Epithets of Buenos Aires

While I haven’t felt the need to conjure up one, long-winded piece on how much I love Buenos Aires nor create some sort of online daily journal, I have felt the urge to write about the little things. The little details of life in Buenos Aires, the ones no one even recognizes because they are so second-nature, almost afterthoughts to the big adventure itself. The small touches that make Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, for better or worse. The details that you won’t read in a travel guide, or see posted on Instagram. For without these little things, Buenos Aires would not be the charming urban jungle everyone has dubbed the “Paris of South America.” Buenos Aires itself can be compared to a wildly popular film seen by millions. But without the thousands of people working behind the scenes to create such piece of art, it would not exist. So, for lack of a better word, here are some (not all) of the credits to the film that is Buenos Aires.

1. In Buenos Aires, there are very few chain stores that exist. There are some, but none have such a presence as Starbucks and McDonald’s do in the United States. Starbucks and McDonald’s both exist in BA, but you won’t find them on every other block as you might in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Instead, there are hundreds of different coffee shops, book stores, and restaurants. Same goes for carnicerias, pastelerias, joyerias, and zapaterias. In other words, Buenos Aires still functions under a sort of specialization in the economy. Unlike in the United States, BA has a specific store and business for anything and everything you could imagine. There are stores that specifically sell fans, plastic bins, zippers, chairs, headphones, knives, etc. Specialization. There’s a store for everything.

2.  Incredible (and cheap) public transportation. In Buenos Aires alone, you have the bus (colectivo), Subte (underground tube), and the train. Sure, many other urban cities have all of these vehicles of transportation (pun intended), but it is the cost of them in BA that sets it apart. If you’re smart and get yourself a Subte card, which you load up with pesos at any kiosco, you’re looking at spending less than a dollar a day for navigating around BA. Each fare on any of these options is between three and four pesos. Right now, the exchange rate is one dollar for 13.6 pesos. Do the math. Incredible. Anywhere you want to go in BA, you can do it through public transportation. The city is that connected. And if you’re feeling lazy or don’t want to enjoy the refreshing downpour of a storm, you can hail a taxi where you’ll almost always get ripped off.

3. Irregular trash services. This is a minute detail only someone living for an extended period of time will come to understand. For reasons I have yet to research, the trash pick-up system is irregular and elementary, at best. I say this because dumpster trucks come by every house almost every single night of the week. Yes, everyday. Not weekly. Sometimes they won’t come for a few days, and the streets smell wreak of rotting garbage that’s been baking in the sun. Nor is there a regulated system for collecting recycling or compost. Every night, you will see Argentines tie little trash bags tied to their gates for the dumpster trucks to collect. You can hear them late at night, snatching the bags from gates and tossing them into the trucks. There is no separation of trash, recycling, or compost. This I find worth noting because, trashcans inside of Argentine homes are very, very small. Argentina still operates on a normal, small scale, day by day capacity concerning trash, food, and household needs. Unlike the states, most people don’t have large trash cans, nor stock up the fridge because they only visit the grocery store once a week. It might not sound like the most regulated, sensical, or environmentally friendly, but that’s just how things here are done.

4. This brings me to my fourth detail: food purchase and consumption. Argentines go to the grocery store often– but they also go to many other stores. As I mentioned above, specialization is alive and well here, and that holds true for food products as well. There are grocery stores such as Disco, Coto, and Carrefour where you can buy pretty much what you’d buy at Safeway or Albertson’s. But when it comes to purchasing meats, produce, fiambres, and facturas, many Argentines frequent these speciality stores. Given that many of these products are very perishable and consumed relatively soon after purchases, the need to buy fruit, vegetables, dairy products is assuaged once or twice a week. Back in the states, I normally would only visit Trader Joe’s once a week, maybe twice if I needed to pick up some Lagunitas for a get together. But here– people go often. I’m still perplexed as to why, but I digress.

