Of course, I also followed the Argentinian epopea during the World Cup. The first encounter I watched at the place of one of the Belgians. With the next one, I learned it is useless to be in Argentina and want to do anything else but watching the game. But this is a “Sarah story” and I need to go back a few days before the Albiceleste played against Nigeria.
As I quickly became addicted to the habit of taking mate, I bought two of those cups, two bombillas and two packs of herbs in Montevideo, which I then couldn’t take with me – when traveling, you can’t have the camera AND the computer AND mates with 2 kilos of herbs. You just can’t. So I needed to send this home.
The first thing you do when you want to make that kind of sending is to find information on the internet… and it doesn’t take long before realizing that if you don’t want the delivery to cost five times the price of the parcel’s content, you’re better off using the Correo Argentino instead of DHL or Fedex. So off I went, full of confidence, to the nearest offices of the Argentinian post service. I got there, found the right number, had a look, realized there was nothing Correo-like at this address, went back thinking I went past it or put down the number wrongly, went forth again and decided to have a better look at the place, went to the end of the street to get a better global view and then finally had to resign myself to accept: there were no offices of anything that would help me get my mates to the old continent.
Luckily enough, when you ask nicely, people are always happy to help you out and someone directed me to another agency nearby. This one I found without any problem. So I went in and, not sure if they would let me send anything organic across the Atlantic – I was actually prevented to enter Uruguay with an apple and two mandarins. Strangely enough, the 15 packs of cigarettes I was smuggling into the country at someone’s request didn’t seem to be a problem at all – I asked if it was feasible. Getting a “yes” as an answer, I felt relieved and showed the unpacked products I wanted to entrust them with. What I received in return was a nice smile and the following declaration: “We ran out of boxes”. My following question: “Where can I find an agency where they DO have boxes?”. The answer being “a few blocks away”, I got my patience and my herbs together and continued my quest.
I got there, found the right number, had a look, realized there was nothing Correo-like at this address, went back thinking I went past it or put down the number wrongly, went forth again and decided to have a better look at the place, went to the end of the street to get a better global view, decided that agency HAD TO be nearby, asked a lady – who was “not from here” -, asked a young man – who had no clue – went further and FOUND the agency. I went in, took a ticket… and prepared myself to wait for half an hour. That’s when you wonder why you forgot your mother’s golden rule: always have a book in your bag. You never know when it might prevent you from getting bored to death.
When it was finally my turn, I explained the whole story again and the very friendly gentleman was sorry to inform me that he didn’t possess any appropriate box himself. Nevertheless, he had a look at the goods, decided to weigh the lot and came with more great news. As my package weighed more than 2 kg, I needed to have it controlled and approved by customs.
I got a paper with all the indications I needed but it was too late to go there now. I decided to go on the following day.
As customs were really close to the bus station, I decided to combine two things: sending the &@!###@!$* mates and buying my ticket to leave Buenos Aires and go down South. But the mates first. As I was in the neighbourhood, I took out my paper to check the address… and realized customs closed at 15.00. And it was 14.55.
Bus ticket it was then. And I decided to leave my 2kg+ package at the left luggage office, open every day from 7.00 to 22.00. I just didn’t feel like traveling another 8 km with it. The attendee offered to put my belongings in a nice little box – one thing to remember. If you want a box, go to the left luggage office at the bus station. Not at the Correo Argentino – for AR$30.
Wednesday, June 25. That day, nothing would prevent me from sending those stupid dried plants cut into pieces to Pont-à-Celles. Nothing! This time, I got to the bus terminal at 13.00. Customs closed at 15.00, so I had plenty of time to get there, as their offices are just in front of the bus terminal. It was a beautiful day. All those smiling people wearing or waving blue and white flags put me in a good mood. Until I got to the left luggage office and found a note saying that it would be closed from 13.00… to 14.45. One hour and forty-five minutes. Just the time of a football game between Argentina and Nigeria.
Moment of solitude.
I swear I was about to scream in disgust. Or to burst into tears in despair. But before any of this happened, the person in charge came over to give me back my due.
Customs. Ticket. Queue. Still no book – apparently there are things you never learn.
After half an hour:
Lady: “Did you show this to customs already?”
Me: “Am I not at customs now?”
Lady: “No, this is the Correo Argentino. Someone from customs first needs to have a look at it.”
Me: “Where do I go?”
Lady: “The desk just behind you.”
I turn around and go to the opposite desk.
Me to the lady: “There is nobody here.”
Lady: “No. There’s no one staying there on a permanent basis. There’s not enough staff.”
Me: “But when will someone get here?”
Lady: “No idea.”
I felt desperate. But the customs agent appeared about 5 minutes later.
Agent: “Can you open the box, please?”
I complied and was about to take out everything the box contains so he could have a proper look.
Agent: “No, no need.” Barely having a look at it. “It’s OK.”
Back to the lady who gave me a new box. One from the Correo Argentina this time – not for free though. And a form to fill in. Next to me was a huge guy desperately trying to put a small teddy bear into an even smaller paper bag without tearing it open. Everyone has to bear his own cross.
Ready! But the lady had disappeared. A colleague took over but, although all the Argentinians, men and women, are actively following their national team, this gentleman was just that little bit more into it and was watching the game on his cell phone while attending to me. Putting a sticker on the box, watching the game, putting a sticker on the form, watching the game… I began to wonder if my package was ever going to make it further than the storage room next door.
Eventually, I got out of there. Relieved. And tired.
One week later, I was happy to hear the package had arrived – almost – safely.