Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lia and the Kids are in Canada!

I am sitting in a room at the house of AMG's rural coordinator (Estuardo) in a rural village called Patzun which is 1 hour west of Guatemala City. Yesterday Lia and the kids left for Canada in order to make it in time for the graduation of Lia's nephew Brad. I will be joining them in several weeks. 
Lia's trip did not start out very well. After checking in, she proceeded to go through the immigration check point where they told her that the paperwork for Jesse and Tristan was not in order. They took her to a separate room and detained her for some 45 minutes trying to figure out what to do with her. The incomplete paperwork was not our fault but the fault of the immigration office who botched it. They were supposed to have put a stamp in the passports, but they claimed that it was not necessary even though I specifically asked about it. Anyhow, after several phone calls and tense moments they thankfully let her go. One of the women in charge of immigration at the airport had worked at the immigration office and she knew that things were a disaster there and therefore let her go. This year alone the immigration department has hired and fired the staff twice already. Thankfully the rest of the trip for Lia and the kids was uneventful. They arrived earlier than expected in Seattle and arrived in Chilliwack at around 1:30 in the morning.
This is the second year in a row where our departure for Canada ended up being stressful. Last year we needed an exit visa for the two kids as their residency had not yet been approved. They told us that the process of getting the stamp would take five days. Since you can not apply too early we decided to do it two weeks prior to our departure date. The 5 days turned into 10 days. Then when we went to pick up the passports they told us that we needed another document (which they had not asked for before) and told us that they would have the passports ready the following Friday. Our departure was on Wednesday. It took a while to convince them that it was their mistake and that we needed the passport by no later than Tuesday. They agreed, but it was nerve racking waiting for them to give us our passports back which they did just before closing at 5:00 pm. 
These are some of the challenges we face in Guatemala which are time consuming and cause unnecessary stress. We have been working on getting Jesse and Tristan's residency for close to 2 years and when we finally thought it was done, apparently there are still some things missing. We hope to take care of that after we return from our trip to Canada. The problem you have in countries like Guatemala is that most government positions are political. So it is common practice that when a new government (party) takes office (which usually happens every four years) that they fire almost everyone who is paid by the government and hire new people who are supporters of the current party. This makes things very difficult as you are constantly dealing with new staff many of whom do not know what they are talking about. You can ask the same question to 5 different staff members and receive 5 different answers. This is extremely frustrating and time consuming, but sadly it is part of life here and there is nothing you can do about it....... but smile, take a deep breath and say "this too will pass".