On April 26th, Friday, Bo received e-mail notification from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores that our documents were finalized and we were to report to the immigration office on Thursday, May 2nd at 12 noon. Because we had applied for an investment visa residency, we would have to first pick up our original CD certificate from the immigration office and take it to the Banco Central Del Ecuador and have it registered. We were then scheduled to return to immigration between 2 and 4 pm, and then they would finalize our visa stamps in our passports.
Of course, we hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. After all, this hasn't been the smoothest process for us, but what else could go wrong to delay what we have been so long waiting for? We grabbed our original passports, $640 cash ($320 each) for our final visa payment, and hopped a bus to immigration. At approximately 12:15 pm they called Bo's name, and we were at the front counter (like old times). This time, we were given our CD certificate and two other forms and told to take them down to El Banco Central and someone would help us there. I specifically asked, "Are there any other forms or information we need to provide to them or just these papers?" I was assured, "Just these papers!"
We were delayed getting to Banco Central because we were given wrong bus information by the "Securidad" guard, who assured me when I drilled down on him that he was Cuencano and knew the bus system. Well, we hopped the wrong bus and had to get off quite a distance from the bank, so we ended up walking the rest of the way. When we arrived there, we were told by the machine-gun-toting information man to go to the 2nd floor. There, we were intercepted by the one and only person who could have helped us - he was on his way to lunch with a co-worker. Had we arrived one minute later we would have missed him. Lunch time in Cuenca can run from 1 pm to 3 pm for some. Apparently, he knew we were coming, but because of our delay in getting there due to wrong bus information, he must have figured we weren't coming and decided to take his lunch break.
Once in his office, he asked me for a certain form. I questioned him, "What form?" He then showed me a form that was necessary to begin this process. NO! This can't be happening!! Inside I panicked, but I calmly said in Spanish, "Sir, I specifically asked the front desk person at immigration if I needed any other forms but these, and she assured me I didn't! I don't believe they know about this form!" He was silent for a moment, looked at me (probably seeing my distress - I wear my heart on my sleeve) and then replied, "No problem. Let me see your husband's passport. I can still do this." God's favor prevails again!! We sat quietly while he busily began his task of registering our CD certificate. This is to assure we don't withdraw that large sum of money prior to the year it is certified for (all a part of the investment visa residency requirements).
At last! He kindly handed us two stamped and signed documents that we were to return to immigration. He told us that we could get the form he required and bring it to him later. I asked, "Sir, is it necessary?" He looked at me, then he shrugged and said, "No. Don't worry. It's not necessary." Go figure!! We smiled, shook his hand and thanked him, and rushed out of there before he changed his mind. Yes, things change here from one moment to the next. When you get favor here, RUN WITH IT!!!!
We took a cab back to immigration (by now I was emotionally and physically tired), and returned there at 2 pm. Before approaching the security guard, I quickly glanced at the registered CD documents from the bank man and suddenly noticed that they had spelled Bo's last name wrong, as most people do. LONGWOOD not LONGOOD. Mr. El Banco Central CD Register Man had put in that deadly "W." Knowing how critical it is to have every name correct for the visa process, we looked at each other with dread. Would this mean having to go back to the bank and more visa delays? Bo calmly said, "Maybe they won't notice. Or maybe they will! We'll see what happens." What else could we do? NOTHING at this point. Again, I quietly prayed for God's favor.
So, we handed our bank registration documents to the "Securidad" guard, along with our passports, and we began our next wait. There were several ex-pats still in the waiting area chatting amongst themselves, sharing their stories about their attempts to get their visas. I listened awhile but finally ended up tuning most of it out, having already been through it and knowing that eventually most of them too would prevail and be in the same seat we were now sitting in - waiting for that final stamp in our passports. I refused to focus on that "wrong spelling" issue, and now my faith had kicked in.
At 3 pm they called Bo's name. We walked up front and were told by one of the front desk women to please go and pay our $320 each at the "Banco" window, then return to her with our payment receipts. She then added, "They are now getting your visa stamps in your passports." WooHoo! I was happy. Could this be it? Would we be walking away with our residency visas, at last? What could possibly go wrong now? Bo and I walked over to the "Banco" window and handed over our money. We got our receipts, walked back to the front desk and were waited on immediately. The immigration woman asked us to sign a form, and then she handed us our passports STAMPED WITH OUR RESIDENCY VISAS. YES! FINALLY!!! Apparently, the wrong spelling on the registered CD form was overlooked (or missed) and we now had our finalized visa passports!
We were told to go to the back and begin our Cedula process, but because it was now 3:30 pm, the security guard in the back closed that door on us. He said they closed at 4 pm, and they already had too many people already waiting for services (all three of them). I tried persuading him with my Spanish, but he would not crack a smile or show any emotion. He just said, "No. Come back tomorrow between 8:30 am and noon." So we turned around and left. Applying for our Cedulas can happen any day. We were just content to walk away with our visa stamped passports, knowing that we now can continue living here indefinitely.
As of today, May 2, 2013, we are able to leave Ecuador for up to 90 days per year (through May 2, 2014). We have to abide by this visa law for two years, and then we are free to come and go as we please. We plan to return to the USA to finalize some things there in the near future. For now, we are going to celebrate this day - always giving God all the glory for His continued favor and victories. We continue to live here in Cuenca one day at a time, ready for whatever changes present themselves to us. We've been here 5 months now, and we never know what's around the corner. Time will tell!
A FEW PHOTOS OF OUR BLOCK AND DAILY WALK TO OUR WONDERFUL MERCADO
Our "calle" - one block from the mercado!
A grain store along our block!
Delicious Squash pieces, ready for sales.
I have no idea what this vegetable is! Do you?
Cutting up huge and meaty squash.
This vendor is munching on her lunch, surrounded by her plethora of fresh vegetables.
Some vendors sit and wait while others are busy making their sales.
Avacados are huge, meaty, and sell for 20 to 25 cents each.
We shop almost daily, find wonderful vendors selling unique and fresh foods (this vendor is cutting Bacalau or Salted Cod Fish), and only have to walk one block to the open market.