Well, today, we woke up fairly early, yet not as early as the day we arrived to immigration at 6:30 a.m. so we would be first to present our documents for our residency visa, and ended up third, and it still took six hours. We hopped the bus, hoping to get there at a reasonable time to get in and out. WRONG! First of all, we hopped the wrong bus, and we ended up on the longest 25 cent ride all the way to the opposite end of town. We laughed all the way realizing we were going the wrong way, and by the time this bus powered up some deathly narrow winding roads to the end of the line where lots of buses were parked and bus drivers taking their breaks, we were on top of a hill looking down over the city, far far away from the immigration office. I asked Sr. Bus Driver what bus would get us back to immigration, and he said, "just take one of these buses out and it will get you there!" of course, we've learned not to believe anything we're told here until it pans out to be true.
So, we reluctantly boarded one of the same buses ready to leave from the break area, and we white-knuckled it back down the narrow winding streets until we were eventually in familiar territory, and this bus did finally stop in front of the immigration office. We were now over an hour longer than expected to our destination due to our unplanned and unexpected bus joy ride, which would have been perfectly fine and actually fun any other day, but not this day of dreaded and expected waiting and more waiting.
That's just what we did - WAIT! From 10:15 am to almost noon, we waited. There were so many people sitting ahead of us, and it looked like it would take all day. I was able to make our presence familiar by kindly asking the security guard in Spanish two different times for clarification as to their confusing procedure and for an understanding as to how we would know when our turn would come since there was no number system or rhyme nor reason as to how they were calling names. He assured me that he would know exactly when our turn was (yea, right!). Well, he finally did look directly at us and motioned us forward, almost two hours later. I was actually grateful since I had convinced myself it was going to be late afternoon before they got to us today, or not at all!
We were called into a back office, and a nice gentleman who spoke very little English motioned for us to sit and immediately let us know his English was "limitado." He lit up when I told him I could communicate in Spanish, so we connected, somewhat. He asked to see our passports, and as he acted interested in them, I spoke in Spanish saying, "Can I please share with you some history?" He invited me to continue. I began to tell him that we had arrived the week prior to submit our documents for our residency visa but without the absolutely required Movemiento Migratorio form since the entire country was out (not our fault), and that because of translation errors (not our fault) and not having that required form, they had denied us and now required a new marriage certificate which they claimed was expired by ONE DAY! He appeared surprised and questioned me, "By one day they denied your document?" I continued to describe to him the ordeal we had to go through to obtain another apostilled license from Oregon and the unexpected expense of another $170. I also told him that now we had limited time because our passports would expired here on March 4th.
He suddenly picks up the phone, calls over one of his associates, and when she appears he begins to relay my documents story and questions her. He asks her why our marriage certificate was denied because of one day. She ignores his question (of course) and proceeds to tell him that we still have time to get our translations corrected and get back to the office the following week and that we do not need to apply for the passport extension because they are now accepting visa applications WITHOUT the Movemiento Migratorio form. Gee, another new change since we were last in only a week ago!!! Well, he tries to convince us that we have time just like his sidekick said, and he now appears to be done with us. Well, Bo's not buying it!! (Bo understand some Spanish and is now concerned that while Sr. Passport Extension Giver may say this now, someone else may say something contrary in the future.) So, I begin to share Bo's concerns, and suddenly, the senior tells me okay, he can proceed and give us an extension but we cannot apply for the 12-X for $30 each, we have to apply for the 12-1X $230 plus $30 visa extensions because of how our passports are stamped.
Immediately, I begin to sink. I'm suddenly feeling very shaky and NOT HAPPY! When I'm not happy, I sometimes cry. Well, I suddenly feel the floodgate of tears begin to open. I'm thinking, "Don't! Not here! Not a good thing, Linda... Get a grip!" but, I'm toast. I'm done. I decide I cannot speak another Spanish begging sentence. No more trying. I'm suddenly defeated! We don't have $230 with us (we don't walk around with large amounts of cash, and everything here is cash!). We don't have the application letter we just presented filled out for a 12-1X. We don't want to dish out another $260 dollars that is so unnecessary because it wasn't our fault they ran out of their bloody forms, and it wasn't our fault that our marriage license expired (another "relocation not-so-helper" story), and it wasn't our fault that all of our documents were denied because they changed the rules again and now required that every page had to be signed by the translator, not just the last page, amongst other errors that our "relocation not-so-helper" should have proofed and caught and been updated on - and on and on. We're both willing to take responsibility when we're the cause of things going south or even part of the cause, but now I'm ready to explode in every emotion I've been holding in, AND I DO! - tears are welling up and begin to trickle ... GOD HELP ME...... I'M GETTING OUT OF CONTROL. Sr. Passport Extension Giver is looking right at me and is suddenly leaning forward as if to want to help me calm down. I try to talk, but I have to stop. He patiently waits. I finally get out, "Senior, I'm frustrated and struggling here with this process......"
I begin to slowly speak between my blurry eyes and quivering lip, "Senior, Please! My husband has concerns. We cannot be sure that our marriage certificate will even arrive with the mail the way it is here. We cannot be sure we will have our translations done and ready and even approved again. We cannot be sure we will be accepted the second time in, nor if we can even make it in before two weeks. We are cutting it close. And we don't have $230 with us." Now, Sr. Passport Extension Giver looks truly concerned and calmly tells me, "It's okay. Don't worry." He repeats a Spanish saying, "There is no problem in life we cannot solve unless we are dead." I smile between blurred eyes. He immediately says, "I am going to help you. I am going to give you the 12-X and charge you only $60. Come in with your corrected documents as soon as you can and apply for your visa. If you are accepted before March 3rd, come and see me and I will go ahead and cancel your passport extension stamp appointment which I've scheduled for March 4th at 11 a.m." (Wait! That's my birthday - like I want to go to the immigration office on MY BIRTHDAY - NOT!) Even though he didn't say he'd return our $60 but only that he'd cancel the extension process, we knew we had suddenly received FAVOR! We were both grateful for the sudden turn of events and to be given more time should anything cause more visa approval delays. A big "time" weight off our shoulders.
Within 30 minutes we had completed the forms to have our passport 12-X extension application processed, had our passport photos taken, had paid our $60, and I had gained control of my teary emotions. Men get angry and women cry (yeah, yeah, I know some women wouldn't shed a tear - well I ain't one of 'em). Bo and I walked out of there, his inner anger calmed and my outer tears dried, and we hugged and let out sighs of gratitude. What a draining process this has been. We both felt relieved that we now have until end of May to continue the visa process, of course we're hoping we will have our documents accepted a lot sooner than that.
We returned home and received notice that our marriage certificates have arrived at the DHL Cuenca office, and they will be delivering them tomorrow. We hope to have our document translations corrected in the next week, and onward we march to our next immigration visa attempt, a bit more informed and a bit more seasoned.
I share this story of our visa journey not to discourage anyone, but to share our personal experience so that those who go through the application process swimmingly will be grateful and glory in their successful experience. For those who encounter some roadblocks, don't be discouraged. Many others have also, but in the end they too have prevailed. This is what gives us the determination to continue. It will be the end victory that will make it all worth it.
Thank you prayer warriors for continuing to remember us. May you continue to see His perfect answers as you read the updates.
Historic Downtown Cuenca