

I have several reasons for this:

1. Early morning hours are when people are less busy and less stressed. If you just got to work and have the whole day ahead of you, you can be more flexible, listen more, take in more information and make better decisions. In doing sales, all sales people are taught that the morning hours are the best for contacting people.

2. These morning hours are even far less productive if you eat dinner late and go to bed late on a full stomach. Even my esteemed partner, Fernando, will attest that eating better in the morning and eating less in the evening makes you more productive.

3. Heat. The hottest part of the day is reached faster if you start later. Heat makes you less productive. Yes we have air conditioning but most often, Argentine offices are not well air conditioned. This means that Argentines spend more time in hotter offices (while they are at the office) and therefore their productivity per hour is less.

4. Americans sleep when it’s dark and therefore sleep better. Especially on the west coast, Americans go to bed very early, say 10pm or 11pm at the latest, and are up by 6am. This also means that they are rising with the sun. This means that they sleep when it’s dark. Human beings have a Circadian Rhythm that is light sensitive. Melatonin, a hormone that naturally occurs in human beings is in large part responsible for regulating the sleep cycle. Melatonin production is light sensitive and beings to rise in the evening hours when sunlight intensity begins to diminish.

This has to extremely significant effects in my opinion:

1. Argentines do not sleep very well. If people do not normally go to bed until well into the dark hours, and especially on the weekends stay up well into the dark hours, and then sleep through the light hours, their bodies melatonin production cycle will be thrown off in relation to the light intensity.

2. With little light exposure, people in general are more prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is also known as winter depression and can also occur in people who work night shifts and see very little light. People who see very little light also are likely to produce much lower levels of serotonin. People who have serotonin deficiency are prone to depression, anxiety, panic attacks and eating disorders. OMG!!! How many times have we heard these descriptors to describe Argentines? I recognize the extremely thin logic that  this argument is based on but could light exposure and sleep cycles not be a big contributing factor to this difference in productivity and mood?

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Cheat Sheet for Episode 9, Season 2

Cheat Sheet for E09S02

Listen to the episode here!

  • Migraciones: The Migrations Department. All foreigners aiming for permanent residency have to deal with this entity, located in Retiro.
  • DNI: Documento Nacional de Identidad:Any person born in Argentina gets one, alongside a DNI number that is the lifeline with functioning as a citizen in the country. You need it to vote, get married, get a passport, sign up at Social Security, etc.


The Two Moms

Marty Karlin: Dan’s Mother, a Stanford-graduate educator  in a Catholic School in Portland, Oregon.

Marta Penín: Fer’s Mother, a UBA-graduate Psychologist and an advisor at a Public School, in a very poor area of Temperley, Greater Buenos Aires.

Política Educativa de “Los Niños todos en la Escuela”…Igualar para Abajo (Downward Standardization): Fer’s Mother is making reference to a policy of giving priority to maintaining kids at schools, at the expense of letting academic standards to drop. Basically, the idea is to keep kids off the streets, and give them some kind of protection. But this doesn’t mean they’ll learn anything. She gives the example of Elemmentary School graduates who can’t read nor write as a result of this. This policy enables the Government to boast figures of school attendance that doesn’t mean education is being given to Public School students.

“La Epoca de Menem”:  Marta tracks down the origin of Argentine education’s decline to the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989-1999). His administration had downsizing and privatization at the core of its plan. In the field of education, all schools were downgraded from Federal management to provincial and even municipal, which means severe cuts in budget and a subsequent drop in quality.
Familias con “Planes Sociales”: She’s refering to families in which the main income is constituted by social programs or subsidies the government pays to have-nots. One of the most important is the AUH: “Asignación Universal por Hijo” (Universal Child Allowance) that grants poor families a monthly payment of 270 pesos per child, provided children receive mandatory vaccination and  attend schools. The impact in the sign-up rate at schools was good, it increased significantly.

2300 pesos: basic salary for a teacher for a 4-hour shift. Practically all teachers do at least 2 shifts, many times in different schools.

“Retar al Niño”: To reprimand a child.


Registro Civil / Nacional de las Personas: The State Agency that issues DNIs, among other tasks like marrying people and registering changes of address.

Constancia: a temporary document that says your permanent one is in the making.


Spanglish Playground: Ways of the Ass or words for the back part of a person in Argentina

  • Trasero
  • Cola
  • Nalgas
  • Traste
  • Tujes
  • Culo
  • Orto
  • Siete
  • Ojete
  • Marrón
  • Ocote (Cordobeses’ word)


Julian Polito is the interpreter of the Chau Tune for this episode. His latest album “Viejo Nuevo Mundo” merges Baroque tunes with Argentine folk. Here’s more information on the artist

You can find his CD in Buenos Aires at

  • Miles – Honduras 4912
  • Zival’s – Callao 395 – Serrano 1445
  • Oíd Mortales – Corrientes 1145 – local 17

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How Much Space We Have in the USA vs Argentina

I have been in the US for a week now, in two different cities. First in New York for 4 days, now in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. One thing that I can’t quite wrap my head around is how much space we have in the US. It’s even more surprising when you think about the fact that Argentina is not a small country. Even in the secondary cities of Argentina like Cordoba and Mendoza, houses, supermarkets and offices are much much smaller than in the USA. And yes I am including New York City and other big American cities in this.

