My cold came and went; I remained upbeat. Despite all your amazing Love is a Verb action and particularly that of dear Tangobaby in San Francisco who called upon all her readers and her mum to vote, Sallycat’s Adventures was pipped to the Central and South America post by a great city blog written by Stuart in Peru; I remained upbeat. I proved that I am still in the infant class when it comes to managing blog software – this blog turned from pink to blue for 48 hours and I didn’t even realise because my internet browser hid the reality from me; I remained upbeat.
Then I went to Migraciones to try to renew my temporary residency visa.
I’ve been twice before to Avenida Antartida Argentina 1355 in Retiro. On those occasions I was renewing tourist visas. Both went fairly smoothly. Yes the place was busy, but I breezed in, found the required section, found a seat easily, waited my turn and got processed pretty efficiently. This week, at around 8.30am as Me and C. walked across the abandoned railway lines and the building came into view, so did several hundred people. They were standing in a queue in the street. Things have changed a bit since my last visit.
I joined the line and C. enquired of the uniformed security guards… All types of trámite, in the one queue. Most people waiting for an appointment number. Your trámite doesn’t need one so, come back at 12 midday when there are no more numbers available, the queue will go home and you can go inside. We retired to Retiro station and the café El Retiro with its exquisite high ceilings and marble columns, ate medialunas, drank coffee, read the papers and killed several hours in beautiful surroundings. I felt grateful.
At 11.45 we were back at Building 4. As we stood outside a woman appeared, and told the queue ‘No more appointment numbers today.’ I watched the news filter down the line. What must it be like to wait in a queue from 6 in the morning and not get an appointment turn? The people who had queued all night (in a less than safe spot, possibly with all their valuable personal documents on them) got in. The people who arrived at 5am got in too but those arriving much later than that weren’t so fortunate. I was. As promised my visa renewal didn’t require an appointment number and so I was allowed inside. I felt grateful.
I don’t think it would have been possible to cram many more people into Building 4. There were full seats, queues and small crowds everywhere. I managed to get to the front of a line and obtain a number from the machine in the entrance to the large room on the left where visa renewals take place. Incredibly there were only 14 numbers to wait for my turn. We waited. I had a long conversation with a woman originally from the Far East, applying for permanent residency. She had arrived at 5am. She told me about the overnight camp outs in the street. I felt grateful.
Finally no 39 was called and it was me. Unfortunately within about two minutes I discovered that I didn’t have the right papers. Plus I found out that the papers that I can get will probably only enable me to extend the visa for a shorter period than I had originally understood when I applied for it in London. After that, I could lose the visa altogether if circumstances conspire against me in the UK – a possibility of course in the current economic climate. It’s complicated and I don’t need to go into it here, but either I misunderstood the visa requirements, or Argentina in London has a different set of rules to Argentina, or things have changed. For sure I have more work to do, and fast… and it’s really mostly my fault for not checking things out more carefully, sooner. Lesson: when it comes to long term visa renovation, start before you think you need to.
It cannot be easy for the workforce in Migraciones. I can’t imagine being faced with crowds like that day in day out: dealing with endless streams of folk whose dreams toss and turn in your yeses and nos; trying to find a smile when faced with yet another poorly-informed person who doesn’t have the right papers; I found it hard to smile too. I left the desk with my hopes trailing slightly tattered and bruised behind me. I was quiet, not even mildly hysterical in the street outside as I might once have been. I chose this path and I have to accept the rocks. Plus I’m sure that the UK probably doesn’t treat its would be immigrants like princesses either. Even so, on occasions like these, it doesn’t feel good in the moment. On the train back from Retiro I saw myself like a feather in a breeze, landing for a moment and then blown away again… neither here nor there.
Back home in the mid afternoon C. made me camomile tea. I called my mum to get a hug made of loving words. A couple of friends suggested possible ways forward. One of them said, At least your life isn’t boring. You’re living an adventure, not stuck in a rut. Often my feather in the breeze is floating in beautiful spaces it is true. In Retiro, the café with its perfect coffee and medialunas, its freshly squeezed orange juice and Carlos pulling faces at me to make me smile… well, that was a joy.
Oh hell, there’s always something to be grateful for isn’t there?
El Retiro Resto – Pizza is next door to Café Retiro inside Retiro mainline Station. Both have gorgeous architecture and reasonable prices.