Sleep Deprivation

I have written a hundred blog entries in the last week; in my head.  Sleep deprivation is an interesting phenomenon. Probably comparable to taking drugs, only without the fun part, my mind and my body are totally out of sync and I’m continually having to wait for my mind to catch up in order to figure out what my body thought it was trying to achieve:

Why are you holding the fridge door open?  I was going to reheat the coffee.  And the fridge?  Uh.. may have mistaken it for the microwave. 

It finally stopped raining last Wednesday, so Thursday I attempted to make it to the hamlet.  I received a text from the grandmother there informing me that the road was passable.  She doesn’t drive.  The “main” road in (dirt track) had been totally churned into soup by the tractors and milk lorries; definitely out of the league of a family hatchback, so I diverted round to the “alternative entrance”; footpath through a couple of kms of grass, just about wide enough to squeeze a vehicle through.  Unfortunately a few people had been there before me so it too was fairly ploughed up and slippery.  We slithered, skated, and ground to a halt, wheels spinning ineffectively against wet grass.  Joni and I decamped and hiked a few hundred metres to the municipal rubbish dump, where my “pathetic female accompanied by cute blonde kid” presentation quickly persuaded a couple of butch males to come to our aid.  They extracted our wheels with embarrassing ease, made me think I might have been too pathetic for bottling out so early, but they gave me a chance to restore my image of competence by watching me reverse back up the slippery path.  I’m not sure I was grateful for the opportunity, but we made it out in one piece.  I think Joni was more impressed by the diggers at the tip than his mother’s prowess with a Corsa. 

Friday we left home at six in the morning for a crazy day in Cordoba… paperwork in the Ministry of Social work, more paperwork signing Danny up to our health-care scheme “You should have come within five days of him being born…”  Yes, and I’m guessing that as a male who lives here in the city rather than three hours away, you have absolutely no appreciation that it was plenty hard enough getting here, albeit five weeks late?  Cue more pathetic female impersonations, this time we played “dim foreigner doesn’t know the rules, accompanied by cute baby” and the guy took pity and walked me through the signing up process.  Oscar duly won, we went on to meet some good people over lunch, no impersonations required.  (Really enjoyed meeting you guys… be patient with yourselves, you’re doing great).  Then on to some long-standing friends who Joni always enjoys.  Martin made the most of an opportunity for a siesta.  I mooched into town with Danny.  For some women “Retail therapy” means shoes and handbag.  Having never owned a handbag (and there’s a limit to the number of pairs of trainers I can use), I was well pleased with my two sexy plastic crates, into which I have since sorted the toys from the dining room floor.  Final visit of the day started out as a social call, and later became apparent that we were in a situation of some need; “God’s timing” became a late night.  We arrived back in San Francisco at one in the morning, just time to catch some zed’s before Martin was off to the prison for his breakfast-time Bible study, and me n’ the boys were on the bike to Scouts.  Fortunately the weekend was a low-key one; Gonzalo and Adriana were here, and we did a minimal round of prison, Scouts, church, and declined the opportunity to go out on Saturday night in favour of staying in, opening a bottle of wine and lighting the fire. 

This week and life chugs on (I say that because I can’t quite remember what I’ve done all week and now it’s Thursday).  The village (homework on the French Revolution… I don’t know anything about the French Revolution, I wasn’t there I didn’t start it), the school, the hamlet (road now dried out), various jobs round town, couple of visits, tracking down a couple of blankets for our itinerant friend who then failed to come back and collect them… thinking I might need to take the blankets and track her down, it’s cold at night.  Oh and we did the round of possible schools for Joni… my baby starts kindergarten next year, and we need to sign him up.  The last year or so I’ve been canvassing opinions on potential options for school, and we’ve decided to send him to a state school at least for primary level, since my market research on “What’s the difference between the state schools and the private schools?” has elicited “better uniforms” “better textbooks” “the private schools give out more photocopies” and not one single person has mentioned a higher standard of education.  On the contrary, specifically asking about academic levels has resulted in a resounding “not really”.  The director of Joni’s nursery reckons that we would really hate the whole private education scene because in San Francisco it’s all about “brand named clothes and what sort of car you drive”… hopefully she means “I recognise that your priorities aren’t as shallow”, and not “you guys should really think about cleaning your car”.  So anyway, we have identified three state primary school with a good reputation in reasonable distance from home, so we went to look at them.  One seemed like a bit of a zoo, one we really liked; staff were friendly, and there was a nice working atmosphere in the kindergarten where Joni would start in March; and the third the director wasn’t there, so we’ll check it out properly another day. 

