Home Entertainment

Our nearest brewery Santa Fe Cerveza has brought out a lager named “Frost”.  We would like to believe that this is in honour of ourselves as fine upstanding members of the community.  A  more probable explanation is that English words are a fashionable way of selling products.  But it looks good on the kitchen table. 

DSC_0005  DSC_0004

Cardboard tube middles of kitchen rolls make a great base for a multitude of kid’s creations.  The rocket and the pirate are Joni’s projects from this week.


Danny is in superhero mode, and this shoebox was just begging to be a castle, so I attacked it with a pair of scissors.  Then I printed out a page of Mike the Knight characters and mounted them on cardboard so they’ll stand up-  Time taken; half an hour, cost; blob of glue and a page of colour printing, his response; priceless. 

I love the fact that my kids enjoy both making things and playing with the things that we have made. 

DSC_0001 DSC_0002

We bought a new wardrobe for the Teen’s room.  She spent an energetic couple of hours yesterday morning shifting furniture around, discarding the second spare bed, and generally transforming the area from spare bedroom alias pigsty, into a Teen bedroom.  I think it represents an important step for her to make the space her own, probably for the first time ever.  

Joni scouts  Joni scouts 2

Scouts started for the year last week with a “Prueba de Hercules”  (Test of Hercules, I think we might have called it a mini-Olympics or something like that in England).  Joni made his own decision to start as a proper Scout this year now he is old enough at seven.  First weekend camp will be this Friday and Saturday. 

And in the blue corner

As promised I submitted all my paperwork last Monday, complete with obligatory rubber stamp, in good time for the big meeting last Thursday. 

As predicted, I had to reprint it a couple of times between handing it in and the meeting, in order to incorporate some requested insignificant changes. 

At the meeting, to which I wasn’t invited, I am told they said that my paperwork was in perfect order.  Unlike the paediatrician, who was apparently asked to produce a complete re-write.  On the strength of volume of trees sacrificed, at the meeting, the health provider accepted the case made by the parents and approved the funding for one-to-one classroom support.  So I received a text message late last Thursday evening which said “Ready for work?”  Excellent. 

The next step is meant to be a written plan agreed between myself and the classroom teacher, outlining curriculum content, adaptations, and aims and objectives.  The teacher was not able to see me on Friday, and then Monday and Tuesday were bank holidays (yes, they come in twos these days), so I was told to be at school at twelve thirty today. 

At twelve twenty I arrived, and unsure of where I was supposed to be, I came across the head teacher, who claimed to have no knowledge of who I was, or, more concerning, who the child was, or which class he was in.  She suggested I wait for the teacher to arrive.  When the teacher arrived shortly afterwards, the head appeared to recover from her amnesia.  They stood in a little row of two, and informed me that they had had a meeting this morning, at which they had decided not to start his classroom support for at least another month because they don’t want to damage relationships with the original organisation who had previously provided his support (and subsequently cut it to two hours a week without informing the parents), because the school uses that organisation to carry out other tasks on their behalf. 

I expressed surprise at this decision, and particularly that the mum hadn’t contacted me to tell me about it.  It then transpired that not only did the parents not yet know about it, but that they hadn’t been invited to the meeting, nor indeed were they aware that any meeting had been arranged.  The teacher said that she would tell the mum when she saw her tomorrow.  I said, don’t bother, I’m off to see her right now.  Which probably didn’t earn me any charm points towards the day when or if we ever do have to work in the same classroom, but I was incensed. 

The family live three blocks from the school, so I was in the grocery shop in their front room n under a minute.  “Right” said the mum, “I’m off to sort this out”, and she jumped on her motorbike and I haven’t seen her since.  The Dad, with the weary experience of too many battles fought, said “If you have something else to do today, I should go and get on with it, because nothing will happen right now.  Everyone will have a big row today, and then they’ll call a meeting for another day”.

So that’s where we are tonight, and tomorrow I need to go and find out from the family what happened next and where they are going from here.  Prayer mats at the ready. 

Somos Scouts (We are Scouts)

Everyone berates Microsoft, and there are plenty of good reasons to do so, but I have just spent the last couple of days falling in love with Windows Live Movie Maker.  If you thought you were going to remake The Titanic, then you’re in the wrong place.  But for someone with zero experience and even less patience, whose main ambition is to splice a few bits together and add some music to the back, it was absolutely totally what I was looking for.  Clear, obvious and intuitive, I even managed to figure out how to extract a sound track from an existing video on YouTube and save it as an MP3 possibly not entirely legally.  And now I have seven minutes worth of video to tout around a few primary schools over the next week or so, and hopefully recruit this year’s new crop of Scouts. 

