"Que gobierno de la mierda!" I say to my friend Sergio. He laughs at me. "Cuantos años estas aca?" he asks me. I tell him "Casi cinco." "Que porteña sos." My friends always laugh when I use the phrases from here. Sandra especially. She takes the credit for being my teacher. "Que paso?" He asks me.
I tell him how last week I got my visa. My permanent visa. I was so happy. I went to Migraciones. I waited with the sea of different faces - Bolivians, Paraguayans, Peruvians, Chinese, Koreans. I really stuck out, white, with blond hair and green eyes. All of us foreigners hoping for our final papers. Those from Mercosur countries knowing it would be easy, those of us who were not from Mercosur countries were still a little tense. The door on permanent visas had been shut.
When they called my name I went up to the window. I was asked to sign a document. I read through it and signed it. I then gave them a digital thumbprint. I felt my eyes misting. It was a very emotional moment for me. I thanked the girl. Never throughout this process did I ever feel that I had the right to a visa. I know that many Americans and even some Europeans do have this attitude. I never did. I feel honored that Argentina, especially now, that the door has been shut on legal immigration, granted me permanent residency. With this visa I needed to go to change my DNI (our National Identity Card) from temporary to permanent.
I got up early to go to the branch of the Registro Nacional for Foreigners. I expected a huge line as always. I was told I needed to make an appointment to change my DNI. I was told this would probably take a month. I need to travel to the US in September for work. So I figured this would give me plenty of time. Except, I forgot, I live in Argentina. Where nothing goes as you expect it to.
When I get to the Registro Nacional, it is kind of strange. There is no line. Only 3 guys blocking the door. It is closed. Until August 15. What the F___? Because of the flu, they tell us. There is no discussion. They give us a little slip of paper and tell us to call this number to make an appointment for the 15th. What is most frustrating is the other branches for Nacionales are not closed. Bueno.
I go home and call and call and call. For two days I call and get a busy signal. Probably there is one number and they have taken the phone off the hook. This is Argentina. Finally on Monday I reach a person at 3:45 in the afternoon. She snarls at me "We are closed." I ask her "OK, when are you open?" She snarls again "August 15." I explain to her that I was given this number to call and make an appointment for August 15th for when they open again. She hangs up on me. This is Argentina. Hijo de puta.
Today is Dia del Amigo. I will ignore that this woman has hung up on me. Not very friendly. I will remember that I have received 86 text messages from friends wishing me a Happy Dia del Amigo, 25 emails, and many phone calls. Dia del Amigos is much bigger here than Valentines Day. Valentines Day is really a Hallmark Holiday. It excludes people. Dia del Amigos is for everyone. It is a day for you to share with all of your friends.
Tonight Laura, Marvin, and I are going to go to Gricel. It has been ages since I have been to Gricel on a Monday. Laura has only been here since Friday. This will be her first traditional milonga. She has been to Catedral and La Viruta. Both without me. I don't go to those milongas.
We enter Gricel and are greeted by Patricio and Adriana. Both are happy to see me. Adriana tells me that Marvin is here already. She tells me that she has my regular table reserved. I am surprised as I have not been here in a long time. She leads us to the back by the bar. On the way I see many of my friends. They stop me "Feliz Dia, Deby" I stop to greet them "Feliz Dia, Amiga."
I see Marvin but he is at another table. I ask Adriana if he can sit with us. She tells me "Si, hay no problema." We have 3 seats and there are 2 old crones -viejas already sitting there. I always have the front tables closest to the floor. I direct Laura to sit at one of the chairs closer to the floor, I take the other. I tell Marvin to sit next to me.
I look at one of the viejas. They are obviously not happy. "Hola, Feliz Dia." I say to them smiling. They look back with caras de culos. Bueno. One says to me "How come you get to sit there. You are foreigners." OK so this is how it is going to be. I explain to them very patiently that this is my table. That I live here, and yes obviously I am foreign and that I have been dancing here for more than 9 years. (And obviously they have not.) As I am talking a friend comes by and hugs me "Feliz Dia Amiga." I hug him back "Vos tambien amor." I go to change my shoes in the bathroom.
