Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A treatise on the lust for efficiency, bureacratic idiocy, psychological torture and questioning your last, greatest major life decision (Part I)

The Censo fiasco was so degrading and soul crushing that I almost had the thought that maybe we had made the wrong decision to come here to Ecuador. Part of the problem was that it was very early in our time here, within the first two weeks. All the vim and vigor we arrived with was slowly drained over the 8 day ordeal. All the idealism about how wonderful things would be was promptly balanced with a healthy dose of reality. Some things like say governmental bureaucracy, move excruciatingly slow. This is just one account. We know there are hundreds if not thousands like it because we saw a lot of the same tired, sad faces everyday. Sylvie, after living here for four years until 2001, knows something about how things work Ecuador. And even she was stunned and pushed to the point of tears by the events that I am about to recount.

Pre Game Warm Up:

A few days after arriving in Quito, Sylvie and I decide it's time to do our civic duty and register for the Censo. The Censo, in it’s physical form, is a glorified fake ID that could be made at any check cashing place in the time it takes you to buy a pack of bus tokens. However, it represents a very important process for the Ecuadorian government, the registration of foreigners on beloved Ecuadorian soil. It is, literally, the Census of “extranjeros” or foreigners. The relevance of this process has dramatically increased since Sylvie’s time in Ecuador due to the influx of Columbians coming to the country over the past few years. Columbians are considered dangerous by many Ecuadorians. They drain the resources of the country according to some. And, of course, they are seen as criminals by many citizens. For me, it’s comforting to know that I can apply the xenophobic arguments I learned at home here in Ecuador. Nationalistic attitudes regarding foreigners translate perfectly here, as in the most of the world. Well, poor foreigners anyway. Ecuador also has 110 voltage. It’s like hand in glove over here.

So, being the responsible people we are, Sylvie and I find out about the process for getting a Censo. First we talk to our friends Martha and Ramiro who advise us to go over to the office one afternoon to get the list of requirements. On this brilliant, time-saving suggestion, we act. The next afternoon, a Friday, we head over to the office and grab the list of requirements for the Censo provided to us at the Information Desk on cut up scraps of paper. Sylvie inquires, since I can’t, with one of the ladies behind the desk to make sure there is nothing else we need. She likes to double check things like this. She is assured that that is it. Apparently, all we have to do is bring copies of our passports, 2 pictures each, 2 envelopes for their record keeping, a letter from our hosts Martha and Ramiro verifying that we live with them and copies of their national ID cards (also known as the cedula). Follow these few simple steps and show up at 6:30 in the morning to get the ticket which will determine the order in which we are served on that day. Simple.


5 comments:

mdcphilly said...

So Umi, I feel your pain. After finishing my second year in Ecuador, two weeks prior to leaving, I realized that my cedula (I believe) had expired. I had to go wait in line and pay a fine, and pay for a new cedula, all to make sure that when I came home to the US, I won't be detained--something of which I was terrified at the time.

Well, after six or seven hours was invested in the process between traveling and waiting for lunch breaks to end and just inane bureaucratic b.s., when I walked through aduanas (customs) to go to my airplane, no one even looked at the date on my cedula. Now, that is Ecuador for you!

Umi said...

Mike, no offense, but I haven't even begun. Feel my pain at the end of this 5 or 6 part series.

mdcphilly said...

Okay, I'll save more bureaucratic horror stories until after you've gotten a few more chapters written. ;)

Or better yet, did you take the eight hour bus overnight from Quito to the Coast yet with all the drunk passengers? This is going to be one great blog once you experience more that Ecuador has to offer.

By the way, if you want some great Ecuador stories, read Moritz Thompsen--my favorite author ever!

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