Project Management

Visitor number 1 left on Monday to go to Cordoba, planning on coming back briefly for a couple of hours on Friday to collect his stuff and go on to Buenos Aires. Visitor number two was due to arrive on Thursday and stay till Friday morning. Visitor number three was due to arrive on Friday morning and stay till Saturday.
What actually happened…
Visitor number 1 returned a day early, on Thursday, nearly went on to Buenos Aires, decided not to go on to Buenos Aires, almost cancelled his ticket to Buenos Aires, and then went to Buenos Aires. This was really somebody else’s fault who probably needed to be shot, except that shooting people may turn out to be a career limiting move in our line of work.
Visitor number 2 sent us a message to say that he wasn’t coming on Thursday night. He didn’t share the bit about deciding to come for breakfast on Friday instead. Luckily we were all up and more or less decent when he arrived bright and early for coffee.
Visitor number 3 was caught up in a bus strike but she did manage to make it through on Friday afternoon and stayed till Saturday as planned… (German, no stereotyping but….)

Joni swiftly got the measure of V3, they’re old friends. He fetched his little blue shoes from his room and presented them to her with the instruction “sadalls” (sandals) which she correctly understood as a request to put them on him. He followed this up with the instruction “paga” (plaza), and led her out of the door over the road to push him on the swings.

I was left pondering how amazing it is that a child of not quite two can conceive and communicate an action plan in just two nouns correctly interpreted and put into action by his chosen junior executive, but at 18 if he decided to go into business, he would mostly likely spend the following three years at college learning about vision statements, buzz-words, flow diagrams and Smart targets, and yet he would almost definitely come out less effective at project management than he is at the moment.

As for us, the next software project might be a little hotel booking system in order to manage our diverse and unpredictable guests.

Bye bye Winter

Remember those games where you have to change one word into another; slug becomes frog in three steps that kind of thing? Well, here, Winter became Summer in about the same amount of time.
On Monday morning we set out for pre-school wearing a T-shirt, a jumper and a coat.
On Tuesday morning we set out for pre-school wearing a T-shirt and a jumper.
On Wednesday morning we set out for pre-school wearing a T-shirt and a thin top.
On Thursday morning we set out for pre-school wearing a T-shirt.

It may be best if we didn’t leave the house on Friday.

This morning with Hazel and Martin

I have no idea what our kid was dreaming about, but when he woke up this morning the first words he said were “Get cake”, and when I asked him what he’d like for breakfast he said “ice cream”. Fortunately he consented to cornflakes and an apple.
Also before breakfast our kitchen sink flooded the kitchen; the pipe underneath it appears to have been held together by friction. Unfortunately gravity won in the end. Simultaneously, the washing machine stopped working. Fortunately it didn’t flood the kitchen. Unfortunately the clothes and all the water are still inside it until the guy arrives to rescue them. He was going to come this afternoon, but this is Argentina. We phoned and had words. He may come tomorrow.

I went to Quebracho Herrado this morning and this afternoon. This morning was a non-event so I didn’t stay very long, but this afternoon worked out well. Kid of 16 came in wanting help with numeracy and literacy, she’s actually better than she thinks, really should be doing a secondary school curriculum, but the system here is that you either start secondary school with your peers, or you can’t start it till you are 18 so she’s potentially in limbo for the next couple of years unless we can find a way round the bureaucracy. Following that we also had a good chance meeting with an older couple who look to be key players in the village. Every village / small town has them; the folk who are on every committee, organise the fete, finger in every pie, some people hate them, but the fact is that they are the people you need to know if you actually want to see something done.

Then it was back to San Francisco, throw child in bath and leave him to Daddy’s tender care while I went to Scout leader’s meeting. And now I’m worn out. How did I used to survive back in my mis-spent youth when I cycled thirteen miles to work, put in a hard ten hours a day and still had energy left for activities nearly every evening? (having swept the chimney and licked the road clean first and you tell that to the young folk of today and they don’t believe you…)

Cub Camp

Having been more or less continuously involved in the Scout and Guide movement since becoming a Brownie at the age of seven, (until I finally drowned in bureaucracy and gave up attempting to lead the Ranger unit under a District Commissioner who was particularly pro-bureaucracy and even more anti-Ranger) we are happy to report that cub-camp in Argentina looks quite a lot like cub-camp as we know and love it:
Cubs on camp 1Cubs on camp 2Cubs on camp 3

sleeping babiesSome of the younger members struggling to take the pace.

The one thing I have definitely learnt from this camp is that single sleeping bags are only made for one, no matter how small the other occupant might be.

camp fireThe traditional campfire begins with a rendition of “Campfire’s burning” in Spanish, continues in familiar format with songs and sketches (even recognised some of the sketches), and ends with wait for it… Auld Lang Sine in Spanish, couldn’t believe my ears!

I think this weekend may have been valuable in establishing myself as part of the leadership team here. I certainly detected a warming of relationships, which may be because the other guys have now seen that I can organise a game, provide sausages for twenty five and light a fire, and that despite my European roots I am not too posh to clean a toilet. There is of course also the rich gelling factor of swopping yarns over mate at two in the morning while waiting for the last of the little sh….s darlings to run their batteries down and at least pretend to go to sleep. And now we’re home, stink of campfire, and completely knackered in that satisfying way that only a weekend in the open air can provide; all told, a top weekend.

