The word ‘trámite’ is my least favourite word in Argentina. Any time I hear it, it means something that I have to do that I haven’t done yet, a document I need that I haven’t got yet, a place that I am required to visit that I haven’t visited yet. How is life here in ‘trámite land’ for me this week? Here’s a taste.
Yesterday I went to Ezeiza to try to find and collect the picture, a ‘used’, framed print copy of a Hamish Blakely painting of two tango dancers, that I sent here from England. I have a photo of the package, and now I am starting to think that this is the last I will ever see of it. I hope not. I want the picture on my wall in Buenos Aires. In England I paid for what was sold to me as a door to door shipping service. Beware any company that promises such a service. I think it is probably an impossibility.
Before I left home yesterday I had tracked the package on the TNT website so I knew it was at Ezeiza. Carlos had phoned TNT to establish how we could get the picture. They told us we needed to use a ‘specialist company’ (I forget the name) to obtain the picture because it was art. We had phoned the ‘specialist company’ who told us that no, it was only a copy, nothing of value, and so we could go to Ezeiza ourselves. We took a taxi: $62 pesos. When we got there there were no signs to show us where was customs: imports and exports. We asked four members of airport staff for directions, until at last after a lot of walking, we found ourselves in the right place.
At the gate to the customs compound I had to show my passport in order to be issued with a ticket to enter. Carlos didn’t have his DNI document on him, so he had to wait outside. I went in. There was no obvious system, just a closed office door and a few people sitting on chairs outside, waiting. A kind woman amongst them explained that there was one man ahead of me and then I could enter. She then patiently explained the same thing to about five other people who arrived after me. She didn’t work there… just a hopeful punter, like me. Eventually I got in to the office. Immediately I was asked for my ‘guía aérea’ .’Qué?’ said I.
The customs lady talked. I listened. My mind turned over. My disappointment I could not hide. I felt my eyes blink wet for a second. Oh I see… that would be the paperwork I need from TNT to release the package from Ezeiza customs: that paperwork they never mentioned on the telephone, that paperwork that requires me to travel to the centre of Buenos Aires. Right.
The customs lady was lovely. She showed me my package’s paperwork on the computer screen. She even looked up the number of the TNT office for me on the internet. I already had the number. We had already called the TNT office. I walked back outside to Carlos and swore for about five minutes. He refused to pay $80 odd pesos for a taxi back, so we caught three buses: one to Liniers (86), one to Cabildo (21) and one to my door (68). It took us two and a half hours to get home. When I got in I ate a large Snickers bar in about three seconds flat. It helped.
Meanwhile, there’s the DNI. I’ve now been to the ‘Extranjeros’ building in ‘la calle’ 25 de Mayo three times. First time couldn’t get past the security guard, ‘Come back at 5.30pm.’ Second time, at 5.30pm, got to the information desk, ‘Come back between 9am and 12.30pm’. Third time at 12 midday, when the security guard said, come back between 6am and 10am, I begged, and he let me in to present my envelope from the Argentine Consulate in London. It was opened, and the contents inspected. I was confident. That envelope had been sealed so solemnly. But my innocent hopes were quickly dashed:
Young man behind desk: Ah yes but you need a spanish translation of your Birth Certificate.
Me: Ah yes, there it is you see… a spanish translation of my Birth Certificate, approved by the Argentine Consulate in London.
Him: Ah no, you need one done by an approved translator here… sorry. And you need a Certificado de Domicilio.
Me: Ah no, because on your website it says that I don’t need the Certificado de Domicilio if I have utility bills to my address in my name. Here they are: three of them.
Him: Ah no sorry. You do need the Certificado de Domicilio because it is your first time for the DNI. Then you need to come back between 6am and 10am to obtain a ‘turno’ (appointment) to raise the ‘trámite’.
Me thinking: How many times ARE there? Surely you only apply for the DNI once? God I hope you only have to apply for it once.
Me saying nothing. Feeling beaten this time.
Him: So you come back then? At 6am. Over there. OK?
Right. I’ve since been to the Colegio de Traductores, found a translator in my street, and the translation is being done… well at least, a fresh copy of the translation I’ve already got, is being done. Haven’t yet made it to the Comisería to apply for the Certificado. Maybe tomorrow.
Then there’s the bill from the ‘Direccion General de Rentas’ that I have to pay as a property owner. The bill arrived at the flat. But it isn’t something I can just pay. First I had to take it to ‘la calle’ Viamonte 900 in the Centro. I went. There you take a number and wait a long time. If you have all the required papers they give you the actual bill which you can go and pay at the bank. I didn’t have any of the right papers. Because I bought my property mid year they gave me a list of all the papers I need including the ‘escritura’ (original and copy, which I have), and ‘something official that I don’t really understand (which I don’t have)’ from my escribano . To get the ‘something official that I don’t really understand’, it turns out that I need to go to the escribano’s office. It can’t be sent apparently. I had thought that there was a postal service in Argentina, but I confess that I am beginning to wonder. The escribano’s office is in San Fernando, a train trip outside Buenos Aires. Right. OK. Maybe tomorrow or the day after.
And because my universe of ‘trámites’ is kind of stuck right now, even the english Post Office have managed to lose two cheques I sent from the UK to pay bills in the UK. Mmmmmmm.
In a few days I am sure things will get unstuck, and I will start making progress again. But for now, it’s a day to scream,