Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Expat Gadgets You Can't Live (Abroad) Without

When sitting in my apartment, it is pretty hard to tell I'm in Buenos Aires and not Texas. OK, as long as you don't go into the bathroom and spot the bidet. And as long as you stay away from the windows so you can't here the resonating traffic and screeching from all the buses. (We don't have buses in Texas... jut really big pickup trucks.)

It certainly seems like home because I watch TV from Texas, chat with all my friends from Texas, read the local news form Texas and listen to music from Texas. Life without Lyle Lovett and Stevie Ray Vaughn? No way.

It is only when I step outside that it is obvious that I'm in a big, thriving, foreign capitol halfway around the world. Oh, and the fact that I can't find Tex-Mex food.... hell any spicy food here, but that is another post.

The reason? Modern technology and the internet has made it almost impossible for an expat to miss home. The following is a list of my favorite gadgets no expat should be without.


With Skype, I pay $60/year for a Skype-in phone number. It is a local 817 number for my friends back home to call and it costs them nothing. The call is routed over the internet to my apartment here in Buenos Aires. Now anytime any of my relatives needs to borrow money, they just pick up the phone and call me... just like before and it doesn't cost them anything.

I also have Skype-out which allows me to call out to any number in the US ( or the whole world) for just 2.1 cents a minute. Both Skype-in and Skype-Out are invaluable if you have a teenage girl. Teenage girls normally don't like being uprooted from all their friends and moved halfway around the world.

Skype Phones

Some people don't like Skype because they are uncomfortable talking into their computer. Depending on your computer setup, you may have trouble with the mic or sound quality. Skype phones eliminate all that and give you something you are use to talking into.

We have the Netgear Duel Mode phone system with three extensions. The phones work and sound great. It is not the most stylish system though. There is also a great dual mode system from Philips. I'd look into that one over the Netgear.

With the Netgear, there is a small base unit that plugs into our internet router and also has a jack for our land line phone connection. The three extension phones all connect wirelessly to the base unit so we can put them anywhere we want in the apartment.

We receive and make Skype calls as well as regular local calls over the phones and the quality is no different than a regular phone. Pretty cool stuff according to my daughter who is constantly on the thing talking to her pals back home in Texas. Just like at home.


Last weekend, I kept walking around the house mumbling, "College Football. Must have College Football." - I admit, the closer it came to Texas-OU weekend the more I started questioning this whole Argentina move. There was nowhere in this town to get my college football fix. I guy with a name like "Longhorn Dave" can't go without watching the Texas-OU game. It just isn't allowed.

We'll as it turned out, I have some really great friends back home that surprised me by buying me a Slingbox to hook up to their cable TV so I could watch all the games I wanted from back home. They bought it Friday before the big game and we had it up and running Sat morning with plenty of time to catch all the great pre-game shows.

Slingbox is now my favorite expat gadget. I get to watch all of my cable channels from back home anytime I want on my computer and it is pretty good reception too. We watch the 10:00 news, our favorite shows and of course all the football and baseball we want.


No matter where I go, I always have my favorite Texas music by my side. Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tish Hinojosa, Spoon and all the other great Texas artists go with me no matter where I go.

There is nothing like music to transport you back to a place. You often will hear some great Texas music blaring from our apartment. Not that my new favorites like Tanghetto and Gotan Project don't get equal billing.

Also, the iPod is a handy tour guide. You can now download guided walking tours of Buenos Aires right to your iPod. OK...maybe it won't put Diva or Robert out of job, but it is still pretty cool.

Now if they would just invent a gadget that could send the Green Chili Enchiladas from Uncle Julio's over the internet I'd be really at home here.


Madelina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm really glad you got the Skype phone, Dave. It's my favorite of all your gadgets.

As for local music, check out Los Pericos:

They were featured on Anthony Bourdain's Argentina episode of "No Reservations", one of my favorite shows.

Anonymous said...

Just a tip, i'm not sure how old your ipod is, but if it ever freezes on you, hold the middle button and the top button (menu) until it restarts (about 5 or 6 seconds), and that should fix that.

Longhorn Dave said...

Thanks for the Tip Rob. Yep, we have to do that one on my wife's ipod for some reason every now and then.

What is your favorite expat gadget?

My adventures said...

you really are a wealth of information, i'm going to keep reading until i visit in 08... ok, and after that too... i'm currently trying to freeze salsa from my favorite restaurant here in houston (chapultapec) to see if it will hold up when thawed, if it works, i can ship it to my house in florida when i go down there for months on end... i miss the tex mex when i'm gone... i'll let you know... i can make the rest but the salsa is too fresh to duplicate and, you can't get decent tex mex anywhere but in texas!!! i've looked... love the gadgets...

Unknown said...


The slingbox, is that piped through the internet? How is the reception and what kind of internet connection do you have; if indeed that´s the type of connection that you are using with it?

Cipher said...

I was wondering if the vegetable stands in BA sell jalapeƱos or serrano peppers (chiles)? Or do the Chinese places in Barrio Chino sell hot peppers?

Chris said...

Hi Dave, I thought you might want to know about another tool that may be useful. I have been working with ooVoo which is a free videoconferencing sight. Unlike skype you are not stuck with the one on one experience. With ooVoo six people can video conference at the same time, everyone can see each other and it’s really a lot of fun. I thought that your daughter could connect with all of her friends on it which I’m sure she’ll like! If you have any ooVoo questions let me know.
Have a great day!