Saturday, October 11, 2014

Good Success!

We've reached a milestone of sorts now in our efforts to reach our goal of moving to Cuenca, Ecuador: our documents that needed apostilling by the California Secretary of State - my birth certificate and our criminal background checks - have now been apostilled at the CA SOS regional office in Downtown LA as of Thursday, and our Social Security pension letters were received from the US State Department at our mailbox Wednesday.  With these crucial documents now in hand apostilled, we went to the Consul General of Ecuador in Beverly Hills, and. . . received our legalization papers for the Social Security pension letters, proving our sources of regular income. 

We didn't have to produce (except to show briefly) the birth certificate and the criminal background check documents.  Our consulate official, Cecilia, who we've seen three times in succession now, only wanted to examine for "perception of income" letter writing purposes our Social Security pension letters showing our proof of income and the amounts.  She carefully typed out the information - our names, address, passport number, and Social Security monthly pension amounts - in a Spanish language letter and when finished, called us back up to the counter. 

I'll briefly add that Cecilia remembered us from our previous visits, and so was in tune with our specific situation and what we needed to do to be legalized for our immigration to Ecuador.  She remembered we were going to finalize our Cedula indefinite visa application in Cuenca, and were therefore not applying for the six month visa, saving a total of $350 in the process.  Better to use those funds towards getting the Cedula, and she understands that approach and has no qualms with it. 

I was asked if I understood enough Spanish to read and understand the letter written on my behalf regarding my monthly pension.  I replied in the affirmative, with a "Si!". . . after all, it is their country, and I am a guest. . . even in their consulate.  I signed the letter with a blue pen - not my normal color, which is black - just the way I signed my name on my US passport.  Cecilia compared the signatures, and pronounced me "good to go" to Ecuador. 

Carolyn Anne was then called up to the counter, and was asked if she needed help with reading the letter written on her behalf regarding her monthly pension.  She did need help, of course. . . and so I came to the counter to read it over and ensure all the information was accurate and complete.  After signing the letter, she likewise was declared "good to go."  

According to Cecilia at the Ecuadorian Consulate, our marriage certificate needs to be apostilled.  According to our legal counsel in Cuenca, Dr. Cardenas, all we need is a notary public's signature and seal.  I'll go with our legal counsel, who is there where we will deal with the Ministry of Immigration office in Cuenca versus the US based Ecuadorian Consulate, who doesn't have direct interaction with that specific Immigration office as far as I know.  

Once done with the business at hand - and a careful going over one last time of the requirements for the pensionado visa (9-1) - showing we had fulfilled all the document requirements asked for by the consulate, we then asked about getting the "pet visa" for our dog.  "You don't need any further documents from us for your pet to travel," Cecilia responded cheerfully.  I asked her if she was aware that at least the Miami EC Consulate issued these kind of documents of late, according to my sources on the 'Net.  She was not. . . and said that all we needed was the USDA form to travel with.  Anticlimatic moment, this.  It became apparent that we were actually done with visiting the consulate, though we were anticipating two more visits - one for Carolyn Anne's birth certificate, and the last for the "pet visa."  But no.  We received a blessing of sorts from Cecilia, who is from Quito, by the way, who remarked upon our completed paperwork journey, "Enjoy our country!"  Graciously spoken. . . We replied in English "We will!" with smiles on our faces.  Sonrisas. . . success!

Well, with all this done and behind us, we felt like celebrating.  So we did!  We went to the Antelope Valley Mall near our residence - still our residence until Wednesday, thank God - and had supper at Red Lobster, normally out of our league budgetwise. . . but we now know we are leaving.  We won't have a chance to do this again anytime soon.  This is also the restaurant where one of my best friends (and our Best Man in our wedding) works part time at, and his shift was this day at this time.  We asked our waitress to please have him visit us for a moment at our table, if possible, and she was able to carry that message to him.  Our friend "Nick" was surprised and pleased to see us, of course.

I want to add that from our current perspective, the service rendered to us by the Ecuadorian Consulate through Cecilia was altogether appropriate and helpful.  It became obvious to us in this last visit that we had listened to her country's document requirements.  Having met them, the mutual understanding of each other and appreciation of each other's position grew in beneficial ways to the point that it seemed that Cecilia was more relaxed and smiling more than we had seen her doing in past visits.  A learning experience all the way around. 

