Sunday, August 16, 2009

A (Not-So) Brief Interlude Of Hating Brazil

(Be prepared for a rather long and angry rant about Brazilian bureaucracy. Sorry if you don’t want to read it; I’ll be back with more Salvador and other exciting happenings soon.)

I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging lately, but I was afraid if I blogged about my experience with the federal police in the midst of it, my blog would no longer be appropriate for children on account of the amount of swearing.

I realize that saying I had a horrible experience with the federal police makes it seem like I got arrested or something, but don’t worry, I just was registering myself with them so that they wouldn’t come after me and arrest me.

Let me start at the beginning: Every foreigner staying more than 30 days in Brazil must register at the Federal Police before those 30 days are up. I knew that I would have to do this, as the command was stamped in my passport when it was returned from the Boston Consulate with my visa. What I didn’t know, however, was that in order to so I would need my original visa application form. This form was returned to me with everything else I had sent to the Consulate, including letters from my school and from my parents, a bank statement, a certificate of good conduct from the Brown Department of Public safety, and other documents.

So what would have made me think to take my visa application out of that pile of documents and bring it with me to Brazil? NOTHING. I can’t think of one good reason why I should have to bring my visa application with me…. To prove that I applied for a visa? Well, duh, I obviously applied since I HAVE A VISA IN MY PASSPORT. When I arrived at Brown first semester of freshman year and it was time to sign up for classes, I didn’t have to bring my application with me – obviously I applied! I got in, didn’t I? And it’s not like I wasn’t in their computers – they even sent back my handwritten application the first time I applied and made me reapply through their online form. So they should have this document somewhere in their computer system, right? WRONG.

So, as soon as I found out that I would need my visa application to go to the federal police, I sent an email to my parents asking them to send it to me, which they did, after spending hours trying to scan it in case that would work instead (but apparently a copy wouldn’t be accepted). So I waited and waited for the envelope to come, but my appointment with the federal police came and went (the international office at my school organized trips for groups of students). Finally the document arrived, several days after it was supposed to, and the night before I left for Salvador. While I was in Salvador, however, I would reach my 30-day limit. Once I was assured that the police wouldn’t hunt me down and that I would just have to pay a small fine, I resigned myself to visiting the federal police after returning from Salvador.

Last Tuesday, I went into school (though classes were cancelled) to talk to the international office about visiting the federal police. I went with a friend from the program who also had neglected to bring her visa application with her, but who wasn’t in as much of a hurry since she had arrive two weeks later than I had. Unfortunately, at the office we were pretty much told that we should go by ourselves, and there were blue busses that ran along the beach that would take us to the airport, where the police office was located. And we were told that we should go early.

So the next day I went across the street to stand on the beach at 7 in the morning and wait for the bus. And I waited and waited and waited. Forty minutes later I was about to give up when I saw the bus. I flagged it down and got on. Almost an hour and a half later I was at the airport, but was suddenly at a loss for what to do. My instructions had pretty much ended there. Should I get off at terminal 1 or terminal 2? I went with my first instinct and chose terminal 1 – though once I entered I once again had no idea where to go. I managed to find the military police office (so many different types of police in this country!) and asked where to go.

Once I found the federal police office, its waiting area crowded with Brazilians and foreigners alike, I went to the desk and got a number, 808. Currently the counter was at 761. I figured I was in for a long wait, but I went to get fingerprinted ahead of time so that I would be all ready when my number came up. Getting fingerprinted was actually the highlight of my day – though I apparently was a little tense, since the guy kept telling me to “relaxar” as he inked my fingers a couple of times each. Despite the excitement involved, I hope that was one of the few times in my life I need to be fingerprinted (though unfortunately it will now be a lot harder to get away with any crimes I choose to commit).

After washing my hands, I sat down and waited. And waited. And waited. When, two hours after I had arrived, they had still only been through 6 numbers, I went to go get a cup of coffee and a salgado. Unfortunately there isn’t much to do at the airport in Rio, so I soon went back to the waiting room and tried to read my book. Stupidly I had only brought the book I am reading in Portuguese – and I’m no good yet at reading in Portuguese. It couldn’t keep me occupied for very long so I took out my notebook and thought about constructing a crossword puzzle. After hearing some people speak French, I got jealous and wrote a short essay in French on how much I hated reading in Portuguese and loved reading in French, and how much I hated Brazil and loved France (the second part is actually not true – no offense, France, but I think I kind of like Brazil more). By 3:00 I had been there for six hours doing practically nothing and was considering drafting a suicide note.

The worst part was all the women and families with babies who kept going in EVEN THOUGH THEIR NUMBERS WEREN’T CALLED. I found out later that the federal police meet with one number from the queue, then one “de prioridade” – i.e. with small children or who are friends of a friend of a federal police agent. I spent a lot of time wishing that I really had followed through with one of my many plans to steal a small Brazilian child, or that I had at least thought to pretend I was pregnant.

Finally, as the crowd thinned out, my number was called, and I joyfully went down the hallway that for seven hours I had been dreaming to walk down. I sat down at the desk of a man who I later learned was named Marco and signed several lines on a form, and glued two pictures of myself to the form. Then he told me to go back to wait outside, and I left all my documents with him.

Though I was upset at being made to wait again, I knew it would be nothing compared to the time I had spent waiting earlier. The office was supposed to close at 5, and it was already 4:30. So when Marco came out holding several passports in his hand, my heart leaped.

However, I soon realized that none was the dark blue of my American passport.

He handed the other passports out and then pointed: “You, come with me.”

Duh duh duh duh … TO BE CONTINUED


  1. On tenterhooks! What is rest of story?

  2. I'm working on it -- it has an epic conclusion!