Sealed with a Kiss

Rubber stamp

The surest sign that you are inextricably acculturated in Argentina?  You have a stamp with your name on it! 

I had to get this made in order to complete the paperwork for the health-care people who might agree to pay me.  Every time I see it it makes me giggle. 

I have yet to understand the fascination with rubber stamps here.  I used to think it was about ensuring the genuine-ness of the signature, until I took my kids to the doctor to complete their school medical papers.  He filled in the form and forgot to stamp and sign it.  So the next day I went back to the clinic and asked if he was there.  Don’t worry, said the receptionist, I can stamp that for you.  She opened a drawer to reveal an array of stamps with the name of probably every single professional who has ever worked at the hospital.  She stamped the paper, and drew a squiggle over the top.  Which leaves me suspecting that the main reasons are probably not a lot more sophisticated than self-importance and looking nice.  Mine is a self-inking variety, and it makes a satisfying ka-chunk sound.

My paperwork went in on Monday, and there is a big meeting that I’m not invited to on Thursday.  After which I should know my fate, or hopefully at least be a bit closer, depending on how many more pieces of paper and rubber stamps they ask for.  Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk…

Self employed… autistic… bunny

easily-distracted bunny

I love this.  Sadly I couldn’t manage to credit it to anyone because it’s in too many places so I can’t figure out which is the author.  I found it online this week when I was messing around in a search engine, supposedly looking for something else… Ho hum!

Hey but guess what?  I have a job.  Or I might have.  The late night phone call went “Are you a monotributista?” (that means am I registered as self employed).  To which I said yes.  And she said “Oh, good, I knew you would help me”.   This is a family who I met over the summer, who have a six year old on the autistic spectrum, who happened to be attending the same mainstream summer scheme where I was supporting another six year old also on the autistic spectrum.  We all got on fine and exchanged details at the end, and went our separate ways. 

Now they need a one to one support worker for their kid in mainstream school.  They thought they were all set up for this year but the system has failed them badly. meaning that at the moment the little boy is only actually receiving two hours support once a week.  So parents have gone to war and I have a job. 

I am thrilled to bits.  This year I was determined that I would find a job that fits my skills, and the last few weeks I have been door knocking, networking, talking, Facebook posting, and wallpapering the city with my CV.  Two of my acquaintances here were also posting their CV around after similar jobs.  They both got jobs in a week, despite neither of them having any work experience in the field.  I didn’t get an interview.  When I idly wondered why that might be, one of them mentioned prejudice and discrimination.  A few days later one of them came knocking on my door asking for my ideas on what they might do with the kid that they are supposed to be supporting.  The irony was not lost on me.  So the fact that now this family has sought me out is welcome boost to my frame of mind. 

The bit that isn’t certain is whether their medical scheme will agree to fund me.  Technically they should.  But that doesn’t mean they will.  Or not without a protracted battle.  At the moment we are gathering paperwork to comply with the predictably long list of bureaucratic requirements.  I hope to be able to present my side complete on Monday, after the last couple of days hard graft collecting stamps and photocopies.  And then we’ll see what the health providers will do.  Calling on any prayer warriors out there… thanks! 

Thinking is officially banned

Way back in the mists of 2012 I was stuck behind a slow lorry on a trunk road, so I pulled slightly across my lane in order to see what was happening in front of it, and then I pulled back in again. 

Two minutes later I was pulled over by the police and accused of illegal overtaking.  I said that I didn’t overtake, I wasn’t accelerating, I wasn’t indicating, and indeed if further proof were required, I was still behind the lorry!  The police officer said “Ah, but you were thinking of overtaking”, and he gave me the ticket.  So I went to the driver and vehicle office and appealed the ticket on the grounds that I wasn’t overtaking and that as far as I was aware, thinking is not yet illegal in Argentina. 

That was 2012 and I never heard anything of it again.  Until a few days ago when I got a phone call to say that I owed lot of money from an unpaid fine and that if this money wasn’t paid by two days before the phone call then I was going to be taken to court.  So I asked for more details of the supposed fine, and suggested that it also might have been more useful to have phone me before rather than after the cut-off date.  And she said she didn’t know any more (reading off the script in front of her) and that I should go to Rentas (provincial government office). 

