Having just told the customs official that I was staying at my girlfriends house and not at a hotel, I thrust my phone into his window so he could see the address. With the constant faraway look that most border patrol officials seem to have, my passport was quickly stamped and my move to Argentina was underway.
Getting here wasn’t without its dramas though.
Firstly, there were a number of calls and discussions to make sure I could actually fly in on a one way ticket. With a ferry to Uruguay booked, just in case anyone asked how I was going to leave the country again, which they didn’t, almost two hours was then spent at Auckland airport unpacking and repacking any number of times to get our luggage down to an allowable weight. Thanks camera accessories!
After such a soothing way to leave the country, the Central Otago pinot noir couldn’t come fast enough from the Air New Zealand cabin crew once we were airborne!
I’ve been here for just over a week now and while Argentina has a familiarity to her, she is at the same time world’s apart from New Zealand.
With my Spanish (or should I say Porteño) at an almost non existent level, obviously language is still a major hurdle. But thanks to my girlfriend, Google Translate, a bit of charades and actually picking up a few words each day, that aspect is somewhat manageable.
But Buenos Aires has any number of quirks for any new gringo arrival.
Luckily I’m not a diabetic vegetarian, or else I sense I would be in trouble living here!
After a week I have already been to three barbecues, where the menu is primarily meat, served with a side of meat and then some more meat to wash it all down. It tastes amazing but I think I might have to indulge in a few more vegetables from time to time.
Aside from meat, another staple is dulce de leche (Argentinian caramel, and yes, I do know already it is sacrilege to call it this). People can’t seem to get enough of this super super sweet treat and it can be found on and in everything. You name it and it is there, cookies, cakes, slices, milkshakes, ice cream, croissants, on toast or simply on a spoon straight from the jar.
I have begun looking for work, but while that process sorts itself out, I have also enjoyed watching some movies at home on TV. Herein lies another problem. A quick scan through the program guide does not present me with any known titles, movies here have all been renamed. So with Google yet again by my side I am able to go through the guide one at a time to discover what it is that is playing. Luckily for me, the majority of Hollywood made movies are all in English with Spanish subtitles. This also allows me to do a bit of language learning while watching the films.
As I am looking for work, an Argentine sim card was also needed. Yet again easier said than done.
You go to the cell phone shop to get a new prepaid sim card. The guy at the cell phone shop tells you they don’t actually sell sim cards because they don’t have any in stock. You can only get a plan. The plan costs you 69 pesos per month, but for some reason you only get 15 pesos of credit. If you use data it then costs you 5 pesos per day, so your credit is gone in just 3 days. The guy says try at one of the kiosks (dairy / corner store) on the street. You go to a kiosk but they don’t have the brand you need. You go to the one over the road and when you tell the lady the cell phone company sent you here because they don’t sell sim cards, she just laughs and tells you that the same people from the company come and regularly deliver a box of them to her. You ask the same lady if the cards come pre loaded with credit but she doesn’t know and tells you to go back to the other kiosk across the road as she doesn’t do credit. You say hello again to the other lady but it is the same story, she only sells sim cards and not top up vouchers.
So I now have a phone number that receives text messages from the phone company but doesn’t yet have any credit on it. One thing at a time though…
Dealing with multiple layers of bureaucracy has also become a familiar game in these past few days. As has waiting in lines. Trying to find out what documents I need in order to be able to legally work involves calling and visiting multiple agencies. All of whom tell you that you need completely different supporting documents. I have met a few expats though at some of the barbecues and have talked with them about what they did, which has made life easier. Then we also met with a good friend of my girlfriend, who just so happens to be an immigration lawyer, who has helped clear up a lot of the fogginess left by all the official agencies.
There is some good to be had amongst the strange and new.
Your daily quota of hugs and kisses is through the roof, especially when you go to parties or barbecues with lots of people present. The culture tends to be a lot warmer and men and women alike are all greeted with a kiss.
The Argentines love to give you free things. Every time you go for a coffee in a cafe, you get a free cookie, even if you are ordering cookies or a slice. In bars, they often give you free slices of pizza in the evenings. There are also lots of free public events such as yoga in parks, free Spanish lessons at various language training institutes and some independent theatre shows.
For now, it is simply one step at a time. There is a lot still to do and I’m sure the road ahead will prove to be like Buenos Aires roads in general, a bit of a game of cat and mouse as to who has right of way.
Cirque du Soleil is in town at the moment and we are off to watch the show on Sunday. Watching a Cirque show is always a great escape. However, I will need to go to an ATM before the weekend though, they always run out of money on a Sunday.