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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baby Paperwork: CUIL numbers

In order to have a bank account, get a credit card, own a car, or receive any Social Security benefits in Argentina, you must have something called a CUIL (Código Único de Identificación Laboral). This is a number that includes your DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad) with two additional digits in front and one digit added at the end.

Jon and I got our CUILs through Jon's company almost immediately after we arrived in Argentina. Until we had a CUIL, Jon couldn't get paid, and we had to (pretty much) store all of our cash under a mattress in our rental apartment, so this was priority #1. After that, we haven't given much thought to this number, we rarely use them, and now that everything has been set up, hardly anyone ever needs the number.

That is, until we recently tired to book a trip to Uruguay on the Buquebus ferry. The ticketing agent at Buquebus informed me that our children were not able to travel internationally until they each had their own CUIL numbers. This was a mere five days after returning from Brazil - a trip where no one needed, or even mentioned a CUIL - though when I brought this up to the agent, he shrugged and told me that we must have broken the law. I was told that we either got the kids a CUIL number, or find another way to Uruguay. Granted, I wasn't so dead-set on getting across the river, but I figured that if this was a potential problem for future travel, we may as well get the kids their CUIL numbers.

In my research into how to get the CUIL numbers issued, I found that AFIP (the larger government organization that issues CUIL numbers) has recently issued a notification that states CUILs are no longer required for children. Clearly, Buquebus has not gotten this memo - and didn't care that I brought it to their attention. Also, laws change so quickly in this country that no one can keep the current status straight, so I wasn't going to press the issue.

First, if you may already have a CUIL, you can check your number via the ANSES website. If you don't have a CUIL, read on:

Obtaining a CUIL is pretty easy, assuming you have the correct paperwork. You need to apply in person at an ANSES office. The office closest to me is located on Cordoba 1118 (esq. Cerrito) and be aware that these offices take liberal leave for holidays, days surrounding holidays and when they are open, they are open from 8:00am - 2:00pm. You don't need an appointment, but arriving early is an advantage as there always seem to be lots of people in need of the office (similar to the DMV or Social Security Offices in the US). I arrived at 8am and walked right in. You start at a reception desk where they ask why you have come and verify that you have all of the right documents. For a CUIL you need:
  • Parent's DNI (and a copy)
  • Child's DNI (and a copy)
  • Child's Partida de Nacimiento (and a copy)
Once you have proved that you're prepared, you get a number and wait until you're called. For me, this was 25 minutes. Once called, I sat and waited for each document to be painstakingly analyzed, and at the end of the process, I had a CUIL for each of my children. All included, the process took about an hour. Luckily, the kids didn't need to be with me to have the CUIL issued, so it was easy in and out.

Not the most exciting day of my life, but at least we can rest assured that our Argentinean children can successfully apply for Social Security benefits if they happen to be living in Argentina when they retire. Maybe. If the funds are still around (snicker, snicker...).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pao de Acucar: Sugarloaf Mountain

Our last full day in Rio was spent visiting Sugarloaf, or Pao de Acucar as it is called in Portuguese. The name derives from the shape of the mountain, which is similar to the traditional shape of refined loaf sugar - which is how sugar was sold before the little cubes came to be.

Since we did alright we decided to forego the actual tour and cab it to the base of Sugarloaf mountain, a great decision considering the difference in cost and the total amount of time that we spent looking around. It seems that even the most incredible views don't keep a 2-year-old entertained for long.

There are actually two hills involved in the journey to the top, and two trolly car lines. A ticket includes passage all the way to the top and back, at a cost of $53 real for adults, $26 for children 6 - 12 years and free for those under 6.

First stop is Morro de Urca. The trolly cars are like space-aged bubbles that have 360 degree views (windows on all sides) and feel quite safe, even for the height-adverse traveler. The trip up lasts less than two minutes, and takes you 220 meters (~720 feet) up. Trams leave once every 20 minutes and the day we went there was no line to purchase tickets or to board the trolly.

At this first stop there are some great views, a little area for shopping or getting something to eat, and they have retired trolly cars on display with a bit of information from when they were used. For example, these death cars were used from 1912 until 1972. Seriously!? I'm not sure who these adventurous folks were in 1912, but it certainly wouldn't have been me.

View from the first mountain. Pretty great view of some of the beaches and the way the city is built up into the landscape:

Also, an amazing perspective of plans landing at the regional airport in Rio. There were quite a few planes that passed through while we were there, and each time the entire group of tourists stopped to shoot pictures like this one. Kind of wild to see the plane so close up while in the air.

