Thursday, March 5, 2015

Our Life as Illegal Aliens

Yes. We have lived the last 3 months as illegal aliens in Nicaragua. Sounds exciting, huh? Well...not so much when you find out that you can not leave the country under an expired visa. So since December 2nd, 2014 we have been “stuck” here, in Nicaragua, without the legal right to leave (from immigration's perspective). Not so exciting after all.

However, today ended our adventure as illegal aliens. We renewed our expired visas today. You may be wondering WHY we allowed ourselves to become illegal (especially considering my over-the-top attentiveness to details). Well, you don't plan these things. In fact, you try to avoid these things. We started our paperwork process back at the end of October 2014 to renew our visas. We hit roadblocks and got derailed several times. As our expiration date of December 2nd loomed in the near distance, we realized that we were going to be late in submitting our paperwork. Unhappily, we acknowledged that we would have to pay an monetary fine for being expired. The fact that we were 'legally' stuck here without the ability to leave was the most unpleasant factor...although we had no plans to travel....but still. (The American in me screamed...."I am an American citizen...I can do whatever I want!) When January 2nd passed us by, we started to get concerned that they (the powers-that-be at immigration) would deny our renewal and require us to start back at the beginning...or worse...that we would face deportation! [Seriously, I am really living this life!?!]

Well, mid-February, with the help of our amazing lawyer, Oscar, we submitted our paperwork for visa renewal. We received an appointment to return March 2. On March 2nd, Oscar called and received word that we had been 'approved' but the camera (yes, just one) used to take the visa photos were being fixed or replaced. So, TODAY we returned and waited for 2.5 hours in a building that looks like a giant airplane hanger and heats up like an oven. Oh, but before arriving, we had to stop at the money changer dude that works on the side of the Pan-American Highway to change our U.S. Dollars to Nicaraguan C√≥rdoba. We are fairly certain he has some sniper friend waiting nearby...just in case. 

Okay, back to the story—so, while we waited those 2.5 hours, we people watched. We saw a woman on crutches who only had one leg...but she wore a very high healed shoe on that one good foot. We saw a stray cat run frantically through the building and jump out a window (a low to the ground window). We watched as people bought donuts from the American Donuts kiosk and wondered if they truly tasted like American doughnuts. We interacted with a very elderly lady who was begging amongst the masses. We watched her punch a large man in the chest after he supposedly gave her a few coins. Not wanting to get into a fist fight with this very spunky woman (being that we were still illegal and all), we didn't give her any money. She told us, along with dramatic hand gestures, that she was going to heaven and we were going to hell. That was certainly the high-light of the morning. We finally received our visas and left. However, before traveling home, we stopped at the side of the road where the sidewalk lawyers and copy machine people are set up to make copies of our newly acquired visas. Finally, we treated ourselves to some good ol' McDonalds fare and called it a day!

I snapped a few discreet photos with the ipad while we were there for your viewing enjoyment!

The font is just a teensy bit similar to Dunkin' Donuts, dontcha think?

The Immigration/Migration building

Jeff and our lawyer (and Andrew) waiting in the first of many lines.

The spunky, elderly lady is almost in the center of this snapshot.

Finally up to the first of many windows (See Jeff's blue shirt?).
Look carefully, do you see the printer set up on that wooden table? It belongs to one of the roadside lawyers.