Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Published by Rod
This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.--
I said we wanted to travel to Colombia prior Australia. In order to get some winter clothes, fur and other stuffs. With tickets (flying on July 30th) in hand and ready in the airport we checked in and made our way to the immigration area. After 30 to 40 minutes waiting a long line it was our turn to be interview by the immigration agent in the Simon Bolivar Airport, first was my wife, she handed her passport and immigration card, everything was cool, then it was me. The agent looked the passport, then the extension period in it and asked me:
- “Sir, where did you get this extension?”
- So I respond “in the Onidex branch office located in coche… Why? Is there a problem?”
- The lady in a mocker tone of voice told me: “Are you sure? Didn’t you get it in a cereal box? This passport isn’t suitable for traveling. I am really sorry but you will lose your flight until you get a new passport.”
All of the sudden I stop listening, it was like a really bad nightmare. How could this be possible? I went to the Onidex (which is the immigration and foreign control institution) to get the passport and 10 days before my departure to Australia this lady is telling me that my passport is invalid???? Is she making a cruel bad joke? She turn her head to her back and called her supervisor which took my left arm and showed me a piece of paper (at first sight appears to be a printed email, second time confirmed the first time with the exception that had a government stamp in one corner) yelling me “Sir you are unsuitable for travelling, your passport does not work due to expiration!” Then I was escorted out the immigration zone.
Man, oh man. Why was this had to happen? My first concern was to jump the big pond to aussie soil. All of the sudden my dreams and hopes seemed swift away and, Kathy & I were trapped in the bizarre world of Venezuela. Despair hit me hard, now what I needed to do was to notice the flight crew I was unable to board, then call IOM so they could make the proper arrangements to get another spot in the next plane I could board once I get a new passport. When I was able to contact IOM representative named Mariana, she did not understand what I meant with “they say my passport is worthless” so she got me into my senses and told me that I needed to go to the SAIME central offices (A.K.A Onidex, The Venezuelan government keeps changing the institutions names every two years to show that the “social revolution is really working”), head to immigrations affairs and talk to the responsible in there.
I must confess, everything here in Venezuela is a mess, so I did not have much faith in a good and quick solution for my problems, it is common to have a disrespectful treatment (as if you where begging your rights); but in a despair situation, despair counter measures and I needed sooner or later to go to the central office to fix my passport. I talked to the receptionist who told me to wait the manager for five minutes. After two or less she made me go in the office, this way I meet the immigration Officer Hilda with a kind smile and disposition to heard me out.
- “Hi, what can I do for you?” (she said)
- “Hi, I am Rod and I had issues with my passport at the immigration check point in the Simon Bolivar airport. I called the International Organisation for Migrations here in Caracas and they told me to come here. I really don’t know what or why my passport is failing to complain the checks but I really need it done quick, next week I will be traveling to Australia to reside permanently”
- “Ok I see, can I have your passport so I can take a look?”
I handed her my passport just to be filled with horror as I looked her face.
- “Rod, where did you get this?”
- “At Coche, several years ago. Can you tell me what is happening?”
- “I am afraid that your passport is currently invalid. You see, that office was not allowed to do this kind of extensions and I am afraid you are a victim of a scam. I am calling to Principal Direction. You sweat to me you didn’t pressure any officer to do this?”
- “No I didn’t. I took my passport to that office in a hurry and the officer told me he could work it out but I needed to pay a fee for that.”
- “A fee? How much?”
- “Not much really, he said something like 70 dollars at that moment... I don’t really remember.”
- “Uhms, that’s not good. Don’t worry you seem to be honest and we will do everything in our power to help you, but I got to tell you, if you need another passport for travelling it won’t be ready for the next week... ok?”
Somehow the conversation was not that bad, I was starting to have some hope. After a while she told me to go to the “Principal Directions” where I needed to talk to the director himself. I waited for an hour so he could receive me in his office. Once in he asked:
- “Who are you and how may I serve you?”
- “I am Rod and I have an issue with...”
- “Rod? You are the guy that talked to Hilda?”
- “Uhms... yeah”
- “I need to see your passport now.” (I handed it to him) “Not good... not good at all. Rod, do you know what is happening, right?”
- “No sir, I don’t. Hilda told me that my passport was invalid because the office I used to get the renewal wasn’t allowed for it.”
- “Kind of, the problem is that this passport might be taken as illegal, as you forging a fake identity, where you aware of that?”
- (almost having an heart attack) “No... Sir... How could I know...?”
- “Rod, you seem to be a good guy; and so far, no one who had talked to you told me that you offered money or any kind of bribe as most of people does. It just talks good about you. What I am going to do is, send an order to the fifth floor so you can have you blueprints and information managed by an officer. Your new passport should be ready in 10 days, but I am afraid you will lose your flight to Australia. Have you talked with the travel agency?”
- “No sir, I didn’t get the tickets in a travel agency. I had the fares from the IOM. They have limited vacancies every few flights, the next vacancy might be free within the next 6 months which isn’t suitable for me.”
- “Well Rod, that is your task, find another spot and I will try to get your passport in 10 days. Deal?”
- “Ok Sir, thanks.”
I went out that office, with a good feeling. Not just that my passport issue was about to be solved, I also felt that Venezuela has opportunities with people like these working in government institutions. There is hope for Venezuela so my kids (whenever they come) could someday know their past.
I waited with much stressed (almost driving crazy to Hilda calling her every two days) the resolution for my passport and after 10 days I went back the central office in ‘Plaza Miranda’ to find a gorgeous new passport. The new passport had a biometric card with all your information checked with international institutions, every single page is made of cotton paper (similar to the money paper) with the pictures of Venezuelan heroes such as Simon Bolivar, Sebastian Francisco de Miranda, Andres Bello and so on.
Next we called the IOM to confirm that we had the passport and to book to another plane. As someone told me “innocents are protected by god’s hand” in 4 hours I had my new plane ticket to Sydney, Australia via Santiago de Chile and Auckland, New Zealand. The travel day was September 7, 2009, arriving the 9th of September of 2009 (9/9/09) down under.