5. Uber has existed in Argentina long before Uber was ever even created. No, I’m not saying Uber was created by Argentina or will exist there. What I’m saying is, the idea, and existence of this idea, has long existed here in BA. They are called remises. A “remiseria” is a car company you call to have a driver take you to a specific location. It is very similar to that of Uber. Remiserias exist all over Buenos Aires, and there a several different companies that operate in different cities and neighborhoods in BA. Like taxi drivers, each driver uses his own car, and has a license to work as a remis. You pay a fixed price, based on where you are going and what time of the day it is. Taxis have always been a part of metropolitan cities.  But the remis itself has been a unique component of Argentine culture for a while. Leaving your grandmother’s to go downtown? Call a remis. Need a right home from a late night asado at your uncles? Call a remis. They aren’t taxis. They aren’t Uber. They are remises. Check them out.

These are my credits as of now. More to come soon.

 

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The Identity Ordeal

Part of my purpose in Argentina was to secure my DNI. A DNI is essentially an Argentine identity card and number, also known as Documento Nacional de Indentidad. Not exactly a Social Security Number, but more so the number your person is entitled to. Make of it what you will.

Now, many of you may ask, “why didn’t you just get it from the Argentine consulate in America?” Well, my friends, I tried. I had been pursuing the ever-so elusive Argentine Consulate in Los Angeles for about six months before I threw my hands up. Their website is both poorly organized and explained– even for a millennial like me, I couldn’t find a damn number to call. And when I did– yes, I thought I had triumphed– I was only talking to an automated message. With no option to speak to a real-life person. Bitter and frustrated, I emailed the suggested email address with hopes of getting some sort of answer. Weeks passed. No answer. Now, your heroine doesn’t give up easily. So I packed a bag, filled my gas tank, and made that glorious drive down the 5 to deal with these “Argentines” in person. Conviction can be dangerous when your blood’s had five hours to boil over 400 miles.

Alas, I made it to the Argentine Consulate located on Wilshire Avenue in Los Angeles. All official and needed documents in hand. At eight in the morning. I was ready. I even managed to drag my brother, a senior at UCLA, to benefit from my determination. However, it was all for shit.

After awkwardly waiting in the lobby of this grandiose building, the lobby receptionist informed us the “Argentine Consulate was now open” and we could “proceed to the third floor.” Up we went. I signed my name first on the list– I’m a selfish asshole when it comes to getting shit done– and sat down to wait for my name. Five minutes later, they did. And I’ll cut short the little story I’ve been telling you, because I’m a terrible story writer and I don’t have the patience for writing the story out myself. Anyway, this dude (yes, no other word than dude describes this dude) told us there was no way we could set up an appointment to begin the process without emailing a request. I told the dude I did send one. That I sent several. And that I couldn’t even find a real person to call if I needed help. The dude pretended to be puzzled, and proceeded to write down an email address and the name of the woman, as well as what to subject the email. Dude tells me this lady will respond in a couple weeks and get me sorted. I asked the dude normally how long the process to get a DNI and an Argentine passport takes, and the dude tells me about nine months. Both irritated and exasperated by the uselessness of my trip to the consulate and waste of time, I scurried out, my brother trailing me.

That’s the backstory. Pointless? Irrelevant? Maybe. But I chose to include this encounter with idiocy and bureaucratic bullshit to illustrate the “jodido” nature of my quest for DNI was from the beginning. As much as I love Argentina, it’s bureaucracy and sub-terranean level of efficiency is also why I despise it. This impotent encounter at the consulate was only a premonition of how things would go once I got to Argentina to secure my DNI, face to face with a nation I call home.

I suppose I should tell you that I did, indeed, file my papers for DNI at the National Registry of Persons in Buenos Aires last week. It did not come easy, however. But then again, nothing worth having in life does.

The essential documents I needed to complete a request and application for DNI was my father’s or mother’s birth certificate as well as my own, which needed to be apostilled, translated, and legalized. Simple, right? I am laughing as I write this. The hideous irony of my ordeal never ceases to infuriate and humor me. A very smart teacher of mine once told me: “comedy is tragedy plus time.” And so it goes.

