Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our first visas

Today we went to get our first visas for the trip. In South America, four countries require visas at present for Americans: Brazil, Suriname, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Since Brazil has a consulate in New York, we went there first. We'll do Paraguay next at their consulate, get Suriname in Guiana, and get Bolivia at the border. From the Brazilian website, it is seems that communist Russia advised Brazil on the finer points of bureaucracy, and the consulate didn't disappoint.

To begin with, global warming has come to New York in the form of a monsoon. According to NPR this morning, we could expect "light rain throughout the morning." So, I shunned Tara's suggestion of an umbrella in favor of my Ex Officio Canopy coat that I'll be taking on the trip. The good news is that the coat worked really well despite the sheets of rain falling on it. It was fairly comfortable, and the rain just balls up and rolls off of it. I could take it off, give it a shake, and it was basically dry. The bad news is that everything below my waist was soaked by the 6 block walk to the consulate. Tara fared only slightly better, but she wisely wore her waterproof shoes.

Back to the consulate. It is only open for business from 10am to noon each weekday, so we arrived around 10:20. Upon arrival, we quickly got on the line that everyone else seemed to be going to. This line was overseen by a security guard who, judging from the interactions I saw, wasn't allowed to answer any question unless it pertained to the line. Examples: Woman with question:"Excuse me, I was wondering if you knew if I needed...?" Guard: "Please get in the line." Man: "I just arrived. Where do I go?" Guard: "Please get in the line."

After 20 minutes in this line, we arrived at the window marked "Reception". We told the friendly woman that we needed visas and she started down a long list of things we needed from memory. We replied that we had everything listed on the website and she gave us a number. It was V660 and they were currently on V633. One person servicing these numbers.

So, we sat and listened for an hour to all the other people applying for visas. Most people were rejected because you could only pay with a US Post Office Money Order. No cash, no checks, no Western Union money orders. A few were sent away for not having photos with them, and some were rejected for not having the address of a place to stay in Brazil. (Though the guy was friendly about all of this.) My favorite was when they asked a Chinese student who planned to attend a conference in Brazil for bank statements for the last three months. After a bit of back and forth, he pulled them out! He clearly wasn't new to bureacracy.

In the 27 numbers he called, he processed 3 applications. This left us worried since we didn't have a firm itinerary. Finally, our number came and we ran to the window, because if you weren't there in 2 seconds (sometimes less), they went to the next person. We arrived at the window, handed him our applications and passports along with copies of our flights to and from South America, a rough itinerary, and our US Post Office Money Orders for $130 each (Brazil charges a reciprocal fee because that's what the US charges Brazilians). Amusingly, he didn't even look at the ticket information or itineraries, processed our papers in about 30 seconds and told us to come back Monday to pick up our visas. Normally we could get them tomorrow, but it is apparently a Brazilian holiday. National Bureaucracy Day, I'd guess.

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