Taxis, and Visas, and buses, Oh My!

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Alright, so today I had to travel to the capital for my residency visa.  What a day!  Lets start from the beginning.  I have to catch the 7am bus from Santiago to Santo Domingo.  Its about a 3 hour bus ride, and my appointment is right at 10am.  So I take the taxi to the station.  Around town taxis cost approximately 130-150 pesos .  The fare for Caribe Tours is 280 pesos.

One of my biggest fears is missing my stop.  So as soon as we arrive in Santo Domingo, I’m on edge looking out the window trying to see something that would tell me where I was.  Everything was fine though because my stop happened to be the main station.  One thing you would have to become used to is all the taxi drivers seriously hustling for your business.  As soon as you step out of the station they are all there waiting for you, honking, psssstt-ing, and waving there little signs that say “Taxi Popular” or “Best Taxi”.

I had already prearranged for Chamil, a trusted taxi driver who was a brother to pick me up.  However, 20 minutes, 30 minutes pass and he is no where to be seen.  I eventually work up the nerve to ask someone if I could borrow their phone.  Another side note, if you what to get things done here you really do need a cell phone.  So I call Jenyffer, the sister who works for the immagration, and let here know that I was in the capital, just waiting for my ride.  She was able to call him and remind him where he was suppose to be picking me up.  So another 20 min. later he shows up, waving last years Year Book out the window.  I was so happy at this point to see a Witness I almost cried with joy.

Chamil was the sweetest brother ever.  He spoke a little English so that was such a relief.  He takes me to the Immigration building not too far, maybe 15 minutes away.  Jenyffer is outside to meet me, and it looks like a mad house inside.  Just imagine a huge DMV, no one speaking English and no one happy to be there, least of all the employees.  So there are like 20 steps.  First you need to get a badge to enter.  You give them a form of ID, not your passport because you will be using that later.  They keep that and give you a badge you must wear.

Next you need a provisional residency application, that cost 100 pesos.  Then you head over to purchase an extension for your stay in the country since it takes a few months for everything to go through, that is another 800 pesos.  You also must have a medical exam, that cost 4500 pesos.  While I was doing all of this, Jenyffer was helping by keeping all my forums, making copies of what needed copies and translating certain documents.

Once all that was underway I went and started my medical exam.  First you go into a back room and do a urine sample…with the door open.  The nurse has to watch, which is mildly humiliating.  Then she does a blood test.  I am terrified of needles, so I had a mini heart attack with that one.  Then off to another building to take x-rays, another 200   pesos.  That was the last of it, so I head to the front area to pick up my ID.  The woman takes my passport to find my ID, but they can’t find it.  I haven’t had anything to eat all day, because I was running late, and had no money on me.  So by this point I’m frazzled.  Finally they find my ID and I’m so happy about that I leave and forget to ask for my passport back!

So Jenyffer takes me to her office at Holt & Abreu Immigration services about 20 minutes away.  We start going through all the paper work and payment plans when I realize I have lost my passport!  I immediately think of the front desk and figured out what must have happened, and when we called it was there.  I am soooo relieve at this point that I just want to cry, it was all so overwhelming.  So we drive back to pick it up only to find that they won’t let me have it.  They had already counted it in the amount of passports they had so then that meant it had to stay until Monday….There was no stanking way I was going to do this all over again, and so eventually the lady said if I waited until 3, she could give it to me once they close.  Since it was about an hour wait I was finally able to go into their cafe and chow down on some delicious pollo con arroz!

With passport in hand we head back to the office to finish up and wait for my taxi to take me to the station.  Chamil was awesome because he called another brother for a taxi so he could be waiting for me at the other end of the station to take me home.  So back on the bus for 3 hours.  I was so tired at this point it was all I could do to keep from nodding off.  When I finally arrive, Danny is no where to be seen!  I waited 40 minutes and then decided to just go with one that was pssstt-ing me and pray he wasn’t a murderer.  He actually turned out to be very nice, his name was Haynli, and he even let me pay a few pesos short since I was broke after everything.  He spoke a little English and when I told him I was a Jehovah’s Witness I think he said he has visited the Kingdom Hall before and liked it.

So that is how you get your provisional residency visa!  Whooowee what a day!  Tomorrow is my first day of work, so its another long day.  Keep reading for more updates!

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