I’m in Brasil on a trip where we planned on finishing up Monica’s visa.
Monday, Monica had her mandatory appointment with the doctor that consults for the US Consulate. This visit was a requirement for her visa. We drove to Rio in the Tipo with Monica suffering from a nasty cold. The drive to Rio was pretty uneventful – we left with plenty of time and I followed the same path that we took to apply for Monica’s document from the State Police that says she isn’t a criminal. We arrived near the State Police building and parked the car – we had a few minutes. After retrieving the document from the police, I decided to walk to the doctor’s office on foot. Downtown Rio is not a very nice place to walk – we had a few minutes and it wasn’t far.
Unfortunately, I failed to take into account that Monica didn’t feel well, and the walk of about six blocks started getting ugly. I put my sweetheart in a cab and told her that I would meet her at the doctor’s office. It took a while to get back to the car. Once I arrived, I checked a printed Google map for directions to the Doctor’s office, about 8 blocks away – easy to see on the map, no problem.
An hour later, I am still driving around. Driving in Rio is much like driving in New York, except that the streets are all one-way, very narrow and nothing makes sense at all. Because the place is so crowded, people have to forsake the sidewalks and walk in the street. Cars park on both sides of the street, leaving enough room for just one car to pass, and if that car is a taxi and in front of you, you get to wait while the guy gets out and negotiates his fare, along with everyone behind you. Oh, and the street names change every few blocks – just to keep things interesting.
At last I make it to Rua Mexico, where I am to meet Monica, but there’s no place to park. I find a curbside spot a few blocks away. By the time I get to the office, Monica’s done and we just need to pay the bill. Monica’s not looking well, she needs to go to bed and we still have to get to the hotel ( just a few blocks away). Unfortunately, those few blocks turn into many, as the one-way streets are working against us again. As we’re walking back to the car, we stop in at Citibank to pay the US Consulate immigration visa fee. We needed this receipt at the interview the next day. It was the last piece of paper that we needed. The visa fee was $131 US dollars, but the bank would only take reais. No problem, I paid the fee with Brasilian money and out the door to our car.
The ride to our hotel (five blocks from the doctor’s office) took about 15 minutes, as the one-way streets were against us again. Monica asked a cab driver where the street was and he gave us bad instructions (this happened often). I had seen the street as I was trying to get to the doctor’s office, so I knew where it was – getting there was a problem. The green arrow is the doctor’s office – the red circle is the hotel, the blue one is the police station……
The Hotel OK was an OK hotel. It’s a well-preserved downtown hotel built in the fifties or so. It has some awesome architectural details from that time, and although some parts seem a bit dated, everything was clean. The bathroom area in our room had been recently updated and was pretty nice. The room itself was kinda small, but sufficient for our needs. What Monica needed was a bed – she was still sick and needed some down time. The front office loaned me a network cable – the ‘net was available, but not wireless. Net speed was good, and I spent some time catching up on news, email and stuff at work while Monica slept.
Later in the afternoon, we went out for some unremarkable dinner at a nearby restaurant and went back to the room, where we napped until about ten. I then went out to get coffee. Except for a few bars, everything in the neighborhood was closed or closing. I bought a few slices of cake from a street vendor (awesome stuff) and coffee at the hotel bar. This area of Rio (Centro) closes early – I suppose that places frequented by tourists (Zona Sul) might stay open later.
The next morning, we had the hotel breakfast (lots of fresh fruit, juice, pastry and stuff available) and walked to the consulate – just a few blocks for our 7:30 appointment at the Rio consulate. The consulate was right across the street from the doctor’s office where we had been the day before.
No problems getting into the consulate – they had Monica’s name on a list. We were directed upstairs to a second floor waiting room with semi-comfortable chairs and a TV at the front of the room for entertainment. Our paperwork was checked by an consulate employee soon after we walked in. Oh oh, Monica’s picture was not good enough – there wasn’t enough of her left ear showing. It was there, I could see it, but we needed to have more ear in the picture. There is a computer program that digitizes the facial data, and I guess the computer uses the ears as important data points. We’re also missing a form – no problem, we can fill it out as soon as we get back from getting a new photo.
Out we go to a nearby photo shop, where a new photo is available in about 10 minutes (and about 10 reais). Lost of ears showing – Monica tucked her hair back behind her head for this one. We walk back to the consulate, go upstairs and fill out our missing form. The same employee at the desk upstairs was helpful and even carried the new photos and completed form back into the office for us. We were called up to an interview room where our paperwork was checked over again and then asked to wait. We were given a ticket with a number on it, like in a deli. We met a few other couples who were there for the same reason and passed the time talking to them. One of them was Vincent Price, who was marrying a much younger Brasileira. Well, he could have been Vincent Price – he looked just like him. In any event, it was nice to talk to folks that had similar experiences. It helped pass the time.
After about four hours total, as lunchtime was approaching, our electronic number came up on the deli board and Monica and I went into the interview room. We had a pleasant conversation with the consul, who thanked me for being there. She spoke to Monica in Portuguese, spoke to both of us (and me) in English,. We were in there for about ten minutes total. When I heard her say “parabens” (that’s Portuguese for “congratulations”) to Monica, I knew that she was approved. We went downstairs and paid the courier fee to have Monica’s passport (with her visa) sent to her home address, and then went back to the hotel.
I was a bit worried because of the time – it was almost one, and I didn’t know Hotel OK’s policy on check-out time. We got our stuff together quickly and checked out with no financial penalty. I then went to the parking garage to get our car. It was just around the block, but it was about a 10 minute trip – all of the streets were pointing in the wrong direction again. I gathered up our bags and my wife-to-be and headed down the one-way street to get the heck out of Rio. Monica asked a cab driver for directions (wrong again!). Ignoring them, we headed in the general direction of Linha Vermelha, (how did they get a photo with no cars??) the highway that would take us out of town. We found it in a few minutes, and we were on our way home.
Of course, we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. We celebrated our visa’s success at a churrascaria named Oasis on the highway out of Rio. A churrascaria is a vegetarian’s nightmare. Waiters walk past your table with skewers of different meats – all of it really good. They had a nice salad table, too. Awesome meal. I can’t remember when I’ve ever eaten that much meat at one time…..