Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Different Light

After over a year in this city, for a brief moment this morning, I felt I was turning into a permanently stressed out porteña with nervios (nerves).

I had been gathering all the necessary legal papers and supporting documents for the renewal of my passport. The matter was made complicated since I lost my second photo ID, my New South Wales driver's licence, on one of the numerous trips to the Immigration department and DNI office proving what should have been my simple claim to residency and DNI ownership. Furthermore, I am adopting my married name in this new passport.

Taking up one's married name is a common practise in Australia. Most women use their married name after marriage and the name change procedure is straight-forward and quick. Guillermo and I had our doubts about doing so here in Argentina where my DNI, if I ever get it, would be in the name of my birth certificate which is completely useless in my case. We initially thought, why make life even more difficult by introducing yet another name to the equation?

We debated the pros and cons; as we don't even know if I would get a DNI and if it would be a meaningful document, I finally made the executive decision that I am not going to change my life to suit the bureaucracy here. I have had enough of all the ineptitude around me; I'm just going to do what I would do if I were living in a normal country where authorities are capable of thinking.

This morning, however, I began panicking like a porteña facing her tramites (paperwork). Instead of my lost driver's licence, I had the option to provide a foreign ID card as my second photo ID. Since I don't have a DNI, I brought along my residency paper which has my photo. Although, I reasoned with myself that it is an adequate proof of identity, I was still seized by a mild nervousness. What if they are really strict about it having to be an ID card? How am I going to prove my identity if they reject this residency paper? The nightmares my friends went through with the Argentine authorities were sudden being played out, scene by scene, in my head.

So it was with much trepidation, I went to the Australian Embassy this morning. I went through the security doors and handed over my passport for inspection. The guard actually looked me in the eye and greeted me with "hello" and a big warm smile. I was then let through to the garden and walked up to the Embassy. I was greeted by a clerical person at the door, again very warmly. I told her the purpose of my visit and she checked completeness of my documents. I was told to wait in the lounge area where I had plenty of reading materials to keep me entertained.

Within 15 minutes, she came back to tell me that there was only one more document I needed to bring: the Libretto, my red hardcover Marriage Book. I was looking for a marriage "certificate" to bring with me so I had mistakenly took the certified copy of the master marriage ledger in the Registro Civil instead.

I suppose I had got used to anticipating silly requests from the Argentine authorities so I couldn't quite believe they just accepted my residency paper in lieu of an identity card. I asked this lady specifically if all the other papers were in order and it didn't matter that I had no DNI to show her. She smiled understandingly and patted me on my arm; she told me they understood and everything else was ok.

I came out of the Embassy, in the warmth of the sun, restored. That brief interaction filled me with hope and happiness; I feel relaxed and assured that there are still people and places that make sense.

Bill Granger's cooking shows on Travel & Living is certainly one of the most popular culinary exports from Australia. His sunny smile and friendliness relax his audience and the show is greatly enhanced by the background shots of his beachside home and the fantastic sunlight. I watch his shows and long for that different light.

This is one of his creations; a simple recipe, perfect for a casual dinner party or a mid-week treat for the family.

Steamed Banana & Honey Pudding:

100g butter
100g caster sugar
200g bananas, roughly mashed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg or to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
160g self-raising flour, sifted
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped
Foil and string
Extra honey and walnuts

Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and smooth, about 5 minutes. Beat in the bananas, vanilla and nutmeg, then slowly add the eggs, beating well (it doesn't matter if mixture curdles). Fold in flour until you have a thick batter.

Lightly butter four small ovenproof ramekins or 150ml dariole moulds and spoon a tablespoon of honey into the base of each. Add batter until moulds are three-quarters full.

Cover each mould with buttered foil and tie with string. If using the bain-marie method, cover bath with buttered foil.

Steam for 30 minutes or until springy on top. Turn out onto four warmed serving plates, drizzle with a little extra honey and scatter with walnuts.

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