30 April 2008

Maybe Palermo, But Definitely Not A Barrio Named Visa

¡Xoder!

There is no other way to say it but ¡Xoder!

Well, unfortunately, Erika and I aren't going to get our work Visa through Aldo and his socio--it's way too much work and it costs a shitload. For those of you that don't know how much work it is to work legally in Argentina, consider reading yesterday's blog. It's like el gobierno argentino is practically begging you to work under the table. I tried to assuage Aldo that we would pay for any and all expenses--propagating the continuous myth that Americans are loaded, and also, that we think money solves everything. Wait, it doesn't? I'm so confused.

Of course this is a huge bummer. I mean, the one advantage we had in Argentina compared to say, Chile, was connections with Erika's uncle and cousin, and obviously, that doesn't really mean shit when there are 11 steps to establishing legal work Visas, and even Argentinos are like, fuck this. Can't say I blame Aldo and his mysterious writing colleague, but I will admit that I kinda secretly wish that they'd roll up their sleeves and take one for the team. It would be fantastic for their karma and help us establish residency. But no. Looks like I'll have to marry a sympathetic argentina. . .

If nothing else, because we won't have work Visas, now we're both forced to travel out of Argentina every three months, which isn't a bad deal at all. The truth is, I really want to see Uruguay, Brazil and Chile, and now, for basic consular reasons, we're forced to see the continent. This is an enormous positive up-side.

The one good thing that Aldo told me in his email is that he is going to check out Luciana's apartment on 1 May. We're wiring him money tomorrow so he can pay for the "reserva" if he thinks it's worth $570, though, of course, I encouraged him to be his charming self and convince her to lower it to $530, or even $500, if he could. Doesn't hurt to have some influence from the inside. The more Erika and I look at apartments--at least the ones online--the more I realize that 500 bucks for a cute place in the hippest barrio in Buenos Aires ain't such a bad deal, bourgeois cultural speculation, notwithstanding.

Yesterday I sent both of our passport renewal applications to Phillie through Next Day Mail. Within a few weeks we'll have spiffy new passports with evil microchips installed--I'm not even playing about that. Soon, we're gonna buy our one-way tickets to Argentina. Holla!

28 April 2008

Getting a Work Visa is like reading a Kafka Novel Backwards

There is so much paperwork involved in getting a visa de trabajo that it's practically criminal to even consider it. For those of you that are allergic to long winding corridors inside government buildings, you may want to turn your head because this is what we have to do to work and live in Argentina legally and it ain't pretty:

1. Get new passports since both of ours expire soon (but in order to do that, we had to go to CV today and buy eight passport photos--I'll explain that later--and also fill out a DS-82 form to renew our passports)

2. Fill out a Visa form that asks you really personal questions like "How big is your penis?" and "Why do you have such a big fear of commitment?" Okay, they don't actually ask that, but they might as well.

3. Six passport photos for the Work Visa, cuz you know, they have to staple your face to the calendar, Monday through Saturday. I mean, who the hell needs six photographs? Someone's got really sticky fingers.

4. Evidence of your immigration status, and I heart New York t-shirts do not count, I'm sorry to say.

5. Entry permit: this is where it gets really strange. In order to obtain an Entry Permit, your prospective employer has to go to the Argentine Immigration Authority known as the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones, Dirección de Admisión de Extranjeros, which takes a month and involves a number of documents that have to be notarized and taken to the colegio de escribanos before an entry permit can be issued, which Aldo will then have to send to us here in Chicago before we can fly back to Argentina.

6. Birth Certificate, and being born again does not count

7. Police Record that goes back at least five years written on official police stationary and no older than sixty days, proving that Erika and I don't smuggle little Bolivian children inside our giant backpacks. Well, we used to do that kind of thing, but thankfully it was six years ago so it doesn't really count

8. An International/National Criminal Records Affidavit, that, among other things, duplicates step 7 for no clear reason.

