14 August 2011

Packing Up & Winding Down

Although we knew our apartment was precious, we had thought that it would take a few months to sell. Instead, we had a contract in only a few weeks. On our return from the scouting expedition in Panamá, we were immediately faced with the task of organizing "the stuff": what was staying in the apartment, what was being shipped back by Universal Cargo (who managed our shipment into Argentina), what was being schlepped by us onto the airplane, and what was being disposed of through sales, exchanges, and outright gifting. (Our best exchange was with our friend Eduardo the wine merchant, who traded us 6 bottles of the award-winning Temple Agrario 2007 Malbec Roble produced by the Bodega de la Facultad Ciencias Agrarias in Mendoza for a portable photo printer, paper, USB cord, and extra ink cartridges.)

Fortunately, each move we have undertaken since selling the "homestead" in Austin in 2005 has been easier than the one before. We've made a lot of progress in being able to detach emotion from physical possession. Memories are easy to cart; boxes of stuff aren't and their carting requires some expenditure of cash. This time we sold just about everything with the apartment but we still have photo albums, books, clothes, a few family antiques, etc., that added up to 64 boxes/items to be hauled north to Texas. Most of these items will stay there and we'll start from scratch again in Panamá.

Just a few items . . .
In the meantime, we've been jumping through all sorts of bureaucratic hoops that go with the process of  moving internationally. Things like having a copy of our flight itinerary from Buenos Aires to the US "legalized" by a notary for submission to Argentine customs. Also our marriage certificate and the translation of it into Spanish. (More fun details in the list at left.)

Our "patrimonio personal" wrapped to go
The packing crew from Universal Cargo arrived Monday, Aug. 8, to pack up our stuff since custom regulations prohibited us from doing the packing ourselves. A few weeks previously, the UC contractor had stopped by to take photos of and information on certain art being shipped in order to secure the necessary export permits from the Cultural Ministry. Permits were needed for anything that might be considered "patrimonio nacíonal," including the painting Kurt's mom had copied of John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo. The boxes containing each permitted object were marked with a large photo of the relevant item.

Linda at the check-off
Javier, Gerardo, Kurt, Nestor, and driver
Unfortunately, we had failed to consider that a small oil done by favorite son Joey for a mother's day gift when he was about 8 also might qualify for national designation, as well as a sketch book of Kurt's from the 1970s. And then there was the issue of Linda's small collection of fossils from our old backyard in Austin. After several phone calls to the UC head office, the collective decision was for us to carry them all back on the plane. Thank goodness our frequent flyer status provides an ample baggage allowance.

The next day we scooted around the corner to our bank to close out our savings, checking, and credit card accounts. We started out in the upstairs office of the premier client section and then made our way downstairs and back up again as we progressed through the various items and actions required: multiple firmas y aclaraciónes del titular principal, the ritual of cutting the debit cards cut into two and then taping the pieces to an official form, etc. We had not considered the need to turn in all unused checks (and since we had never used any they were all there), but Linda quickly retrieved them from the apartment. These were then counted, their numbers posted on yet another official form, the actual checks officially mangled with one fell swoop of the official scissors, and the pieces formally affixed to the now quite impressive pile of account-closing papers. Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed in the bank. Pity.

The whole ceremony took almost two hours, with the last 20 minutes devoted to a simmering discussion between Linda and one Julieta Bonocore, the new premier account manager, about 34 pesos that was due us from the checking account. Other clients waiting to be attended were attracted to the debate, which boiled down to whether a credit of 165 pesos was adequate to compensate for an erroneous service charge of 199 pesos. Linda insisted that a mis-debit of 199 pesos required offset with a credit of 199 pesos. (Head-nodding in the crowd.) Perhaps the bank had overcredited the account before, thus justifying the lower amount, suggested the manager. (Head-shaking from the observers.) Perhaps you can show me where that presumed overcredit occurred in the history of this account that you have displayed on your computer screen, countered Linda. At this point, it was the principle of the thing, not the value. In the end, Linda got her pesos. An unfortunate goodbye to an institution where we had previously enjoyed excellent customer service.
Julian y Lore

Later that evening, we headed to one of our old-time favorite restaurants, Don Battaglia on Scalabrini Ortiz (esquina con Castillo), which offers a unique salad bar with everything from plain lettuce to tabouli and Ensalada Belén (an Armenian dish we first encountered here). Accompanying us were Lore, our Mexican "daughter" for whom we are "los padres gringos" and her novio Julian. The day ended on a happy note.

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