This is the story of how Camila and I were able to circumnavigate a potential international fumble, within an 6 hr. Chilean business day. The story title comes from my good friend Hugo, a Santiago taxi cab driver I met about 2 months ago in Santiago. Hugo is also a Christian and was on “Team Lisa” along with Camila during my last day in Chile. He acted as our own personal private chauffer, getting us everywhere we needed to go that day.
Camila and I are posed here before our incredible adventures in Santiago on Wednesday. She is the very first friend that I made when arriving in Santiago, Chile at the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport and has now become an eternal extended-family member to me in Chile.
The following story is going to be the most amazing tale of how a minor error on my part, of not knowing a 30-day local residential registration requirement, could have gone horribly wrong for me as an international student studying abroad. But, thank God for his grace and favor along with raising a daughter who has became a lawyer and the smartest person that I have ever known. Bridjette’s quick thinking and sharp legal mind keep her mother calm and focused during what could have been a legal mess of bureaucracy in Chile. Thanks to these two beautiful women (and a bunch of other folks who stepped in to sort out my troubles) I am back in Athens, Georgia enjoying my favorite food at Eastside Hibachi buffet today! 🙂
More pictures and an updated story to come soon. Please stay tuned!
Saturday, December 7, 2013
It’s Saturday the 15th of December and I’m finally getting around to writing this blog post of high adventure. So it begins on Saturday, December 7th when I wake-up excited about my upcoming bus ride to Santiago. This was the date of my return flight back to the US and marked the end of my first international travel and Visiting Scholar experiences. All my arrangements where ready and ticket and my year-long student Visa was safe and secure in my travel bag.
I was excited about my awesome seat on the brand new double decker TurBus to Santiago. Until, a family arrived to politely inform me I was sitting in the wrong set. Oh well, I still had an awesome window seat that was clean and comfy for the 3 hour ride.
Above is the Welcome sign that you see as you enter Talca and I thought it a good opportunity to take a picture of this symbolic representation of the grapes that produce one of Chile’s most prized exports, its Vinos (wines). Little did I know of the irony of the Welcome to Talca sign until later that evening at the airport in Santiago.
It was so cool seeing an American movie with Spanish language and subtitles. I was happy to see how much my Spanish had improved over these 4 months as I could easily follow along listening and reading the subtitles. All is right with the world as I headed toward Santiago. 🙂
When I arrived to the airport, the Delta Airline agent asked for my passport and Chilean identification. I looked at him puzzled and indicated to him that I was an American graduate student and didn’t have an Chilean identification. My Visa was for a year and I would be returning in February 2014. He proceeded to tell me that due to the fact that I had a year long (versus tourist) Visa, I needed to register with my local comuna in order to get a Chilean identification. This was my first time every hearing this news and I began to get anxious because the expression on his face seemed worried. He proceeded to check my bag and gave me my boarding pass so I assumed everything was fine. Above is the pic I took of my Delta flight to Atlanta schedule to leave that night. As I weaved through the line with other passengers at the international flight gates I was next in line to go to the International police caja, where all of your documents are review. I handed my documents to the officer and he too asked where was my Chilean Identification. He spoke no English so that only compounded our poor communication because I kept asking if he was talking about my having obtained a RUT number to which he suggested “sorta” and again repeated what the Delta agent said that I should have been told to obtain this ID in Talca, during my first 30 days in Chile. He next asked me to step out of line and follow him down a hallway…
I was taken into a room which I later learned was the offices of the International Airport Police. As we were walking towards the office I began to panic because I had no idea why I was taken out of line and concerned I would somehow miss my flight needed to get this taken care of. I called my Chilean hosts and had them speak to the officers as we walked since their Spanish was better than mine and they certainly would know better why I needed this ID. Unfortunately, they too were thinking it was a RUT number and encouraged me to relax and that everything would be fine. I must say, the officers were very nice and as I calmed myself was able to get a better idea of what was going on. I was being given a citation or and would have to appear in the office of the office of the Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Púlica on WEDNESDAY MORNING BETWEEN 09:00 y 14:00. I took a deep breath and held back the tears as the officer tried to encourage me that everything should be fine. He gave me specific instructions to help expedite my process but my master’s degree is in Public Administration and never is dealing with a government bureaucracy an simple and easy process.
