More bloody calculating

IMGP0468 ‘We can just pop in there on the way,’ I suggest optimistically.

We are off to watch the ‘eliminatorio’ rounds for the 2008 World Tango Championship. But first I need to find out how much it will cost me and C. and my parents to journey to Patagonia or in Salta in October.

Now I am one of those people who normally just makes travel arrangements on the internet: flights, a hotel and done. But now life ain’t so easy. We are a party of one Argentine, one foreigner with a temporary residence visa but no DNI to date (because I am totally sick of the red tape that I need to wade through in that building of chaos in 25 de Mayo), and two foreigners with tourist visas. Hence I can no longer just book things with one click. Instead I am advised to ‘consult’ by phone or in person for the prices for non residents. Carlos wants to think of us as a family and therefore all the same, but in the eyes of the airlines and in the pockets of some hotels, I already know that we are not: some of us will have to pay more than others to travel in Argentina. Carlos, who hasn’t ever been in this position before, can’t quite get his head round that idea, ‘We will only use companies who charge us one price,’ he says. And now it is he who is being optimistic, I think to myself, as we jump on the subway to Juramento.

I also have another concern. My credit card (I only have one and it’s British) is unexpectedly about to expire in two days: my bank has decided to end its relationship with a charity I supported and so the credit card must be re-issued: no big deal if you are in the UK but a bugger if you are in Argentina. So I am hoping that we can sort the travel arrangements today and I can use the card: otherwise it’s daily trips to the ATM for God knows how long. I’m waiting for my parents to bring me the new card because no way am I trusting the ‘correo argentino’ with that little gem.

Our venture does not start too well, as the agent that I liked online is closed for lunch and not back till 3. It’s 1.20pm. But, they are open until 8 so we decide to walk to watch the tango, and return later. We get a few blocks along Cabildo and I spot another travel agent: open. I drag a slightly reluctant C. inside.

Well, I am going to cut a long story short here and say that by 4.30pm we are still in that grim little office which frankly is far too short of efficient staff. By the end of it: we have prices for horribly ‘weighted with prepaid excursions’ trips to Patagonia and Salta; we believe that I qualify for lower rates as a temporary resident; we understand that my parents will each pay up to $1500 pesos (USD$500) more than us for the ‘customised’ Patagonia package; we have been out for lunch and returned; we have waited patiently while the agent talks on the phone to every random caller, leaving us ‘who question and are therefore perhaps the less welcome type of customer’ to amuse ourselves: me eating all the candies on the desk, Carlos playing with paper and getting very pissed off. I don’t often see C. annoyed, but this afternoon I watch his face turn to stone to be told, rather patronisingly, that every country in the world charges more for foreigners: he knows that England does not, he knows that the USA does not, and he is less than happy that Argentina does. Finally we get out of there. ‘I don’t like that place,’ he says.

But, there is always a benefit to any kind of research, and at least now we have some real information to work with.

‘Right,’ I say firmly, ‘We can’t afford Patagonia. We’ll go in the other place and ask for five nights in Salta, no excursions, in a two star ‘posada’ that doesn’t charge extra for foreigners, breakfast only, ok?’

‘Exacto.’ says C.

And we do. And this time we get someone who seems to want to help us save money and not encourage us to spend more than we have. She appears slightly embarrassed about the price differences, and this pleases Carlos. She makes some calls, checks my passport and confirms that I can get the resident’s airfare, but advises me to take all my papers and not just the passport with me to the flight. She recommends the same characterful ‘posada’ that I liked on the web. She checks out both LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas. Here I nearly fall off my seat: on this route LAN will charge each of my parents $1000pesos more for their flights, and Aerolineas only $200pesos… so not surprisingly we go for Aerolineas, and I say a silent prayer that they will still be in business by October. Everything else will cost the same for each of us. Much better. Carlos has stopped playing manically with bits of paper and is actually showing signs of smiling.

The only immediate downside is I can’t pay it all at once with the card. Only half. Something to do with the airline tickets for foreigners being raised in a different way to the airline tickets for residents and taking longer (maybe that one lost something in translation)… so the fact my parents are foreigners means I will have to make some trips to ‘el ATM’ after all. Normally I could pay the second part with a card in 72 hours, but thanks to my lovely bank my card will have expired by then.

It takes another hour to book the thing, and work out all the payments. The whole bloody day has somehow passed and we are exhausted. Neither of us can face walking twenty blocks in the cold to Estadio Obras. We wearily decide to leave the tango until tomorrow.