Also seen at a great angle is the Christ the Redeemer statue. This photo, again as with the day we visited the Redeemer, looks ominous with the swirly clouds, but the statue definitely commands an audience.

The second half of the tram takes you from the top of Morro de Urca to the top of Pao de Acucar, almost 400 meters (~1,300 feet). This was where I got really nervous. Again, the trip is short, the ride is smooth and feel secure - but there is something about riding in a bubble hanging by a wire 1,000 feet above the ground that just didn't sit well with me.

We all made it to the top without incident. I'm inching my way closer to the edge here to take a picture with the kiddos. Gretchen thinks it's hilarious that I'm so nervous, and I'm basically clutching onto her in terror.

Some nice tourists offered to take a full family shot for us - our only family shot of the vacation - overlooking more of the beautiful beaches surrounding Rio.

Rio was a fantastic trip, I am so glad that we went. It was more expensive than anywhere else we have visited in South America, especially around the holidays, but I would absolutely go back and certainly recommend it as an easy trip from Buenos Aires. The beaches were far nicer than anything we've seen in Argentina though the water was rough for anyone that is not a strong swimmer. Next time, prior to visiting Brazil, I would take a crash course in Portuguese - our Spanish was of little to no help.

Obrigada, Brazil! We'll be back!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Year in Review

I missed my opportunity to do a review for 2012 so I need to interrupt the Brazil posts to give a little recap to 2013.

In short, I cannot believe that a whole year has gone by. It started with a very fast beginning to an incredibly slow middle and ended in a flash. Thus is a year with a pregnancy/new baby.

We have now lived in Argentina for over four years. We have been married five and a half years. Our family has doubled in size. Our belongings have doubled in size (or somewhere close, we'll find out whenever we pack up to move next). We are now, officially, the longest duration expats in Argentina with Jon's company.

The most important point in our year was when this little man joined our family:
He was calm, even in the moments after birth
The most tranquilo two guys I know
It took a little while, but she has gotten used to her "baby"

Alex has brought us joy and light, and every day I marvel at what an amazing little baby he is. It took a few (long) weeks, but Gretchen now seems to have fully embraced having a baby brother. Jon and I now share the joyful anticipation for our children to grow up as siblings. Playing together, entertaining each other, fighting for the same toys and lobbying for attention - all of the good and bad about having brothers and sisters that makes for fun family stories and helps you bond as a family unit. This was a very important part of both of our lives growing up moving, now we can offer to our kids as well.

Though we had some wonderful highs, 2013 was also a year of farewells. We said hasta la proxima to a number of our closest friends, an inevitability when living abroad, but difficult nonetheless.

We cannot wait to live close to these friends again.

Gretchen and Talia were separated for a few months, then caught up again on a trip to the US where we all reunited in Houston and they bonded over their shared love for Dora, drinking juice and Sapo Pepe.
Watching Dora the Explorer, a favorite pasttime

These two were (and will be again) inseparable!
Through the goodbyes, we also welcomed a number of visits from friends and family.

In March, Gretchen was doused in a week of complete lovin' by her pseudo-big-sister Genna and the rest of the Marvin clan. She followed little Teddy around like a pull toy. We joked about how they could all be siblings with their super-blue eyes and mega-blond hair. We had an absolute blast with this wonderful family.

Grammy made her 6th appearance in Argentina and Papa Mas his 4th, Gran and Poppa came back for the 6th time, and their visits this year were especially helpful since I was either pregnant or we had just had a new baby and loved the extra help.

Bathtime fun with Grammy

Taking a ride with Papa Mas
Three generations of Hokie fans
6th time's the charm - we finally visit the Rosedal with Gran and Poppa
Poppa's newest admirer
Resting on the Tigre boat with Gran
The end of 2013 also brings with it the relative certainty that we will be leaving Argentina in 2014. Without an exact date or location, we have some flexibility to do all of the "last minute" things we want to do in the country - while not being stressed by the actual work of moving. On the other hand, we are in a holding pattern until we receive news. No, we haven't heard anything. No, we don't know when we're leaving. We don't know around when. We just have to wait and see - and patience is not a virtue that either Jon or I claim to have.

It's nice to have some time to get to know our family of four before another big change is upon us. Watching each member of our family adjust to a new role is a great way to bid farewell to 2013. So for now we just sit still...

 Though before we know it, we'll be on the move again!

Happy New Year to all! Sending love from Argentina as we enjoy our last 100+ degree January for the foreseeable future!