21. 12. 2006
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Britské listy

ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
21. 12. 2006

A Letter from Argentina IX:

Sneezing rats and the wicked witch of the South

"Would you like another tea, darling?" I nod my head, yes please. Liquid, I need more liquid. My body is dehydrated from all the drinking done last night. Celine walks in and throws herself on the beanbag next to me. I have settled myself here on the floor of my friend's apartment, ready to stay here until the pain of the hangover has decided to leave me alone.

Silla gives me another bowl of tea, we have abandoned decencies as drinking out of cups long ago, too little tea fits in a cup anyway. "Is Amelie still on the phone?" Celine asks just as Amelie appears out of her bedroom placing the phone back on the table. They start talking among themselves in French but are quickly interrupted by Silla reminding them that in this house only Spanish is spoken. Silla understands French though: I really do not.

As a joke to bother the Frenchies back we start speaking in German. I understand almost everything in German, something that did not come as a gift. I was labored and slaved over the pursuit of mastering this impossible language for 6 long years and all that remains me is the power of `understanding' it. I know it's my own fault, a lack of practicing it. So unfortunately I can only utter a view words at Silla but she understands me and knows that she can talk away and I'll still follow her.

It's a funny method that comes in handy when you are of need of a foreign language when things have to be said that are not meant for everyone's ears or when we can't find a word in Spanish we often find we can understand each other trying it in Dutch or German. We went out clubbing last night. Yet another typical night of the many nights that I share with these wonderful girls.

It's always the same routine: at about nine or ten o'clock I come to their house where we have dinner, the standard vegetarian pasta-pot cheffed by Silla. Then Amelie makes coffee and the music is turned up and the bottles come out of the kitchen into the living room where we sit around the round glass table where we, by now, have our own places.

I hate the funky design chairs that go with this table, they are made more to look at then to sit on, so I always kick mine aside and slide in a comfy armchair which leaves me sitting just with my shoulders above the table but at least without a back pain. This apartment has become my second house, for I am the fourth but unofficial occupant.

Such luck to have been introduced to Silla that very first night out with all the international students. She had moved in with Celine and Amelie and thus the quartette, the fellowship of the four, was born. We all study in the `Universidad del Salvador', except for Amelie, who did not have a student visa and therefore was not accepted by them. Luckily the UCA, Catholic University, had no problems with that at all and so she went to study there. This does, however, mean that she has to leave the country every three months to come back on a new tourist visa.

Her end of the first three months is coming close consequently we are planning to go for the weekend to Uruguay. I wished I had come here without a student visa, but I had to study at USAL, Salvador University, since my University in Scotland has ties with them. As a result I had to go through hell to get myself a student visa. You would not believe the difficulties you face trying to get that ugly insignificant stamp printed in your passport! Actually, the entire process of coming to Argentina was a rather slow and painful one.

We all had to go away for a year as part of our degree in Hispanic Studies so we were all organizing and planning. Most went to Spain and only a handful of us to South America. I wanted to go to Argentina because I had an Argentine boyfriend for four years and we had gone a summer for two months to Argentina and I had instantly fallen in love with it.

Since January I started planning all the necessaries to come here, but had not dared to think I would be faced by millions of difficulties. Get comfortable because I am about to throw each one of them at you. Well maybe not all, I would be faced with yet another problem of an epileptic arm if I was to write them all down.

First there was the matter of which embassy I should be dealing with, since I lived and studied in the UK but am from Holland. They told me I could do it in Holland and when I warned them I would have only a month in Holland before going to Argentina, I had already booked my flight in advance for if not the prices would go up, they said that would be plenty of time.

The first day I step into the embassy of Argentina in Holland, they told me I needed at least two months to gather all the paperwork together to even have my application for the visa ready, meaning "the time we take to look over and accept your application is not yet included." I was raging and spend my time, which should have been to enjoy my family and friends before going away for a year, screaming at all different official looking bureaucrats at different official offices in a very unofficial language!

I traveled the whole of Holland being send out to different god knows where places to fetch me a stamp there and a signature here and everything cost money! I couldn't get a single thing done without jerking out the wallet again. I had papers with three signatures and 2 stamps on them, all paid for. My work came to an abrupt end when one official document was not to be hastened getting itself into my hands. I waited. And waited. Until I started to send death threats at any one really at this point.

I was left with no choice but to forget about the flight I should be on in four days and buy myself a new flight. Problem. Entire `Dutch land' had decided to take a wee trip down to good old Argentina. There where literary flights leaving every day from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires, maybe with a little stop here and there in between, and I am talking big fuckers of Airplanes with loads of people fitting on them, but they where all full. It wasn't even a question of `money can buy' no no no, there was just no availability. Until one day I found one, three times the price of my original flight, a month later. Just in time for the University to begin in Buenos Aires.

I continued waiting for the little miserable piece of paper and when I got it, despised it as I looked at it cause it even looked insignificant, run off to the embassy again. There was a medical report to be done. I had to pay from my own pocket to go and see my doctor, since I didn't have a health insurance anymore in Holland because I don't live there.

If you are ill you'd happily pay for this, but now I was going three times to see him to tick boxes on sheets and sheets of paper stating all the diseases I don't have. When my doctor said they acquired x-rays of my lungs to prove I was indeed healthy as stated on the papers, I declared them all delirious and we both had a good laugh about the absurdity of it all.

We decided to hand it in like this and see if they would come back on the matter. They never did.

The topping on the cake was my joy of the encounter with the argentine ambassador, the wicked witch of the South herself! I thought to myself, if they are all going to be like you in Argentina, since they send you abroad as a representation of them, then you can do `you know what' with this visa for I won't be needing it in that case.

Then, a month later, I found myself strapped in a seatbelt, turning off all electronics during the take off of the Boeing 747 from Amsterdam to Sao Paulo, next stop Argentina. I'd done it. I had managed to whinge and whine everyone back at my University in Scotland to get them convinced and allowing them to send me to Argentina, had pestered all the rats that call themselves functionaries and paid each performed little flick of their fingers, resisted the tempts of the witch to turn me into a cow so she could barbeque me and have me for Sunday roast and here I was.

Lying on my friend's floor suffering the pain from a night out in Buenos Aires. Was it worth it? Hell yes, I would do it all over a million times! I have come home. I have found friends that I had lost somewhere in between the transition from this life to the other. Met new friends that this life had kept as a surprise to keep it new and fresh. I found myself. Again and again. Had I nearly lost myself, going down, with my head under the water trying to surface, in the miseries of suffrage that being in a bad relationship does to you.

For a long time I could not see or find my way out of it until one day, somewhere in between of my civil service time going around the rats throwing money at them for sneezing, I found my own hand coming through the surface and pulling me on my smelly wet dreadlocks out of the water onto the mainland. Off I was, alone, single, to his country, but without him.

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