9. A $100 for a glorified sticker

10. A Contract of Employment stating the terms, pay, duration of employment, and how they conform to Argentine Labor Laws. This contract must be notarized at the Colegio de Escribanos in Buenos Aires, then sent to Chicago where Erika and I will have to present it to the Argentine Consul during our Visa Interview.

And that my friends, in 10 easy little steps, is how you lose your mind with Latin-American bureaucracy.

Suddenly Palermo Is Too Expensive

Erika and I were dealt a disappointing blow today. Tío Aldo talked to Luis, Erika's dad, and told him that $570 was way too much money for a one bedroom apartment in Buenos Aires, even in Palermo, a barrio he said was very expensive anyway. All contradictions aside, Aldo is going to look for an apartment for us that's cheaper, which, to be honest, is quite rad of him. The question burning in our minds now is, when exactly? Though it's definitely better for a porteño to find an apartment for you than to try and figure it all out on the internet (the voice in my head, yelling "I'm industrious, I can figure this shit out on my own man"), the truth is that it was an enormous relief to have the apartment search out of the way. At least one less thing to think about. But no. No.

Of course the idea of each of us paying $285 dollars per month to live in the coolest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, within stalking distance to parks, vegetarian restaurants, and jaunty boutiques, shit, that is enough to make me salivate even now. I've never had enough money to live in SoHo, or Wicker Park, or Capital Hill back when I lived in New York, Chicago or Seattle, but finally, finally I thought our time had come to clean our dirty underwear with the rich and fabulous. But Aldo and Erika make great points--unfortunately, might I add--when they point out that we can live in a nice, and larger 1BR in a less trendy neighborhood that offers amenities galore with less hype, fewer neighbors with eating disorders, and equally great access to the Subte, parks, stylish restaurants, not to mention an apartment with pretty décor and maybe even something like a garden, or a storage room, or a double bed. It's true that the more money we save, the less we have to freak out, the easier it will be to take a trip to Brazil or Uruquay or Chile. But still, it hurts. It really does.

25 April 2008

The Perfect Apartment By Luciana

Erika and I have been scouring the web for the perfect apartment in Buenos Aires and I think we may have just found it. For weeks and weeks, this adventure has been tricky--okay, a pain in the ass--since Craig's List targets wealthy telecommuters and adventurous expats that have drug habits and tango aspirations, and we want a place we can live in, that:

1. Is located in Palermo (Palermo Viejo, Palermo SoHo or Palermo Hollywood)

2. Has A/C and Heat since it gets muggy in the summers and kinda cold in the winters--thought it's all relative, something I've learned from watching my Mom complain about the January Marine Layer in Southern California when the temperature dips into the 50's.

3. Is dog-friendly

4. Is a one-bedroom apartment instead of a studio so that we can get away from Zoe when she tries to wake us up in the middle of the night for a blackmail snack, and also so guests have a couch they can sleep on without having to hear me hitting on Erika

5. Is within walking distance of the subte, el parque and other points of interest

6. Is furnished

7. Or even better yet, is fashionably furnished, or at least the opposite of dreary

8. Has a balcony

9. Will allow us to move in in July

10. Perhaps the biggest obstacle, is $650 or less a month

After checking the "temporary housing" section of CL, a section I rarely look at since the name makes me think of jet-setting tenants and inherited apartment barons, trying to rent their apartment during vacations to faraway places, anyway, somehow I found the perfect little apartment of my dreams by accident, and after emailing Luciana, the owner, and negotiating the price from $630 to $570--yes, you can negotiate rent in South America like anything else--I showed Erika pictures of the place, talked it over with her and we're both on the same page. So we're going to wire Aldo, her uncle in Buenos Aires, the money so he can meet Luciana, get a small tour of the apartment, and give her our "reserva" for our July move-in.