New York City is just as old as Buenos Aires, and yes Buenos Aires is larger, but especially in super markets and offices (not so much in apartments in New York) you find lots more space. Is this a question of culture? Americans are certainly known for appreciating lots more space. But I wonder why in Argentina so few things are spacious until you get out into the “outdoors” of Argentina… but that’s really not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about buildings.

In Portland it’s like night and day. Everything in Portland is so so soooo amazingly spacious. Neighborhoods have really wide streets, houses are much larger, restaurants have huge tables and big parking lots, etc. In Portland a lot of this can be accounted for simply because it is a much younger city.

Does this “difference in space” phenomenon have something to do with how much we value space? Because in the New York vs. Buenos Aires analysis, I can’t see it having much to do with cost. New York is certainly much more expensive, especially for rent that Buenos Aires, which would be the fundamental cost that would have to be measured.

Is it that Americans are physically bigger people? I have to think that this is simply a difference in cultural values.

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S2, E9: A Tale Of Two Moms (on Education)

Dan and Fer’s mothers Martha and Marta providing first-hand accounts on Education in Portland, OR and Temperley, Greater Buenos Aires.


Laws of Asado 4, 5 and 6.


Spanglish Playground: The Ways of the Ass


Jon Brandt got his DNI after a two year struggle!

The cheat sheet is here



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Cheat sheet for episode 6, Season 2

The cheat sheet for E6S2 is here!

Listen to the episode here
  • Mesa Electoral: Polling Station
  • Presidente de Mesa/Autoridad de Mesa: Ballot Captain. He/she is accompanied by 1 or 2 suplentes, who are basically assistants and back-up.
  • Doubts about a person’s identity: It is mentioned it can be an issue, during the electoral process. This comes from the times when it was very easy to forge someone’s identity, and then you would have people voting several times. The Presidente de Mesa is responsible for preventing this from happening, and that’s why checking people’s voting documents is key, have a look at the photograph, check the data matches the electoral lists, etc. If there are doubts, the Ballot Captain can send the vote of the person in doubt to the electoral Court for them to decide if it’s valid.

To preserve order, the non-military Federal Security Forces, are at the disposal of ballot captains (in case someone gets violent about a decision made by the captains, if they come carrying propaganda)

Those forces are…

  • The Policia Federal: Federal Police, that investigate federal crimes, protect Federal buildings, etcetera. They don’t patrol streets or chase petty crime, except in Buenos Aires City, as this city was a Federal District (the mayor was appointed by the President) until 1994. The autonomy law of the city envisions the creation of a BA City-specific police force, and the brand-new Beta-mode Metropolitana created by incumbent Mayor Mauricio Macri  would be that force. But they don’t have yet the muscle, nor the budget to really protect the city, so the Federal Police is still the true acting force in the Argentine capital.
  •  Prefectura: The Coast Guards. Aside, from patrolling rivers, lakes, and the seaboard, they play the Police role in Port areas, such as Puerto Madero in BA.
  •  Gendarmeria: the Border Patrol.
  • Fiscales: As mentioned on Episode 5, they are overseers of the electoral process sent from the political parties.
  • Ripped-off boletas:  There are very complicated rules for considering valid or invalid a vote if the ticket is not in one piece. For example, if the candidates names’ part is missing the vote is valid, as long as the party’s name and the category part (President, Senator, etc) are complete. It is invalid in the opposite case.


BA Cast Blog  and BA Cast messages 


Spanglish Playground: Words to UNlearn

Periódico (Newspaper): Diario

Carro (Car): Auto/Coche

Lejia (Bleach): Lavandina

Sueter/Jersey (Jersey): Pulover

Piscina (Swimming Pool): Pileta



  • 500 kilometers rule: Adrian mentions that people travel 500 kilometers to avoid voting, and that’s because you’re excused from voting if you can prove you’re 500 kilometers or more away from the place you’re supposed to be voting (which is determined by the address on your document, not the actual one where you live). You prove the distance by getting a certificate at the local Police station.

