Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Saw a beautiful sunrise this morning

...on our way to Cordoba for the second day in a row.

Let me back up. We found out last Friday we need to travel to Buenos Aires to renew our VISAs -- which was kind of a bummer because we thought our co-worker who lives there was going to be able to file the paperwork on our behalf. Not so.

But first we have to get some paperwork done here. The primary need is for a letter from the police stating we haven't been in any trouble since moving to Argentina two years ago. No outstanding tickets, no arrests, etc.

Now we had to do this for the initial VISAs to get into the country, only the first time around it was a letter from the police in the town where we were living in Michigan. It was a simple matter of stopping by the police station, explaining what we needed and within a day they had a nice letter all typed up on official letterhead. Granted, Jonesville is a small town but still, I don't think it would have been much -- if any -- more complicated in a bigger city. A simple matter of them running our names through the system.

But here it's a whole 'nother ballgame; a long, drawn-out process that I personally think is designed to make people NOT want to come here -- or stay too long. Ivan has a different theory: he thinks that any country highly influenced by Great Briton has this excessively time-consuming bureaucracy, designed and initially used by the English to keep their colonies in line. They kept them so busy filling out forms and handling paperwork that they didn't have any time to rebel. 

First we had to go to the Ministry of Justice in the provincial capital and wait in line to get the forms to fill out, only to be told we had to come back another day because they didn't have any more forms. WHAT?! Ivan was tempted to offer to go make copies for them. He explained we really needed the letter as soon as possible, and was there anything else we could do? Well, they said, maybe the lawyer down the hall could help. So down the hall we went. Nobody in the office so we sat down to wait. After a while Ivan went to find out how long it might be. Turns out the lawyer was in court and they had no idea how long before she returned.


We decided to grab some lunch. Right around the corner we were thrilled to find a Subway! Quick in-and-out so we could hurry back to the Ministry of Justice. But the lawyer still hadn't returned. So back out for a sundae from a nearby McDonald's. Returned to wait some more. Sat there and sat there outside the lawyer's office. Finally Ivan went and asked, even if the lawyer came back, would she really be able to help us without a form? Oh yes, she -- being a lawyer -- could work outside the system.

Turns out they weren't really out of forms, they had just already handed out their daily quota and were unwilling to exceed that amount. WHAT?! They have a daily quota for forms?!

Ivan came back and told me what the deal was and we just looked at each other, wondering whether to laugh or cry. And we continued to wait...

At 2:05 -- a full two hours after we'd first arrived --- one of the clerks came over and kind of suggested that if we were willing to pay a higher fee, we could get the forms after all. Are you kidding me?!

[Time out from the story to just say, I was reminded once again how glad I am that Ivan handles 99.9% of this kind of stuff. Because, people, it would MAKE ME CRAZIER THAN I ALREADY AM.]

Armed with the forms and a pen, we began the process of filling out all the pages. Which is when I realized/remembered we would have to go to the bank FIRST to pay the fees before we would be allowed to turn the forms in. AND THE BANKS CLOSE AT 2 PM.

These *lovely* public servants had waited until they knew the banks were closed before letting us have the paperwork, knowing full well we'd be required to make another trip to turn it in.

Now this was on top of our first experience of the day, when we tried to get the addresses on our DNIs changed. [We had applied for the DNIs as soon as we arrived in Argentina, long before we found this house to rent so by the time we got them 18 months later, the address was already outdated.] We stood in line at the bank to pay the fee for a different piece of paperwork, then in line at the police station to have it authorized and stamped -- along with our co-workers who served as our testigos (witnesses), then in line at the Registro Civil in Carlos Paz only to find out (1) we couldn't get it done there but had to go to the Registro Civil in Cordoba and (2) we didn't even need that paper from the police because we had utility bills in our name that we could use to prove we indeed lived at this new address.

We basically stood in various lines or sat and waited for the better part of six hours and accomplished NOTHING, NADA, ZIP, ZILCH.

But as my husband is fond of saying, "It is what it is."

This morning we got up early and headed back to Cordoba while it was still dark, witnessing an absolutely GORGEOUS sunrise on the way in!

Today went much better although there were still lots of lines. Ivan stood in line at the bank for 45 minutes to pay the fees*** and then we stood in line another 45 minutes to get finger printed but only 10 minutes to turn the paperwork in and find out that the letter wouldn't be ready until Friday because it takes three days. WHAT?! 

Monday is when our VISAs expire and we are supposed to get them renewed BEFORE then. Which means we need to get it done by Friday since none of the offices are open on the weekend. But if we can't pick up the letter until 10 a.m. (or later) on Friday, there's no way we can make that happen since Buenos Aires is a 9-10 hour drive. So Ivan asked -- very nicely -- if there's any way we can get it earlier, considering our situation. [Which wouldn't be a situation if they'd just given us the paperwork in time yesterday!] She huffed a little but eventually went to ask and came back and grudgingly told us we could pick it up Thursday morning instead.

Doncha just love it when public "servants" act like anything but?

We're still not altogether sure it will be ready on Thursday but we're hoping and praying it will be!

