Buenos Aires the Ups and Downs

Leaving Puerto Madryn, I never imagined that it would be all of two weeks before returning there again. Yet here I am on the bus heading south once again on the 18 hour journey that will return me to the place I now know as home.

Sunset from the bus

The Bus

Now when I say “bus” some may be thinking of those narrow, small-seat, uncomfortable single-story buses that seem to be a last resort when travelling from one point to another. This bus is nothing of the sort. It is one of the things that really makes Argentina stand out from the rest of the countries around South America. They have great buses.

This bus is double-storied with the luxury seats downstairs, providing a true lounge-chair experience on leather seats that recline a long way back. I’ve taken the poorer option where we are seated four abreast with an aisle dividing our seats in pairs on either side. Although not exactly armchairs, they are very comfortable, and recline more than enough to get a reasonable night’s sleep on this long journey. Movies play on the television screens hung from the roof down the aisle, and if you cannot hear clearly there are plugs in the roof above each seat where you can plug your own headphones in and adjust the sound independently.

Let’s not forget the service either. Onboard service is standard across virtually all buses (although recently they have introduced cheaper services without this option). We have our own host who looks after us, gives us a pillow and blanket for the night.

He also serves us with dinner, breakfast, and lunch… all Argentine style which does mean that those used to continental breakfasts will be disappointed with the mere coffee and biscuits that are provided. The other meals however are served up hot. Steak and mashed potato, chicken pieces in a gravy stew, goulash, milanesa (crumbed flattened steak) and vegetables, are some of the dishes received, served along with bread and a salad and finished off with some delicious desert. Of course I am not one to complain about any food and believe that all things taste great so your mileage may vary, but all in all it is a great service.

Migrations Office in Buenos Aires

The Migrations Office in Buenos Aires where you submit your collected papers.

Becoming a Resident

Now that we are clear on what type of bus it is in which I am travelling, let us return to Buenos Aires as there are a number of events here which deserve to be highlighted. First, the fact that I was there to get my documentation and residency in Argentina. It will be temporary for the first two years after which, if I am still here, they will give me permanent residency.

To get your residency in Argentina you must have the following documents:

  • Police Certificate from your country listing your criminal history (or lack of it)
  • Your birth certificate
  • Argentine Police Certificate
  • Document relevant to your reason for requiring residency (mine is religious worker)
  • Passport
  • Entry visa/stamp/proof of entry

With all of these you can then apply for the visa. Well, almost.

The Police Check Offices

The police background-checking office.

– Local Documents

It turns out that each document requires a little extra along the way. Obviously, any document that is not written in Spanish must be translated. This translation has to be by an Argentine Public Translator and cannot be by any other person. These translators are trained in a special school and are the only ones with government approval.

This is an important step, but so too is getting their translation confirmed and authorised. This means that you must take your translated documents to the school where they search out all students and confirm that the person who translated your document is registered and approved for this task. Each of these steps incur a cost. The translation is about $75 pesos per page, while the approval is $40 pesos per document.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the documents coming from my own country must be certified by the Argentine embassy or stamped with an Apostille Stamp to prove that it is a legitimate document. Without this you cannot advance any further and the documents will need to be returned to your country for that stamp as it can only be done in your own country. It’s a good thing my documents were already stamped.

The Obelisc on 9th July Avenue

I passed the Obelisc on 9th of July Avenue (the widest avenue in the world) many times.

– Argentine Documents

Ok, so now we have our documents stamped, translated and approved by the right people. What is next? The Argentine documents. So another long line of people ahead and a long wait to get to the desk where I get my police certificate. Things were a mess this time, with big lines everywhere, so I headed to another place that was somewhat quieter, although quieter means a line of only forty people instead of one hundred or more.

Another $50 pesos and several hours of waiting and soon I am walking out with everything needed for my police certificate in Argentina. The next day I return to discover that I have no criminal history in Argentina, not that this was any surprise.

Right, with all of these documents I should be about done. I have a letter also from YWAM telling the government that I work with them and wish to apply for residency because of my work there (the religious part of my visa). Things are about done and I am ready to return to Puerto Madryn… until I discover that even this document must be verified and approved before it is any use to me.

The Ministry of Churches etc

The Ministry of Churches and Foreign Relations.

