Sunday, November 18, 2012

Refining Through Red Tape

We recently needed to renew our residency cards at the Immigration Department.  Renewal is not nearly as difficult as the initial process of obtaining residency, however, we found it to be a "process" none-the-less.

Our lawyer drew up the paperwork and told us that all we needed to do was to submit the paperwork to the person at the desk at the Immigration Office.  Let me say that the Immigration Office looks like an airplane hanger.  It is about 100 degrees and the staff sit at a counter behind a plexi-glass window.  There is a little, tiny hole in the window through which you need to communicate.  So, we go to submit our paperwork.  There is some miscommunication and 'lost in translation' issues; but finally they accept all the paperwork and the next step is to assign to us a date on which we need to return to get our photos taken and receive our actual residency identification cards.  Looking ahead, we know that there are some days in November that we will be unable to return due to a conference that Jeff has at the university.  We get close to the itty-bitty hole in the plexi-glass window and tell the woman at the desk that we can't come during the week of November 12th.  She simply looks at us and gives us a slip of paper saying we need to return on November 13th. (Wondering why we even tried.)  So, November 13th it is.

The date approaches and Jeff alters his plans so that we can make the November 13th appointment (which left our two visitors, who are in-country for the conference, in a neighboring city alone).  The kids have a half-day at school so we picked them up, got some lunch, ran an errand (this may have been our first fatal error) and headed over to Immigration.  We arrived at about 2:15pm.  In our American minds, there are several hours left in the work day (this was probably our second fatal error).  When we arrive at the gate, the guard tells us that they are closed.  NOT a good sign. We show him our paperwork that has the infamous date of NOVEMBER 13th.  He lets us in.  We walk up to the plexi-glass window and find the same woman working at the desk.  She tells us to come back tomorrow.  "The system is closed.".  My blood pressure immediately rises. I stick my head right up to the little window and inform her that we were told back in October to come back on November 13th.  She again says the system is closed and come back tomorrow.  OK, I probably didn't conjugate all my verbs correctly...but I start arguing with her (obviously in Spanish that I didn't know I possessed).  I told her that we would not come back tomorrow.  It was the 13th and here we were to get our cards.  I told her that I didn't think that the system was closed because I could see people working on their computers.  I asked to speak to her boss and then I informed him that we wouldn't come back tomorrow.  I told him that I was sure that there was someone in the office that could take our pictures.  (At this point, I asked the kids to go sit down...Jeff vetoed my decision and told the kids that they needed to stay close to Mommy so that she didn't get 'really mad' at the people in the office.)  The boss says the system closes at 3pm. I asked what time he had....2:40pm.  Well, there you go...there is time.  So they start the process.  (I'm thinking that if we didn't have to fight it out...we would have had time to finish the process).  But at 3pm, the system "shuts down" and our cards could not be printed.  They told us to come back on Friday.  Feeling defeated, angry and exhausted...we left Immigration.  

We returned on Friday and we did successfully pick up our residency cards.

I want to say...I didn't write this post to slam the culture or the staff at Immigration.  It is far more about chipping away at the rigidness of rights and rules that I hold so dearly.  It is an example of one 'world-view' and culture clashing against another 'world-view' and culture.  As an American, I have been raised to think that I have "rights".  I suppose that culturally, we as Americans, do have certain 'rights'.  However, I don't currently live in America and I cannot transfer my 'rights' to my Nicaraguan existence. It doesn't work that way.  Not to mention that ultimately it comes down to me 'submitting' my plans, my ideas, my rules, and my rights to the Lord and letting Him refine me through the 'red tape' of life.