Like it is

IMGP9536 The word ‘trámite’ is my least favourite word in Argentina. Any time I hear it, it means something that I have to do that I haven’t done yet, a document I need that I haven’t got yet, a place that I am required to visit that I haven’t visited yet. How is life here in ‘trámite land’ for me this week? Here’s a taste.

Yesterday I went to Ezeiza to try to find and collect the picture, a ‘used’, framed print copy of a Hamish Blakely painting of two tango dancers, that I sent here from England. I have a photo of the package, and now I am starting to think that this is the last I will ever see of it. I hope not. I want the picture on my wall in Buenos Aires. In England I paid for what was sold to me as a door to door shipping service. Beware any company that promises such a service. I think it is probably an impossibility.

Before I left home yesterday I had tracked the package on the TNT website so I knew it was at Ezeiza. Carlos had phoned TNT to establish how we could get the picture. They told us we needed to use a ‘specialist company’ (I forget the name) to obtain the picture because it was art. We had phoned the ‘specialist company’ who told us that no, it was only a copy, nothing of value, and so we could go to Ezeiza ourselves. We took a taxi: $62 pesos. When we got there there were no signs to show us where was customs: imports and exports. We asked four members of airport staff for directions, until at last after a lot of walking, we found ourselves in the right place.

At the gate to the customs compound I had to show my passport in order to be issued with a ticket to enter. Carlos didn’t have his DNI document on him, so he had to wait outside. I went in. There was no obvious system, just a closed office door and a few people sitting on chairs outside, waiting. A kind woman amongst them explained that there was one man ahead of me and then I could enter. She then patiently explained the same thing to about five other people who arrived after me. She didn’t work there… just a hopeful punter, like me. Eventually I got in to the office. Immediately I was asked for my ‘guía aérea’ .’Qué?’ said I.

The customs lady talked. I listened. My mind turned over. My disappointment I could not hide. I felt my eyes blink wet for a second. Oh I see…  that would be the paperwork I need from TNT to release the package from Ezeiza customs: that paperwork they never mentioned on the telephone, that paperwork that requires me to travel to the centre of Buenos Aires. Right.

The customs lady was lovely. She showed me my package’s paperwork on the computer screen. She even looked up the number of the TNT office for me on the internet. I already had the number. We had already called the TNT office. I walked back outside to Carlos and swore for about five minutes. He refused to pay $80 odd pesos for a taxi back, so we caught three buses: one to Liniers (86), one to Cabildo (21) and one to my door (68). It took us two and a half  hours to get home. When I got in I ate a large Snickers bar in about three seconds flat. It helped.

Meanwhile, there’s the DNI. I’ve now been to the ‘Extranjeros’ building in ‘la calle’ 25 de Mayo three times. First time couldn’t get past the security guard, ‘Come back at 5.30pm.’ Second time, at 5.30pm, got to the information desk, ‘Come back between 9am and 12.30pm’. Third time at 12 midday, when the security guard said, come back between 6am and 10am, I begged, and he let me in to present my envelope from the Argentine Consulate in London. It was opened, and the contents inspected. I was confident. That envelope had been sealed so solemnly. But my innocent hopes were quickly dashed:

Young man behind desk: Ah yes but you need a spanish translation of your Birth Certificate.

Me: Ah yes, there it is you see… a spanish translation of my Birth Certificate, approved by the Argentine Consulate in London.

Him: Ah no, you need one done by an approved translator here… sorry.  And you need a Certificado de Domicilio.

Me: Ah no, because on your website it says that I don’t need the Certificado de Domicilio if I have utility bills to my address in my name. Here they are: three of them.

Him: Ah no sorry. You do need the Certificado de Domicilio because it is your first time for the DNI. Then you need to come back between 6am and 10am to obtain a ‘turno’ (appointment) to raise the ‘trámite’.

Me thinking: How many times ARE there? Surely you only apply for the DNI once? God I hope you only have to apply for it once.

Me saying nothing. Feeling beaten this time.

Him: So you come back then? At 6am. Over there. OK?

Right. I’ve since been to the Colegio de Traductores, found a translator in my street, and the translation is being done… well at least, a fresh copy of the translation I’ve already got,  is being done. Haven’t yet made it to the Comisería to apply for the Certificado. Maybe tomorrow.

Then there’s the bill from the ‘Direccion General de Rentas’ that I have to pay as a property owner. The bill arrived at the flat. But it isn’t something I can just pay. First I had to take it to ‘la calle’ Viamonte 900 in the Centro. I went. There you take a number and wait a long time. If you have all the required papers they give you the actual bill which you can go and pay at the bank. I didn’t have any of the right papers. Because I bought my property mid year they gave me a list of all the papers I need including the ‘escritura’ (original and copy, which I have), and ‘something official that I don’t really understand (which I don’t have)’ from my escribano . To get the ‘something official that I don’t really understand’, it turns out that I need to go to the escribano’s office. It can’t be sent apparently. I had thought that there was a postal service in Argentina, but I confess that I am beginning to wonder. The escribano’s office is in San Fernando, a train trip outside Buenos Aires. Right. OK. Maybe tomorrow or the day after.

