Time for some more observations about Brasil. I’ve been here a few days and had some time to decompress a bit. We’ve been really busy with getting Monica’s stuff ready for her visa appointment next month.
We still need to get that broomstick from the Wicked Witch of the West……
The US Embassy in Rio requires a list of things from immigration applicants. Most of the stuff is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, this is Brasil, and almost nothing is as easy as it could be. Yesterday, we took the Tipo to Rio in search of a certificate from the state police. We need to prove that Monica isn’t a criminal. She applied for one from the Federal Police last week from an office here in Volta Redonda – she needs one from the stste and one from the feds. Monica had heard that the Rio de Janeiro state certificate could be obtained locally, and went to a local office to ask for one. Fortunately, she has a friend that works there. The friend told us that we could not get the certificate there and made some phone calls for us. As it turns out, the only place to get this required “good citizen” certificate is at the State Police office downtown in the city of Rio. I e-mailed the consulate the other night asking where to get this certificate – they haven’t got back to me yet.
Tuesday, we decided to make the trip to Rio. Monica teaches two early classes on Tuesdays and is off for the rest of the day, so we stopped at the local Federal Police station to pick up the certificate that she had ordered last week. Since they would not open until ten, we decided to get this later (good thing!) and leave for Rio. Monica got a little experience driving on the freeway (her first time) and did a great job. I took over before we climbed the big hill (lots of dangerous curves, and it had started to rain) between Volta Redonda and Rio. We made good time getting to the city until we hit Linha Vermelha, the elevated highway through town past the airport. Traffic was slow and although we took the correct exit, we ended up in the wrong lane and missed a turn. We reversed our direction and tried again. We had to stop and ask for directions, but we were eventually able to find the State Police HQ, leaving the Tipo in a parking lot a few blocks away. We really could have used my GPS.
The state police building looks really old, and we had to ask a few people before we found the office that we were seeking – a small unmarked office hidden from the front of the building, around one side. Monica talked to a clerk that explained that they would need a copy of her ID card. One maddening thing about this country is how badly they treat their people. We had to go back out in the pouring rain, cross the street, and have a photocopy made of Monica’s ID card for a few cents and then return with it, before we could fill out the form requesting the “I’m not a criminal” paper for the embassy. Since the police office required this copy, why didn’t they make the darn thing themselves? It’s not like they don’t have copy machines there… The office also required a letter from the embassy requesting that they provide us with this information. After Monica filled out the form and handed it in, we were told that we had to come back in 15 days to get the “good citizen” form – except that that would be a holiday week and it’s likely that nobody would be there, so it’ll likely take a week or so longer.
We stopped at a small “by-the-kilo” restaurant on the way back to the parking lot for lunch and some bad service (we didn’t get drinks because the waiter never stopped at our table) and then started home. No problem on the way home, except it took almost an hour to drive the last kilometer to get on BR-116 – (traffic photo is robbed from the ‘net) – the traffic was horrible there – it always is. There is one lane on the on-ramp, and about 6 lanes merge into it. We saw a small accident in the line – a small car merged into a big truck, scraping his side and ruining a tire. We saw the little car pull over with a flat as we passed him. When we were finally entering the freeway, we saw the same car in front of us, with his spare tire on. Either he had a great pit crew, or we were just in the wrong merge lane…. We’ve spent as much as two hours in that same place on a Friday night. This was a Tuesday at 2:30 pm.
Monica’s making lunch now, and she just brought me a spoon with two really tasty shrimp. MMmmmmmm.
We get back to Volta Redonda at about 4:30. We used all of the natural gas in the Tipo and some of the gasoline because we had to keep the a/c on. It was raining all day, and when we turned it off, the windows fogged up quickly. We were pretty comfortable, though. We took eight hours and spent money on gasoline, tolls, parking and meals to get this paper that we won’t have for three weeks. The crazy thing is that if we lived in Sao Paolo state, we could get it online. So much for that decompression thing….
This morning, I took a walk into Retiro – mostly just for the exercise. Vagabond dog (who is always waiting at our front gate) followed me all of the way there, waiting for me whenever I went into a building. He walks right next to me, as if he was on a leash with his head brushing my hand occasionally as I walk. He left my side only a few times – to smell where another dog had marked, and to chase the occasional moto. He seems to really enjoy that – I’m not sure why. He always comes trotting back holding his big brown head up high and smiling as if he had done a really good thing. It’s got to be scary for the motorcycle driver though – he’s a big, loud dog.
On Monday, I noticed that the Tipo was a quart low on oil, so I took it to the Shell station in Vila Mury (it’s where I buy my gasoline) to have the oil changed. The kid that did it was impressive. He drained my oil, loosening the plug with a ratchet and a meter-long length of pipe (found in any auto shop in the universe), changed the filter and oil, asking me for my preference. They had Castrol GTX (pronounced “jeh teh shee”) – isn’t that cool for a Shell station? I use the same stuff in my cars at home. The kid put the oil in, checked the dipstick a few times. had me start the car for a minute and made sure that the oil pressure warning light went off, checked under for leaks, checked the level again and added some more oil just to the top mark. He even gave me the bottle of oil (about a quarter full) that was left. The power steering fluid was a little low, so he topped that off and wrote the mileage on a sticker, explaining to me that I should change the oil again in 5000 kilometers but that the filter would be good for ten. It was the equivalent of about $45. I didn’t ask for an itemized bill, but I’ll bet that the majority of the cost was in the materials – stuff like that is expensive here. The gas station was a little like they used to be in the US. There were four or five young men in sharp uniforms taking care of people’s cars. You don’t pump your own gasoline here. One thing that was a little different was a nice older man selling warm empadas from a bicycle ingeniously fitted with a surrey-like top and aluminum frame designed to protect him from the rain and sun. Empadas are baked pastries filled with meat – like turnovers. They’re really good.
This afternoon, we went to pick up Monica’s Federal Police certificate – from the office that wasn’t open until ten yesterday, remember?. We arrived at 3:30 pm and left with the certificate just after 6. There was a screw-up with her name that caused the wait. Anyway, that’s one document we won’t have to get again.
We also stopped at the health clinic in Vila Mury this afternoon, where Monice got her required vaccinations. No cost, and almost no wait!
Tonight, we’re just taking it easy – and I’m finishing this blog.