The song speaks about:

  • Alfonsin, Raúl Ricardo:  President of Argentina (1983-1989), mainly remembered for campaigning on Human Rights during the last period of the Military Dictatorship.
  • Junta:  The Military Government that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. BTW, have you listened to our specials on the Junta years in Argentina?
  • Kirchner and Macri: Adrian says mentions the incumbent Federal administration, headed by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who succeeded her late husband, former president Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007). Macri is Mauricio Macri, the incumbent mayor of Buenos Aires, who recently got re-elected for another 4-year term to end in 2015. He was a presidential candidate until he dropped out of the race earlier this year. Allegedly, his advisor told him he had no chance of beating President Cristina, so it was better to protect his stronghold of Buenos Aires City, and wait four more years.


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Landing in New York City on 9/11

It was not planned at all to come to New York City on exactly this date, but yesterday my plane arrived here and things looked totally normal. What it reminded me of most was immigration and language barriers. I changed planes in Miami on my way, and at my (super not accurate) estimation, everybody spoke Spanish. Now this comes as no surprise to most of you reading this, as you are Spanglish speakers, but on 9/11 it had a little resonance for me.

There was, and continues to be quite a backlash against immigrants and foreigners in the US after 9/11. I don’t know if you all recall but before 9/11 you could show up at the airport about 15 minutes before your flight, check in on your own and walk to the gate. For domestic flights all they did was check your ID and you were good to go. Now there is a constant series of forms to be filled out (by non-US nationals). I am not saying that this is wrong, what I am saying is that it seems totally arbitrary.

Why is it that Europeans have a visa waiver now, Argentina did before 9/11, and a huge percentage of Argentines have passports from the EU where they have visa waiver anyway. It seems to me that governments around the world are way way behind on immigration patterns and what actually happens in most cases.

We know we are not worried about the “normal” people coming to and from the US or any other country. But the way the laws are set up right now it is the normal people who suffer. Governments do not realize that there is a growing population of international citizens who do not spend most of their time in one country or if they do they are traveling for 6 months out of the year. There has to be a better way to account for this.

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9/11 in Argentina

En Septiembre de 2001, la mayoría de los expats de hoy no estaban acá. Ni siquiera pensaban en venirse a vivir acá. In September 2001, most expats weren’t here. They weren’t even considering moving down here.


La Argentina estaba viviendo sus últimos meses dentro del esquema  1 dólar-1 peso. No había inflación, pero estábamos en  el cuarto año de una recesión que había comenzado en 1998. Argentina was living through the last months of the convertibility scheme of pegged currency 1 dollar=1 peso. There was no inflation, but we were in the  4th year of a recession that had begun in 1998.


El Presidente era Fernando de la Rúa, que perdía aliados cada día y se quedaba cada vez más sólo. Así como muchos acusan a Cristina hoy de autoritaria, despótica, intransigente, de la Rúa era catalogado como un dubitativo, un incompetente sin decisión ni autoridad. Una anécdota: ese año, el Jefe de Estado hizo el ridículo en el programa de Tinelli, cuando –en  vivo- equivocó la salida del set. (En diciembre de ese año renunció al cargo, en el medio de un colapso económico, un derrumbe político y un estallido social). The President was Fernando de la Rúa, who lost allies by the hour, and was left more and more on his own. Just like many accuse Cristina today of being authoritarian, despotic and intransigent, de la Rúa was labelled a doubtful incompetent with no decision nor authority. One anecdote: that same year, the Head of State  made a fool of himself on Tinelli’s show, when he missed the way out of the studio on camera, live, in front of millions. (On December of that same year he resigned, amid an economic meltdown, riotings, and political collapse).


Argentina estaba aún en el famoso Weaver Program, lo que nos permitía viajar a EEUU sin Visa, como hoy por ejemplo hacen casi todos los europeos (luego de completar un sencillo trámite). Poco tiempo después del 11-S, el país fue retirado del programa. Argentina was still part of the famous Weaver Program, which enabled us to travel to the US without a Visa for tourism purposes, just like most Europeans do nowadays (after completing a simple procedure). Shortly after 9/11, Argentina was removed from the program.


Internet por banda ancha, no había.  Dial-up con suerte ,y de noche, cuando ya nadie en casa necesitaba usar el teléfono. Los celulares recién comenzaban a popularizarse, pero faltaban un par de años para que se masificaran los mensajes de texto. El DVD era un artículo de lujo. There was no broadband internet. Only Dial-up if you were lucky, which you would use late in the evening, when nobody needed the phone at home. Cell phones were just beginning to become widespread, but text messaging was still two years away from being introduced in the country. DVDs were a luxury item.


La cobertura principal del 11-S en Argentina, la hicieron los periodistas Nelson Castro –que estaba en Manhattan justo para recibir un premio- y uno de los comunicadores más pro-estadounidenses del país: Daniel Hadad (hoy dedicado únicamente a administrar sus medios: Infobae, C5N, Radio Mega, Pop, etc).  The main media coverage of 9/11 in Argentina was by journalists Nelson Castro -who happened to be in Manhattan to receive an award- and one of the most pro-US communicators in the country: Daniel Hadad (who’s currently dedicated to run his businesses: Infobae news website, C5N TV News Network and an assortment of radio stations like Mega, Pop, Vale…).