The next day I went to Rentas.  Rentas is a typical government establishment, housing a bewildering selection of bureaucratic services.  I took a number and waited for a couple of hours until my turn came up.  The lady at Rentas confirmed that the fine was indeed related to the 2012 incident, which would suggest that my appeal had been refused, but unfortunately she didn’t have any further details, and for those I would have to go to Godoy, which is the driver and vehicle office where I had made my 2012 appeal on the other side of town.  Since government services only work in the mornings, and since I had already spent the morning at Rentas, I had to wait till the next day for Godoy to open. 

The next day I went to Godoy, which is similar to Rentas in that I took a number and sat and waited.  The man in Godoy informed me that my 2012 appeal had been refused.  So now we know that thinking has been banned in Argentina.  He had no idea why my appeal had been refused since there was no written explanation, just the word “negated”.  There was a pleasing coherence about the whole thing; in order to confirm that thinking has been banned, the judge would also need to be consistent in the way that they made their decision; such as might have been produced by a random action such as tossing a coin.  So with that cheerful thought, when the man asked if I wanted to offer a new appeal but I decided that I was happy to understand that thinking is now illegal in Argentina.  And I had already wasted enough time on this. 

Fortunately the fine was by now so old that the Province of Cordoba are offering a hefty discount to encourage people to pay old debts, so they took off all the interests and charges, and left me with the same number as the original fine, now worth significantly less owing to three years of 40% inflation.  Which if you ever wanted a way of encouraging people not to pay their fines for years on end… but we’d better not explore that too deeply since thinking is now banned. 

The man in Godoy told me that I could pay the fine by card at Rentas.  So the next day I went back to Rentas, took a number blah blah blah.  At lunch time when my turn came up, the lady said, you can only pay by card.  And I said that’s what I intend to do.  And she said, but the system is down, so you’ll need to come back. 

So the next day I went back to Rentas, etc etc.  And the lady said, ah but your fine has had the Provincial discount applied to it, so we can’t deal with that here, you’ll need to go to the Banco de Cordoba, provincial bank.  And they’ll be shut by now, so you’ll need to go there tomorrow, but the bill that you have here has a cut-off date of today, so you’ll need to come here early tomorrow, in order that we can print you a new bill with a new date and be in time to get to the bank before it closes. 

So the next day I went to Rentas, and then the bank, and now we all know that thinking has been banned. 

The academic year started last Monday.  True to form, schools closed again on Tuesday.  Usually that’s for the teachers’ strikes which are scheduled for the start of most academic years.  This year it was because it was raining.  They decided that they were going to shut for the whole of the rest of the week owing to rain.  Except that on Wednesday it wasn’t raining, and on Thursday they opened again, possibly owing to the complaints from many parents who hadn’t yet heard that thinking has been banned, or were possibly just looking forward to their kids being somewhere else after the long summer.  So hopefully this week we might even manage five days of classes. 

The great exodus

Here are a bunch of photos from our latest trip to Miramar last week.  We lost the first day, owing to flooding which made it impossible to get out of San Francisco, and in any case we found out later that both of the routes into Miramar were also blocked with water.  It was still pretty grey when we eventually decided to go for it, so we threw the camping stuff into the car, with every intention of finding ourselves a cabin or a chalet or anything more substantial than a tent.  What we hadn’t realised was that Joni had set his heart on sleeping in his tent.  So we camped.  Luckily the weather took pity on us, and although we didn’t see the sun for three days, it didn’t quite rain either. 

DSC_0031    DSC_0132  DSC_0157  DSC_0263   DSC_0240  DSC_0089 DSC_0009

The owls were amazing, and unusually this one even sat still and looked quizzically at me as I pointed my camera at it…


Straited heron, more camera-shy than the owls, but still managed a couple of shots…


The pink dots towards the back of this one are spoonbills, a first for me…


Collectively described as a Mexican wave of Plovers?


Now here we are back in the city and today is the first day of a different kind of exodus; the great return to school after three months of summer.  I took the first candidate to school at 7.30, the next to a different school at 08.00 and the third to the pre-school department at 10.00.  The good news is that even the two who thought they would rather not have gone, came home in positive frames of mind having had a good day, so hopefully they might feel a bit more encouraged to get out of bed tomorrow.  When the dust settles, starting times will be at 07.30, 08.00 and 09.00 respectively, but the earlier two will take themselves on bicycles, so eventually I might even be able to do something more useful with myself than tromboning around town.