Nichol and Matt go to Chile!

Archive for immigration

Please take a number.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of a trusty friend: our coffee grinder. The grindy old fella was good to us, but we probably should have seen it coming. Indeed, the sounds it made every time we hooked up our device meant for a 120V outlet, to Chile’s 250V outlet, indicated that it would soon take flight. Take care old friend, the wine-bottle/zip-lock bag combination just isn’t the same. A moment of silence, please.

Our recent experience moving through the Chilean immigration system was frustrating, hot and altogether uncomfortable. Working through the actual paperwork itself took only about 30-45 minutes, but the lines one must wait through in each of their archaic departments proves to be the true test of one’s mettle. As mentioned in a previous post, our first task was to register our visas with Chile’s international police. We arrived at the building mid-morning, to find all of the 80-100 seats inside taken, with many people sitting on the curbs outside on both sides of the street. The 10 minutes spent in our first line of the day wasn’t so bad, but this line was only for us to pay the fees and get a number. It seems that you take a number for almost anything here, from ordering ice cream to getting documents. Our number was 364…currently serving 205. So off we went to grab a coffee and a snack rather than waiting in the sweltering police station. We returned roughly half an hour later to find that numbers had increased in three ways. First, there were even more people crowding the curbs, a longer line snaking out the door to pay fees/get a number, and finally, the number currently being served had jumped to somewhere in the 260s. Off we went again, this time to explore some of the shopping areas downtown to see about getting cell phones. We didn’t end up getting phones that day, but we did get more of an exposure to Santiago Central’s myriad offerings before returning to the station again, and being greeted by the glowing red number: 308. Finally, we grabbed some cold drinks, and explored another several blocks of the region.

Oddly, we passed by a used book/media/leather jacket store (of which there are very many) advertising a plethora of Nazi materials, both neo- and classical-. We felt like throwing up in our mouths a little. It was explained to us that post-WWII, many of that party’s supporters fled Germany and settled in South America and a not-so underground community is present in Santiago. Our pace quickened as we moved past this propaganda, and we soon found ourselves at one of the more popular destinations, Santiago’s ‘mercado central’. We will have to return to the market on our own one day, as time did not permit much exploration. What we did see was a bustling marketplace full of fishmongers, butchers, produce stands and many, many restaurants vying for our patronage. It seemed that we couldn’t take more than a few steps without someone trying to funnel us into their establishment. It wasn’t annoying though, since in most cases, a simple ‘No, gracias’ sufficed.

Returning once again to the police station, the number had blessedly grown to 354 and when our number was finally up, we approached the counter to not be greeted by a very tired looking employee. We certainly don’t blame the woman for her lack of affect; after all, a nine hour day in a polyester uniform in an unconditioned 30+ degree office will test anybody’s mood. After a couple questions, pictures and our signatures, we were finally registered with the police. Just. Like. That.

It was now approaching 13:30, and the RUT office closed at 14:00. We hightailed it several blocks to said office, and were greeted by a friendly security guard who informed us that we needed to get our police certificates photocopied at the copycentre just around the corner (pointing to his watch the entire time as if we weren’t aware that we had 8 minutes to do so). Sweating bullets, we returned to the office and were escorted to the correct line to wait, and wait we did. After about 30 minutes, the line condensed, but since there was a blackout in the office that shut down their computer systems (and fans…sigh), we’re not convinced that it actually moved. It was then that we overheard two Brits behind us talking of their friend’s experience earlier in the day. It turns out that she had passed through the 3+ hour line, with her passport/visa photocopied, but not her police certificate. As such, she had to come back with the proper documents, only to go through the line all over again. Hearing this, we nervously turned around and asked the (very nice) Chap if he knew for sure that we needed our passports/visas copied, and he assured us that we did. Since it was well past 14:00, we could not re-enter the building, thus forcing us to resign and try again the next morning.  At 8:30 the next morning, we arrived at a much less busy (we were only about 40th in line) office near the campus, so after about 20 minutes we got to the counter and the rest of the process (questions, picture, fingerprints) was painlessly completed. In the eyes of the government of Chile, we’re now real people!

Since then, Matt has been spending some time digging into his first data set at the university, and together we’ve been going about our business in Providencia. The other day we were finally able to obtain cell-phones, with the  serendipitous help from a self-identified Buddhist German ex-pat, who took pity on us as we were trying to communicate with the store clerk. He was familiar with British Columbia, having traveled there, and we had a very pleasant conversation about all sorts of things. This weekend our task is to find a new coffee grinder, which banal as it may seem, will probably take the majority of a day, but maybe we’ll get lucky and find another Buddhist. 🙂