Por costumbre, creemos que acá, en el culo del mundo, estamos a salvo de los problemas del Hemisferio Norte, pero la verdad es que casi todos pensamos ese día que cualquier cosa podía pasar. Usually, we believe that here, in the “ass of the world”, we are safe from the Northern Hemisphere problems, but the truth is that, that day…most of us thought that anything could have happened.


Las reacciones…bueno, la condena no fue unánime, como en Norteamérica y Europa. Fue mayoritaria, sí. Pero la verdad es que en América Latina, Argentina es uno de los países más anti-estadounidenses. No a nivel tanto de las personas, sino a nivel de los símbolos. Lo dijo el periodista del Herald, James Neilson: “uno no puede ganar elecciones en Argentina diciendo cosas positivas sobre los Estados Unidos”. Reactions…well, condemnation against the attack wasn’t unanimous, as it was in North America and Europe. It was majoritarian, indeed. But Argentina is one of the most anti-US countries in Lat Am. Not so much on a personal level, as on a symbolic level. I recall an article by BA Herald columnist James Neilson: “You can’t win elections in Argentina by saying nice things about the United States”.



Por eso se escucharon en esos días muchas opiniones de este tipo: “bueno, siempre han estado bombardeando a todos, en todo el mundo…es lamentable la pérdida de vidas inocentes, pero ahora les tocó a ellos”. La presidenta de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de Bonafini -de conocida retórica anti-imperialista- hizo un comentario en ese sentido y generó una polémica que aún le echan en cara. That is why in those days, many opinions that would go along these lines were heard: “well, they have always been dropping bombs on everybody, all over the world…the loss of innocent lives is regrettable, but now it’s their turn to be in that place”. The head of the main branch of Madres Plaza de Mayo Human Rights organization, Hebe de Bonafini, of publicly-known anti-imperialist rhetoric, made comments of this nature and generated a controversy that still haunts her today.


No compartía, ni comparto esta mirada, a pesar de no simpatizar con prácticamente nada que hayan hecho el Pentágono, la CIA o la OTAN, desde el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial en adelante (Especialmente si hablamos de América Latina).  I didn’t and don’t share that opinion, even though I don’t like practically anything the Pentagon, CIA or NATO has done since the end of WWII (Specially, when talking about Latin America).


Lo que pasa es que el 11-S lo percibí y aún lo percibo, más que como un acto de terrorismo o de guerra, como un inconmensurable acto de odio, que trasciende cualquier otro sentimiento que los secuestradores de los aviones hayan sentido por  su patria,  su tierra,  sus familias, bin Laden, o el Corán. Un odio metafísico, abstracto, concentrado, que va más allá de la política, la ideología o la religión.  To me, 9/11 was -and I still feel it that way-  not so much an act of terrorism or war, as an act of hatred beyond measure, a hatred that overshadows any other feeling the hijackers migth have had for their land, families, bin Laden or the Quran, for that matter. A metaphysical, abstract, concentrated hatred, that goes beyond politics, ideology or religion. (IMAGE: COVER OF CLARÍN OF SEPTEMBER 12, 2001)

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S2, Ep 8: Dan Karlioni Makes an Asado You Can’t Refuse and the Laws of Asado, part 1

Kicking off the Laws of Asado series with the first installment!

We are also starting the chamuyo of the month: Education and Educational Systems.

Plus: NY Times contributor Ian Mount talks about his Op-Ed “Argentina’s Turnaround Tango”, that generated much controversy in Argentina.

 The cheat sheet is available here!

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Cheat Sheet for Episode 8, Season 2

Cheat Sheet for E08S02

Listen to the episode here!


  • Brasas: Lit Coal
  • Asado a la Cruz:


  • Stephanie Walker: US Mother of a 6th grader attending a bilingual school in Vicente López

Some school terminology

  • Blackboard = Pizarrón
  • Desk = Pupitre
  • Binder = Carpeta
  • Communications Book = Cuaderno de Comunicaciones
  • La Selección: The National Football Team of Argentina.
  •  F.C. Barcelona:  The Best Football team in the world, as of 2011.
  • Newell’s Old Boys:  A team from Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario, where he began his career, in addition to being a fan of it.

Ian Mount’s article on the NY Times

And the reaction on La Nación paper (check the commentary made by readers)

2001 Default

“Este tipo se tomó todo el vino de Mendoza, está loco, este tipo está borracho”: “This guy drank all the wine of Mendoza, he’s crazy, this guy’s drunk”

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Title image: Iargerich on Flickr

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