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?