Living in a foreign country means visits to government offices. An intimidating task, to be sure. There’s a lot of trial and error in figuring out exactly what needs to be done when. And then they change all the rules. For a while this is what is required of me:

Take a service (15 passenger van that runs like a bus system) for about 10 minutes to the immigration office. It’s kind of hidden on an alley and the sign is unreadable. Tell the guard why I’m there. Head up three flights of stairs (sometimes two, it changes). Push my way through the mob of men there to she them my passport, pay the 50 cents, and get the form. The form must be obtained that day from that office because of a special stamp. Then I leave that room partly because it’s suffocating, partly because it’s so loud I can’t think. I go back downstairs and outside to the kiosk down the street where they will give me another form and copy the first. I have to actually fill out both forms in triplicate. Then they copy my passport and I buy a bunch of stamps that get put in various places. That part is fun because the stamps are pretty and different colors. Once my documents are fancy enough and everything is in order, I go back up to the first room. Again I push my way through the mob of men. The officer looks at my documents and then sends me to another office. He looks at my documents, signs one and sends me to yet another office. He signs something and then I get to go to the general’s office. This is always a treat. His office is so nice with a tv and a kid who brings him tea and changes the channels. He signs several pages and then sends me back to the original room. Now things are entered into the computer. Here. Always get questioned because my father’s name isn’t on my passport. It’s not on any American passports. It didn’t change from last week (or yesterday). Yet they are still surprised. He enters my information into a computer I’m sure I played Oregon Trail on in elementary school and then tells me to sit. I go over vocabulary from class as I wait for “America” to be called. It’s how I’m identified. They give me my passport and tell me when I get to do the whole process again.

The entire process including transportation costs about $1.75 and between 2-4 hours.


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