Anyway, before I left for BA, I made sure I had all my papers in order. I had already send my birth certificate to be apostilled in Sacramento, California, sent in a request to the California Department of Justice for a background check and (nonexistent) criminal record. My father already had a copy of his birth certificate, so, with all documents in transit and prepared, I thought I was set. Of course, I wasn’t.

My apostilled birth certificate did not arrive until December 29, in part because the official man who apostilles things and whatnot, failed to process my certificate before I left the states, so it had to be mailed via FedEx internationally. I received it. Fine. And then I had to get it translated by a public notary in BA. I found a very nice lady who did it for me. She warned me, though, that the Registry might make me go to the Public Translator’s office in BA to notarize and approve her translation of my papers. I kept that in mind. But I had already spent 900 pesos translating papers and having my half- crazy grandmother chauffeur me around town, and I wasn’t going to do more than I needed to.

You’re probably sick of hearing about this stupid fucking story. I’m sick of writing it, too. It’s because it is so stupid I must write it. So you can see how stupid this whole thing is. So every time someone asks me how I got my Argentine papers, I can tell them to fuck off and go read my thousand worded journey of how I did it instead of wasting my breath on an infuriating quest. Or, I could always lie and say it was a piece of cake. But what kind of story would that make? Hemingway would be disappointed in me, and Fitzgerald would drink himself into a stupor at my poor attempt to use prose for a poor excuse of a story. But I will carry on, anyways. I’ll almost done, I promise. Forgive me.

Alas, I get all the papers I think I need. Mind you, I ended up meeting with my uncle’s friend who works for some organization that helps people with papers to double check I had everything I needed– a now seemingly pointless waste of my time and efforts. My list consisted of the following: a translated and apostilled birth certificate, a California background check, an Argentina background check, my American passport, and my father’s DNI. I was apparently set to go. But of course I wasn’t. I went the next day into the micro center, via bus and train to arrive at 155 25 de mayo, the National Registry of Persons. After being politely ushered in through the looming entrance of the National Registry, I waited in line for a clerk to attend to me. My turn came, and I presented a very nice lady my hard earned and sought after papers. She rejected them. Every. Single. One. But in a kind, sympathetic voice, of course. To my utter horror, she enlightened upon me that all I needed was my father’s birth certificate, and my own. Now the problem with my birth certificate, she said, was that the translation needed to be “legalizado,” just like my translator might have warned me. I kindly thanked her, gathered my papers, and left. I figured it best to avoid a public disturbance with my blistering anger and urge to swear profusely. Besides, I don’t think my grandmother could physically handle the shit storm of words I wanted to unleash into the already polluted air of Buenos Aires. But I didn’t. I’m an adult, and since graduating college, I have at least believed the illusion that I was one. And adults don’t pull Patrick Bateman psychotic meltdowns on the streets of BA, oh no.

Instead, I took it upon myself to get my birth certificate’s translation legalized that same day, because low and behold, the office was only a few Subte rides away. In fact, it’s right in front of the Callao Subte entrance, and I thanked the universe for taking pity on me. There, I had my precious–and now expensive– piece of paper legalized. All I had to do was return home, retrieve my dad’s birth certificate, and go the next day.

And I did! Boy, oh boy, did I make my way downtown, walking fast, faces passing, to the Registry. I was confident, that this time, I had everything, and I would not be turned away. And I wasn’t! Yes, dear reader, my application for a DNI was completed. I took a photo, scanned my fingerprints, and signed my signature. “You should receive it in fifteen days,” were the golden, glorious words I had been yearning to hear for the last six months. Feeling accomplished and very adult, I returned to San Isidro, where I treated myself to a bondiola sandwich and mint and ginger lemonade. You should try it sometime.

One thing, though. Have you ever seen a Quentin Tarantino film? Maybe “Django: UnChained”? Or “The Hateful 8”? If you haven’t, you’re an idiot. If you have, then you are aware of the both dreadfully long and dreadfully captivating plots, that seem to carry on even after you believe you’ve reached the end. My story is much like that, and alas, there is one last part to my utterly enthralling and boring story.