I return to the Delta Airlines desk and ask that they retrieve my bag and reschedule my flight. The first attendant told me that there was a $300.00 USD change fee penalty and gave me the name of some guy named Carlos that I could call tomorrow to try and get the fee waived. I could no longer hold back the tears and headed to a Chilean “sistah” to ask for help on the matter. Or maybe she was Columbian but she looked like me and directed me to another Delta airline supervisor named Lukas. I explained my situation to him and he kindly dismissed my change fee but seemed a little hesitant to reschedule me for that following Wednesday evening (as he likely knew what I would be facing that day). Nevertheless, I felt the Lord leading me to secure the ticket and I scheduled my flight for Wednesday by faith believing God would grant me favor in resolving the matter.
After talking to my Chilean host I immediately called my daughter (the Attorney) and she was not happy. Nevertheless, she when into lawyer mode and told me first things first, get your bag, your plane ticket rescheduled, and return to Talca so we can Skype. I was an emotional mess but she helped me get it together. When I got back to Talca about 2am I checked in with my daughter and we arranged to talk in the morning. If you have been following my blog you know that my laptop died 2 weeks ago and I had been using a loaner laptop from my office which I returned to them when I departed on Friday. Carmen (my hostess) allowed me to use her laptop to Skype with my daughter. As I read the ticket it seemed more serious than a slap on the wrist. I type out the citación in Spanish for my daughter and she when to work researching the issue. She called me back and told me ¨Mom, I don´t want you to get upset but this is serious.¨ She then directed me to find a native speaker who could go with me to my appointment on Wednesday as she felt I would need the support of a native speaker and getting an attorney would delay my return even further. That´s when I contacted my Chilean daughter Camila. She immediately agreed to go with me and coordinated communications with my daughter as my attorney and interpreter developed the strategy of Mission get Mom on the Plane Wednesday.
I return to campus early Monday, morning in an effort to connect with Jeanette Fuentes who coordinates International Student Affairs for our campus at Universidad Católica del Maule. Again, God showed up right when I needed assistance as she was walking down the corridor to her office right as I was leaving mine to head her way. I had assumed she read my email the night before but, she had not had the chance to do so. We immediately contacted my Office of International Education back at the University of Georgia and they were not aware of the Nº 597, DE 14.06.84 (ART .165) law either. Jeanette contacted the Talca International Affairs office and Officer Mauricio Urbina explained everything to all of us. There is a law for anyone in Chile for more than 6 months to register with the local comuna within 30 days of arrival to the country. Failure to do so can lead to your deportation. He felt that I should be able to resolve the matter in Santiago but would likely have to pay a fine of anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 pesos or ($60 to $100 USD), but I would not have a negative mark on my Visa. I was relieved about that news. Everyone was happy to learn that I would have a native Chilean interpreter with me during my appointments so I set out on Tuesday afternoon and secured a hotel stay in Santiago so I could be in the Minister´s office bright and early.
Tuesday, December 1o, 2013
So I say all of my goodbyes to my friends in Talca, everyone from my housemates to officemates gave me 100% support and encouragement, and headed back to Santiago.
Our bus made a brief stop to pick up passengers from a small town on the way to Santiago and a farmers and vendors would board the buses selling things to eat. I got this bag of the best cherries for $2 bucks. So I´m feeling positive and enjoyed my 3 hour return to Santiago.
I decided to make the best of my day in Santiago and toured the city. I sensed the Spirit of the Lord telling me to look up and I saw this sign outside of a store shop (below ) were a letter had fallen off and it looked almost like my name ¨Lisa¨ and the word ora in Spanish means he/she prays. So, Lisa prays… now, only the Holy Spirit would draw a person´s attention to something like this. Any believers reading this post know what I am talking about. God will use people, places, and things to let you know he is with you and loves you as he did for me during this experience. I am a living witness to God´s favor in my life on a regular basis.
As you will note the beautiful title picture of my blog is of the Plaza de Armas in Chile, but prior to this trip, I did not have a chance to visit this area when I was in Santiago the previous month of September. So, I decided to walk to find it and take my one pictures. I have to mention, Chilean men are just the cutest. Some guy came up to me riding a bike and asked, ¨¿Adónde vas mi amor?¨ I just giggled and said ¨A comer.¨ To which he replied, ¨Me acompaña¨, to which I replayed smiling ¨No gracias, estoy bien.¨ Additionally encounters with Chilean men have lead to the following comments or titles: “Mi Reina!”, “Hola Morena Rrrrrrrica!”, and a Chilean accented “Oh My God!” Ha ha. 🙂
So here are my pictures from the Plaza de Armas and there happened to be some street performers there that afternoon. I had no ideal what the guy doing tricks with money was exactly performing but, everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I stopped to ask a nearby couple in Spanish was that location the Plaza de Armas and what was happening. He politely turned to me and said “No comprendo español¨. I giggled and replied, ¨Oh, you speak English, where are you from?¨ He politely replied Australia and I told him I was North American and continued on my journey. So funny!!