And because my universe of ‘trámites’  is kind of stuck right now, even the english Post Office have managed to lose two cheques I sent from the UK to pay bills in the UK.  Mmmmmmm.

In a few days I am sure things will get unstuck, and I will start making progress again. But for now, it’s a day to scream,



9 Responses

  1. Dear Sally,

    With respect to this post and your previous post, and all your other posts dealing with the logistics of moving to and living in Argentina – I have to say you are incredibly generous to share all that information with your readers, so that they would have some idea where to begin if they encounter the same situations as you. I also have to say you must have the patience of a saint to put up with what you have put up with!

    You have just inspired me to do a series of posts entitled “Things that you can’t get in Buenos Aires – Toronto Edition”. Because no matter how lovely life is in Buenos Aires, there’s always some things you can’t get there – like government customer service that isn’t insane!

    Good luck with getting your DNI and your painting – I’m sure everything will work out just fine.

  2. This all sounds incredibly frustrating! You still managed to make me laugh though, with the snickers bar anecdote! Chocolate can’t solve problems…but as you say, it can really help…

  3. Wow. I really don’t miss this side of Argentina. I’m so happy to be back in a country where everything just works. I couldn’t stop giggling for several days after I got off the plane – the supermarkets! the card shopping! the ability to use google maps!

    I hope you emerge from the net as quickly as possible and with a minimum of fuss.

  4. my goodness…one day, way in the future, you will be able to laugh about all of this…

  5. Irene Ho, the thing is I just can’t bear for anyone to have to start from scratch like I did. It can wear you right down. And I was lucky because I had Carlos to help me. Without him I think I might have given up on many things along time ago. Other people won’t be so lucky. They won’t have a helpful, calm, soothing Argentine at their side. So instead they can have this blog to at least let them know they are not alone, and that all these things ARE possible!
    I think the idea of your post series is a great one. It’s so important in life to appreciate what we DO have, wherever we are is it not? All places in the world have their up sides, and their down sides. Buenos Aires is no exception. I try to tell the real story of trying to settle here, to give people a balanced view. Life here sure ain’t always lovely that’s for certain!
    But still, despite the frustations, I like it!

    Emily, yeah the restorative power of decent chocolate… same the world over! Snickers still isn’t Galaxy, but it’s better than nothing…

    Psyche, I didn’t know you had gone. Back to England? Or somewhere else…

    Caroline, it is true that now I can look back on all the past challenges and chuckle. Last week I was in Banco Piano in Cabildo changing some dollars. It was manic in there. Course I would pick a day when the dollar going crazy. It felt like half of Buenos Aires was in the queue ahead of me. I heard a familiar voice rising above the chatter, and there was the extremely hardworking guy who had helped me achieve my money transfer for the flat. We had a chat. Just the sound of his voice put me back in those days of anxiety: Carlos running out into the street to check black market exchange rates, hours and hours of me sitting silent at the table in the basement, with countless strange men counting my cash… me staring at the keys that weren’t yet mine. As I stood there last week, I half thought he might say to me, ‘Ooops it was all a terrible mistake and the flat isn’t really yours!’ But it made me smile too to remember, to recall the challenges and that we overcame them: me and Carlos who at the time were still using a dictionary on occasions to converse! The memories are indeed precious, make a great story and I am happy with the story I’m in. It sure as hell ain’t ever boring! Come and see us SOON!


  6. Hi Sally,
    Dare I say welcome to my world? All the frustrating things you ran into yesterday are “normal” here. The Argentines are a very patient people! But this is why I STILL don’t have my long-term visa after living in BsAs for more than 4 years! I never have enough papers because they always think of a new one I need, and then too, the rules/requirements keep changing. We just have to eat our chocolate, dance a tango, and keep on going, right? And, oh yeah, kiss our Argentines!

  7. Cherie, EXACTLY! We just keep dancing, kissing our Argentines, eating our chocolate, and loving all the upsides of here! At least we are kind of ‘in it together’. We Buenos Aires bloggers can always find someone amongst us who understands the frustrations and the joys.
    I hope you are enjoying all the upsides of being in North America right now, and let’s come and join you and your wonderful Argentine one Saturday at Los Consagrados, once you are back, to celebrate your return!


  8. Gosh Sal, I feel frustrated just reading about it!

    Tenacity is you girl – don’t let them grind you down….


  9. i feel so stressed reading this post, i gobbled down 2 empanadas!

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