One of my most frustrating days while abroad… Don’t get me wrong, the semester was fantastic. Days like this are just part of the experience:
Allow me to take you on a journey of a typical day in the life of an extranjera in Buenos Aires. Buckle in, folks, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
Imagine: You set an alarm on an American phone still stuck in an American time zone. Because you’re good at math, you set the alarm four hours ahead. Oh, but daylight savings just happened and your phone’s on mountain-time, not west coast time? Surprise, you just woke up at 7:00 for a 10:00 visa appointment at the immigrations office! Probably for the better though, as this office is notoriously impossible to find. This way you have extra time to plan. After deciding on a route and writing down very detailed directions, you embark on what you know will be a long day. (Apart from being hard to find, migrations also has a fabulous reputation of taking an unbearably long time.)
You walk out the door: it’s raining.
No worries, you have a raincoat.
And here comes the bus! Oh, but wait… For reasons you don’t completely understand, the bus won’t take you where you want to go. Luckily, another soon approaches. This driver doesn’t seem too confident about your destination either, but you know this bus goes where you need it to go, so you take a seat.
The bus is going the right way. Psh, you know this route better than the driver! You look out the window on full alert, determined not to miss your stop. That, however, is impossible today, because this bus can’t make it to your stop. Its next big street is blocked off. You have no choice but to get off with all the rest, but where even are you?? The bus was going this direction; you should too, right? RIGHT! Hey you know this street!
But now what? Unsure where to go next, you decide it is finally time to ask for directions. From multiple sources. You know you’re getting close, though, because everyone is selling photos and photocopies, both necessary for a visa appointment. Oh, also, you’re soaking wet. When it rains, it pours.
FINALLY, you arrive. After a few minutes of confusion regarding where to go first, someone finally points you towards the end of a line. Luckily, your expectations are low enough that the 3+ hour process doesn’t actually feel that awful. You even meet another student from the United States who is all too eager to find an English-speaking friend. If you’re lucky, you might meet a pair of Mormon missionaries, one from Idaho and one from Peru (there are Mormon missionaries in Peru, apparently). The four of you kill time sharing experiences, and finally you’re on your way.
Only now you’re confronted with a whole afternoon of other problems. For one, you just spent the last of your cash at the immigrations office. It’s ok, though, your study abroad program gives you a monthly stipend for food that should be ready to pick up today!
“Come back tomorrow.”
Plan B: Quick transfer on Xoom!
But you have to register for classes first. And pick up your laundry, you’re completely out of clothes and would like to shower with a towel again. You have 30 pesos left, exactly what you’ll need.
Well, exactly what you needed last time when apparently you washed fewer things. This time the Laundromat needed to use two loads, so the price is double. You can go home with half your clothes. Still, far better than none. Finally, you’re home.
You deserve a shower dammit, and some food. But you don’t have much time before you have to meet up at the bus station to buy your tickets for MENDOZAA during Easter weekend, and you still need to get money. So you shower, and you eat, and you make the transaction to get cash…
Oh, but the pick up office closes at 6. It’s 5:30.
Borrow money from an incredibly kind friend until tomorrow, when you will assuredly be able to procure some of your own.
The day ends well, though, and you successfully book your Easter trip. After the day’s events, this feels like one of the greatest success of your life thus far. Just one more little hiccup: on the way home, you discover that your Sube (public transportation card that gives you access to the subways and the bus system) no longer works. “Sorry, you’ll have to go to an official Sube office. Buy a temporary ticket in the mean time, five pesos please.”
Fine. Just take me home.
At least you get to fall asleep to the sounds of the storm outside. Here in Buenos Aires, when it rains, it pours.
UPDATE: For the record, today was sunny, I was able to get cash, buy a new Sube, buy books for class, AND get the rest of my laundry! Every day is different. Cada día es nuevo.