Whitney's Story Index:

Ao final

Son in the sky


Vida Dura

Un lugar para mi

Crossed the border

Quiero mas tiempo!

Yay for a shower!

New coast for me!

The ocean calls

Tierra Dura

Time to dry

Rolling with it

Viviendo la vida

Day BA

Bangkok, Thailand

Day trip to Bowen

Bouldering trip

Beach volleyball!

time for school

Mailing address


The Last Supper

You live and you learn: Adventures in Bureaucracy

Well, now that we're fairly up to date on my fun adventures, I suppose it's time to spice it up and throw in some not-so-fun adventures! The one I am specifically referring to is my current past-time: Adventures in Bureaucracy!

In early January, I arrived in Ecuador on a 90-day tourist visa (I've recently learned that while it's called a tourist visa, it's not actually a visa... which makes a difference in how many blank passport pages you need). As of last Saturday, this time has run out. My Adventures began last Wednesday, when I first went to Quito to obtain what I hoped would be an easy, quick renewal stamp, granting me another 90 days. I had no idea what I was entering into... How could I? Every single internet site/ guidebook/ friend/ lawyer/ government institution had different information regarding visa extensions and renewals.

Day 1 - Wednesday: Arrive at address to which I was directed by internet sites/ recent guidebooks. This office had moved half-way across Quito, so off I went in search of the new place. Upon arrival, I discovered they were closed for lunch... for 2 1/2 hours. So I wait. I eat. I twiddle my thumbs. Doors open, in I go, only to be informed that visa issues are no longer handled by this agency. I need to go to another part of Quito to the office that handles that. Another taxi, another couple bucks, and I'm finally at the building that is truly where I needed to be. But of course, the sector that processes visas is only open from 9-12 in the morning, Mon-Fri. As it is after lunch, Day 1 concludes with the simple success of knowing where I need to be.

Day 2 - Thursday: Early to rise, early to the office, get in, get my extension, get back in time for my 10am Spanish class, right? I enter the office shortly after 9am, to find a waiting room at full capacity - about 70-80 people. I take a number and watch the digital display, waiting for #117 to be called. 2 1/2 hours later, I finally sit down at the desk of a man that tells me yes, I can get a visa. I just need to present these 5 listed documents. Come back tomorrow with those and I'll get a visa. Wouldn't it have been so easy to post that exact list at the front of the room? Provide a pamphlet and save people 2 1/2 hours of waiting?

Day 3 - Friday: It is now the day before my 'visa' expires. I arrive with all the listed documents, wait 3+ hours this time (dispite arriving half an hour before the doors even opened), and when I present all my documents, the man tells me "Ok, that'll be $230." Um, excuse me? I was not informed of this. I discover that this is for a 6-month visa, which is more than I need. Is there a cheaper option, for a shorter period of time? Yes... but now I need to change some of my paperwork and come back on Monday (apparently not important that by the weekend, I will be illegally in the country).

Day 4 - Monday: Alright, here we go. I've got documents, I've got money, I'm awake by 6am so I can get in line early. This time I only have to wait 1 1/2 hours in the waiting room (after 45 minutes to be let into the waiting room). I get called in, and tell the cold, unfriendly, unhappy man that I'm applying for a visa. He silently flips through my passport, tells me there are no full blank pages and he can't give me a visa, and sends me away. 3 hours of travel/ waiting, 7 seconds of "service." Apparently, the visa they give is a giant sticker that takes up an entire blank page, and as all my pages have a few stamps on them, I need to go to the US Embassy, add pages to my passport, and then come back and try again.

Day 5 - Tuesday (today): The US Embassy allows one to set up an appointment online (what a novel idea!), so today, I arrived for my 1:45pm appointment, for the purpose of adding pages to my passport. I figured there'd be a small fee, but no worries - I needed more space for my upcoming travels anyways. So, I was granted entry into the concrete-and-metal fortress that is the US Embassy in Quito, and within a delightfully short period of time, my request was processed, new pages were added, and the job was done... with the wonderful surprise of an $82 fee. Yup. $82 to add pages to my passport. Upon further research, I have found that to renew my passport, which expires next year, would've cost me $110, and renewal can be done at any point. So. $28 more would've given me an entire book of blank pages, plus 9 extra years. *Sigh* You live and you learn.

TOMORROW: I return to another few hours of waiting for my number to be called, in high hopes of walking out with a sticker that grants me some more time in this country.

Por el amor de Dios! I hope this is over tomorrow!

Posted by Whitney 04/12/2011