Friday, June 28, 2013

We're Legal! -- by Josh

Well, for 30 more days anyhow.
That's how I broke the news of today's not completely unsuccessful trip to the immigration office.  Rebecca had wisely suggested that I go by myself since we'd last been told that all we needed was a boatload of copies and a payment of $40 to make our visas current.
You see, we arrived back to lovely Hispaniola in April, at which time we immediately started the next step for temporary residency.  Nevermind the fact that we had in our passports a visa good until June 7th, our overstaying fee was calculated from our entry in April.  It's fascinating to have the people in the immigration office repeatedly comment on how useless and unnecessary our residency visas are.  The pride that I once got from apparently knowing more about the new Dominican immigration law than the woman in charge is not quite so heartening now.
As you know, we were previously told that all was well. Our dear friend had looked through all of our papers, consulted a co-worker and made a list of all the copies we needed to make, clearly implying that we were on the verge of the next step, whatever that is.
So, I had made my way back to la migra, gazing at the tranquil azure waters that stretch off into the southern horizon.  The absolute highlight of visiting the immigration office is its location, right on the malecon.  It's great to walk out the subway, stroll down the avenue past the main government buildings and monument to the republic's heroes, then there it is: the Caribbean Sea.
This was a pretty calm day. I prefer the slightly stormy days, wit h the undulating waves and mix of greens and blues.
I like to gaze at the rolling waves and swaying coconut palms as I stand in line, generally for hours.  I'm often reminded of a Soviet torture tactic I heard about on the History Channel.  In order to stay true to international agreements, they came up with something that was technically not torture: the prisoner would be forced to stand, and after a couple of days of excruciating pain, their legs would fall apart inside because of the body's own weight.
This time, however, the wait was quite short and I even got to sit down as homegirl went and took a snack break.  I really don't blame her or any of the other employees for being in bad moods.  The crowds there, particularly large of late, are not terribly happy or polite either and the employees have to work until three in the afternoon now with no apparent lunch break, unthinkable!
Anyhow, she eventually came back and I slid my two folders through her window: one of the 132 requested copies, one with the originals.  "Where are the originals?" she asks.  I point to the folder in front of her and she starts to go through everything again.
"Where's her original birth certificate?" she demands, pointing to the translated copy.
"It was attached with a paper clip to that translation," I reply, and as she went back to flipping through our documents I went to my happy place.  You see, if I stare straight into the white paper sign on her window, I can be transported to another world. With the reflection, I'm allowed a view of the crystal Caribbean and I feel my shoulders relax and I can breathe easy, even as I keep a peripheral eye on what she's doing behind the safety glass.

See the white sheet of paper, next to the guy's head, on the "Numberless Window".
Long story short: All of our translations are useless, we have to get a new guarantor letter (and possibly a new guarantor) and even after we manage to miraculously get everything accepted by her, it apparently takes another three months for the folks who work behind her to determine we're not a threat to the Dominican nation.
It was at about this point that I actually turned to get a full view of the sea, take a deep breath, and say thank you to homegirl.  After all, she was making it exceedingly clear.  It was like being told by a girl you've got a crush on that, really truly, you'll only ever be friends.  You can look back and see the mixed signals, but none of it matters anyway.  So, that beautiful clarity can let us breathe and realize that this will not be something we can rush, so we should just take our time and not stress ourselves out.

I found a happy place!

Just as I was walking away from the window, shoving my many folders back into the backpack, Rebecca rang.  "We're legal!" I told her, giggling at my little joke.  Then I strode outside, walked across the street and found a happy place.

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