Friday, August 18, 2006

Turn Back! Bureaucrats At Work!

Guillermo is taking almost the whole Friday off to deal with tramites (paperwork). He needs to change his domicilio (residential address) at our local Centro de Gestion y Participation* (similar to a municipality office) on Junin; try to renew his passport in Microcentro (Downtown); then pay and obtain an endorsement from the College of Public Translators for the legal translation of our marriage certificate for my Australian passport renewal. For anyone who has dealt with Argentine bureaucracy in person, this plan is ambitious; if he comes home with two out of the three done, he is very lucky.

I had previously reported on the ridiculous going-on between the Immigration Department and the DNI Office in the case of a friend's DNI application (Pay Peanuts Get Monkeys). This DNI saga of Zoe, my friend from Hong Kong, has come to a grinding halt. She has given up on her application; she has legal residency but no identity card.

After two years of shuttling between different departments, enduring all those low-level bureaucrats' irrelevant questions and probing while watching them shuffle papers, she has finally had enough of this farce of a government.

The only reason for getting the DNI for her is to enrol in an MBA course here at residents' rate. She plans to take her residency papers to the enrolment office and hopefully the registration officer at the university would be more capable of lateral thinking than the government clerks.

I wish Zoe all the best in this process, especially after all her frustrations but I am sceptical whether the university is going to be any different...

Another friend of mine, who has a master degree in social works from the UK, was enquiring about a nursing course offered by the UBA. The administration officer asked her to show a high school certificate. In Scotland, where this friend is originally from, no high school certificate was issued in her days. She had her set of final exam results which enabled her to complete her matriculation years and then on to university.

The administration officer could not understand that systemic differences between countries are, indeed, possible and refused to recognise her post-graduate qualifications. As far as this officer is concerned, my friend did not finish high school. It looks like she is going to give up the idea of further education in this country.

When I listen to experiences such as these, I feel almost paralysed with sadness. How could a country function at this level? What kind of future would it enjoy if there is no evidence of lateral thinking even in the most basic issues?

These are just a few aspects of the country and the culture that tourists and those career expats would probably never hear of, let alone experience. To them, the quality of life is great and the people laid back – "so unlike back home..." These folks probably are reluctant to recognise that they are enjoying all the advantages of relativity in social and economic developments between their country and this spectacular failure. Further, it may not occur to them the casual "siempre mañana" (always tomorrow) attitude maybe a sign of resignation in the people. When a crisis, in one form or another, rolls around every decade or so, relaxation is probably the only way of self-preservation.

I think I am beginning to adopt the same shrug of the shoulders and the "siempre mañana" survival techniques. There isn't much point in dwelling on the problems because they are not going away, no, not anywhere anytime soon. I might as well just focus on how to boost my iron intake in the next few months.

Guinness is full of vitamins and minerals, especially iron and the Bs. Once it has been baked, the alcohol cooks off so this aromatic cake provides the perfect excuse of having a treat. The cake is extremely moist with a rich and intense flavour, excellent for this cold and damp winter weather.

Guinness stout ginger cake:

1 cup Guinness stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 tbsp baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp grated, peeled fresh gingerroot
Pre heat the oven to 180C. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment.

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.

Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
* Guillermo was redirected by the clerk at Centro de Gestion y Participation to the Registro Civil (Civil Registry) in the end, adding another couple of hours to the whole process.

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