[***Apparently this system of paying fees at the bank was initiated to prevent the rampant corruption going on at every level of government.]

Relieved to have that done, we went around the corner to Subway. It was only 10:30 a.m. and not even close to lunchtime but our Subways have something I bet your Subways don't: a traditional Argentine breakfast of café con leche, fresh squeezed orange juice, toast and medialunas (tiny glazed croissants). There was also a variety of spreads: butter, jam, cream cheese and dulce de leche. A very welcome repast since it had been hours since our first cup of coffee of the day!

Yesterday I'd noticed the store across from Subway but hadn't had time to check it out. Today we did. It's a custom drapery place that has the most gorgeous fabrics! I've been looking in fabric stores all over and kept finding the same old-same old stuff (none of it very exciting). But this place has loads more upholstery and home decor fabrics. We were still kind of in a hurry (needed to get back to Carlos Paz because Ivan had a dentist appointment) but I hope to stop in again Thursday when we go to pick up our letter from the Ministry of Justice. I'm almost afraid to ask the prices of the fabrics, but we don't need much to re-cover the dining chairs so I'm hoping it's not too expensive. We'll see!

And on the way back to the parking garage we stopped quickly at the used furniture store where we've seen some nice pieces from time-to-time and found a dining table that just might work for us. It's a fairly simple style and, best of all, the price is within our budget (CHEAP!) because it needs to be refinished. Not a problem, since we want to change the color of the stain anyway. We'll take the trailer with us Thursday so we can haul it home.

All in all, a MUCH better day than yesterday!

We've debated on whether to drive the car or take a bus to Buenos Aires. Driving would allow us to stop and see friends on the way back, but now that we have to go and return so quickly at the end of the week, we've decided to take the bus. We'll take the overnight bus Thursday, arriving Friday morning in time to be at the office of Immigration when it opens. We're really hoping everything can be done that day and then we can take the bus home Friday night. Quick in-and-out.

Since whatever we take, we'll have to haul around town, we'll be packing LIGHT. That means a change of shirt and underclothes for each of us in case we have to stay longer, but not much else. If it doesn't fit in the backpack, it doesn't go. Good thing I'm not a high maintenance person (in that area, at least).

We'll have to take our supper for Thursday and breakfast for Friday and I want to make something nice, to make it more of an adventure, and turn our focus away from the drudgery of having to make this trip in the first place, and it being such a fast, business-only thing. So I picked up what I need to make a vegetarian sub, which will include roasted eggplant and red pepper, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and sliced avocado. There will be tangerines for dessert. For breakfast: yogurt and the last of the chocolate scones...

...which I made yesterday to serve as a base for strawberry shortcake. Because we bought some fabulous strawberries from a street vendor in Cordoba. Not enough for a pie, but perfect for a lovely treat of strawberry shortcake. Once you've had it with chocolate scones -- instead of that spongey cake-like substance which is normally used -- you'll never settle for anything less!


The Bug said...

Remembering some of my experiences in Zambia, Ivan may be right! I can't believe I didn't have a conniption a day there, but I managed to stay calm & even started enjoying waiting in line.

Hope everything goes well & you get your visa's renewed without any hassles!

Mari said...

What a day! I am laughing at Ivan's explanation - pretty funny!

skoots1mom said...

god bless u both for being so patient...i'm sure my 'moaning hors' would have spewed a geyser...
my nerves aren't very long these days...dd is leaving soon for college and i'm sure that has only intensified my nerve ending's ability to stay in place

Praying specifically that ALL goes well, very timely and that you have your new paperwork completed well before their deadline

Lhoyt said...

I happen to disagree with Ivan on the reason for the bureaucracy in Argentina. I believe it comes from the jesuitic system, which is based on three principles:
--Intentionalism--'the end justifies the means'.
--Probabilism--'you can do anything if you can get someone with enough pull to authorize it.'
--Mental Reservation--'It's okay to withhold part of the truth if that will serve your purpose.'
Those seem to be the basic premises upon which all Catholic countries operate.
Be that as it may, I must admit that I admire you and Ivan for your patience and endurance. I blew my gasket many times in the presence of Argentina's 'public servants' not the least of which was when the lady at the Registro Civil told me that "Arturo Lyn Hoyt is not married, Lynn Arthur Hoyt is, and 'no es lo mismo un perro niño que un niño perro'"

Rosalyn said...

Some of that sounds like what we had to do to get Rachel's passport renewed here in the states.

mahi said...

Hey m really impressed that u managed to stay cool... quite tough to do in such situation.. i was surfing for beautiful morning when i came across your blog ..its really nice..good work!

rita said...

Your sure it wasn't the Spanish influence rather than British?
I like that Subway breakfast.
Dont' they serve meals on the bus?
Maybe I got two because I traveled on Betel Ejecutivo (http://www.betelejecutivo.com/)a Christian ministry line--great concept!
Have you tried Ivanhoe's strawberry shortcake--the best!

Well, if your experiences were not so exasperating/infuriating, they would be VERY funny!

Kay said...

You are both far more patient that I could ever be. I think I would have given up looong ago! I love that you have Subway. Love love love their sandwiches! : )