– Just One More Paper

So once again I am beating the streets of Buenos Aires until I get to the door of the Foreign Relations and Churches (yep, quite an unusual combination) and present them with my document. The document has to be in duplicate with two photocopies of each page. The verification process should take 10 days but today I was able to return to their offices for my verified paper.

That leaves me with every document that I should need for my residency application. One wild card is the fact that my Police Certificate from Australia has just expired today according to their paper documents. The (somewhat) encouraging part is that the information people at Migrations tell me that as long as I do not leave Argentina I will still be able to use it. This does make sense, because as long as I do not return to Australia my criminal history there will not change.

All the same, my window of opportunity to apply in Puerto Madryn while my Police Certificate was still valid (there is a 3 month limit) has just closed. That means that it is now better that I return to Buenos Aires for my “turn” in June. Oh, did I mention that you have to call the Migrations Department to ask for your “turn” which is given as a day and hour. Don’t be fooled though, it is not just for me, but rather for about fifty of us who will all turn up at the same time and wait for our number to be called.

So when that time comes, I will be sure to give you an update on the inner workings of the Argentine Migrations process. Hopefully it will be a happy story.

Unable to rise off the bed

While lying flat things were not too bad, but getting off the bed was impossible.

Flattened by I Don’t Know What

Finally, my plans for returning to Puerto Madryn before this time were thwarted when I woke up last Thursday feeling terrible. Weak and unable to get far from the bed, I suffered through three days of this unsure of what was happening to me until suddenly everything turned around again when I woke up Saturday morning.

On the Wednesday night my blood pressure was 70 over something. Now that is a pretty low number and it explained why I kept feeling dizzy every time I tried to get off the bed. If this was the case, then why did I feel the same way the following two days and yet with normal blood pressure? It was confusing. Nothing changed from day to day and yet I felt the same until Saturday. Was it Friday night that brought the change?

Friday night, against my better judgement, I went to the Ituzaingo YWAM base for their Friday night meeting. This is a time when all of the staff and students of YWAM get together for a time of worship and hanging out, with some presentations of the events of the previous week/s. During this time I was very weak and hardly able to stand.

This situation did not change the entire night, but during that meeting some of the guys saw my condition and prayed for me. During this time of prayer I felt a tingle down my spine, something that I do not feel very often at all. Was this related to the prayer? Was it this prayer that changed everything on Saturday when I woke up feeling perfect?

I don’t know, but apart from going to the meeting that Friday night was the only thing that I did differently. Surely it was something related to that meeting that caused the change… or did the whole weakness thing simply disappear as fast as it came?

They are all questions that will remain, but as for me, it seems most plausible that God was involved in the change.

A work that I am not proud of

Struggling to get a grip in plaster with inferior fasteners.

Mobile Hands

So with all of the documents to be done and then this illness, there was not time to do the other tasks for which I had come to Buenos Aires… that of fixing things up in the CNO YWAM base. There were lights to fix, power points and doors that did not work properly. So with some sanding, cutting, hammering, plumbing, electrical work, and some engineering we soon had most things sorted out.

The boys bathroom now has a power point, light over the mirror, and a door that opens and shuts as it should instead of jamming every time you try to close it. The girls bathroom is no longer leaking water from the pipes, a very long and difficult repair involving removal of entire fixtures and bending old hardened copper pipes.

The office now has chairs that are not falling apart, the kitchen a door that can be held open without a rock, and the hall and other areas have light once again, giving the place a more open feeling. Other small jobs also abounded, including the cutting of a key from the lock alone, as every key had been lost. This took two attempts before I got it right, discovering the significance of half a millimetre and how quickly you can be locked out of your room because of it.

Taking the Subway

Taking the “Subte” subway was a daily experience while in BsAs.

The Return

With Saturday my first day feeling better, and after three days of not being able to get off the bed, I thought it wise to stay close to the house. These last three days have allowed me to finish much of the work required in the base. The girls living there were always very kind and open and during my illness provided me with everything I needed and then some.

Just before leaving today I was treated to a small party with a cake complete with candle, potato chips, and coffee. It was a great afternoon tea and a true demonstration of the hospitality of these girls.

And they were the ups and downs of my time in Buenos Aires. Now I am on the 7.30pm bus heading for Puerto Madryn. My busy days of Buenos Aires are now over and the hectic days of Puerto Madryn are about to begin.

The view from the bus window

A view of the unchanging Patagonian desert that we travel through for hours on end.