Sunday, March 8, 2015

!Funcionarios del Gobierno, Doctores, y Taxistas, Oh, Mi! (Government Officials, Doctors, and Taxi Drivers, Oh, My!)

Definitely time for an update. . . and some good news.  You can tell by the title of this post above that we have been, with God's great help of course and your prayers, that we have been - ahem - "Slaying the Giants."  We have. . . and in a foreign land, with a very different culture and language, you have to do it with all the energy and attention you can bear.  What looked like a few weeks ago like the proverbial "lions and tigers and bears" are just. . . life's little challenges, and indeed victories. 

Continuing the Wizard of Oz metaphor and imagery, let's discuss first the obtaining the "broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West" - I just love the Frances Gumm/Judy Garland/Wizard of Oz (1939 classic American film) connections as I recount this story - it actually fits rather well!  The "broomstick" in our case, of course, is the granting of our 9-I pensionado retiree Visas, and Cedula cards.

We had to go - according to our abogados at Coloaustro law firm to the Cuenca office of the Ministario de Relaciones Exteriores y Movilidad Humana.  If that office's name suggests in your mind the phrase "Immigration Office" like what the INS (now ICE) is in the US, you've got it - functionally - right!  These people are worse at times than DMV examiners.  Thankfully, at the Cuenca office, there are no longer any long lines in the morning like there used to be a year or so ago, and they have a walk up appointment system in place.  Enough chairs to sit in, too.  

Why we had to go to that office remained a mystery to us until we had a chat with Dr. Cardenas.  According to the Ministario office, our T-3 tourist Visas - the kind you have that last a total of 90 days in a 365 day period and are stamped into your USA passport - were going to expire before the Ministario office in Quito would be able to issue our Indefinite 9-I Visas (that last bit of info not released to the Cuenca Ministario office, but held close to the vest by our law firm).  So a 180 day extension of our tourist Visas were in order.  Oh, Joy.  

Off we went, with Javier the legal assistant, and Merci the bilingual office receptionist, to the Ministario office.   Three blocks - actual blocks - away from the Coloaustro office.  We went on a Thursday morning, and all the available appointments were taken up for the day.  We had to return Friday morning at the beginning of the day. . . 8:30 AM, which is considered early in Ecuador.

That Friday, after waiting over two hours, we got to see a real bruja of a woman, Francia.  (No, I'm not gonna translate the word for you.  Make your own inferences.)  We were told (she told poor Javier in rapid fire Spanish) that the dates on our Social Security pension letters were too old, and that we needed to obtain FBI Criminal Background checks in addition to our State of California DOJ ones already supplied and apostilled.  !!!  The dates on our documents were well before the Ministario changed the rules (late December, 2014 according to a more reliable source).  Our hands are so old and worn it's difficult if not impossible to get the black ink fingerprints that will read properly for the FBI.  

She had Javier type up two letters for us stating that we were deficient in these two areas . . . given to her, of course.  After a mistake made - gotta state both deficiencies, not just the one - the instrangient official was satisfied by the letters, and now we could obtain our Visa extensions.  Saturday.  No more time in the office was available, apparently.  

Saturday we waited three hours that morning to see the official, who granted us an appointment to come back for the actual Visa extension the next Friday (this last Friday).  This last Friday, we finally got the documentation for our 180 day Visa extensions, had them typed up, photos taken by their camera (DMV style. . . that's all I'm gonna say about that!)  and placed into a page in our USA Passports.  Whew!  And we're not even to our final granting of our Indefinite pensioner's Visas yet!  Patience, as always, is the key.

Ahead in the wings. . . a trip to Quito for the Indefinite 9-I Visas after we finalize one final small step in our Visa extensions.  Cost of that last small step: $4 (so $8 for a couple).  Cost of the Indefinite Visa for a married couple (good job by Javier in getting the best price per the regulations for us): $310.  Ouch!  But it had to get done, we found out.  

I contacted a couple of dogsitters here in Cuenca to see what could be done to have someone watch our pet Chihuahua.  It seems many dogsitters are booked up weeks in advance, which may pose a problem for us, who must travel on the spur of the moment to get to Quito for our Indefinite Visas.  Will check Iglesia Verbo Cristiana and see if we can find a volunteer.  A small but important detail, so please pray.  Thanks!
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On the Doctor front: once I got to see a different - and Spanish speaking one at that - cardiologist (my bilingual cardiologist was away on a conference in Washington, DC, btw) I was declared in condition to be prescribed Tenormin (atenolol) to regulate the heartbeat.  Once I got a chance to finally see Dr. Quizhpe again, he similarly agreed that I was on the proper medication, and that I didn't have to see him again for three months, provided no other changes happen.  Then four months before a successive visit.  Doing well with the heart and heartbeat, thank God . . . though I remain officially in A Fib condition.  It's regulated by the prescription medications now, and that's all there is to it. 

Hitting a plateau in the losing weight front at the moment, but not adding any back.  It's been time to rest after all this lawyer and Visa and Doctor visit stuff.  We have been talking about walking to a restaurant far enough away from us to make it a good walk - to El Centro for the San Sebas café - to get that weight loss going again.  A walk to Panesa on Remigio Crespo Toral wouldn't be out of the question either, but that walk is flat terrain, unlike the hill walk up past the Rio Tomebamba to San Sebas.  Total weight loss since moving to Cuenca: 15 pounds.  Total weight loss while in Cuenca in 2014 and 2015: 35 pounds.  Total weight loss since I married my wife: 57 pounds.  FYI and Praise God!  I feel better, too. 

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Ah, now for a tidbit or two on the local chofers, or taxi drivers here in Cuenca: my wife has been going to El Centro on her own - and Praise God, not getting lost - for some meetings that would benefit her with local expats.  She reported a couple of taxi drivers lately charged her $2.50 for what I know to be a $1.50 to $2.00 ride, depending on travel time (the taxis are all metered here in Cuenca now, unlike last year).  !!!  I told her in no uncertain terms to refrain from doing that.  If necessary, get me to see the taxi driver and we would have a real long talk. . . in Spanish, of course!  I hate having my wife taken advantage like that.  Of course, any self respecting driver will just scoot along and get the next fare instead of having a discussion on their business ethics.  Initial reports are my wife is getting them to behave better on the apparent price gouging that took place.

I myself had a driver run his cab without the meter running.  I saw the red "ERROR" message on his meter on my last run into El Centro yesterday, and immediately and firmly requested he get his meter fixed. . . or I was going out of his taxi without paying him.  *That* got his attention, so he immediately parked and finagled with his paper receipt machine located at the left knee of the driver, and got the new roll of paper installed correctly.  The meter then read *BIENVENIDOS* as it normally does, and he profusely apologized. . . then and when I paid him at the end of the trip.  He knew better, and so did I.  I let him know I had *never* seen a driver run without a working meter before this year, unlike last year when meters were not in place in the taxis. . . in my good Spanish, of course.  He understood me quite well.  You simply have to politely yet firmly stand for what is right, or you get walked on in this Latin machismo Culture.     

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