Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pees and Thank You

"Just put it on the stack," commanding woman in a white uniform directed my eyes above her.
Ever-so-gently, I reached above her head to a shelf full of clear plastic containers stacked three high--each a smidge over half full of yellow liquid.
Yeah, it's what you think. Me & all my fellow-immigrants' pee, teetering above her head. I'm guessing there'd been 40 or 50 urinators before me that day.
"Sit," she demanded, pointing to a student desk behind her.
I sat.
As my blood filled her vials, I felt somewhat woozy. It was 3 pm and I hadn't eaten yet that day. I imagined falling off the chair, knocking the CommanderNurse back into her tiny desk and both of us being soaked in gallons of immigrant pee, thereby sealing the deal: No way, lady. You must leave the country immediately. Thankfully, I kept my cool and headed to the last task of a long, long day: the chest x-ray. 
X-Ray Tech was bordering x-rated as he told dirty jokes in the waiting room while we waited for ever-more paperwork. The mood was light though, and I was light-headed. At least he was jolly. 
Having read that we'd be peeing in a cup whilst someone watched (not true), I wore a dress and leggings thinking I'd be mostly covered during the process. CommanderNurse had no desire to watch me change the canary's water, so my attire was made moot. And then worked against me with XRated. 

"Take everything off above the waist, and put this on," XRated tossed me what I thought was a gown. Until I stripped down to my leggings. The "gown" was a square pillow case with holes for my arms & head. It was so short, in fact, you could almost see my belly-button. Pants would have been the better option as nothing was covering me below my waist except for some slightly-sheer leggings. You could see a bit through the pillow case too, I'm quite certain. I'd probably be a bit x-rated myself if that was my day to day. Or perhaps its all that radiation. So much for planned modesty.

After Caribe Tours brought us most of the way, we then took the subway.
It is awesome. 
We may love public transit a bit too much.
Erika, Zora, Max & me are super excited.
At each station they have a "Compumetro" which has computers and a mini-library.
How cool is that?! See those books on the shelf behind us?
Our day ended with a very late lunch and ice cream with someone Josh & I absolutely adore. He is a wonder, from his big heart to his ever-present giggle. Sorry singletons, he is spoken for by someone every bit as marvelous.

For those of you who want the nitty-gritty details, since they aren't published anywhere that makes a great deal of sense at the moment, I offer the following:

After getting the provisional visa which expires two months after issuing from the Dominican consulate in your "country of origin", the Dominican government website says the next step is to go to the immigration office in Santo Domingo and ask what to do next. Love that. We just brought everything that was asked for by the Dominican Consulate in the US and anything else that looked official. We didn't have our dental records. Thank goodness they didn't ask for those.

This is what we did at the immigration office (mind you it wasn't this straight-forward, since we asked an average of 3 people each time we did anything):

1. Go to window #1. Note that only windows #5-11 are marked and there are more than four windows to the left of #5. Just go to the window that is all the way to the left. People will push past you, this is normal. Should you decide to use your elbows, that is between you and your own moral compass--though I doubt it will actually make the process go faster.

2. Once at the window, you will receive a small slip of paper:
Residency Request
2 Copies Face Passport
2 Copies Residency Visa
1 Copy of Apostilled Birth Certificate
(If you have not made enough copies of said documents, they kindly offer that service. We used it, happily.)

3. Once you have all your documents together, go back to window #1 (though if you're reading this, I sure hope you skipped step #2). There, the kind, soft-spoken woman behind the glass will shuffle your papers, circle different things, staple some things and put a big paper clip on them. Then she'll rubber-band it all together and hand it to another woman. This other woman is rarely at her post. She smiles often and walks back and forth between different offices. She is clearly very busy, but enjoying it. Then SoftSpeaker will tell you to go and wait for your name to be called. She'll repeat herself a couple times for you because the likelihood is (like me), you're an immigrant, Spanish is not your first language, she speaks softly and its near impossible to hear her behind the thick glass which doesn't have a handy hole for talking like others you've seen in similar situations.

4. You wait. And wait. And wait some more. Bring a book. I'm currently reading this and you can borrow it from our library if you like (we have a good number of options, actually).
Then you'll notice that no names are being called. There isn't actually a speaker of any kind. Hmmm.
I'll spare you the details, but there is a lot of back-n-forth, asking random people (who you've seen there for about the same amount of time) and discovering more information. Its like detective work. What fun! Most of the people there are lawyers who are there on their clients' behalf. I met five of them. If you have enough money and aren't one for adventure, definitely go for this option. We don't exactly fit into that category.

5. Eventually one of the times you show your face at the counter, just lounging about on another round of asking questions & schmoozing with lawyers in full polyester--SoftSpeaker catches your eye and waves your rubber-banded passport + documents at you. This means that your name is being called. Note: You will hear nothing.

6. Then you pay the equivalent of your month's rent. I forked over the cash (DR$4500 per adult-type-person) and got a stamped receipt in return. SoftSpeaker then gave me a lot of instructions, about 20% of which I heard and understood. What I did get was that we HAD to complete the medical stuff that same day and they were closing soon.

One page of very helpful information posted at the window (otherwise there is little to no text visible in the building):

7. Don't have to tell me twice, we hopped in a taxi and headed to the medical offices. We passed by the nicer looking ones and went straight to the government looking ones, if you know what I mean. There is some more waiting to do there, though not nearly as much likely thanks to CommanderNurse's efficiency, albeit it abrupt.

8. You then keep every slip of paper you've been given and guard it with your life. In about two weeks you return to the immigration office. I'll let you know what happens. We've been told we can call ahead of time to see if our results are in, but I'm a bit skeptical. 

9. Wrap-up: Plan for this to take a whole day. We left our village at 7:30 am and didn't get home until 9 pm. To be fair, we stopped for ice cream. 

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