God it does complicate life being a foreigner living in Argentina with no Argentine bank account, and no Argentine credit card (and here I am not complaining, because I am am well aware that I put myself in this situation, but I am just stating the facts that sometimes stress me out). I am at the mercy of my English bank. They make a decision to re-issue my card, and I am stuck without one. Plus there are limits on the pesos I can withdraw each twenty four hours. I reflect on this as I sit in the travel agent trying to calculate whether I can get the money I need out of the bank in time. I reflect on that fact that if we were all Argentines we could have booked our travels ourselves online, and saved ourselves more cash for certain along with the best part of a day.

All I will say is that our little Argentino/Inglesa couple did all we could do in the circumstances, speak with our feet and ultimately our wallets: we chose the airline with the lesser uplift and we chose a hotel with reasonable rates and no uplift at all. And we will always select a travel agent who will try to help us find those choices.

Meanwhile, here is a free money saving tip for the foreigner heading to Argentina. I believe that if you fly in to Argentina with Aerolineas Argentinas then you can get discounts off their internal flights… exactly how much I do not know. But both agents did ask me if my parents were travelling with Aerolineas. In fact they aren’t because the international fares from London are not cheap either. But, if you are planning to take several internal flights once you arrive, then do make sure you take a moment to get calculating, because it might just pay off.


12 Responses

  1. My debit card is the most important piece of mail I receive every two years. It’s always delivered by Correo Argentino. I must call the USA in order to activate the card by giving personal information. I feel the same way about Correo Argentino, but they haven’t failed me in nine years in delivering the card.

    I hope you will be writing your impressions on the Campeonato Mundial at Obras. I plan to attend the milonga on Sunday in Harrods to see the winners of the salon tango competition.

  2. Hi jantango

    Yes I will definitely write about the Campeonato. I did finally get to see an afternoon of rounds of the enscenario at Obras, today I will go to the semi finals of the salon (think there are 51 couples in this round if I’ve done the sum right!) and Monday night, the final of the enscenario. I am a bit cross with myself that I missed seeing some rounds of the salon too just to get an impression of that stage… still never mind, there’s always next year!

    besos, SC

  3. I happened to tune into 2X4 radio at 9:45pm when I heard the tango salon finals being broadcast. I listened to the concert with Stampone, etc. Then I checked the mundial site for the list of 50+ finalist couples that were posted. I heard the names of the top ten finalists as they were announced and compared their numbers to the list. Maxi Copello placed tenth with a new partner of a few months, but his father was on the list of judges this year and knows everyone. I didn’t hear the names of the winners–only the number 417 which isn’t mentioned in the finalists.

  4. Hi Janis

    Well I wasn’t at the salon final tonight, but I just checked the Clarin for the winners of the 2008 Mundial Tango Salon:

    If my castellano serves me well enough…

    They are Daniel Nacucchio y Cristina Sosa (Looks like they were the winners of this years Metropolitano Milonga category)
    and here they are dancing:

    The runners up were Neri Piliu y Yanina Quiñones
    and here they are dancing:

    Besos, SC

  5. Hello. I was wondering if you could assist me. Do you know that fax number to CORREO ARGENTINO. I won something off Ebay from a seller in Buenos Aires and the package disappeared. I dont know too contact CORREO ARGENTINO for them to investigate the situation. Thank so much for your help. Any information you could provide would be fantastic.

  6. Well Ted, I wish you luck.

    The best I can do is the website for Correo Argentino which has a section for Atención al cliente (Client services):

    There is a phone number 4891-9191 which internationally would be dialled +54 11 4891-9191. There is an email given in the top box, and there is a Track and Trace System online, which includes a service for international packages:

    When I have sent packages to England from here, they give you a card which has an identifying number on it as well as a number to call if there are problems. I have never had any problems sending stuff from Argentina, it has always arrived ok.
    Receiving it from abroad… now that has been a different matter!

    Hope this helps a bit.
    Suerte, SC

  7. It came as no surprise that Nacucchio and Sosa won the world salon title. They were obviously chosen and walked away with $25,000AP. The campeonato has been arranged since the first year. This year it is so obvious. I went to see them dance on Sunday in Harrods. They couldn’t do that exhibition stuff on a crowded floor, but they fit the package being promoted by the Associacion. The “Villa Urquiza style” is what you have to dance in order to win. And to learn it you have to study with one of the judges. Only an Argentine can win the tango salon competition. I wish that all the foreign competitors knew it’s rigged.

  8. Hi Jantango,
    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Truthfully I don’t know enough to be able to comment on what you say about the salon championship: I have only been dancing tango for less than 2 years and been in Buenos Aires for less than that. And I didn’t see the salon final last year or this year, which leaves me even less able to comment.
    Me and Carlos did watch the salon semi final this year. For what it’s worth: I found it extremely difficult to watch 12 couples dance at once; I thought that some rounds had far more moving/beautiful to dance to music than other rounds; I was unsure how you can compare the obviously different ‘styles’; I noticed that I noticed the dancers that I recognised and focused on them, so I could imagine how the judges might do the same; I wondered why we waited over an hour to get the results after the dancing finished but then there were 70+ couples competing so maybe there was some calculating to do.

