Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tudo não é facil

The reason I went looking to get fingerprinted is another story, but last Monday, that’s what I did all day. On the advice of my síndica, I started the errand at Tudo Fácil (Everything Easy), which is a one-stop-shop for residents to handle official business—a place to obtain certificates, replace lost documents, and the like. They do not count ink among their office supplies.

Next I went to the Polícia Civil near my apartment, the most entertaining part of the expedition. I waited in line for a while before being told they don’t do fingerprints—then being directed down the corridor to find Gomez. Oh how I wish I had a picture for you! Besides the fact that I didn’t have my camera with me, I figured they might not take kindly to me taking pictures of the station interior and staff. Allow me to set the scene: the station is actually an old colonial house, a bit run down, with tall old windows…among the few windows in Porto Alegre without bars. I peeked into an office to see a tanned and grey-haired man, apparently the head honcho, behind a desk in a short-sleeved and casual-patterned cotton shirt unbuttoned to the navel, drinking chimarrão* and enjoying louder-than-expected Top 40 music from the boom box on the file cabinet, with an incense stick burning atop another cabinet.


With a smile that was half puzzled and half delighted he responded, “Sim?”

He gestured, inviting me to enter and sit. I explained that I needed fingerprints and he confirmed that they didn’t perform the task. Incidentally, I thought it strange because I saw an officer in the next room, which had hand-taped height markers on the wall—the sort that they use in line-ups—so certainly they must process criminals in this station. Despite not being able to oblige my request, Gomez quickly devised a plan to buy himself face time, and began making phone calls on my behalf. He filled the pauses with a friendly interrogation: Where are you from? How long have you been here? You speak Portuguese very well! Why did you come to Porto Alegre? How long are you staying? Would you like to share my chimarrão? Do you like chimarrão? Ahhh, well the trick to preparing it is cold water!

The curious secretary came in to listen, under the guise that it was too hot in her office. She hardly looked old enough to be working—with a petite frame and 5-foot stature, max, including the bonus inches from the stilettos, and her black shirt-dress was cinched at the waist with a very retro 6” wide elastic belt.

After the series of phone calls, Gomez instructed me to go to the Polícia Federal over on Ipiranga. There, I should request an oficial which is a fingerprint card and take it to the Instituto de Identificação on Avenida Azenha.

Muito obrigada, Gomez! Yes, next time I’m in the neighborhood, I will stop in and say hello.
At the Polícia Federal, I was told to come back the next morning because the time was 3pm and they only attend to foreigners between 9am and 2pm. I’ll paraphrase the dialog:

--But I just need a form and the officer at the Polícia Civil called and they told me to come now.
--Sorry, come back tomorrow.
--(facial expression which simultaneously revealed incredulousness and pleading)
--Ok, ok, one moment. (disappears)
--Ok come with me.

I was led to a back room occupied by a young Arnold Schwarzenegger who listed, in English, a string of reasons they could not fingerprint me. After the explanation I replied, “I only need the form.” Oh, here you go! He led me out of the office, grabbing his gun on the way, and out to the street where he pointed me in the direction of my next stop. Hand shake, cheek kisses, good luck, thank you.

At the Identification Institute I was attended by a very gracious man who argued my case several times to his supervisor, before regretfully informing me that they could not help.

On the walk across town back to my apartment, I stopped in a paper store and purchased an ink pad. Closer to home I passed the Brigada Militar (Military Police, not to be confused with the Civil or Federal police). What the heck, I thought, and approached the guard smoking out front. He took me inside, gave some advice on technique, and I fingerprinted myself.


The rest of the week has been uneventful. And hot! We are having an indian summer and temperatures have been in the 90’s since Sunday. It’s supposed to snap with big storm expected this weekend. I won’t be here to soak my arsenal of footwear, though. I’m flying to Rio de Janeiro in the morning to visit the crazy people from Tupiniquim Hostel in Botafogo, where I stayed with Thiera last November. On Saturday, I hope to meet up with some Internacional fans to watch their game against Flamengo on my second visit to Maracanã. I’ll hang out, drinking caipirinhas and meeting strangers until my Tuesday evening return flight. I’ve got a lot on the agenda next Wednesday, but I’ll try to fill you in on the inevitable funnies shortly thereafter.

Today’s photo features a scowling gargoyle on the Catedral Metropolitana. I don’t understand why the façade of a glorious house of peace should be adorned with something like this, but there it is.

Bom fim de semana,
Loquinha Gauchinha

*chimarrão = traditional Gaúcho tea/social ritual… remember the giant cuia?