One small detail to take care of: Carolyn Anne's birth certificate still needs to be apostilled.  Can you believe that the Lansing office of the Michigan Secretary of State's office *lost* this document and the request, though it was sent and delivered UPS, with tracking performed on it?  Wow!  I discussed this matter with the clerk I reached after a couple of phone transfers, Joanie, for a half hour early Friday morning and it is readily apparent that they don't know where on earth it is.  The office there is backlogged two to three weeks behind, according to our personable, friendly MI SOS staffer.  I asked her if she checked the logs for the day before and the day after I had recorded it as being delivered at their shipping dock.  She did. . . no record of it under my wife's name.  I asked Joanie if all of the mail received for September 29, 30, and October 1st had been logged in.  She said it had.  They process the apostille requests at a downtown Lansing location other than their Crowner Blvd. location that we mailed our documents to, fyi.  Wonder if it got lost in the transporting between addresses. . . (sigh)

This is why it's good to have friends.  Good friends.  Friends you can count on when the chips so to speak are down.  Joanie let me know if we had someone - not necessarily my wife, but a friend or relative - deliver the original birth certificate with the $1 payment, they would gladly produce the apostille for the birth certificate involved.  Good!

I asked Carolyn Anne if she wanted to fly to Michigan to get her birth certificate apostilled.  She wasn't happy with that question. . . costly trip.  I then let her know If we could find a trusted individual to do this for her who just might live somewhere in Michigan, it would be able to be accomplished that way.  Carolyn Anne mentioned after a bit of thought that her longtime friend Mary Ann O'Connor would be a good choice for the task.  Mary Ann and I discussed the matter and we will send her the birth certificate later on today.  Thanks again, Mary Ann!  You're part of the tapestry of our immigrating to Ecuador now. . . and we will owe you at least one good Mexican dinner down the road, if not more!  (smile)

The wisdom of requesting multiple copies of one's birth certificate is apparent here, of course. 

Getting back to the Ecuadorian Consulate office visit for a moment. . . some valuable lessons on how to comport oneself while there and amongst the Ecuadorian people.  There were a dozen or so people in the office waiting for service, and one other Gringo couple present besides us.  It became apparent that the wife of the pair was not all that patient and flexible regarding the details surrounding their pensioner's visa application.  They had already arranged a flight out to Guayaquil for Saturday - today - and had to get the details of getting their US passport stamped with an Ecuadorian Visa that day resolved, or else there was going to be complications.  They flew here from out of state, too. . . it's hard to get service from the Ecuadorian Consulate by email or telephone, and you have to get it in person from our experience.  So I empathize with this couple. 

All the pacing and whatever else done by the wife was not really needed.  What was worked out by the Consulate and this couple was to have them come back at 4:00 PM, after the office was officially closed, and get things resolved to good satisfaction then.  Won't go into details here. . . not necessary.  The Consulate even gave them their personal cellphone number should there be any difficulty getting to get together to meet at 4:00 PM that day. . . very good service from what I can see.  Coming together, working out differences. . . the hallmarks of a consulate or embassy's major tasks.  This was not lost on Carolyn Anne and proved a good object lesson on how to interact with others, especially as we travel and live in Ecuador amongst people not like ourselves.  Patience. . . is indeed a good and Godly virtue.  The Good News is that it is becoming quite obvious to me at least that the willingness to not respond verbally so quickly, to be patient, to allow God to take care of things by not being so in charge of every little detail is starting to take hold in my precious wife's heart.  May she continue down that path of Holy Habits of the Heart, and abandon ruthlessly those old habits that have ensared her and caused her grief.  Yea, God!  He is working amongst us. . . even and especially as we ready ourselves for the big changes ahead. 

Next up: Close of Escrow, Part II (The End, I hope) and storage unit sorting of belongings. . . what travels, what gets stored at my cousin's, and what will be donated away. 

We're talking about maybe three to four weeks away from flying out and getting to Ecuador.  It's really close up on the horizon, and our hearts are melting at the prospect of saying final goodbyes and anticipating the trip ahead. 


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