Regaining Hope

9 Jan

Peter Krol’s latest blog post, Regaining Hope, is certainly timely. Yesterday very nearly qualified as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I had hoped to make a day trip to Lima to pick up my residence card. I almost missed my morning flight because, among other things, I got up a little late (my fault), the taxi driver stopped for gas, and the Arequipa airport, while small, is quite busy at 7am and there was some problem with my reservation. Thankfully, I made it to Lima all right. I used the Taxi Satellital app on my phone to summon a taxi at the airport in Lima. After waiting 15 minutes for a taxi, I saw a driver that I know and like but declined his services since I had already called for a taxi. Then I waited another 30 minutes 😦 I finally gave up and took an available Taxi Satellital passing by. I could not understand the taxi dispatcher speaking Spanish or English on my phone, which was very frustrating, and never did see the reserved taxi (probably because of said failure to understand spoken language).

Upon arriving at Immigration, I was told by 3 different officials 3 different places to go in a chain which eventually led me to the correct place, the queue of 25 people on the third floor. After an hour or so of waiting and visiting with a man from Arequipa who runs an orphanage and speaks good English, an official took a few of our details. About 10 minutes later he reappeared to tell me there was a problem with my visa application (the man from Arequipa interpreted for me) and I needed to speak with the woman at Window 1. The man from Arequipa was in a predicament, too, as the officials were arguing about a certain form he may or may not need, and the whole reason he was there was because after 16 years in Peru, Immigration revoked his residency on a technicality when he went back to Germany for a year.

The secretary at Window 1 was behind glass, which like the phone, mutes all treble tones and makes it very hard to understand Spanish. She did know some English but it was also hard to understand. She told me that I needed to drop off my INTERPOL certification, which I did, and come back at some future time–another clerk later said maybe in 5 days–to pick up my residence card. This was a huge blow. I had understood from Immigration in Arequipa that it was all done and had booked the trip for this purpose only. It could have been my faulty understanding, but I don’t think so in this case. It is very, very frustrating not to be able to know even if I heard something correctly or not. Note to self: repeat back everything. Fortunately, I did have my INTERPOL certification with me and dropped it off with the not-so-nice lady.

After debating for a while what to do, consulting Steve via phone, and praying, it appeared there really was no alternative but to leave Immigration. I called one of my friends and business associates in Lima from CloudWare 360 (a great Google Apps partner) and we had a nice lunch at Larcomar overlooking the ocean, which was definitely the bright spot of the day.

I arrived at the airport 2 hours before my scheduled flight time of 7pm and get checked in quickly. Shortly before our scheduled departure time, I received an email from Immigration requesting that I present my INTERPOL certification at Window 12 within 5 days or the entire process will have to be restarted. As I had presented that very certificate around noon, I am a little concerned about the timing of the email and am hoping it’s due only to the slowness of the automated system to update. In the event I do have to present my certificate again, I would need a copy, and unfortunately, I gave the lady at Immigration the original. I scanned it before I left, but it wasn’t showing up in Google Drive on my phone, so I began to panic that I’d lost my only copy.

At 7pm, we were told that due to weather, there would be a 40 minute delay. This was somewhat expected as it had rained all night in Arequipa (’tis the season) and I wondered if I might have problems getting back. We boarded the plane at 7:40, only to wait an hour or so at the gate for 30 passengers arriving from another flight. Then began the ritual with which I am all too familiar in the States when the weather is basically done for the day. The plane had a “mechanical problem” so we had to disembark. But the terminal was now being used for international flights so we had to wait for immigration officials to show up to escort us in one side of the jetway and out the other. Then we waited an hour at another gate for another plane. Then we loaded onto a people mover to go to the other plane. Then we waited on the people mover for half an hour before getting off and going right back to the gate. Then we waited some more. About 11pm, Peruvian Airlines finally cancelled the flight. They tried to move us all back to baggage claim and disclaim any further responsibility, but the Peruvians know their rights and were clamoring for hotel, transportation, etc. The flight attendants were not forthcoming with these.

