Friday, December 2, 2011

You have completed step '1.1 A' of your journey. By the way your journey is 329847389 steps.

As I mentioned before, I have a visa to be here but it is only for three months. Some time in the first month here, I have to get a residency card to be able to live here for a longer period.

Back in Chicago, the people at the consulate said I had to go to the Subdelegacion del Gobierno (government subdelegation) to get this residency card. If only it were that easy!

When my dad was here, we went to the tourism office and asked where we could find the subdelegation. That was the start of our wild goose chase.

The tourism office gave us an address in the old part of Valencia, to the north.

We took the metro there, only to be told by a police officer that we were in the wrong place since the offices have since moved. He gave us a piece of paper with a load of addresses on them, pointing to one on top referring to an immigrant office.

We took a cab to that immigrant office, having trouble finding it (I asked a local store owner where number 24 was, and all she said was "Well, my store is number 20..." without completing the sentence. Great help!
We finally found it, and after the man I asked went to the back room for more info, he came back to say "No no no no no. You need to go HERE," handing me a tiny scrap of paper with a typed address in Patraix on it.
Seeing as that we were out of the main part of town and therefore weren't surrounded by loitering cops on every street corner who could point this place out on a map, I went into a real estate office and they were like "HERE?! You want to go HERE!?!? BUF!" Assuming this was some reference to a neighborhood that regularly sells human kidneys, I was pleased to find that the real estate woman was just referring to how far it was. Which meant another cab!

We pulled up to the Patraix police station (it's in Valencia, just on the SW corner) and saw a massive line of people outside. I went in, explaining my whole situation (Hi, I need a residency card.) and the police officer with whom I spoke said "Just go on the right and ask who's next." I go back outside. The left line is the one that looks about 80 people deep. On the right there are a few people hanging out, and I am not really sure if it is a line or just a collection of people standing. I go around to the right side of the building, and talk to two cops, through a window (very prohibition-era-speakeasy-like) and they are like "No, you need to go talk to the guy in the front of the building!" I go back to the original cop and I am like "WHERE DO I GO!?!? I AM SO CONFUSED!" And he's like "You can walk right inside!" I have no idea where he told me to go three minutes ago, but apparently it's my turn to enter.

I walk inside and wait about two people deep until it's my turn. I talk to some lady, and she says how I need to get ID card photos taken, get something called an empadronamiento, and pay the "790 tax." I am 13% sure of what is going on. She gives me a photo copy of the magic work paper I gave her saying I had a job, and she also gave me some form and was like "pay the 790 tax at any bank, in cash." Now I am 20% sure of what is going on.

I leave, and Dad and I get ice cream. The guy at the ice cream place tells us of a photo place that he's familiar with, about 5 minutes away. We go there, and of course it's closed for siesta and won't be open for another two and a half hours. We go to the metro stop to head back to the hotel and guess what we find?! A PHOTO BOOTH! Like one of those where you can take a picture of yourself and put a bubble border with fishies on it. Except apparently it also takes legitimate passport and ID photos. Four euros and 5 minutes later, BAM! Melissa has six ID photos. Without fishy borders.

We talk to Ricardo and find out several things:
1. This empadronamiento is a census form. That doesn't really make sense in a translation, but what it means is it is a form that proves I live here in Spain. Because I am living in a person's house, I need to go to the Godella (where my host family lives) city hall and pick up a form to fill out, have my host mom sign it, and get a photocopy of her ID.
2. The 790 tax is the name of the form. Contrary to what I thought before, it's not 790 euros. It's 15 euros.
3. Once I get all of that stuff the lady at the police station asked for, I have to go back to the local government where I am living to turn it all in to get my ID card. Ricardo drives us to the police station where I will go on Thursday to turn in everything.


I get the empadronamiento filled out Wednesday, when I drop off my luggage at my host family's house. Thursday I take a cab to the town hall to turn that form in and get a certificate in return. I ask the dude to give me a photocopy, too, and that I'll pay. He's like "Why do you need a photocopy?" And I'm like "Because there is a crapload of paperwork that I am doing and I want copies of all this stuff you are making me fill out!" So he made a photocopy. For free.

I then walk to the bank and pay the 15 euros, then go to the Godella police station. It's noon on a Thursday, and it is closed. The lights are off, and the storm blinds are half-closed over the door. There are no signs of life or anything inside, save for a piece of paper on a desk somewhat near the door that says "13:30" Is that the time they are returning? Is that the time they open? I don't know. That's all it says.
I have a magazine and decide to wait a bit. Time passes and no evidence of movement in the police station. A cop car drives by, I flag them down. I explain everything. They tell me several things:
1. This police station is not open today. For no particular reason at all.
2. I don't need to go to this police station anyways. I need to go to ANOTHER police station, in downtown Valencia. One of the two cops calls his fellow officer on the phone to confirm this. Yes, positively need to go to another police station. (Side note, his ringtone is a police siren. I thought that was funny.) He gives me the address.
3. I will need to catch a cab to get there from here.
4. This police station is open 24 hours, so it will be open even for the annoying siesta time.

