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. 

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