Serenading in the air-conditioned cafe in sunny San Isidro, enjoying my cortado after my meal, I receive a text message. “Who could it be?” I thought. “Maybe a long lost lover?” I indulged. But no. I was gravely mistaken.

It was the Registry. It read: “El tramite de tu Nuevo DNI requiere cumplimentar informacion.”

A text message. Telling. Me. I. Had. To. Return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Note on Writing

I’m a writer. But I haven’t written for a while. At least nothing that’s meant to be published or for the public. I have my own personal journal, in which I attempt to write almost everyday. I’ve had a journal, well, by now, a great many, since a young age. I still have my pink Hello Kitty journal from when I was around six or seven. My journal entries have evolved from summarizing daily events to confessions and crushes as a preteen to pondering greater life questions to battling depression through the exercise of writing. Writing has always been with me. And I should think it will be with me until I die.

But, for some odd reason, I haven’t the motivation to write anything worth publishing; or should I say, used my writing for public purposes. Although I was actively involved in my university paper, serving as the opinions editor and senior copy editor during my last year, my activity has come to a halt. I often think about writing, and all the things I want to write about, but I never end up doing. It’s that last step of executing, and turning a thought into an action, that I’ve lacked for the last year. It has plagued me since.

Why? Why haven’t I been able to write? Well, I could argue, that I haven’t been able to mostly because I don’t have a copy writing job. Much less a job. I don’t have a job. I do not write because I do not have a job. What I prefer to writing, though, is editing. But for right now let’s focus on the writing. Now, why don’t I have a job? Ah, yes, that’s the big question. The question every individual my senior asks me when the subject of my career arises. Since graduating college, I’ve been harassed with this crippling question. Up until now, I’ve been telling people ” I want to explore the world,” or “I’m going to go live in Buenos Aires for three months before I really start looking.” I keep putting it off. I keep coming up with something that’ll further prevent me from pursuing my passion. It’s been a comforting lie I’ve been telling everyone, myself included.

So again, why? Why have I been putting it off? Why have I consciously been avoiding it all?

I finally figured out why.

Because I don’t think I’m good enough. Can you believe that? What a fucking joke. I can hardly believe it myself. I’ve subconsciously been avoiding putting myself into the world of writers because I don’t think I’ll match up. Because I’m afraid of failure and rejection. Because a whole shit storm of reasons I’m sparing you from having to read and laugh at. So I’ve  been idling away in between doing nothing and something I don’t care about because I’m afraid to really go after what I care about. Jesus Christ. Excuse me.

Yes, I had an emotional existential breakdown when my own mother, yes, my mother, was the one who pointed it out. I had just graduated from college, left all my friends, broken up with my boyfriend of a year and a half, and moved home. Poor me, right? I’m aware life can be worse, and to the reader, my “post-grad crisis” may come off as insensitive and privileged. I know. But this is my fucking story, so if you don’t like it, stop reading it and fuck right off.

So as cliche as it all sounds, its nonetheless true. Laughable, really.But only because I can look back and laugh at it myself. I’d probably laugh if you pointed it out before I did. I’ve now come to the realization that if I don’t get off my beautiful phat ass and pursue my writing and editing career, I never will. Outside of the sphere of careers and employment, I have always held true to the mantra of going after what I want, telling the person who I love that I love them, and even if it doesn’t work out, I can walk away knowing that I tried. I guess in my mind, failing at my life’s passion, was way scarier than being rejected by a person or a university or tearing two major ligaments in my right ankle (this is true). In a way, I believe this goes to show how fearless I have lived my life, and I’ve done so with passion and conviction. It’s a testament to the nerve and ambition that flows in my veins, and the desire that burns within my heart. Knowing I’ve done so much, and faced the obstacles life has placed within my path, I need to start believing I can do this, too.

Besides, why would I want to read other people’s words for the rest of my life, when I can write just as fantastically as anyone else? My words are worth writing. And that, is my written form of a self-pep talk, full of gall and conceit. Like I said, if you don’t like them, go fucking write your own.