Meanwhile, I’m halfway through cleaning, but I took a break for some coffee and to write a blog, so I should go back there, except that now the cause of the sleep deprivation thinks he needs some attention so I ought to go see him first, and by then I’ll probably have forgotten what I was doing in the first place; Why are you holding the fridge door open?  Looking for the spare toilet rolls? And the fridge?  Really, who knows?

Mud and Victoriana

The scene in our house at the moment resembles something out of a Victorian re-enactment; nappies drying over the backs of chairs arranged around the kitchen fire.  It has been raining without ceasing for a week, and that which looks romantically historical on the page of a primary school history book, in real life is enough of a pain in the butt to challenge my resolve to use cloth nappies, particularly in our big unheated old barn of a house with its holes in the walls.  As long as we can dry six a day we can just about keep the show on the road, but Joni has completely run out of dry footwear… luckily he prefers bare feet in the house, and his penchant for splashing in puddles means that he might just as well start off wet outside anyway.  Still, unlike our grandparents, we do have a washing machine, and unlike some neighbourhoods of this city, our road is tarmacked so at least we can leave the house without sinking into a foot of muddy slurry.  Our friends in the hamlet have to negotiate three kilometres of mud between them and the nearest asphalt so even if it stopped raining now they wouldn’t be able to go anywhere anytime soon. 

Meanwhile life chugs along; between the endless round of feeding, changing, and finding space for yet more damp washing, I’m also back working with the guys from the hamlet and the village for a couple of hours in the afternoons when it’s dry enough to get there. 

Quotes from the experiential learning of a budding scientist… “I was just eating the ants; they’re very tasty”  (I never managed to find out whether he meant it)

“If you eat soil you get black teeth, a black tongue, a black tummy and black poo”  (Impressed by his understanding of the digestive process… but how does he know?)

“Joni when we see Sergio next we need to ask him to cut your hair” “No we don’t, I’m going to do it all by myself…” 

Scout Sleepover

We held the first Scout overnight event of this academic year, which ended up being a sleepover in our own premises owing to a mix up with campsite bookings.  No-one seemed to mind, and we have a few kids who were sleeping away from home for the first time so that was probably adventure enough.  The Venture section have been working hard over the last few months building us some playground toys in the grounds, so our younger ones made the most of having a whole weekend to fight over enjoy those. 

kids on see-saw  Brian on pole 

Both my boys went along as mascots;- 

Joni in hole   Danny asleep

Joni is very clear that he is one of the “big boys”, and I was in severe trouble that I didn’t prepare him a costume to dress up in for the campfire (as is tradition at Scout campfires here).  In my defence he’s never shown any interest in wanting one before and now I know for next time.  Danny spent his first Scout event being passed between juvenile “babysitters” and occasionally finding himself the source of a tug-of-war between same.  The night was flippin’ freezing, especially in our big old barn, but I zipped two sleeping bags together and all three of us got in together.  Joni thought this was a great opportunity to use Mummy as a mattress.  Danny thought he had found a fantastic open-all-hours milk bar.  Mummy was less convinced about either plan, but we all survived sufficiently well to declare the experiment a success… and it’s not as if the Scouts were about to let anyone get any sleep anyway. 

