Well it’s been quite the eventful day so far and it’s not even noon (rare for me, I know). I had my appointment at the police station today to apply for my residency card. The original plan was that we were all supposed to meet at the university at 10, then travel there together and go through the whole process as a group. Apparently it had been worked out with the director that because we were all together, we could go as a group regardless of our actual appointment times. Of course, nothing can ever be easy though; today is the day we leave for Morocco, so I need to be all the way on the other side of the city by 2:00. On Monday, Paula, our representative from student life, informed me that it could be cutting it extremely close, and there would a decent chance that I wouldn´t be processed in time to make it. She recommended that I go alone to the police station at 8am when they open, explain my situation, and hope they let me go through even earlier. I was honestly pretty nervous about the whole ordeal because a) I was worried that I would be missing one of the many official documents required for the application and b) my Spanish would not be sufficient to explain this extenuating circumstance to the government officials. Here´s the thing though, if I couldn’t do the appointment today, I would have to reschedule for late November, by which time my temporary visa would be expired, meaning that I wouldn’t be able to leave the country from November until January (maybe not the worst thing if I hadn’t already purchased three separate plane tickets to go to other countries); in other words, this all had to work out today.
It turns out the police station was pretty far from my apartment, so I woke up before 7, grabbed my bag for Morocco and set out into the darkness. I was actually surprised at how long it takes the sun to rise around here, it didn’t start to come up until around 8! Anyway, I made the long journey on the metro, then exited the station into the freezing cold. I exaggerate, it was probably around 40, but I was pretty under dressed nonetheless. I was very proud of myself that I managed to make it straight to the police station from the metro without getting lost! I had a pretty detailed map, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting lost in the past. I got there right around 8 to find people already lined up in front, and I soon learned that they didn’t actually open until 9. So there we stood, in the darkness and the cold, everyone seemingly just as worried that they were in the wrong spot, that they didn’t have the right paper, or that something was bound to go wrong. The gate finally opened, and we were herded to another line, also outside, where we continued to wait. When they started letting people in, there was man standing at the front of the line checking appointments. I got to him, he checked my form, then promptly said my appointment wasn’t until the afternoon so I would have to come back. I got out of line because I didn’t really know what else to, like at all. It finally occurred to me that the university´s phone number was on the one of the sheets, so I called Paula in student life. She then told me to explain to the man that I was with the university and we had talked to the director, and that I had to catch a train. If that failed, she told me to have her talk to him on the phone. I got back in line less than hopeful. He came around again checking appointments and, in the best Spanish I could muster, I tried to explain the situation to him. He again said it didn’t matter and I couldn’t get in until 4; he also refused to talk to Paula on the phone.
I called her again and she said she was going to try to get ahold of the director, Marivell (or something like that), and she started to give me instructions on what to do, but that´s the time when my cell phone randomly decided that the minutes on my SIM card were expired and it cut off mid conversation. By this point I couldn’t really feel my fingers or my nose, so I decided to just take a gamble and go for it. I went back to the doorman and asked for Marivell. He let me past with vague directions on where to go, so I asked another random person inside and I eventually made it to her! I did my best to articulate the situation, be she seemed unaware of the arrangements. She tried to make some phone calls to a person I had never heard of, but she couldn’t get ahold of them or something. I pleaded with her to just call the university so Paula could get it straightened out, but she explained that wasn’t protocol. She said that what I could do was call Paula myself, then have Paula call Marivell, to which I replied that my phone wasn’t working and asked if I could use her phone to make the call. It was right about at that moment that her phone rang; I´m not sure who it was or what they talked about, but she seemed to make a connection. She pointed me towards a waiting area and said she had to go talk to someone. These benches were thankfully inside, so I sat there for a while until she came for me. She then led me past the line, straight to one of the clerks, explained that my appointment time was basically irrelevant, and to attend to me next. Within a few minutes, I was seated in front of the young man, who went through my paper work without issue, took my finger prints, and then sent me on my way. That´s all it took.
I went back to the university, and now I have about 20 minutes before I´m going to make my way to metro station where we are meeting for Morocco. I have to say, traveling internationally teaches you about culture and all that, but I think it’s taught me even more important lessons about handling very stressful situations and rolling with the punches. Seriously, anyone that spent time with me this summer can attest to the anguish that went into the process of obtaining my student visa. But I think this step might have been the last, and this time next month I will have my residency card that will allow me to stay here (and reenter) indefinitely. Now that all of that is behind me, I´m looking forward to the next leg of my adventure! I´m pretty sure we are taking the AVE to the south of Spain where we will stay in a hostel tonight. Then, bright and early tomorrow morning we will take a boat to Africa! I´m a little apprehensive of the living conditions, as all the orientation material just said it will be “interesting”, and if I understand correctly, we may only have one opportunity to bathe in the course of 5 days and it will be in a public bath house. Another thing that traveling abroad has taught me though is that no situation can really be that bad; after all, it’s like I always say, “it could be worse, you could be dead (at which point would be an end to suffering anyway)” I know it sounds morbid, but it’s true, nothing can happen in life that’s really THAT bad, except in the case of medieval torture devices!