At this point, I witnessed one of my favorite Peruvian rituals thus far. Someone mentioned the words, “libro de reclamaciones,” which is the official book of complaints. EVERY business must have one, and it is monitored by a government agency, INDECOPI, which is feared almost as much as the IRS. Someone found the book under the counter and a line started building of people waiting to write in it. At this point, the airline decided they would offer everyone a hotel. The process of getting this arranged was unbelievably chaotic, with 150 people crowded en masse around four attendants. It took about an hour for them to write down everyone’s names. It was now midnight. My phone had run out of battery so I now felt quite helpless–couldn’t even call Vicki to let her know I would be in Lima for the night. I went with a group of 20 or so to huddle in a taxi with another man and two women with infants, car seats not required…. We arrived about 12:45am at Hotel Melia, which is an incredibly nice hotel that I would like to have enjoyed for more than 3 hours. So I did. I slept right through the wakeup call to make the 4am taxi for the 6:15 flight. Actually, I answered the phone, then went back to sleep for 2 hours, which were possibly the only 2 hours of real sleep I got last night 🙂

Here’s where things start to improve. It’s morning. The sun is shining. The hot shower was fabulous (I had brought a change of clothes for my day trip, which partially made up for having forgotten my phone charger cable). The breakfast at Melia is unbelievable, including lomo saltado on the buffet. The concierge plugged my phone into his charger while I ate breakfast, which gave me enough battery to call Vicki, look at the map to see where on earth I was, and… see a notification from Foursquare that my friend Kenneth from Tekton Systems was at a cafe only a few blocks away. This was wonderful providence. Kenneth had generously offered the use of his office space any time I’m in Lima, so I sent him a message and he called me right away, picked me up at the hotel and loaned me a laptop for the day as well as the wifi, phone charger, etc. This is Southern hospitality at its finest, and if you need mobile apps developed any time soon by a talented team at reasonable places, I would love to hook you up with Kenneth. As it turns out, we are going to work together on some training offerings and possible joint projects, so I’m really glad to have had the extra day, anyway. I will also be meeting shortly with another company representing potential future work.

At the office, I was able to call Vicki and send her instructions for restarting the Google Drive client on my Mac, which is safely at home in Arequipa… Thankfully, that did indeed resolve the sync problem and I can now see that I do have a copy of the INTERPOL certification should I need it. And Kenneth used his Peruvian diplomacy to convince Peruvian Airlines to book me without a change fee on the 7pm flight to Arequipa, where, I am told, it is no longer raining.

7 Responses to “Regaining Hope”

  1. David Meade January 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Thanks for letting us vicariously experience the joy and adventure of establishing a life overseas (that can also be read: befuddlement and angst!). I relive many early days on the field thru your descriptions. And someday you’ll be able to comfort some volcanic newcomer with empathetic stories of your own. I know it’s not comforting to think this way when your in the middle of the maelstrom of bureaucratic madness; but you’re doing great. We’re praying and Hos is working. Keep after the good stuff, brother. There’s lots God has yet for you there!

  2. Debra Mucci January 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    I am sooooo sorry for you, how dreadful. I’m also rejoicing that God had given you grace to overcome.

  3. Judy Chandler January 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    I guess my dead Tracfone and inability to activate a new one is a small matter indeed! But how kind God is to provide and encourage you along the way, through others. And someday a lot of Peruvians will thank you for hanging in there!

  4. michael CHANDLER January 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    It is hard to believe that after two trips to Lima for a visa that this document cannot be mailed to you. Peru is notching down on my scale of civilized nations in the world. Efficiency and beauracracy of immigration and visa services and banks is prime criterion. Even in the US passports are mailed.

    We sure are sorry that you and your family have had to go through this. Providence has smiled on you in providing friends from your good networking in times of need. This sometimes doesn’t work in the US but “call before you come” has saved me some road miles. With government, that may be impossible, because the line may be busy or an automated phone system cannot connect you with a human operator.

    How can the Arequippa immigration office tell you your visa is ready when it is not? Let’s see, you called them for status. They did not mail you a card or give you a document for this. Maybe you have done this, but on my next visa trip to Lima, I’d be taking phone numbers of every clerk I talk with so I can call them before my return for a visa. Are the Lima airlines behind all of this?

    Bravo for your Peruvian fellow fliers who demanded a hotel. Weather is one thing, but “mechanical failure”, now that’s your fault, Charlie (even though I prefer not to fly on planes with such ailments). Son, I cannot truly say I feel your pain, as I have never been through such a tangled web. I can only say your previous encounters with banks and photocopies have well prepared you for this trial. I can tell you who can feel your pain: every US citizen who has recently applied for health insurance!

    Love, Dad

  5. Dawn January 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Talk about a lesson in patience! Wow!

  6. Peter Krol January 9, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    So sorry to about the discouraging day!

  7. Bill Chandler January 14, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Trials and tribulations. At my age I would have trouble handling all of your miss fortunes. All is well with us her in Rockport,Texas for the month of Jan. Access to e mail here at the Rockport library. Love to you, Vickie, Daniel, Timothy, and mostly to Anna. Gramps

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