I explain the cabeceo to Laura. Before I see who she accepts a dance with she is off and running. I wince. It is with an old guy who is not the best of dancers. Oh well. More of my friends are walking by the table. This is like old home week. "Hola Deby, Feliz Dia." "Feliz Dia Amiga." The viejas look like they are going to start spurting pea soup. Marvin goes to dance. Personally I am content to sit.
Laura comes back to the table. I ask her how her dance was. "Horrible" she tells me. I smile. I ask her why. She rattles off a bunch of reasons. She decides to order dinner. I raise my hand for the waitress to come over. She sees me, but it is very busy tonight. Laura asks again. I explain to her that the organizers have the same number of waitresses regardless. It is just how it is. "You are lucky. We will get better service because the waitresses know me, and I always tip." I am not sure she believes me that waiting as long as we have is better service. It is. By Argentine standards.
My friend Mecha sees me and comes running over. We give each other big hugs. I have not seen her for ages. "I am so happy to see you." She says to me. "Feliz Dia." She sits down at my table. "How are you?" I ask her. She tells me she is really good. "You are so skinny." She says to me. I laugh. "Not really." She tells me that she wanted to tell me that she is going to have her birthday party at the milonga on Wednesday at Leonesa. Patricio and Adriana are now going to be with Franca and Luis starting in August. "Can I bring something?" I ask her. "No." she tells me. "Just come, and tell Sandra." We talk a little more and then she leaves.
Laura goes off to dance with a friend of mine. I see he moves her arm. I am thrilled. I have been trying to get her to move that arm of hers. She comes back all aglow. "He was so wonderful to dance with." she says to me. I tell her he is an old friend of mine and a great guy. Since moving her arm, the men are now starting to ask her to dance. She is having a great time.
The viejas are still frowning. They have moved their table apart and forward. One of them glares at me. "Yo no soy muy comoda" she says to me. (I am not very comfortable.) "Que lastima." I say to her. (What a pity.) She starts to complain again..she doesn´t like her table, the column, the fact that we are foreigners and are better positioned. I am sick of her whining. What does she think? That I am going to say, here take our seats? Instead I say "I told you that I live here, that I have been dancing in the milongas for almost 9 years. Haven't you noticed all the people who have come by to greet me?" She gives me an evil look. "It doesn't matter." she says to me. "Yo soy de Argentina." "Really?" I say to her, "I haven't noticed anyone coming by to greet you or even to ask you to dance. If you were nicer, this gentleman sitting with us would ask you to dance." She responds by moving her table even further forward. But when she does this, the waitress comes by and asks her what is she doing. Within 5 minutes they leave. Viejas de mierda. Why can't they just be pleasant?
At 12:30 Marvin decides he is a pumpkin and is going to leave us girls to our own devices. Laura and I order champagne. The floor is crowded. I accept a dance here and there. I do not like dancing when the floor is crowded. I go to greet friends.
They play a tanda of rock and roll. The song "Hit the Road Jack" comes on and Laura and I sing our hearts out. The men around us start to laugh. I guess it is pretty funny. Two American women singing at the top of their lungs. I ask a couple of guys if they know what the words mean. They say no. When I tell them, they are really surprised. For years they have been listening to the song and never knew what the words meant. I tell them it is my key sentence for my Argentine boyfriends. The guy is shocked. "Chiste." I tell him...sort of..maybe..not really.
Back to tango. Soon the floor is cleared enough. I dance a few tandas. Franca comes to the table with Luis to greet me. I give them both huge hugs. I tell them I am happy they will be doing the milonga on Wednesday with Patricio and Adriana. "Come until then" Franca tells me. "I will try." I tell her. "I have to work."
Laura plops down at the table. "Anytime you want to leave." she says to me. I am sort of amused. It is 1:30. The fact is, for me, this is early. I probably would stay until much later. I tell her I want to dance a couple of tandas and then we can leave.
We collect our things and start for the door. As we go down the aisle my friends hug me and I them. "Feliz Dia Amiga." they say to me. At the door I hug Patricio and then Adriana. They tell me they expect me next Monday. "OK," I say to them. It has been a long time since I came on Monday, and this was really fun. The milonga is a family of friends. Feliz Dia del Amigos.