Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Wednesday, 04 March 2009

Life and bureaucracy


Last night, I got to the school to find our director in tears. Earlier, she had mentioned that her friend was in hospital and she wanted to visit him, but was worried about being caught in the rain. To get to the hospital, one has to drive through a low lying area that always floods. She ended up going, but was told he had about 72 hours to live. He is apparently an ex-boyfriend of hers from 3 years ago and the relationship was unresolved. Now he has cancer and has contracted pneumonia. She was understandably very shook up. While I was with her, she asked me to take over for her today. Thankfully, she just meant the classes, not the admin, so I'll be teaching this afternoon and night. It was meant to be a day off. Tat teaches tonight too. Timing should be fun.

One of the documents we're required to carry here is our CPF. Don't ask me exactly what it is. I just know it has something to do with tax. Tat and I got our CPF cards shortly before they changed some tax law. All who have those cards have had their cards blocked and need to apply to reactivate them, so they fall in with this new law... or something to that effect. Yes, I know this is vague, but bureaucracy is pretty vague too, right? Oh, and naturally, we have to pay to have the card 'unlocked'.

Tat's CPF is a little complicated now because her Brazilian ID card has expired, now that she is of age, and she needs to either swear in as a Brazilian or get a permanent residency card, like the one I carry. I have the card, so it should be easy. I wish!

I went into the bank this morning. Now banks freak me out in general. I avoid them where I can. Here, we have to go through a revolving door that doesn't allow metal. You put your keys, cell phone, etc into a perspex container, then step back, wait for the door to 'reset', and go through. Once through, you can collect your belongings again.

So I try to go through. The door jams. I go to put my keys in the perspex container, but see that it is locked. I gesture to the security guard on the other side. He keeps telling me to put my keys in. I show him that I can't. He tells me I can. I get frustrated and start muttering and gesturing more. At this time, a smart-aleck behind Jorge starts telling me in English to calm down, which pushed my blood pressure over the limit. Eventually, the security guard gets the point and comes to release the container. I put the keys in... then the cell phone. I was carrying a tiny bag which just holds my purse, so I figured I'd just put the whole thing in. He says, no... not the bag, but I struggled to get the bag out from 'outside'. I can sense the impatience of the people behind me and the idiot still telling me to calm down. I finally got through. Have I mentioned that I hate those doors?

Then it was Jorge's turn. He put his keys in. Blocked. He put his wallet in. Blocked. He put his belt in eventually and was still blocked. I could see him tensing up. I knew he had his pocket knife on him, but that is always a touchy thing here. So he put his knife in, trying to be circumspect about it. The security guard saw and said, Aha! That is the problem. He stepped forward and said, "I'll keep that until you're finished here," at which point Jorge exploded. They started, through the doors, a battle of cursing. Picture Merlin's epic fight with Madam Mim. Thankfully they stopped before the purple pox curse. The security guard insisted that Jorge was 'armed' and Jorge insisted the guy was being an idiot. In the end, they locked the knife up while we were in the bank.

The law as far as 'arms' go is that you can carry a pocket knife as long as it is no bigger than 4 fingers wide. Now this, to me, is a totally stupid law. What 4 fingers?? My own pocket knife, a little Swiss army knife is barely smaller than my 4 fingers, but drowns in Jorge's hand. I have small hands. Jorge's knife is neatly 4 of his fingers long, but Jorge doesn't have hands. He has spades. The security guard had what we call ladies' hands. The knife looked huge in his hands.

We eventually got into the bank. In a matter of moments, I was talking to the lady at the desk. Their systems were down, so she couldn't help me. What? After all that? Would I mind coming back later. Ok. No problem. I have all the time in the world. I needed to go to the supermarket anyway. I returned after over an hour (there was a giganormous queue at the meat counter) only to be told their systems were still down and why don't I try the post office, at which point I thought, "Yay! Should have done that in the first place! No revolting doors." I tootled across the road to the post office, breezed through the process... and then...


"To liberate your CPF, you need to go to the tax offices, as you are a foreigner." Omg! At this point, I wanted to find a corner to huddle in, clutching my security blanket and sucking my thumb.

In short, I need to have a bank account to get my pay. To get a bank account, I need to have my CPF cleared. Pay day is in 5 days time. I have no clue when I will be able to go into town between now and then to clear that card.

The donkeys at the top? Cute, aren't they? I like donkeys (in case you haven't noticed). Here, 'bureaucracy' is written 'burocracia'. Now 'burro' is 'donkey', so they play on the sound of the 'burrocracia'.

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