I start walking to my host family's house because it's almost 2pm and I am hungry. I am also somewhat trying to catch a cab even though none are in sight. My host mom calls me on the way home, as if reading my mind and says that her husband is home and can A)feed me and B) drive me to the police station.
So we do just that.
We get to the police station and some guy who doesn't seem to even work there (seriously, could just be a dude they picked off the street who is wearing jeans, Pumas and a sweater) tells us that we are in the wrong place. I need to go to Patraix, the land of long lines and foreigners. Or, we could wait until after siesta when the immigration office in the police station is open. Yes, the police station is open 24 hours, but the people you want to talk to go home during various times of the day. We decide to go to Patraix.

Now that I have everything, I have to wait in the long line. We wait, and wait, and wait and there is no movement. It's about 5:30 and we had waited for 20 mins. It's getting late, and we decide to come back the next day. However, they say that we should get there early. You see, they open at 9am to hand out numbers to people to put them in order. People arrive as early as 4am to get these numbers.
I wonder why they can't have online appointments for these people.
Let's have people camp out like they're buying tickets to the final Rolling Stones world tour concert. Let's make them suffer.

So we arrive at 7:45am Friday (we being my host dad's mom and myself), and put our name on a list. People make a list to put them in order of arrival, since in Spain people don't form lines (even though these are foreigners, they know the lay of the land). Our number, at 7:45am, is 103. That's how many people were there over an hour before this place opened. Now that we're on the list, we walk a block away to grab coffee to kill time. At 9, we line up in order of the list, and they give out numbers. To 90! We didn't make it. And on Fridays they aren't open in the afternoon after siesta, because that's just how they roll.

I come back on Monday. I get there at 6:30. I am number 80. Ricardo's coworker Jose and I wait in the car until 9:00.
Now that I have a good number, I can wait in line some more! Jose leaves and I wait in line for a couple hours for my turn. I witness two things that make the wait more like a drama-filled soap opera:
1. A cop asks who number 88 is. A man behind me raises his hand and shows his number for proof. The cop rips it out of his hands and says "You can't buy numbers! You can't cut in line by buying someone else's number! This doesn't happen today, and it won't happen on Wednesday when you return! Got it!?" Oh snap.
2. A girl behind me, who has 85 or something, moves her way through the line (why she was so far back, I have no idea). Once she sets herself in the right place, she becomes the number dictator, asking a woman (who is standing beside her) for her number. "100? Are you kidding me? Get back there! We're in the 80s! Get back to the 100s where you should be!" Class warfare.

When I get inside, I talk to one of the ladies at the desks. She looks through my papers, it all seems good. I am thinking, "Man, I better have all my stuff here ready because I will be so pissed if I have to wait all over again for some dumb post-it or something that I forgot to bring."
Guess what? I didn't have something! She asks me for a social security card, and I tell her I have an American one (of which I had a photocopy because I am that good), but she's like "no, you need a Spanish one to work here. You need to go to the ministry of labor to get one." But she writes "No line" on my paper to indicate that I don't have to wait in line. I feel like telling people waiting outside that this pretty obvious code should be written on their stuff so they can just cut in line.

Off I go to the ministry of labor! I take a cab, and immediately step out of the cab to find myself getting harassed by one of those survey people. You know, like the ones in Chicago with clipboards who act all friendly to get you to spend five minutes talking to them. Since I only know the street this thing is on, I have to shoo the dude away then awkwardly walk past him again 40 seconds later when I realize I'm going the wrong way.

I ask a cop where the place is and he tells me. You see, it's a love/hate relationship I have with the Spanish cops. The ones in buildings and behind desks annoy me for sending me all over town, but the ones on the street are like my personal tour guides, who direct me to more of those obnoxious cops in buildings and behind desks.

I get to the ministry of labor and the guy gives me a form to fill out, and tells me I need photocopies of my passport and the magic work resolution paper.
No, they don't have a photocopier.
Yes, they'll tell you where one is (address 84 on the right of the building).
Yes, there are about three right turns outside of the building (pesky 5-way intersections).
Yes, the self-serve copier is broken at the copy place.
Yes, you have to wait in line.
Yes, you are in line behind one person who seems to be asking the most complicated questions.
Yes, the 2nd cashier will open, but only after chatting with her amigo for all of 7 minutes.
Yes, you have to pay more for copies done by the behind-the-desk-people even though it's not your fault that the copier's broken!

I return to the ministry of labor, get a number, wait five minutes and talk to a lady. She is a cat lady. I know this because she is wearing an ill-fitting sweater which shows she is not wearing a bra. Bad posture, too. And she wears those tiny rectangular glasses just on the edge of her nose. And she has about fifteen tiny stuffed animals all over her desk. I mean, come on woman.

And I know it's rude to judge based on a person's looks, but I am just plain frustrated at this point and any extra person that gets in my way to get this damn residence card is gonna get it.

I get some papers stamped and some scribbles on said papers, then I (guess what!) still have to do more paperwork! Because that wasn't the social security! That was just paperwork to get the social security number. That was something I have to turn in to Intercontrol (the company I am working for) and they will give me social security. Then I can take that to the collection of long lines in Patraix to get my card. Or so I think.

I like how they just lead me on thinking I am almost there, only to say "You have completed step '1.1 A' of your journey. By the way your journey is 329847389 steps."

Oh, and to top it off, as I left the ministry of labor, I was like "Where's the bathroom?" and the dude gives me a shit-eating grin and is like "The closest bathroom is in the Corte Ingles (a popular mall/store here) down the street. We don't have one here!" Oh really, sir, I am sure NO ONE IN THIS BUILDING USES THE BATHROOM HERE. Liar.

To. Be. Continued.

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