Day 2 (the Following Monday)
We arrive at the Dirección de Extranjería at 8:30 in the morning. This is where we’ve been told to go in order to register our visas. We wait in line outside for a few minutes, and then are let inside. It’s a small waiting room filled with maybe 25 people. Not bad in comparison to the hundred or so at the Registro Migratorio. We wait patiently for a couple hours until it’s our turn: We’re called, and go sit at the desk. Behind it, is an unfriendly civilian administrator. He takes our information and says it’s correct. He tells us to go to the Banco Internacional, several blocks away, to pay $20 for the process, and then come back to submit them to the man who collects the proof of payment. Unfortunately, the official who collects the deposit receipts is not in yet. He worked the presidential election on the day before and hadn’t yet shown up to work. According to policy, he was permitted to take the day off since he had worked Sunday, but they weren’t sure if he was coming or not. So far, they hadn’t heard from him. (Note: when a government worker in
Day 3 (Tuesday)
We show up at 8:30 in the morning at the Direccion de Extranjería. We sit. We wait. At this point, I‘ve begun bringing my homework from my Spanish class. It helps pass the time. Sylvie’s got a book. Humans are highly evolved in their ability to adapt to harsh environments. We get called. We go up. We give our receipt and leave our passports so that the guy can give the Director our passports to sign later in the day. You may have thought it would be signed right there and then. You’d be wrong. Things don’t work like that here. If you’re not waiting, it ain’t right. We are given a slip telling us to come back in 2 days to pick up the passports. We leave.
Day 4 (Day of rest)
Day 5 (Thursday)
We return at the time indicated on our slip of paper. We are told when we enter the now familiar waiting room that the person who signs the passports never showed up yesterday and is not there now. And furthermore, they don’t know when she’s gonna show up. At some point, the person who signs the passports turned from a man into a woman. Maybe they were away from the office for several days getting their sex change. I have no idea since I never saw the person. Dealing with this latest frustration, Sylvie and I retreat to the mall. Over the past couple days we have made other failed attempts to complete other “tramites” (tramites are errands like the one chronicled here that involve waiting and bureaucracy). The biggest obstacle, of course, being our no having a censo. We go back to the office. People who are waiting there are sitting on steps, standing, buzzing with chit chat and indignation. The “woman” still has not shown her face. I have to leave for class since it’s damn near 1:00pm (my class starts at 1:30…). Sylvie is a soldier, and since she has no choice, she waits. A Cuban woman is talking ceaselessly about her son, her family, his life and other stories that have no impact on anyone there except to help pass the time. Sylvie waits until 3:30. At that time, the “woman” shows up and is met by the angry mob. She announces abruptly that she can not help everyone and that people are going to have to come back tomorrow. The crowd begins to howl and boo and pull out pieces of rope. Sylvie, according to herself, begins to demand service for everyone saying that they were all promised that they would be helped, and have waited the entire day based on this promise. The woman backs down saying “she’ll do what she can”. People get helped, including Sylvie.