|"YOU'RE FORGETTING ABOUT THE BANK-SLIP!"|
Amanda returns tomorrow afternoon. But Sam and I aren't going to get too comfortable. Because before we know it, it will be Friday morning...and Amanda will have a flight to catch! This time, her mother's jetting in for an extended visit, and requires picking-up in Santa Cruz. Meanwhile, back home...oh, you get the drift. Please pray!
Still, at least we're in something of an adversity-overcoming frame of mind these days, not least having finally submitted Sam's Bolivian passport application this week. Here are the highlights, otherwise known as How Bolivian Officialdom Works.
A week past on Monday, we processed Sam's Bolivian I.D. card, a pre-requisite for a passport application here and so, thus armed, we swung by the immigration office. We did this, not to submit the application there and then, but to be given what I've come to call our Scavenger Hunt List. In the west these days, you tend to go online, print the forms, fill them in, send them in with a photo and your bank details, and a few weeks down the line a passport is delivered to your door.
Not so here. Not for passports, not for I.D. card applications, and definitely not for visa applications (Amanda and I spent around 43% of our first three years here in the immigration office). Here you are given a slip of paper with several items you'd better present before you even think about getting a passport. Sunshine. As well as photocopies of various documents of our own as parents, they included:
- A bank slip, proving that you have deposited the money into the required account. This was introduced some years ago here, as a way of clamping down on government workers requesting, say, 'something for the wife's Christmas' in order to hasten applications.
- An original birth certificate, which you don't get back. Here, photocopied birth certificates are about as useful as a freezer in the North Pole. On the flipside, they will print a new 'original' for you there and then, for the required fee.
- Most curiously, a 'permission to travel' document (isn't that what a passport is?). Now that we live with a Bolivian, we've discovered that it's necessary to submit a separate document for the trip in question. Which, of course, is somewhat perplexing for us, as the only reason we needed the document was to get the passport, not to travel any time soon.
The problem is that there is always at least one document that, itself, generates its own Scavenger Hunt List. This time, that proved to be the permission to travel document. In the past, we had actually filled in a couple of domestic permission to travel documents in order that Sam could travel within Bolivia (a requirement here for travelling with children: they are valid for 30 days). Assuming that this was what they required -- as we could not currently leave the country without a passport -- we swung by the bus station (they are available there and at the airport) and picked one up. No, silly, we were told on our third visit to the immigration office, it's a permission to travel internationally.
Off we went, then, to that office, and sure enough, another bundle of paperwork was required. It would take a full week for us to assemble this and then get the document.
So, on Monday past, with a spring in our step, off we went to immigration, brandishing said document, slamming it on the guy's desk and singing in unison, 'Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now' to the requisite dance-steps (I may have exaggerated parts of the last sentence). Billy Bureaucrat simply had to admit defeat. He couldn't send us away for the umpteenth time for a document he'd forgotten to mention (that did happen). We had met all the requirements and there was nothing he could do about it but process that application.
Nothing he could do, that is, until, a couple of minutes into his entering our details into the system...there was a power-cut. "There's been a power-cut," he informed us, barely able to contain a grin (the nefarious so-and-so) and completely powerless, in a quite literal sense, to do much about it.
As lacking in aesthetic qualities as it was, I can assure you that a pan-pipe-wielding llama chewing coca leaves with an Andean backdrop could not have made for a more Bolivian scene.
Untypically, however, the power surged back into life about fifteen minutes later, and our decision to hang around instead of coming back in the afternoon was vindicated. However, the immigration office in Trinidad is just the start. The application should now be in La Paz, and it won't be another couple of weeks, probably, until we see the passport.
While we wait for that, there's a fair amount of homework for us to do as we try to work out what is required for visas for the UK and Canada (and, further down the line, the USA) for next year. Only one problem with that strategy: my wife never seems to be here.
- For no more bumps in the road for Sam's passport application (another quirk of the system here is that, because things get sent to La Paz, if the people there find any seeming inconsistencies, the documents get sent back, and we have to make the changes, re-submit, and wait another two weeks; hoping we can avoid that).
- Every two or three years, we spend a little time with the youth in the church addressing the topic of sex and relationships. Craig is speaking tonight on what the Bible has to say on the subject. Pray for Craig, for the other leaders as they discuss these issues with the young people in small groups afterwards, and for the young people themselves. A huge, highly sensitive topic.
- A new volunteer, Melissa Olmstead, arrives on Monday from Oregon, for an eight-month stint in Trinidad. Pray for her and for Amanda as she supervises her time here.
- For safe travels for Amanda both today and Friday, and an encouraging time in Cochabamba in the next 24 hours.
- For Craig and Sam as they hold the fort back in Trinidad. Pray that this would be a special time for them both.
- Amanda had an unexpected (and unexpectedly deep) chat with a member of staff at FT yesterday. Give thanks for the opportunity to minister to that staff member.
- For all the frustration, we are making good progress on Sam's documentation. Give thanks for that.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda