Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's been a busy week

It's been a busier week than my previous weeks, of which I am very grateful for! I volunteered at an international school this week. On Sunday, I taught gym (yes, I taught gym) to 1st and 2nd graders. We all named our favorite animal and acted like it. Then, we played freeze tag and my personal favorite: blob tag. After that we did handstands and cartwheels and finally played a game of soccer. Tuesday, I had my first ever substitute teacher job. I spent half of the day with 3rd and 4th grade. From 8:30-12:15, we had spelling, handwriting, reading, science, and math. I was of very little help in math when they asked me to assist them in long division. I haven't done long divison since the 4th grade and had to shamefully say, "I'm sorry but I have no idea how to do 4th grade math." By the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that my calling has absolutely nothing to do with teaching elementary school. Kudos to my roommates and all the other teachers out there who do it for hours and hours 5 days a week!

Wednesday, a friend and I went to apply for our year-long VISAs. If there was any sort of organization or system to this VISA application process, I didn't figure it out. We took the metro (i.e. subway that's not below ground) downtown and wandered into a building with about 200 windows. We took the precautionary measures of walking through the metal detectors. No worries, the alarm went off on over 50% of the people who walked through but the guard didn't seem to notice and the guy in front of the TV to watch our bags get x-rayed was too emmersed in conversation and his breakfast to pay much attention. Thus, I felt much safer after doing that.

We then made some photocopies and had our pictures taken for our passport. The girl who took my picture then photoshopped it for me (perhaps thinking I would pass out copies to my friends since we all know how good those sort of pictures look). She gave me sky blue background and then trimmed some of the curls off my hair. In one part she trimmed off to much so it now looks like I have a mullet in the picture.

After all this, we finally made it upstairs and wandered our way through the halls, only after going through another metal detector in which the guards were just as focused as the previous guards. We rounded the corner into a really, really long hallway packed with people. We went to a window and shoved our way to the front. (I discovered a long time ago that they don't do lines here. You just push and shove to the front.) A woman gruffly directed us to window #12. From #12 we went to #43 and back to #12. After this, we were told to return to window #38 in 2 hours. Sounds simple, right? I think not! If only you could see how crowded and confused this place was. Behind all
the windows were hundreds and hundreds of passports and papers scattered across tables and tables.

We left to hit up an english bookstore. We returned 2 hours later. I shoved my way to the front of the line at window #38 and requested my passport. The woman told me to come back later. Hmmm, I thought. Where is my passport? We came back 1/2 hour later and it was still not there, so we went for lunch. We returned an hour later and finally they handed our passports to us. Done, right? Nope! Only halfway! You have to apply for and get a VISA before you can apply for and get permission to leave and re-enter the country. And, the VISA lasts for a year, while the re-entry VISA only lasts for six months. Where's the logic in that?

So, we went back to window #12 and were sent to window #2. She gave us some papers and sent us away. We returned and she sent us back to window #43. We returned and she sent us away because we didn't do something right and when we had corrected it, we went back to her again. This time, she took our passports and said, "Tomorrow, 10am." Our jaws dropped. We have to come all the way down here again tomorrow? "Please, it's hard for us to come down here. Is there anything you can do?" Her response: "Tomorrow, 10am" and then she walked away.

So, what was there left to do but to commute an hour back home and then return this morning. We did take the bus today which was an adventure. So, we went through the metal detectors and walked up the stairs, down the long hallway, to window #2 and she just handed us our passports and we walked out. This morning was a 2 minute visit, and yet a two hour commute there and back.

All that said, I am now an official tourist resident for the next year and am free to come and go from the country as I please through March 12th. I don't plan on going downtown anytime soon though.


Liana said...

i'm pretty sure it's not a mullet...and i sure hope you're snapping some pictures of those kiddos for my wall of the world :)
love you

Calvin said...

Yeah, they do the same thing to our pictures here in Russia. They take forever touching it up. I haven't figured out the point yet.