It's crazy to think that in Chicago $570 won't get you anything except a crappy basement apartment somewhere in the West Side next to burger shacks and places to cash checks, but in Buenos Aires, you can rent an adorable apartment in the most fashionable barrio and live an excitingly hip but nevertheless, modest life in one of the most metropolitan and European cities in South America, or in the world. That, my friends, is the allure of moving to Buenos Aires and one of the perks of the Expat Life. ¡Holla!

20 April 2008

Raddest Birthday in 10 Years

This was one of the best b-days I've had in years--the little and big details. For real. Erika made me breakfast but there weren't any veggie sausages so she made to veggie burgers. It was so damn cute, there were waffles, grade A maple syrup, and a big old VEGGIE BURGER. It was so was endearing I had to hug her. Did I touch the Vegan Griller? Not really. But the thought was rich.

 Afterwards, we got dressed and went to the Oriental Theater where I FINALLY got to see "Wicked" which was a lot of fun despite legions of college students talking about fellowships, jobs and grad school. I've wanted to see this revisionist musical for 3 years now and I really enjoyed it. They could have cut a few forgettable songs, but I loved the re-telling of the story, a sort of musical etiology of the cult classic.

Then we drove to Lakeview, kicked it at Intelligentsia and drank some Jasmine tea, walked around the hood a little bit before finally making our way to the Chicago Diner. There we met Jes and Josh, Sarah and her beau, Wick and Megha, eating vegan Cobb Salads, a spicy avocado sauce, seitan Philly Steak Sandwiches and Reubans--so fucking good. In all, 8 people--the perfect number for great conversations and a little isolation now and then for political rants, the mechanics of voseo and non-profit chats. I pretended not to notice Erika tell our waitress it was my birthday, and sure enough, ten minutes later, she showed up with our vegan chocolate ganache cake with a candle and I watched in a mix of dismay, embarrassment and pure unbridled joy as the entire restaurant sang happy birthday to me. I thanked them and blew out the candle, forgetting to make a wish. But I think that's okay. It shows I'm grounded and fluid right now and I know my life is my wish, the life I've wished for since I was in high school. Finally, after dropping off Wick and hugging him, Erika and I went home, walked the pooch, I called my Mom, thanked her for buying me Junot Diaz's novel, and then I opened and admired the rest of my gifts:

A new pair of vegan kicks by macbeth, holla!
Some gourmet teas: yerba mate, sencha with matcha, sencha kabusé
My fave video: Báraka
My fave Pilot V Razor Point Pens
Kanji Cards
A nice bottle of Chateau-neuf-dupape from Jess, one of my fave vineyards!

It was an almost perfect day, full of sun, music and conversation, stellas artois, green tea, salads, friends and love.

Yo, I know I'm blessed--but it's the people in my life that are my blessings.

17 April 2008

WP + the Jacket of Your Dreams

Today Erika and I wanted to enjoy the gorgeous weather so we drove to the WP in the side streets, listening to Tribe, which brought back such strong memories of Oberlin, my first Autumn there in the quad, and back when I was living in French House and Alex and I would throw wine and cheese parties and then dance to The Smiths, The Samples & James. Such great memories. Anyway, I was having this simultaneous experience of joy and relief as our car went boom: the sun finally came out, it was pure and absolute liberation to wear a t-shirt, the warmth felt like redemption. Yo, it was a perfect fucking day.

When we got to Wicker Park we found this amazing parking spot right across the restaurant, and then we went to Earwax, ate some yummy food. Erika ordered a soy Sloppy Joe--lame--and I ordered a Jerk Seitan Sandwich--pretty good. Still, it was the chocolate peanut butter soy shake that really rocked the house. Afterwards, we went to G-star. She bought this rad little black number and I bought possibly the coolest fucking jacket of my life. I feel like I've worn this jacket in my dreams. I'm not even playing. That's how rad it was.I told myself that today was my b-day gift and I always get something I can wear on my special day. That's just how I roll I guess. Take a look at this fucking jacket: Cool Jacket, right? Okay, now granted, I just time-warped your ass since this shot was taken in Madrid in May 2009, which is almost a year from now, but hey, I forgot to take a picture when I first bought it.

