Sunday, May 29, 2011

Visa Part2 - A 70's Suits

When the 70's inspired brown-striped polyester suit entered the room, I thought this process could get interesting.  I wondered whether the visa process had stopped in the 70's as well and that perhaps I'd need an 8-track to pull this off.  The gentleman's black hair had henna highlights but not chunky highlights, strand highlights.  Not sure if this is vogue or for a holiday but definitely, the Assistant HOC has a style all his own.

I stood up to greet him and got a wet fish kinda handshake.  The sassy secretary told him why I was there and he told me that the HOC, whom I had the 11 a.m. appointment with, had been delayed in his travel and was to arrive back to BSB around noon.  It was about 11:30 at this point and I hoped this new guy would be able to help.  He looked awkwardly for a place to sit.  Erica jumped up and gave him her seat and sat across the small white room on another granny couch.

The secretary gave the Assistant HOC all of my paperwork that she had trimmed and clipped (3 paperclips to be exact) together.  He pulled it apart on the couch and began to look things over.  The review began.  He was intensely looking over each and every document.  Throughout this line-by-line (I really mean this) review of each paper, he'd ask a question like, "Why are you moving to Mumbai?"  (work), "How long will you stay?" (2 years), "What is your salary?" (I believe that's on my contract that you've been reviewing), "Your Brazilian visa doesn't expire until July 24, when do you leave for India?"  (I arrive in the U.S. on June 12th and then will depart from there on July 26th) and the most interesting, "Will you go alone or is your mother going to accompany you?"  (Yes I'm going alone - don't worry Dad, I haven't planned any secret trips).

He took what seemed about 30 minutes to review things but it was probably more like 10.  In these situations even though we were speaking the same language, I sat quietly not wanting to interrupt, frustrate or annoy him because my visa approval was in his hands. I don't know the culture.  I don't know this man and the last thing I want to do is stop this process. He asked me the name of the school where I'd be working and when I replied he approved of it (well-known - whew!).

As he was finished up things, the sassy secretary chimed in that I didn't have a letter from my Brazilian employer.  I politely said that I wasn't being transferred that this was a new school and a new position.  He said, "Ok," but I need to check on something.  Then he left the room with my passport, paperwork, reals and all.  I smiled at Erica.

While the Assistance HOC went away to do something to my materials, another Embassy employee called the secretary.  She said over the phone that she didn't know what it said but that she could help.  Another 70's inspired dresser entered the room with a paper.  He was gruff and already seemed annoyed.  The secretary reviewed the paper he needed Portuguese assistance with and then asked who wrote it.  A name was replied and shortly after the gardener came into the room.  Apparently the entire dispute was over the cost of fertilizer and insecticide.  The gardener's numerical handwriting wasn't up to the gruff man's par who thought that 2 X 20 was a different number.  The gardener during this process laughed, leaned back on the fireplace and seemed to be overly amused by the entire situation.  Obviously this isn't uncommon for him.  Another gentleman entered the room who was much friendlier to the gardener but also wearing plaid pants and a striped shirt.  I mean I do that but not in suit material.

A few moments later, the Assistant HOC returned.  Part 3 to come...did I just pay a bribe?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Visa Part1 - Sassy Secretary

Yesterday as I'd mentioned in my last post, I went to the Indian Embassy to drop-off my visa paperwork.  I had an appointment scheduled at 11 a.m. with the Head of the Consulate.  I'd heard he was kinda rude and old but as long as he granted me the big OK stamp, I didn't care.

Erica was sweet and offered to take me.  I can't tell you enough how much I appreciated that.  I was going to get a taxi and all and it would have been fine but going through all of that totally by yourself can be a little overwhelming.  It's kinda like how sometimes you take a friend or family member to the dr.  You just need somebody else to clarify and hear what's being said.  The support was wonderful.  Thanks E for being the smile across the room and also the person to hold my folder while I kept loosing it (folder not mind).

We drove in Erica's car to Asa Sul, about a 15 minute drive, to the beautiful Indian Embassy.  It's a lovely white mansion located on the lake side of the city.  We parked right across the street (imagine across the street from your own house is an embassy), walked across and pushed the buzzer.  The gate popped open and in we went.  We were greeted by a gentleman who showed us to the reception book.  I had great trouble filling in the following items:  name, city and signature.  Maybe I was just a little nervous?

