Sunday, August 24, 2008

Safe and sound

I made it! First impressions: the place is quiet without the kids around, and the other volunteers who have arrived so far seem like a fun-loving group. Not much to say yet, but I know how I felt when I was here in May, and I think everything’s going to be fine. Madre Miguel and Padre Juan picked me up from the airport—they are wonderful people to have as a welcoming party.

In other news—who says you can’t get a visa in five days or less? The saga began last Monday when I realized I’d been using an outdated/incorrect website to prepare my visa application. I called the San Francisco Ecuadorian Consulate when it was clear that my police record just wasn’t going to arrive in time (one of the requirements listed on this website says you need to show you have no police record. uh oh…).

The lovely woman on the phone told me what was what, and the scramble to send in the application began. My plane ticket was scheduled for Saturday and it would have been disappointing (and expensive) if I’d had to cancel and reschedule. I would have missed the whole orientation and training period for the new volunteers. Understandably, I was upset.

Fast forward to Friday, when after a series of phone calls and FedEx packages, Padre Juan and Madre Miguel at the Centro del Muchacho Trabajador (CMT) whipped up some specialized document, got it notarized, and faxed it to San Francisco. At this point I had come to terms with the fact that I would not be leaving on Saturday as planned. My personal travel agent (Nana) was getting ready to cancel the ticket when I got a call at 1:30pm from Madre Miguel in Ecuador: “They say they have your visa if you can go get it!” I couldn’t believe it—everything turned around so quickly and it seemed that leaving on Saturday was still an option.

The Consulate stops dealing with the public every day at 2pm and they say they don’t even meet with anyone on Fridays. But I called and luckily someone answered. She told me if I got there before 2pm, then I could have the visa. Otherwise I’d have to wait till Monday. Pleasant Hill is usually about 45min from San Francisco, but Mom pulled a Steve McQueen and got me there as fast as she could. We probably broke a few laws, but sometimes it’s okay to break the law when it needs to be broken, right? (see police record above)

And now I’m here, and I’m so thankful. Who knows what this will be like—there’s no way to prepare yourself for this kind of thing. I was advised by a good family friend: don’t try to control all that’s around you, just let things happen to you. I’ll try my best at that. Wish me luck!