Last week was my birthday, the big 28, hooray. The day itself was the usual birthday away from home downer, as 3 of my last 4 birthdays have been, but I did receive phone calls from family and some friends back home. My girlfriend was working so I was alone most of the day too, which sucked. So I spent the evening cheering myself up by reading birthday emails from my other friends who were too lazy to call me or send a real card.
"Good choice son, that should last us a week"
On Friday we celebrated my birthday properly, I organised a dinner at a local bar/restaurant, which turned out to be average as the menu was only all you could eat pizza. For those of you unfamiliar with Argentine pizza the varieties here are very uncreative. The three types on offer were cheese with salami, cheese with sliced tomatoes, or cheese with onion. Nothing like the concoctions you could get in Australia or NZ and which my Italian friends thought were crazy. I guess they're more "traditional" here. The meal finished at about 12am and it was pretty boring until about 2, until finally everyone started dancing. We stayed until 5 and it was a pretty fun night. Of course, I didn't get out of bed until about 5pm the next day.
Posse and the Birthday boy
An Argentine friend of mine, Paula, turned up at the party and I was surprised to see her as she'd had a wee accident the day before. She'd borrowed a UV lamp from someone intending to give herself a mid-winter glow. I saw the lamp in question, and laughed at it's worn instruction manual from the 70s, it made me think that you probably can't buy such a lamp these days as they'd be classified a health hazard. Anyway, Paula sat in front of it for 20 mins or so and then had to go to a hospital for burns treatment - severe sunburn! She came to my party the next night looking very pink... (see 25. Settling In
for her normal complexion)
Dance floor action with Pink Paula, bless her
So, this weekend I'm off to Uruguay for a day-trip, it's visa renewal time which means I've been in South America for 6 months. I went to immigration to enquire about getting an extension to my visa and was told I'd have to pay either $100 or $200 pesos, and no doubt go through the usual Argentine bureaucratic process. It'll be much easier to pay $71 pesos for a round trip ticket on the ferry to Uruguay and spend a day visiting a new place than to have to get to the immigration office to take a number at 6.30am (by which time a queue would have already formed), as they only process 100 clients a day. I don't think I've whinged about the Argentine bureaucratic process here yet, but it is one of the main reasons why I don't think I could live here permanently. It takes ages to get anything done, much longer than I'm used to, and those who know me know I don't have much patience. Whenever I have to cash my paychecks the queue in the bank is always half an hour long. There'll be 7 teller windows but only 2 tellers working.
More birthday dancefloor action
A while ago my mother sent over a package, and it took so long to get here that we assumed it had been lost or stolen. So NZPost sent over a follow-up letter for an insurance claim. Guess what? The letter arrived a day before the parcel. The parcel didn't arrive at my address as specified, instead I received a card saying to pick it up from the post office. So I went to the post office, only to receive another card saying I had to go to the main international post office downtown. The rest of the story I can't be bothered typing, so I'm going to quote Mike from www.apartmentsba.com, which I stole from www.baexpats.com:
Funny you mentioned how frustrating picking up a package is. I experienced the same thing after moving here. When I moved here my Spanish wasn't so good. The first time I went, I didn't have my passport so I waited in line for 30 minutes only to have them tell me I needed to come back with my passport. I came back the next day and encountered a huge line. They gave me this ticket with a long number on it. There was a loud speaker that kept crackling and it cut in and out so the man calling out the numbers could barely be heard sometimes. There were at least 100 people waiting in chairs in the big room. As I mentioned, the numbers were long. Something like 6 digits. If it was 598398 they wouldn't call out cinco, nueve, ocho, tres, nueve, ocho. He would blurt out very quickly cincuenta-nueve, ocho cientos treinta nueve ocho. There was no real pattern. Just would blurt out numbers however he felt like doing it.It was a chaotic situation that I swore I would never repeat. After that I just told my friends to use Fed-Ex or never send me a package again.
Another quote from Mike
A phenomenom very strange here in Argentina is that many utility bills [phone, electricity, gas etc -mattyboy] come in the name of the previous owner maybe 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Since there is no credit system in Argentina, people aren't worried about leaving their name on their utility bills. If you don't pay for a utility bill, they simply shut it off. That simple. I have changed many utility bills in my name once I buy an apartment but several still don't have my name. Why? Because these utility companies make changing them a nightmare. You have to wait in line personally for hours. I can't send an employee to change some of them. I have to do it myself. I don't have time to wait in line hours. The system has been like this forever so people never bother to change their name on their utilitity bills. These companies make it impossible sometimes. Case in point, dealing with the phone company is a frustrating process. When I first moved here, even though I had met some local friends that could do things for me, I purposely did everything myself so that I could learn how the system works here in Argentina. Simply put... it doesn't work. The system is broken. Just to make a simple change like getting a controlled line you would think you could request that over the phone. That would be logical. Right? Very few things are logical in Argentina. You must go to the Telecom office where you don't even talk to a representative. You go to their office and guess what? They send you to stand in line so you can use their phone to call in to their office and request the change. YES, you heard that right. You can't call to request the change from your home/office but you must go to Telecom's office to get on a phone. Ridiculous but this is how many things are done here in Argentina.