Then, before the Money Moon disappeared, we walked around the 'hood, soaked up some sun, window-shopped, I fantasized about a new tattoo, and then came back to the OP, walked Zoe, and went to her mom's. It felt like spring today. It felt like our new life. It felt amazing.

16 April 2008

Obama is Electable, Asshole

If Barack Obam is not electable, why do so many editorial departments (conservative and liberal) support him and NOT Hillary Clinton? Being electable means literally capable of being elected and he's won more votes, won more states, won more delegates, received more editorial endorsements, raised more money (90% of them, under a $100), and is leading in national polls regarding his electability and trustworthiness, not to mention he has a 102:5 superdelegate pick-up since Super Tuesday compared to HRC and has been directly responsible for inspiring some of the biggest primary turn-outs in US history. I'd LOVE to hear how he's not electable. If that's NOT electability, then I think the personal definition of electability that some cynics and blind-sighted pundits have is either absurd, or empirically dishonest.

A final thing, Obama has already proved he can work across the aisle. For example, the Obama-Lugar Bill to reduce nuclear proliferation and the Obama-Coburn bill for federal funding accountability and transparency (both respected republicans) are two of the best bipartisan bills Congress has passed in years--a position shared by political commentators on both sides of the aisle. Furthermore, Obama led a very ambitious bipartisan bill with other Dem's and Rep's for increasing fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks by 4% that was tabled. These are just a few examples (there are many), but the point is it's completely inaccurate to state that Barack Obama cannot or has not worked with Republicans to get things done, or that he's not electable when his record disproves that entirely. You may not like or agree with him, and I can totally respect that, but the one thing you can't say is that he isn't electable because so far his record disproves that entirely. Even if he lost in the General Election, doesn't make him unelectable. Being even competitive politically is proof of electability, and Barack Obama will more than competitive. He's gonna win and prove the cynics wrong. Now, what he does with the presidency, that remains to be seen. . .

07 April 2008

Finally A Pulitzer Prize I Agree With

Junot Diaz wins the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao! I'm so stoked. Without question, Diaz deserves this prize. His writing is compact, intense and powerful. He writes the way fiction should be written, with his knee in your diaphragm. It's about fucking time!

04 April 2008

Why It's Not Okay to Send Bomb Threats to a Church

I'm not sure whether the New York Times will publish my comment or not in its interactive blurby column. I'm not even sure if it's news, but anyway, just in case they don't or they erase the archive, this is my response to the insane, angry white males that argue it's okay for Barack Obama's church to receive death threats and okay for members of the media to bombard church services:

The fact is, there are churches across the bible belt all the way up to the mountains of Wyoming that spew anti-gay, anti-feminists rhetoric, and no one is leaving them out or protest, just as there are many churches that have been complicit in endorsing politicians too, so this is an obvious double standard to hold it against Obama. Also, as Obama explained countless times, most currently in his Hardball interview with Christ Matthews at West Chester University, he is a Christian so he believes in forgiving others, like his former pastor, for his incendiary remarks, which is what a compassionate Christian should do. I have Mormon friends who forgave Bush for his mistakes in Iraq, it's not any different except Iraq killed 4,000 brave American soldiers, which is so much worse to me. Additionally, Rev. Wright's Church is 90% White, has done amazing community work and helped out its neighborhood in countless ways, so you're completely oversimplifying the Trinity Church. There are many good Christians in that church, by the way, and though they might not agree with Wright's tirades, they certainly understand where that anger comes from, and forgive him for his mistakes--something the haters in this blog surely cannot do.

Finally, no church deserves death threats no matter what the doctrine. And if you're willing to make a gross generalization about a national church, one of its former reverends, its parish, and a presidential candidate, all based on 30 seconds of looped sermon, frankly, I feel sorry for you. Instead of worrying about Rev. Wright, you should be worrying about what happened to all your critical thinking skills.