Thursday, August 29, 2013

Extraordinary Extrajeria Extravaganza

For those of you who have not been graced with the opportunity to have to deal with foreigners' offices around the globe, you are really missing out {/end sarcasm}

The ever dreadful mustard yellow building from your nightmares
(Source)

Jumping through hoops, getting papers stamped, paying fees, waiting in line, filling out more forms, signature here, date there, copy of this, staple that... it's endless. Coming into any country for a prolonged period of time comes at the cost of this bureaucratic madness. And of course, I've had my fair share since the beginning.

This year things were particularly messed up. In order to renew your student card you had to turn in the application, papers proving your finished the program this year and got renewed, accompanying fees, a document called empadronamiento (for census purposes and keeping track of where people live).

Well the empadron was the first hurdle in this heap of....manure. I went to the local office with everything signed and ready to go. The contract my roommate had for our apartment, copy of his ID and signature on the application, SHOULD be easy as pie. Unfortunately for me, my previous roommate who had left on not such a good note with the boys was previously registered with this contract. So.... it was HER signature and ID that I needed. And of course, to my incredible bad luck she was in California (of all places) at the time. I told them all this and they said there was nothing they could do. I went again, and explained the situation to another person. He told me to fill out a new application and check some different boxes and it should work. So I went home got the signature that I needed and went back for a third time. The girl was not really having it since of course I didn't have the signature fromk the person they say they need (even though she doesn't live in the country let alone our apartment anymore). After some begging and pleading and stating that this was my third time there they finally gave me the stamp that I needed.

(Source)
So all I needed to do was turn in my papers, wait for the letter of appointment for fingerprints, get fingerprinted and wait 40 days for my ID card in order to travel freely in the EU. No Problem! Turn in papers (check!) Wait, wait, wait for my letter (...in December Check!) Wait... my appointment to be fingerprinted is... May 9th! Add the 40 days to pick up the card and that puts me at June  18th for a card that is only going to be valid until the end of my contract which is June 30th. So... I have to live most of my second year in Madrid undocumented because there was a huge backup and apparently common sense isn't so common anymore.

Months passed and I accepted my fate for having to get an Authorización de Regreso (authorization to return) whenever I needed to travel this term.

As my appointment drew near I soon realized that my appointment May 9th from 4-6pm was not going to cut it because that was the opening night of the spring show I was in Steel Magnolias. I had made a plan to go the day before (as other auxiliares had mentioned they went in even without a letter and had been helped) and get it out of the way and everyone's happy (or so I thought).

I arrive bright and early Wednesday morning, and there is a line around the corner just to go through the metal detector. 20 minutes in I look for the line where they do the fingerprints when I overhear a police officer saying "let's cut off the fingerprint line" I quickly go up to him and with big eyes ask which line is for finger prints, and luckily he takes me in and makes me the cut off.

¿La fila para huellas?
In the twisting, turning, baby crying, sun scorching line, I waited for 5 HOURS. There is a person at the front of the building doing crowd control, taking as many people fit inside, and when there is room calling more in. I was finally about to get inside, when the crowd control person (a big angry man with a hat) asks to see the back of my appointment paper (with the date on it.... what the heck at least 50 people passed ahead of me and he didn't ask them to show!) So I showed him my paper, and he turned me away. Even after begging and pleading trying to state my case and being cut off. He insisted if my paper didn't have that date on it I wasn't getting inside. So I went to work, late and for nothing, and decided if I made an early enough attempt the next day I would still make it in time to save the show, and get what I need done.

Thursday rolls around I'm there at the beloved Aluche this time even earlier, that there isn't a line for the metal detector but there is still a curve to the line of people a million times worse than the DMV inside. I wait in that line again, for 5 HOURS and this time I make it into the building (GLORY!) I make it to the desk, the young man flips over my paper and says, you're scheduled to come in at 4, and it's only 1 o'clock I can't help you. I again I plead, and say there is no way I can get through that line in time, and with an apathetic face he just shrugs and calls the next person in line. 


My last option is to go upstairs and see if I could get my appointment changed. According to the other people in line, my chances of that happening were grim since they knew people were getting appointments for September... which would have done me no good. I trekked upstairs anyway in hope that I could not go home again empty handed. 

I arrive upstairs to wait in the information line, and see the two people helping are a woman and the older man with a hat that threw me out the day before--cue feeling in the pit of my stomach. Waiting in line in front of me is an older woman who asked my situation and when I told her I'd waited 5 hours 2 days in a row she asks me if I'm pregnant -_- And when I reply no, she told me to tell them I was pregnant so that I could be helped. She gets up to the front of the line and she has to go with hat man, but she steps aside, and says I want to wait for the woman. I politely decline and no you go ahead. She still insists with her pushy older woman ways and I head over to hat man. So when he asks me how can I help you, in as sweet of a voice as I can muster I start to ramble on about how he may have recognized me from the day before and I needed to change my appointment, because I really couldn't be there that after noon. And he says.... "Can you come in tomorrow?" *sigh of relief* I say I can but if there is a way for him to make it on Monday it would be best. He looks at me confused and tells me Monday is the day with the most people, but then I told him it was my day off so he took his pen wrote the new date, stamped it, and I came in on Monday to wait another 5 HOURS (which really you can't avoid unless you get there at the break of dawn and I like sleep too much).

So I've survived!! For now... We'll see  how the Cáceres version of Aluche treats me come September.

Much Love!

@CathyArely


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