Monday, June 10, 2013

What Is It You Do Here, Exactly?

Note: If you're just joining us, the residency process sort of began here, continued here, gets slightly awkward here and now you should be caught up.

At the end of our first visit to the immigration office, we were told to return in two weeks when our medical results would be ready.
Two weeks passed. Josh called.
"Bring your passport and the medical exam receipt."

Two hour bus ride, metro ride, ten-block walk and we arrived on a Wednesday morning. In the two+ weeks that we were gone, they put numbers on more of the windows and installed microphones with speakers at each. I was sincerely impressed at the improvements.
Josh went to the information desk and asked where we needed to go. After listening to two employees chat about their night out, they eventually deemed him worthy of attention. "Go to window #1."

"Hi. We were told to return two weeks after our medical exam. Here we are!" we told Window#1 Lady.
"To get your results, you need to go to room #4, down that hallway."
We were stopped by the uniformed door guard at the hallway and told to go to the information desk for a clip-on pass. Back at that desk, ChattyIgnorer asked for our passports. We passed them through the window slot and she handed us two clip-on passes, then rubber-banded our passports together and set them down next to her.
"Ummm... don't we need those?" Josh asked.
"Yes," ChattyIgnorer said.
"So, can we have them back?"
"No. Unless you want to give me something else."
This was the moment. In all our frustration at the uselessness of our blessed passport cards, they were finally going to be accepted and have a clear purpose: to get clip-on passes and gain access to the hallway!

We met the guard again and flashed our clip-ons. Success! We easily found room #4 and another window clearly labeled "Medical Results". That was easy. Mostly.
Josh handed over our medical exam receipts. The two women looked at them, handed them back, then told us to go to a different window, outside the hallway.
Hold the phone. I was confused. Again. Due to my immense confusion, things get fuzzy here, like trying to recount a dream right after waking up.
Since we'd just been to any number of windows, each of which told us to go to a different window without having done anything for us per se, I had reached my window-hopping quota for the morning. I needed some clarity before I was willing to go dutifully to the next place. After all, we were here for our medical results and the window was clearly labeled such.
My struggle for clarity and the two women repeating the same jumbled message followed by, "Go out to the numberless window," repeated itself several times.
Then I finally asked:
"What is it you do here, exactly?"
Except I think it sounded more like, "You're quite useless, aren't you?"
And what I meant to say was, "Have I completed what I needed to at the window and why don't I have medical results in my hands?"
Both ladies immediately put on their fighting faces and Josh gently pulled at my forearm indicating I had done something quite idiotic and should stop. Immediately.

When we'd successfully fled, Josh told me, "You can't mess with people here like that. We'll be screwed."
Duly noted.
We headed to the numberless window.
"Hi. We were told to return two weeks after our medical exam. Here we are!"
"Your papers," the numberless window lady didn't look too happy. She was like a Sneetch without a star. No number on her window. No star on her belly.
We passed our passports and exam receipts through her little window slot.
"No, your papers," she repeated, now visibly irritated.
We shrugged, "Which papers?"
"No, no, no, no. You're not ready," she looked passed us and waved to the next person in line.
We stood our ground. She was now full on angry.
"The papers from the list?" I asked.
AngryFace at the numberless window then gave a slight nod.
We smiled, "Oh. We already turned those in."
"At window #1 when we got our medical exams a couple weeks ago," we pointed to the window.
Perhaps we shouldn't have mentioned a window with a number.
"I need them," AngryFace was quite stern.
"Sorry, I thought we only had to turn them in once," I responded (not mentioning that the Consulate had already asked for and approved all those papers when they issued our temporary visa). But I should have just walked away. I think that may have upset her delicate angry-face meter.
Having only brought what we thought necessary--a total rookie mistake--we didn't have the stack of papers with us. They were all back home in San Francisco.
We went to the Window #1 line.
"Hi! Remember us? So, you know those papers we turned in a few weeks ago? Can we have them back?"
Long story somewhat shorter: They don't keep those around. My guess is those papers we spent so much time gathering, sorting and caring for are now rotting in a landfill somewhere.

In times of defeat, Josh has a nasty habit of turning to fast food to nurse his wounds. I like to make a check on my to-do list to squeeze some kind of productivity out of day otherwise lost.
So, we went to a big store to buy some stickers I needed for cataloguing books, which ended in another dead end. So, we both enjoyed something only available in the capital: Wendy's.
We ordered everything with bacon.

I do not recommend government employees behind numberless windows. I do recommend Wendy's blackberry milkshakes.


  1. always. ALWAYS. carry all of the papers. with 5 copies of each. and three extra manila folders.

    1. Mel, A rookie mistake indeed. I may bring our dentist with us next time, just to be sure. And maybe our parents.

    2. Happy to come. Send (more) money for ticket. Signed: (Yr progenitor)

  2. OUR Wendy's doesn't have blackberry milkshakes!

    1. What?! 'Tis settled then. You must come and join us on one of our immigration office excursions. We are sure to have more of those.