God works in Buenos Aires

There is a saying here that goes “God may be everywhere, but he only works in Buenos Aires”.  Argentina is very much divided between “The Capital” and “The Interior”; most organisations and services are based in Buenos Aires, and most of those assume that everyone else is also based in Buenos Aires, hence the many bureaucratic transactions which require applicants to attend “in person”.  But I live six hundred kilometres away.  Never mind, we’ll wait for you.  The net result is that in order to progress with any aspect of life, sooner or later you will have to go to Buenos Aires. 

We needed to go to BA apart from anything else, to register Danny for his consular birth certificate at the British Embassy, in order to start his British passport application.  We decided that Monday would be a good day, although until Sunday afternoon we hadn’t quite figured out who was actually going to make the trip, and by what means of transport.  So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. and Hazel won(?) so Danny and I went off to Buenos Aires on the Sunday night bus. 

Buenos Aires was muggy and drizzling when we arrived at six thirty in the morning.  We jumped onto a train and went for breakfast with folk, who also signed our passport photos.  Then we jumped onto another train and walked a fair bit (it looked closer than that on the map) to the embassy.  Birth certificate duly applied for, my old passport duly cancelled, we turn to the question of Danny’s passport where I express some concern since mine had taken three months to turn up from Washington.  Cue roll of eyes to the heavens.  “To be honest, your best bet is to apply for an Argentinean passport and travel on that, and do his UK one in the UK”.  Given Argentina’s fame for incompetent bureaucratic processes, it was quite impressive to hear the representative of the British system in Argentina pronounce an official verdict of “No, really, we’re worse”. 

Done there, we took another brisk hike through town to the British Council to unearth my degree certificates which they’ve been legalising for the last month.  The British Council reminded me of something from an age of Enid Blyton and tea at five; “quaintly genteel”.  Having then finished the jobs, we found ourselves with quite a few hours to kill before our bus, but not quite long enough to travel anywhere to see anyone.  Danny in his little baby-carrier on my front seemed to be happiest with me walking.  So we walked.  And walked. 

Calle Florida, the main pedestrian street in the centre of town, has gained an army of touts flogging tours and changing dollars, although none of them approached me; I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s because they decided I look local, or just scary.  A lady came and walked with me for a bit, ostensibly to share her umbrella with me, but mostly to fill the airspace with unsolicited words. “i know London it’s like buenos aires really except that i think buenos aires is better because there’s more movement and things going on here don’t you think”  It’s probably a good thing that she didn’t pause for breath long enough for me to let her know that it is that very excess of movement, noise, sensory overload, and mad women filling my airspace which mean that I neither live in London nor Buenos Aires.  Back on our own again we went to a cafe, did some window shopping, browsed the magazines in some of the many street stalls… including a guide to growing your own cannabis (a landmark case here recently determined that it is legal to grow cannabis for personal use).  Eventually we found ourselves in the Plaza San Martin.  As plazas go it isn’t the most attractive; largely concrete with a few bald patches which used to be grass, it has a view onto a main road with three train stations and the bus terminal behind it.  None-the-less it is one of the few places in the city where it is possible to stop and stare without ending up with footprints across your butt.  So we sat on a bench and stopped and stared long enough for the light to fade, and the other occupants of the plaza to sort themselves according to those who were going home and the folk who sling a blanket over a bench.   By then, we’d been drizzled upon on and off for the best part of twelve hours, so we called it a day and headed back to the relative warmth and stewed coffee of the bus station.  And that was Buenos Aires ticked off till next time. 

Snakes and Ladders

snakes and ladders     Doing stuff around here at the moment feels quite a lot like a game of snakes and ladders… sometimes you go up; sometimes you go down; and if you keep throwing the dice enough times you’ll get to the end in the end.              

snakes and ladders Between one kid in nappies full time, other kid in nappies at night, whichever one of the dogs it was that decided to poo on the office floor, and the fact that the left shoulder of everything I wear ends up smelling of stale milk, I suddenly seem to be spending my life wading in bodily fluids.  On the plus side, the author of the stale milk managed to spend five and a half hours in his own bed last night.  That might not sound a lot, but believe me it’s welcome progress. 

