This follows on from our February newsletter (under newsletters tab at the top of the page if you don’t normally receive it).
“Tomorrow” (i.e. Friday): Did the usual walk dogs followed by kid to nursery on the back of my bike thing. Then I went on the benefits office, Anses, which is an acronym for something only I don’t know what. A whole raft of child-benefits were introduced in Argentina a year or so ago, one of which is the asignacion universal which as the “universal” suggests is available to every Argentinean child, merely for existing. Actually the means-testing is still there, albeit in a more subtle form; it is paid to anyone prepared to stay the course of grinding paperwork and hours spent standing in line over several months at the Anses office. Sadly, this probably also strains out those who aren’t literate or articulate enough to survive the grinder. Happily, after a mere eight months of regular excursions to Anses, I now have a piece of paper that says from March we will be eligible to collect 174 pesos from the government bank, el Banco de la Nacion Argentina. Sadly, this will also involve queuing up for two hours in the bank every month, but still, 87 pesos per hour for standing in a queue would be quite a good rate of pay for a worker; in San Francisco a cleaner earns 18 pesos an hour, a teacher 35, and a speech therapist 60.
From here I continued across town to the special school, where I had a brief chat to the Directora, and a longer meeting with the social worker. That was a useful time, except that as a result I may need to make a trip to Cordoba to the ministerio de desarrollo social (ministry of social development) in the next few days. So far I have been unable to have this confirmed, and until I do I’m not going anywhere… I’m a lot less enthusiastic about trips to Cordoba than my husband, and particularly when I know it will involve yet more hours of gathering paper and rubber stamps in the eternal queuing systems of Stalinist government institutions.
Home via the fruit and veg shop, no paperwork needed. Brief squint at the emails, some encouraging responses to our newsletter which we’d sent out last night; thank you for those. Martin disappeared to extract our kid from nursery. I started cooking lunch (that’s the main meal of the day here), interrupted by a visit from our (mostly) tame itinerant friend; “my friend is short of money for her rent this month so I told her not to worry because I know these people….” Nice try, but no; I’m OK with taking you to the pharmacy and paying for your prescriptions, but I’m not yet ready to become the first port of call for everyone in San Francisco who finds themselves a bit short of money this month. I do find this whole thing rather tricky; who calls the shots, where should the lines be drawn, what would Jesus do? (to string several clichés together).
Afternoon and no commitments for once so Joni got to plan the programme; building Brio train-tracks on the floor, and a couple of hours playing in our plaza over the road. We love Brio, I picked up a big box of it for a song on ebay when we were in the UK a couple of years ago, and it has given him hours and hours of enjoyment. These days we are quite sophisticated and my civil engineering skills would be snapped up by Network Rail as we create ever more complicated layouts, complimented with Lego stations, bridges and train-sheds. Being a sunny-but-not-boiling afternoon Joni found plenty of other kids to play with in the plaza, while I had the usual range of conversations with their mothers /grandmothers;
“Do you know what you’re having yet?”
“It’s another boy”
“Oh… never mind”
It’s not that having a boy is considered to be bad per se, but the superstition is that if you have two children then it ought to be one of each. Personally I’m delighted, but I’ve given up trying to convince anyone else here that I’m delighted (and I would also have been delighted if it had been a girl too). And at least this topic makes a change from the usual theme and variations on Speaking English;
“Why are you talking English to your child?”
“Because I’m English”
“But if you can speak Spanish why don’t you just speak that?”
Even well educated professionals here find it really difficult to get their heads around the idea that English is actually a useful medium including all the necessary features for meaningful communication (and incidentally a significantly larger vocabulary than Spanish!), rather than merely a school subject invented by sadistic teachers to torture pupils. Thus nearly every conversation that I have around the speaking of English centres on the idea that I must be deliberately choosing to make my life unnecessarily difficult by insisting on English, when sticking to Spanish would clearly be so much easier for me!
Back inside, brief tussle over whether we are going to wash the mud off Joni’s legs or not; yes because I’m the mummy and we’re going out this evening. A family who we are getting to know at church have a little boy slightly smaller than Joni, and of late me ‘n the mum have found ourselves running the impromptu crèche for unruly toddlers at the back. They were throwing some fish on the parrilla (BBQ), so did we want to come round and eat it? Joni had a good time playing with the kids, we had a good time getting to know the adults a bit better, and the fish turned out great; definitely a friendship worth cultivating. And that’s another week gone.