I planned on spending the day on a few errands, but the bulk of it was intended for some intensive prep work for the 3 lectures I've been invited to do next week at the University of La Serena. I suggested to Steve we stop and retrieve our cédulas, which we'd spent hours on over a month ago. What's a cédula you ask? It is an identity card. Here's a visual for you. No, ours are not in this bunch.
A Little BackgroundUp until March of this year, if a tourist entered Chile, s/he paid a big fat "reciprocity fee." Citizens of certain countries paid, because Chileans needed to pay to enter those countries. Well, since that fee was 160 each, we opted for the route of getting special visas which were free to Fulbrighters and their families. This turned out to be a lot of work, from the 6 hours I spent one Saturday last year scanning and uploading documents to going to the Chilean Consulate in January to formalize things in person. But, the added bonus of this visa was we would not have to leave the county after 3 months in order to come back in to renew as tourists had to. I didn't fancy a long, long bus ride over the Andes in winter to Argentina to renew the regular tourist visas. I thought all my visa work was time consuming, foolish, foolish me. Read on, sweet reader, read on.
The US added Chile to the visa waiver program, and the damn reciprocity fee was dropped. March 1st. Just days after we entered the country. Oh, and now you can renew the 3 month tourist visa in Chile for 100 bucks, I've heard (please, if you are traveling to Chile and reading this CHECK to find out what applies to you, as requirements change!) so no more going over to Argentina for a re-entry renewal anymore either.
So, you bored yet?
Back to today. We'd taken all required docs to the Civil Registry office at the end of February. Steve and I were able to turn our stuff in, get our fingers scanned etc., but Joel and I had to come back another day. Turned out he needed a set of my documents because he is considered my dependent. Blah, blah, blah. Fast forward to today. We arrive at the Civil Registry office and...you should read Steve's blog for what transpired next. Remember, his link is to the left. After leaving very, very frustrated, I briefly contemplated not doing anything. This was a passing fancy-no way did I want to show up at the airport without required documents.
On to the International Police
Where I found the office I wanted was closed for lunch. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get there, so you can imagine my frustration. I felt like crying, but I didn't. I decided to shake it off-I mean, it was a beautiful, warm sunny day, I know that people get through these hoops all the time...On the way back to the metro, I stopped at a corner store to get some of the photo copies I needed (multiple copies of various pages of my passport). I vented a bit to the nice lady making my copies. She then refused to let me pay, saying she wanted me to have a good impression of Chile. Then I DID get tears in my eyes!
Home and back
Eventually I went home, did a little work, then made the trip back to the PDI. Everything was fixed for free! I actually suspect that the police had screwed this up, something about Steve's and Joel's document dates of entry having to match my dates because they are my official dependents...even though they didn't enter the country with me. Such a mystery this is.
On my way back, I tried to stop by the corner store again, because I'd gotten a small gift for the Nice Xerox Lady, but it was closed. Hopped a bus, started home and WHAM! An SUV hit us. Don't worry no one was hurt. Seriously, at this point I was cracking up. What a crazy day!
The vehicles pulled over. We waited a bit. Gestures were made, phones came out. Everyone got off the bus when they saw another micro pull up about 1/2 a block away. I stood on the sidewalk and watched, since no way did I want to try to smash onto the other very full bus with the rest of the passengers. Suddenly, the driver of my bus waved his passengers to return, everyone ran back from bus number two, we boarded again and even sat in our original seats.
So for those of you imagining that my life is full of adventures here, you are right! Just not the kind of adventures you think. I now have to cancel class Monday morning and return to the Civil Registry again. Wish me luck, I apparently do need it!
oh, and just as I was about to post this, we got a really good shake-I checked the Chile seismology site (ONEMI), and it was listed as a V on the intensity scale. (Moderate, not damage). Not Richter scale up yet, but I'm guessing about a 5.6 or so.
It was a 5.8 according to ONEMI, centered about and hour and 15 minutes away. USGS said 5.4, but I tend to go with Chile's reporting service. They are closer, and presumably more accurate