I thought then we'd head up to see the Consulate.  Nope.  We were ushered into a front small sitting room with a fireplace, grandma's Florida room low couches complete with palm tree print and a lovely secretary.  She told us that she could help me.  She asked if I was American and asked where I was from.  Chicago.  She then told me that she loves working with Americans and that she'd lived in Boston from ages 9-19 and just returned to Brazil.  In number one.  She began looking through my documents and the first thing that was incorrect were my photos.  I never had any information on the size of the photos I should get.  Nothing.  They were supposed to be 3x4.  Mine of course were huge in comparison so she, even though she wasn't supposed to, broke the rules and trimmed them down.  God bless America and the connections it makes for me.

As she chopped away, the phone rang continuous.  She did pause to answer occasionally and said, "Sir.  I'm busy with an American who is applying for a work visa right now,"  and "Sir, I'm sorry but I'm busy and can't interrupt what I'm doing."  Hmmm...was this indicative of what was to come?  She told me she's the only secretary for about 8-10 different people there.  Yikes!  By the way, did you know that the Indian Embassy has one person whose sole job it is to translate newspapers into English for the Ambassador?  I digress...

She continued to go through the paperwork and things seemed in order.  The only question she had was whether or not I had a letter from my Brazilian employer?  What?  I told her that I wasn't being transferred but moving from Brazil to a new job with a new company in India.  She said she hadn't processed any visas without this so she called the HOC whom I was supposed to be meeting with at 11 a.m.  He didn't answer his phone so she tried the Assistance HOC.  She explained why she called and then he went through what seemed to be 2 minutes of reasons why he shouldn't be the one to deal with me.  He also told her that the HOC was traveling and wouldn't be back.  What?  Wait.  I thought I had an appointment.  The secretary told us to wait.  She said I was lucky the HOC wasn't there becasuse he's grouchy.

About 5 minutes later the 70's brown striped suit walked into the tiny white room.  Sorry Jamey you missed it but he's definitely not who your style icon should be.  More on the style icon tomorrow.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One Step Closer

I finally had contact with the Consulate Officer at the Indian Embassy on Thursday!

We'd had a tough start. The first time around I'd asked Valmir to call thinking that I'd need Portuguese help.  After he started to speak in Portuguese, he said, "Yes I do speak English."  He was given the Consulate Officer's specific phone number to call.  We tried but had no answer. 

For days I'd call and call and he wouldn't answer his phone.

I tried calling the main Embassy number.  The one time I did get through, the secretary answered the phone in English and told me to call back after 9 a.m.  I had called around 8:45 (they open at 8:30).  Then I continued to call and get a busy signal over and over and over.  Their officer is open from 8:30 - 1 and then 2 - 4:00.  The Consulate division is open  9 - 11:30 daily.  Um...so if you're phone's busy all morning and afternoon, how can I get through?  Especially when my job, teaching, doesn't quite lend iteself to random interruptions and I don't have a phone in my classroom?

I wondered...was the officer in town?  Was he traveling or visiting one of the consulates in Sao Paulo or Rio?  Had he died and his bones were being picked away by vultures on the roof of the Embassy?

Besides trying on the phone, I emailed the officer, taking another EAB teacher's advice who's also moving to India and who already got her visa without problem, hoping to make a connection.  Email worked! I heard from him on Thursday. 

On Tuesday at 11 a.m. I'll taxi to Lago Sul (South Lake - about a 20 minute cab ride from EAB) to drop off...
  • my passport,
  • my contract, a school registration and letter of introduction from ASB to the Embassy on my behalf,
  • a copy of my yellow fever vaccination card (thank you Peru),
  • a copy of my Brazilian residency card and also Brazilian Social Security card,
  • two passport photos,
  • a copy of my resume,
  • a copy of my birth certificate and
  • R$545 (which is about $USD 335). 

Soooo much easier than Brazil!  I don't have to get anything legalized, translated or promise anyone my first-born.  The EAB teacher told me she got her visa within a couple of days.  Hopefully the hardest part of all of this was getting a hold of the officer and the rest will be easy.