What was slowing us down was an appointment to actually file the paperwork. Ivan's friend in Bs. As. had done what he could, but the earliest he could get an appointment for us was July! He did, however, suggest we stop in at the immigration office sometime before that, and see if we did indeed have everything we needed, so things would go smoothly when the appointment rolled around.
It's a long-ish story (the only kind I know how to tell)...
When we arrived at the immigrations office yesterday, there was hardly anyone waiting (miracle #1). Ivan was able to go right up to the desk and talk to someone about our situation. At first it didn't seem like he was getting anywhere, but then he remembered to "say the magic words" (told to us by one of the people who had helped us at the Ministry of Justice). What were the magic words, you wonder? Simply a name! And it turned out the name was that of the head honcho. It truly was like magic, how speaking his name suddenly changed the demeanor of the guy at the front desk, who jumped up and said he'd be right back. A minute later he was ushering us back into the inner sanctum, all the way to the big guy's office.
We've run into so many "public servants" whose idea of helping is to bully, harangue and see how obnoxious they can be, that we were more than pleasantly surprised to find out the head man at the immigration office in Cordoba is a genuinely nice man! (miracle #2)
He looked over our paperwork and called his assistant, and together they said the only things lacking were: a photo, a copy of my passport (all pages), and a translation of the FBI report.
Oh, and miracle #3 involved that report. We'd had the reports done at the end of 2010, when we'd hoped to get this done, only to be told that wasn't possible. Then this past summer the lady at the consulate in Chicago indicated the initial report was too old, and we'd need to get a new one. Which we did. Or thought we did. But when we opened the envelope yesterday (waiting until we were in the office, as we'd been instructed to, to make sure they knew it was a legit document), we discovered they had not completed a new report because we'd failed to send one piece of information with the application. Uh oh! But Ivan quickly opened the old envelope which we still had, and that was accepted! Whew!
They told us where we could get the photo done, as well as the photocopies (just a couple blocks away), so we hurried and did that and then rushed back to file the paperwork. Once that was done, we were given a form to take to the bank to pay the requisite fee (quite a hefty one, too, I might add! -- but totally worth it!). It was 1:15 and the bank was closing at 1:30 and was about 12 blocks away (at least, we weren't sure exactly) so we grabbed a taxi and took off. The taxi couldn't take us all the way there, so
[Side Note: I'd never been in the big national bank in Cordoba, and was amazed at how truly BIG it is! It's several floors, with the lower level being a huge cavernous space with various lines. There were at least 300 people waiting in one line or another, plus another 150 of us sitting on chairs in the center area. HUGE, I tell you!]
We were finally all done by about 1:45.
By that time we were exhausted from all the running around in the heat (it's always hotter in the city, with all the concrete and tall buildings that block any breezes) so we decided to find a place to eat and catch our breath. But first we planned to stop at the Apple store on the way out of town, to see what can be done about a problem I'm having with my Mac. A line appeared across the screen the other day, and our son diagnosed it as a hardware problem. Which shouldn't be a problem since it's still under warranty.
Except we couldn't find the store!
There used to be one in downtown Cordoba, but it's no longer there, and our search (both physical and virtual) has yielded no clue as to whether the store simply moved, or no longer exists at all. We may have to wait until March when we go to conference, and can visit an Apple store in Buenos Aires or Montevideo.
We also couldn't find the place where we were going to have lunch. Actually we were looking for a particular mall. They're kinda big and hard to miss, but miss it we did. Still not sure how. But we did find another mall. Unfortunately we chose probably the WORST place in it to have lunch. Yuck! It was a café and only offered salad and quiche. Okay, we ordered one of each. The food was both expensive (made the mistake of not asking for a menu or the prices first) and practically inedible. So sad that's Ivan's birthday lunch was such an epic fail :(
But the victory of being able to get the paperwork done over-rode any lingering disappointment over the food :)
Oh, and in regards to the permanent residency application...
In this whole process we are once again reminded that Paperwork Makes The World Go 'Round. Although Ivan never saw the program, he's heard a lot about a variety/comedy show on Argentine t.v. years ago with a running gag about this very thing. A man wanted to plant a tree but before he could do that, he had to get the proper approval, and the process required all kinds of paperwork. Each time he'd get another required document, he was told he needed "one more" trámite (can be loosely translated as red tape). Each time he'd go away saying, "Un tramitecito mas y plantamos el arbolito." ["One more little step and we'll plant the tree."] The phrase caught on and become part of the culture, still used when referring to any kind of government or business red tape.
Today Ivan is tracking down a translator, and our hope is that we can get it done in the next few days so he can deliver the translation of the FBI report, along with the form from the bank showing we've paid, to the immigrations office on Monday or Tuesday. The sooner the better! And from what we were told, it's entirely possible I'll have my permanent residency document in hand before our trip to Uruguay in March. Which would make that miracle #5.
"Un tramitecito mas y plantamos el arbolito."