The above is a lovely nighttime view of downtown Santiago form my apartemento balcony.
Wednesday, December 11, 2012
I´m up bright and early 6:30 am Wednesday morning dressed to impress and awaited Hugo (my cabby) and Camila’s arrival to start our mission. Both arrive on time and we are off to the races.
Hugo of Team Rescue Lisa
Camila of Team Rescue Lisa
The above picture is from my first arrival to Santiago at the bus terminal where I met Camila and she helped me purchase a ticket in order to get to Talca. I was clueless and very insecure about my Spanish abilities at that time. She is now seems like family to me and I had to include this photo with this story because I ended up both beginning and ending my first time out of my country to Chile, with my dear friend and now Chilean daughter Camila. 🙂
The above two Google maps represents our game plan in getting from all our stops in downtown Santiago (that includes getting my passport and paying the fine) to the final arrival goal of the international airport to catch my flight home Wednesday night.
We are at the office 30 minutes before it opened and hundreds of people were already there standing in line. We walked in, took a number and a man came to use and ushered us to the front of a line where only 2 other people were ahead of us. We got to the cashier’s window all excited thinking this is going to be a piece of cake!! We pay the fine pick up my passport and we are DONE BABY!! We get to the attendant (sidebar: No one beside Camila could speak English during my many stops that day so not having her with me per Bridjette’s directives would have been a disaster) and he tells us that my infraction was not entered into the system and there was no way for me to pay the fine. When asked when my information would be there he said in up to 15 days, a week if I was lucky.
My heart sunk to my feet as he had little more to offer us in terms of next steps because based upon his computer records, I didn’t exist! We returned to my hotel to regroup, drink coffee, and start making phone calls. Below is a short summary of all the places we had to go within a 6 hour period and we made it with only 10 minutes to spear before the offices closed. God gave us so much favor because we would enter rooms with hundreds of people waiting and either a commissioner or high level official would usher us to the front of every line:
1. Office of the Minister
3. Office of International Police (Officer “Guapo” was too cute!)
4. Office of the Ministry (Deputy Soledad)
5. Office of International Police (Office “Guapo” and Under Commissioner “Guapo II” he was even cuter! lol)
5a. Obtain Chilean Identification and Passport $600 pesos
6. Office of the Ministry (Deputy Soledad and Director Faviola)
7. Office of the Ministry (Accountant Cajero Antonio)
8. Photocopy Center
9. Wrong Bank
10. Correct Bank (Banco Estado)
11. Office of the Ministry (Accountant Cajero Antonio – Paid the fine a little over $36,000 pesos)
12. Ruby Tuesday to Celebrate
13. Back to the Hotel to wait for Hugo
14. Catch the bus terminal shuttle to the airport
15. Board Delta Flight 146 to the ATL, Georgia Airport (9.5 hour flight)
16. Tempted to kiss the ground outside when I get to my Groome shuttle to Athens.
Everyone was so helpful and sympathetic to my issue. They all knew I had a 10:10pm flight schedule to the US and worked diligently to resolve all of my problems. That is why I love Chile and will be coming back for more next semester 2014.
Chau chau!! Only for the time being to my adopted second country of Chile. 🙂
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Hello home country USA, I missed yah! I thought this was an awesome view of the 3 Americas (i.e., North, Central, and South) from the planes inflight travel map. Check out the image of my little airplane right in the middle of all three countries. Now that’s simply poetically maravilloso!!
Friday, December 13, 2013
Here’s my I’m so happy to be back at my condo pic only to find out upon my arrival that the neighbor’s place above me leaked water on my walls causing mold in two rooms, and that my car didn’t start (it’s in the shop until Monday). But you know what? I feel very blessed and highly favored. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Oh wait, yes I would… I most certainly would have registered in the International Affairs Office in Talca had I known to do so. Won’t make that mistake again!!
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed The Chilean Chronicles this semester and I’ll Blog to you later. Yuk yuk!
Be Blessed! 🙂