Or, a lesson in navigating Ecuadorian bureaucracy.
Step One: print out the cancellation documents, including a copy of the ex-volunteer’s passport, a copy of their visa, a copy of our proof of having a legal presence in Ecuador, and two copies of a letter requesting the cancellation of the visa because you need one to be signed as Recibido by the government functionary in case you need it to reference and the copy you submitted gets misplaced.
Step Two: attempt to make an appointment at the online portal for the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Discover that there are zero appointments (0) for the next two months. Scratch your head at what to tell Ex-Volunteer who wants to stay in-country but not volunteer with WorldTeach.
Step Three: brave the Ministry without the security of having an appointment to see if you can wheedle your way into getting what you need done. Wait in line for between 15 minutes to an hour with predominately Venezuelans as you try to speak to someone at the information desk. You may not use your phone at all in the Ministry building, so you’d better be sure you have a book.
Step Four: get ushered over to explain the situation to a gentleman working at the information booth (“So basically we are legally obligated to cancel Ex-Volunteer’s visa, because Ex-Volunteer wants to stay in the country and we cannot get an appointment for two months, and we can’t have Ex-Volunteer here for two months under our responsibility when Ex-Volunteer is no longer part of our program, so is there any way you could please please help me out?”)
Step Five: get referred to other gentleman working at the information desk, because that new gentleman is actually the lawyer. Not this other information desk worker. Notice the flier posted on the window noting the fines and potential imprisonment for lack of respect to information desk workers. Wonder how many people have been punished for this.
Step Six: wait to talk to the lawyer at the information desk. Re-explain what was shared in Step Four, and hope for the best. Wait while this kindly gentleman goes to ask another lawyer what should be done about our case.
Step Seven: Friendly Lawyer at the information desk says yes, we can help you. Hurrah! It is Tuesday. He says to come back Friday and he can cancel them for me.
Step Eight: return Friday morning. Get blank stare from Friendly Lawyer, and explain all that has happened. Friendly Lawyer asks for the visa cancellation folders of the Ex-Volunteers. Remind Friendly Lawyer that you had already left those folders with him on Tuesday, at his request. Friendly Lawyer makes some phone calls, sees a few other Ministry-goers, and then tells you that you can return Monday to pick up the cancellation request copies.
Step Nine: Arrive Monday. Wait in line for 15 minutes, see other non-lawyer gentleman again. Told to wait for Friendly Lawyer to return from lunch break. Wait over an hour (!) without book because you clearly weren’t thinking, and casually eavsedrop on other people talking to the information desk fellow. Idly wonder what language this large, dark man is speaking because it surely isn’t Spanish. Listen as others ask questions you know the answers to already (yes, you really do need to get up in the middle of the night to get an appointment for your visa, because by 9 am they are already gone for the day!). Ponder why fyou ailed to bring a book along.
Step Ten: Leave, defeated, because you are starving and you have a meeting to go to and can no longer wait hoping that Friendly Lawyer returns from his extremely prolonged lunch break. Let no feelings of frustration show outwardly, but whine to Devin upon arriving back at the office.
Step Eleven: Return again (with book in hand) on Tuesday morning LONG BEFORE LUNCH. Lesson learned. See Friendly Lawyer within 15 minutes, receive letters acknowledging our cancellation request instead of the standard “recibido”. Leave joyfully. Your work is done!