Friday, July 10, 2009

Amnestitized!

Here we go… I am free to tell the rest of my slightly unorthodox story.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I made my first trip to Brazil in November, 2005 to visit my then-boyfriend. Shortly after my second visit (March 2006) and first handful of Portuguese lessons, I knew I wanted to live here someday. But how? I started looking into visa options—and found…not many. Work visa? Difficult to come by with my background and Portuguese ability. Student visa? Actually, I didn’t research this one as much as I should have, and it’s the option I’d recommend now to similarly-minded adventurers. Tie the knot? I’ve already stated that I’m a romantic, but I am also enough of a realist to acknowledge that my relationship—which was deteriorating rapidly after my third visit in October of that year—was not sound enough to jump into anything so…significant. One day, grasping at straws to satisfy my belief that where there’s a will, there’s a way, I looked up the Portuguese word for “amnesty” in the dictionary. Controversial as it may be, my subsequent Googling revealed that Brazil had offered anistia to people in “irregular [visa] situations” (the Brazilian government is decorous enough to use that term rather than “illegal aliens”) in late 1988 and 1998. You see where I’m going with this…

I tucked that information into my back pocket and carried on working and saving, traveling on reconnaissance missions to cities in Brazil which I had laboriously ranked on criteria I deemed important; among them, crime, economics, transportation, green space, etc. I learned more about the law, which in early 2007 had been drafted and was floating around Congress, and the penalty for overstaying a tourist visa.

The guy and I split (for the last time [chuckle]) at the end of that year, but I hadn’t changed my dream. Among the items I packed in March, 2008 was a refrigerator magnet that reads, “Leap and the net will appear.” While you wrestle with the soundness of that statement in your head, I will throw in that my net has appeared—many times, in fact, over the last fifteen months.

· Contrary to any reasonable expectation, I found an apartment in four days.

· I met Victoria Winter by chance in a Facebook group before moving here, and she immediately became invaluable (in a myriad of ways, including quite simply, as a great friend and kindred spirit). Soon, my new circle of friends also exceeded my expectations.

· Progressing on a dream, I started writing for Galavanting. The exposure fed on itself and I’ve done interviews (in Portuguese even!) and won a little prize in an essay contest.

I have been safe and quite well entertained during my wait. All the while, I kept an eye on the forward and backward movements of the legislation. Before I close with the obvious good news, though, let me say it hasn’t been easy. I made a choice to come here and take a risk on finding sufficient work, on being uninsured, and unable to travel by plane—living on crossed fingers and hope. I wasn’t able to visit home when my very dear uncle passed away, nor when another family member underwent lung surgery. There have been many of nights of tears and self-doubt. I haven’t hugged my Dad in so long. And I am well aware that, compared to many immigrants around the world, my life has been positively charmed.

That said, I am thrilled to tell you what happened this week. On July 2nd, President Lula signed the amnesty law, which was published the next day in the Diario Oficial, making it, well, official! I went—very nervously—to the Policía Federal (DPF) on Monday, accompanied by my friend Tatiana (bless her). There, Agent Mauro politely instructed me to wait a bit (as the procedures hadn’t trickled down from the Justice Ministry in Brasilia yet), but also put me at ease that my documents seemed in order and I shouldn’t have any trouble.

I went back to the DPF early this morning and waited my turn. I expected it to be Visit 2 of… Many. I spoke to Agent BenHur—no, I’m not kidding—and he was as pleasant as can be! All my documents still in order, except for one addition to the protocol—a Consular Certificate indicating my parents’ names (why my official birth certificate and official translation by an official government translator didn’t suffice I’ll never know). BenHur directed me to visit Debra in the ConsuladoJunior” back in Centro.

I call it the Consulado Jr. because it’s a mini-version of the normal U.S. Consulate, since the nearest of “real one” is in São Paulo. Debra was gracious and fast with the document, and we made lunch plans for next week! From there, I literally ran (now tasting the possibility of completing the entire process before noon) to the oft-visited Lotérica to pay the fees and take my comprovante (proof). After a quick taxi jaunt back to the DPF, I skipped the line (at my man BH’s instruction), and handed in my papers. Twenty minutes later I was met in the waiting room by my new BFF, you guessed it—BenHur, and given my Protocolo and a run-down of my new rights as a resident of Brazil. I stayed a few more minutes to be fingerprinted—before rushing off to indulge in steak and fries, and chocolate cake a la mode—in an unexpected celebration with my good friend, Victoria.

Now, I feel free. Free to share more about my life here, free to travel and have entirely new Brazilian experiences, and free to talk about the other parts of expat life—like work and taxes!

Bring it on!

More-Loquinha-than-you-thought, eh?