Tuesday, Oct 11th, was a big, nay huge, day for us: La Casa arrived!
From a distance and/or from a 30,000 ft perspective, the arrival of a pickup truck with a camper isn’t that big of a deal. However, for us, la casa is our home; maybe even more than our home: la casa is our known, and our own, territory in a foreign land. Now Buenos Aires isn’t really that foreign, but after 3 weeks, we wanted to sleep in our own bed, surrounded by our own stuff.
We also had some nightmares about what was happening to our casa: inebriated, irresponsible drivers crashing it into the side of the ship, or trying to drive a 9.1 foot tall vehicle onto a 9 foot tall deck at speed; sailors having drunken orgies inside the camper, dancing around a bonfire made from our cabinets. You get the idea.
So when we saw our casa arrive, and saw that it was undamaged, my, and I think Karen’s, relief was deep and powerful. Not sure I’ve ever felt so much joy from touching a vehicle.
(Pero means “but” in Spanish. My first Spanish teacher in BaAs, Daniel, taught me “pero”. He also taught me that in Argentina, there is never, ever, a straightforward answer or story. Every answer or story has a pero…).
Pero, it was a frustrating process getting the casa released from the port. Karen points out that frustrating may be the wrong word. And she’s right. The process was not that frustrating, as we were mentally prepared for a loooong day. More that the process was exasperating due to the utter waste of time it was. Now, those of you who are faithful readers, and remember the post on buying a GPS, can stop reading here; the stories are very similar.
Karen and I were picked up by Oscar – the world’s most patient man, more on him later – from our apartment in BsAs at 7.00 on Tuesday morning. Kudos to Oscar and the company he works for – BTG: 7.00 am is seriously early in BsAs. On our way to the port of Zarate, we also picked up Laura, who is the BTG person we have been dealing with via email, and in BsAs in person, on paperwork issues related to clearing the casa, and liability insurance. Laura has been very good to work with: straightforward, detail oriented and quick to respond. Highly recommended.
We arrived at the port of Zarate at 8.45. While Zarate is no Hong Kong, it’s a decent sized port, specializing in roll-on / roll-off cargo. E.g. the ship carrying our casa can carry 3,000 cars, not too shabby.
And there are acres and acres of cars and trucks parked in the secured areas of the port, and car hauling trucks are going in and out of the port every 30 seconds or so. So, sizable port, specializing in importing cars and trucks. This should be easy.
Except for the fact that when it comes to handling personal vehicles that are being imported on a temporary basis, there is one, 1, una, person, in the whole customs office dedicated to the port, who can enter the data related to the car into the computer system that customs uses. One. Without this information, customs doesn’t know that our casa exists, and hence cannot release it from the port.
May I be so bold here as to mention that the information to be entered by this one person, is information that Laura has already provided to them, e.g. bill of lading number, VIN number, passport number, etc. And that the information to be entered by this one person could have been entered two weeks ago. The information hasn’t changed while the boat was making its way to Zarate. But I digress.
The point here is that there is one person who can enter the information, but on Tuesdays, she starts late. Say around 10.30 to 11.00
So we wait.
While we are waiting, Oscar is on the phone almost constantly ensuring that our paperwork will be on top of her pile when she does show up; that our paperwork is complete, which is checked by another person; and that once the information has been entered, that a custom’s official is lined up to inspect the casa; and that someone is lined up to drive the casa from deep inside the secured port to where we are waiting for it.
While Oscar is on the phone, I am mainly pacing outside, while Karen and Laura wait inside the customs offices.
At 11.30, we receive the news that the information was entered. Exciting. Now that the casa exists in the port cyberworld, Oscar is trying to find the customs official who is going to inspect it, and he’s trying to figure out whether they will need to open the camper, which they, the customs folks, don’t have keys to, they only have keys to the truck.
I continue to pace outside.
At 12.30, major activity. The customs official has decided that our casa won’t be inspected at all: it’s been cleared! Quickly we all get in Oscar’s car and drive the 400 yards to where the casa is going to be delivered. Karen, Laura, and I have to get out of the car to wait outside the secured area, while Oscar, who has clearance from the port, enters the secured area to present the customs release to the folks who will drive the case from inside the secured zone to where we are anxiously waiting.
When it comes to driving personal vehicles that are being imported on a temporary basis, there is one, 1, una, person, in the whole port, who can drive the vehicle. One. Sound familiar?
And he’s at lunch. Until 2.00.
So we wait.
Oscar returns from the secured area and works the phone to ensure that we will get priority after lunch. Karen and Laura wait in the shade. I pace outside.
Finally, at 2.15, Oscar connects with the driver, goes back inside the secured area, presents the paperwork, and after 7 ½ hours, guesswise 20 phone calls from Oscar, and 8 minutes of actual work from port and custom’s officials, our casa shows up.
Oscar does this for a living and is probably quite good at it; he connects well with people and has the patience of a saint.
Laura did a good job of prepping the paper work and ensuring that we would not be held up by missing papers at the port. (BTW, she noted that if we had shipped to the port of BsAs itself, the process likely would have taken three (3) days instead of 7 ½ hours). Oscar, Laura, and BTG are highly recommended.
Karen talked with Laura a great deal, did not get stressed, and read for a few hours.
I controlled my exasperation well, and spent hours pacing outside. And acquired what we now call a custom(s) tan.