An Update

Since writing the other day I have also been told that Facebook own the legal copywrite to all content posted to it, which I haven’t managed to verify if this is true or not, but if it is, then it is probably a top reason not to put up anything more significant than that blurry photo I took of someone elses cat on my mobile phone… beginning to spot a pattern here.
It’s been a while since I got near my email inbox but some judicious pruning this morning has reduced it to the fifty that actually need dealing with. However, it’s Scout camp tomorrow and Sunday, so I’m sure it will double again in my absence. Speaking of which, need to go throw a sleeping bag and a few bits into a rucksack… Have a good weekend.

Facebook Schmacebook

Four trips to the village of Quebracho Herrado, four families visited, one trip to the prison, several prisoners visited, one trip to the village of Obispo Trejo, two and a half hours away where we spent the day at a children’s home talking about the possibilities of sending them some Latin Link short termers. Speaking of Latin Link short termers, one has taken up temporary residence in our house, has built himself a little nest in our spare room, plays with our child, does the washing up unasked, nothing to complain about there. We received a phone call on Wednesday night “X is on a bus, he will be arriving in San Francisco at 4.30 in the morning” “OK I’ll make up a bed then shall I?” This is Argentina, and some Argentineans are more Argentinean than others! Thus another fairly normal week passes, and this week looks to be more of the same. Scout camp coming up this weekend I’m not sure we’re as organised as we might be, but I’m the new person here so I’ll watch and learn.
I signed up to Facebook a few weeks ago to see what all the fuss was about, and so far I still can’t see what all the fuss is about. Maybe my small-talk is even less interesting than most, but I really can’t imagine why I would want to broadcast it around the world, even less record it for posterity, let alone the blurry pictures of someone else’s cat that I took on my mobile phone while drunk (actually my mobile phone doesn’t take pictures, maybe that’s where I’m missing out). Apart from that the screen is cluttered with stuff that I will never want to use, and useful bit, i.e. the space to write in, is only eight lines long, so I guess that Facebook assume that their average writer doesn’t have very much in on their mind, or maybe that the average reader has a very short attention span. In addition, I am probably over privileged in that I can’t remember a time when my life was empty enough that I would have enjoyed filling it with quizzes on goldfish, office furniture, 70’s music, or the significance of the first letter of my name. I will admit to being a bit of a technophobe, but I can find my way round the internet, bid on ebay, buy things from various places, do banking transactions, have an MSN conversation, or search for academic documents on a database. And five years of living with someone whose “other wife” is his latest software project means that I can bandy around “CSS” and “PHP” with the best of them if the occasion demands, so I don’t think I’m a total luddite, but Facebook? It has one more month to impress me or I’m taking it down.

Not Finished Yet

As we guessed, it took all morning, involved five forms in triplicate, which combined with the photocopying totals around thirty pieces of paper.
As we didn’t guess, it cost 900 AR$ pesos, which was almost exactly ten times what we would have predicted. That’s more than half a month’s salary so someone won’t be eating till we get paid again.

As we also didn’t guess, we’re not even done yet; “come back in fifteen days”.

Imagine how the economic face of Argentina could be transformed if just a tiny percentage of that vast army of government-employed rubber stampers were actively engaged in doing something productive.


Fun times

I keep nearly writing a blog, and then something else happens, which might also make an equally un-interesting blog entry except that by the time I’m about to write that one, yet a different thing has occurred ad infinitum.
Domestic excitements have included applying for a replacement bank card having left mine in a cash machine in Buenos Aires (I think at least), and attempting to rediscover our house following the departure of the cousins.

kids in tentI’d pitched our tent in the garage for the kids to camp out in, which was a great success despite our neighbours being horrified that I would do such a dastardly thing as to make my own family sleep in the garage. In fact some of the not-so-small kids among us took to snuggling in and sharing story time in the evenings.

So there was all that to dismantle, which was a good thing really as it gave me a chance to re-label the poles in a way that actually corresponds to the configuration that they need to be pitched in (unlike when they left the factory; more Argentinean manufacturing). I haven’t got round to answering or dealing with the 60 or so emails in the inbox from the last few weeks, although I have just now put the photos into folders. These ones aren’t mine, they were taken by a bunch of nuns we met on the train to Cosquin and emailed on to us. Nuns are high-tech these days.

us on the trainsnow in Cosquin

On the work front I went to Quebracho Herrado five times in the last week, was welcomed with open arms in the primary school, and for a couple of days entertained a group of short-termers from YWAM (Youth with a Mission) or JCUM as they are known here (juventud con una mission) who had thought they were coming for a full-blown evangelistic campaign in Quebracho but we disabused them of that idea fairly swiftly, and they ended up playing guitar in the plaza with some of the village yoof which was probably far less damaging more constructive than if they’d gone door knocking.

This week’s fun activity will be to register our car in our name. This is no V-whatsit, sign on the dotted line, stick the whole thing in an envelope and forget about it, oh no, this is a full-blown Argentinean paper-work event which will have taken three person-days by the time we have finished (please God don’t let it take any longer than that!!) So far we have been to the vehicle registry, the police-station, the stationary shop (carbon paper and photocopying), the bank and the tax office. Apparently you have to have a personal tax code in order to own a car, no don’t ask me why. We managed to shorten our trip to the tax office by recognising one of the employees, who immediately ushered us past the first queue, which probably saved two hours’ waiting. Unfortunately our stay was then elongated slightly by the tax-office’s computer whose error message insisted that being British was incompatible with having residents’ documents for Argentina, no we never found out why, but a more experienced colleague found a work-around otherwise presumably we would still be there arguing the toss. We still have two more forms to complete in triplicate, hence the carbon paper, and then we need to take those plus all the other evidence of our previous paper-chasing back to the vehicle registry tomorrow.