There are days when I feel I have all the time in the world and today is one of them. It’s a public holiday in Argentina: 27 years since the Falklands (Malvinas) War; 27 years since I heard my grandfather yelling obscenities at the TV… whether at Maggie or at Galtieri I am not certain; 27 years since Carlos was on the reserve list… if it hadn’t come to an end when it did, he would have been among the next to go.
Because it is a holiday here, I can’t do any of the things I would be doing if it wasn’t a holiday. At 7 tomorrow morning I’ll be doing them. Today I’m gathering strength.
I’ve come to an internet cafe in Las Cañitas where to get an @ symbol you have to press ALT then 6 then 4… but at least the music is fairly quiet. My laptop broke on Sunday night and is now out beyond the Gral Paz autopista waiting for the holiday to be over: I might hear next week what blew up. You know, it isn’t easy for me to explain how I feel to be without my laptop in this life in another land: I will just use one word and you will have to believe me that I am not being in the least dramatic, just honest: lost.
I thought about not blogging until I get the laptop back. Then I decided I would, because maybe you are wondering if I’m still smoke free, or whether I ever did get my visa renewed. So what if I can’t use Windows Live Writer like I normally do. So what if there won’t be any photos. So what if I have to recheck the spelling and sense a million times because the letters have rubbed off the keyboard I’m using. Sometimes you just have to make do. Even the fact that it is pouring with rain is gifting me a few indoor hours. Today.
Yesterday it was different. Time mattered. And it went like this:
6.00am Friend from UK phones, forgetting that there are now 4 hours between us. I’m guessing that it was 6am because I didn’t look and it was still dark outside. Afterwards I drift in and out of dreams: I seem to see everyone who is in my life right now. I tell Carlos. He says, They are here to help you, to give you strength. I say, I hope so.
7.30am My Spanish/English translator phones. Can we meet downstairs so that she can redo the translations she has already done and get them to the Colegio de Traductores at 9am? (The night before, I spotted several errors in the names… Sally had somehow become Rally.) I get dressed and take the papers to her.
10.00am The translator phones again. She has the translations. Can we meet in Plaza de Mayo? On the way I make myself go into a church I pass, and say a prayer, for strength. At around 11am she hands me the new certified documents. I walk down 25 de Mayo and eventually find a ‘locutorio’ without a massive queue. I get the pages copied. I walk to Migraciones. Maybe I should have taken a taxi to save time but the traffic was stationary: perhaps it was because of streets closed off around Congreso – Raul Alfonsin, who was the first President of Argentina after the Military Rule, was lying in state and people were flocking to pay their respects. I even stop for a coffee and medialunas because I know that I will need energy to face the immigration queues – I see Alfonsin’s body on TV. It reminds me I am still smoke free and so hopefully a step further away from my own death.
12.00noonish I arrive at Migraciones and manage to get in. I feel upbeat. I am sure that I have all the required papers and that I may get the 6 months (notice that I have already accepted I will not get the 12 months, I will be grateful for 6) on my visa. When the woman tells me that there are no more numbers for ‘Prorrogas’ (the section I need), I am struck dumb (the previous week at this time there were numbers). I am sure my mouth opens and shuts a few times as I stare at her. Brick wall like, she waves me away. I stand in the corner and face away from the people while I regroup. I return to her, voice unsteady, What time do I have to come tomorrow to get a number? No, she says, not tomorrow. It’s a holiday. I realise I am looking at Friday. It’s the last day of my visa, I say, please tell me how I can get a number. Come at 7.30am, she says. Look for me. It will be ok. I remember the crowds, the lines in the street, the security guards, the chaos.
1.00pm I go and stand in the ‘Prorrogas’ section and torture myself for a moment by looking longingly at the desks. It’s full of people renewing their tourist visas. They are in the same section as me. I try really hard to feel generous, but oh hell I wish they’d all gone to Uruguay and given me a chance of a number today. Maybe one of them will give up and leave before their turn and I can beg for their number. I wait an hour. No-one leaves. So eventually I do. I feel shit. I walk back to Retiro through the most horrendous traffic (juggernauts) on the huge carriageways I have to cross. I am breathing horrible fumes, but they are not smoke fumes… I am no longer reaching for cigarettes to numb my frustration, just digging deeper into my own resources.
3.00pm I’m in Belgrano, which is a long way from Retiro, looking at the prices of mini Notebooks as I never want to be without a computer again. I reckon they are about 100 quid dearer in Argentina than in Britain, but I am seriously considering one. Can’t buy though because my new Visa card is still stuck in the UK (you know even DHL won’t ship a Visa card) so I’ll have to withdraw 4 lots of cash on 4 different days to have enough.
5.00pm I’m home and Argentina is losing to Bolivia in the World Cup qualifier. Carlos tells me about his attempts to obtain a $9peso refund on his cracked Monedero Subte card: he had to go all the way to Tribunales to the refund office but in the end did not succeed because he wasn’t carrying his ID card. He is in a bad mood but it fires him up. Let me ring the laptop extended warranty people for you, he says. Having to wait three days for someone to call is ridiculous. He grabs the phone. Eventually they tell us where to take the laptop.
6.55pm After an hour on the 15 bus we are running along a street in Olivos (beyond the Gral Paz highway) to reach the ‘PC Fixer’ by 7pm. We arrive as the guy is turning off the lights. He serves us. I want to hug him. Me and C. are smiling as we head back towards the motorway to catch the ‘colectivo’. Thanks for making us get here in time, I say. Minutes mattered today. I lost some this morning and so couldn’t get my visa, but now look at us… we made it in time. The day turned around. I couldn’t have done that without you. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to get off the bus… We laugh.
8.00pm We get home to find that Argentina lost to Bolivia 6-1. Now there were two halves of 45 minutes each, that mattered to a few people. We both agree that whatever our days were like, Maradona’s was probably worse.
To be honest, in the calm of today and remembering those who lost their lives in the Falklands, I’m simply happy that I’ve got a tomorrow at all, whatever it brings.
Even so, if you’re awake at 7.30am Buenos Aires time in the morning, do send me a positive vibe: as I stand in the street outside Migraciones on the day my temporary residency visa expires, I might just be needing it.