snakes and ladders They give the BCG injection in the first month here so I dutifully took Daniel along for his on Tuesday morning.  Handily the little community centre in our neighbourhood (Barrio Jardin) doubles as a health post in the mornings.  Less handily I found a big sign taped to the door saying “Barrio Jardin Health Service suspended for three weeks; nearest alternative Barrio Bouchard”.   Goodoh.  So we leapt onto the bike and peddled along to Barrio Bouchard.  Here I found another big sign on the door saying Go to Barrio Jardin not quite… announcing that the health service for Barrio Bouchard will be functioning in the afternoons.  Super.  But the door was open, so I went in anyway and asked the guy inside if he could confirm that I would be able to get a BCG done if I came back this afternoon.  Technically yes, except that we’ve run out of vaccinations.  Better and better.  But if you go along to the Centro de Asistencia then they should have some.  The what?  The health post in the centre of town.  So off we peddled to find it.  The Centro de Asistencia turns out to be a big government-run walk-in clinic housing twenty surgeries distributed around a maze of corridors.  The scene reminded me of those post-earthquake disaster shots on the TV; thousands of people milling randomly around looking glazed and confused.  We stood in line at reception long enough to be given a plastic card, and posted off to surgery 19, the vacunatorio, where standing in line some more won us an appointment to come back on Thursday.  That counts as progress. 

snakes and ladders This week we received a threatening “Pay up or we’ll impound your car and castrate your horses” letter for an unpaid traffic fine which I already paid two months ago.  Praise the Lord for my husband’s anal obsessive comprehensive filing system… I honestly never thought I’d hear myself saying that… so he took letters and bank receipt to see one of his students; well-known local business man who also happens to be a qualified lawyer.  Oh no you definitely can’t ignore this, otherwise they really will impound your car (and castrate your horses) and then fine you through the teeth.  Is this likely to be a genuine mistake, or are they deliberately trying to charge me twice?  Who can tell? (shrug) The most important thing is that even though you’re in the right, in order to have any chance of winning, any contact you make has to ingratiate yourself with them… go for friendly, careful, polite… I know, why don’t you just leave this with my secretary and I’ll see what we can do.  Hooray… we hope. 

snakes and ladders Today we took Daniel to the civil registry for the final stage of applying for his birth certificate, after which we would hopefully start the process of two passport applications.  The British passport used to be really easy; they were all produced in-house in Buenos Aires, and took a week.  Now, all passports for the Americas are processed in Washington, and the website says allow four to six weeks… except that mine took nearly three months, and they also have a premium rate phone line, payable by credit card (yes really) so they get to make a profit on their inefficiency.  I guess sometimes it does us good to be reminded that Argentina doesn’t have a monopoly on ridiculous government services.  Meanwhile, where the British system has been centralised, Argentina has just devolved their passport system out to be produced in-house in the local civil registries.  Unfortunately, in San Francisco, the machines arrived late, didn’t work, no-one was trained to use them… etc.  and so they now have a three month backlog and won’t be giving out any more appointments until August.  However, we arrived at the civil registry this morning, and were shortly greeted by our insider friend from church “come and knock on this door when you’re done with his birth certificate”  OK.  So we did.  “I’ve reserved him an appointment to do his passport application on the 13th of June.  I’m really sorry but it’s got to be at midday, because there aren’t any appointments so I had to create him one at a time when we don’t usually see people…”  That probably means that she and whoever else she’s roped in are sacrificing part of their lunch break.  Big big ladder.  Seriously please don’t apologise for fitting us in at midday… and may your mansion in heaven have roses over the door. 

snakes and ladders Actually this one’s just a ladder…  We formally presented Daniel at church on Sunday, so he was held-up, blessed, prayed over, and generally made a fuss of.  He seemed a bit non-plussed by the whole thing but he behaved impeccably.  I really want my boys to grow up knowing their creator and redeemer, it’s my continual prayer that God will keep them close, and give us wisdom as we nurture them, be that in this church or wherever else we may end up along the way.

Daniel presentation