    I did see the enscenario final last year and last night. Last year the couple that won were my favourites. This year my favourites, who were actually Japanese, did not get placed though the audience clearly liked them… I think they had the longest round of applause, but I liked the winners also.
    Things is too, I was miles away in the very strange and distant seating arrangement that Luna Park offered to those of us who got our tickets late in the day, wearing foggy contact lenses and it was all over so fast. I only saw the overall package as an impression through my untrained and rather perhaps ‘starry’ eyes.
    Perhaps as time passes I will learn more and so see more.

    Last night I did feel very sorry for the two couples whose music did not start or started incorrectly. They had to leave the stage and return later which cannot have been helpful for their focus. I think at this level of competition the organisers have to get something as fundamental as the music to work first time.

    In the limited various rounds and finals I have seen of enscenario the most impressive competitors (in my opinion) have been from Argentina, Columbia and Japan… though I have seen some less impressive competitors from all three countries also.

    I guess I prefer it if someone who isn’t already mega famous wins… as those guys probably need the professional leg up and the prize money less… but that’s just me.

    I know many people talk about the competitions being rigged, competitors not sticking to the rules and getting away with it, and the judging being flawed.
    To date I have not thought too much about it, I confess.
    So far I’ve just enjoyed watching.
    Maybe if I was competing or if I personally knew someone who was competing it would be a different matter.
    And perhaps next year I will read the rules.


  9. The September issue of B.A. Tango contains an interview with Daniel Naccuchio and Cristina Sosa. He mentions that he teaches at Tango Complejo with Carlos Borquez. Borquez is his connection to the judges and why he won the Campeonato Mundial 2008. Borquez and his wife Ines are members of the Associacion de Maestros, Bailarines, y Coreografos de Tango Argentino and therefore, on the judging panel for the Campeonato Metropolitano and Campeonato Mundial. The couple were “chosen” to win.

    In 2007 the winners were Daniel Sanchez and Ines Muzzopappa. She is the girlfriend of Federico Naveira. His mother is Olga Besio and his father is Gustavo Naveira, both of whom are judges for the competition. Ines danced with Daniel for three months before winning the Campeonato Mundial. They were “chosen” to win because of their connection with a judge. Now Ines teaches with Federico in Postango, and with Daniel at Academia de Carlos Copello (a judge).

    The rules of the competition don’t mention that the judges decide ahead of time who is going to win. The scores are fabricated to justify placement of the top ten finalists. Foreigners will never win–only Argentines. It’s not about how well you dance, it’s about who you know among the judges and whose turn it is to chose the winning couple. I was certain that Naccuchio was closely connected with one of the judges, but i didn’t know who it was until I read the B.A. Tango interview.

  10. Hi jantango,
    I realise that you feel pretty strongly on this issue.
    Maybe others will have a view and leave their thoughts here.
    Thanks for yours, SC

  11. Hi, my name is Fernanda Castro Escalada, from buenos aires capital… I dance tango and know most of the celebrities of this buissness. I read in one of the post that the champeonship was arranged and that this couple Let me say something about both these dancers: Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa. Daniel lived in Japan for 7-8 years, he speaks japanese and has been dancing tango for over 14 years. He is also a musician: he began playing tango at the age of 6 and at 16 he was already graduated as a profesional pianist and music teacher. He came back 2 years ago, and began to work very hard with Cristina. If there is any dought of the authenticity of their victory in the lates champeonships, and you still believe that they are promoted by the association, let me tell you he has recently won his FORTH cup this year: The world championship in JAPAN. The judges there have no relationship with the couple. Daniel has taken clases with great milongueros who most of the world don’t know about, like Carlos Perez. Hope this information can clear all suspicion and doughts.

  12. Hi Fernanda

    Thanks very much for your comment.

    I don’t think that I have personally written in any of my blog posts that I think the various tango championships are arranged.

    I have enjoyed watching the championships as I have said, and I am always inspired by whoever wins.

    Of course if people leave comments that express a certain opinion then that is something I have to accept as part of blogging, and I publish the comments: I do not necessary have a view on what is said.

    In any case that you offer a different view to previous comments here is good. It maintains balance and I like that.

    As I always say I am a total baby in tango. I just prefer to watch, enjoy, and celebrate for whoever wins.
    There will always be opposing views on a topic such as this I guess.

    Personally I wish Daniel and Cristina every success and joy. I have no doubt that they must have worked extremely hard to achieve what they have. No doubt at all.

    My own tango teacher was taught by Carlos Perez, and I am grateful for all that I have learned from him, via my own beloved teacher.

    I thank you for reading my blog.


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