Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Bureaucracy Softens

The bureaucracy has redeemed itself.  We had a possible problem.  We needed two documents from our “passportist” office to get our stamps from the immigration office.  The problem was that the passportists only worked on Thursday but the immigration office didn’t provide services on Thursday and we had tickets to leave on Friday night.  I figured we had a chance to leave Friday night if we got our documents on Thursday, we had a chance to get our stamps on Friday morning and we could leave Friday night.  Just to make sure that there were no surprises on Friday, on Wednesday, I went to the immigration office again to ask if I needed anything else besides two documents from our passportist.  As I talked to the lady at the immigration office, I asked if I needed anything besides the two documents to get our stamp.  She said no.  I said something like, “So, I can get the documents on Thursday, because the passportist only works on Thursday this week and I can come here Friday and get our stamp – right?”  She said, “No, Friday is a holiday and we are closed.”  I didn’t know what to do.  I started to panic a little but had enough composure to ask if someone would be in the immigration office on Thursday.  She said that she would not but someone else may be willing to help.  The office wasn’t closed, it just was a day when services were not offered.  On Thursday, we went to the passportist office early and waited.  We were second in line and our passportist (actually our passportists – there are two of them) were very nice.  She quickly prepared our documents and then went above and beyond the call of duty.  She knew that we were trying to get our stamps because we wanted to leave Odessa on Friday.  She called the lady at the immigration office – they knew each other.  They talked a little, she hung up and said that Sveta (the immigration office woman) would meet us at her office at 3:00pm.  We left, went home and later went to the immigration office at 3:00.  Sveta was there working.  She greeted us, checked our paperwork and stamped our permits.  We thanked her for helping us on a non services day and she said that it was her pleasure.  We parted as friends.  We are thankful for the help from our passportist (Tatyana) andour new friend from immigration (Svetlana).

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Taste of Bureaucracy

Here is an example of the kind of bureaucracy we sometimes have to deal with.  Much of it I understand.  There is no reason why the government should not do a background check on us, have translations of our passports or know where we live.  They are just trying to protect their country and economy.  But, as an American, I instinctively value “efficiency” and when I don’t get efficiency – I sometimes complain. 

Friday, June 21, 2013.  We had our actually Temporary Residence Permits in hand.  We got those on Thursday.  The woman at the OVIR was very nice and rushed the process so we could have a chance to leave for L’vov on Saturday.  We just needed to get a stamp from the immigration office.  (Background:  No one has every explained the entire process and I cannot find any kind of law or written document that describes how to apply for and receive temporary residency permits.  Our approach is to start the process and do what we are told by the various offices.)  The immigration office that we needed to go to was not open on Thursday, so we needed to wait until Friday.  We wanted to be first in line so we arrived at the office at 8:00am (they opened at 9:00).  We were third in line – no problem.  Here is our bus route.

We waited an hour.  While waiting we recieved a call from the OVIR.  They needed one more document from the seminary.  I called the seminary and they said the document could be ready in the afternoon.  The door opened, we walked up a flight of stairs into a hallway of eight doors.  We needed office number one.  After waiting a few more minutes, we went in and she was very nice.  We explained where we were in the process.  She looked at our documents and then said that this is not the last step but close.  She made a copy of our permits, wrote our information in her registry book and then had us write a “statement” requesting that the stamps be put in our permits.  We wrote the statements, she put a note, a stamp and a signature on them and sent us to office number 7.  We thanked her and went to office number seven.  There we waited in a line for about a half hour.  The woman in this office, at first didn’t understand why we were sent to her.  We also didn’t fully understand.  She took our document and went back to office number one.  When she returned, we explained again that all we needed were the stamps.  She said she understood, but that wasn’t her job.  However, we did need more documents from her.  She took our statements, made another note on them and said that we need to take these to the boss.  She said that if we waited in line we would be there all day so she would help us.  She said, “Follow me and say nothing.”  We followed her passed a line of people into the bosses office.  He was in a large room, at a desk helping another women.  He also had a TV on across the room with a Mexican soap opera playing.  We waited.  She showed the boss our statements and he said, “Where are the signatures and the dates?”  We quickly signed and dated them.  Then he made another note on them and signed them.  We left the room and the woman said that her part was done.  Now we need to take our statements to another immigration office in the north part of the city.  There we can get our stamp.  We thanked her and left.  We were cautiously optimistic – it was only 10:00am.  We got on a bus and went north.  Here is our route.

It took us a little while, but we found the office.  There were four doors in the hall and none of them were labeled.  We asked around and found the lady we were looking for.  I explained that we needed the stamp in our permits.  She took one look at the documents in our hands and said that copies meant nothing to her.  She needed a card from another office (called the passportist).  I explained that the pasportist doesn’t work on Fridays and she said that we need to go there when they work.  We were getting nowhere, so we decided to see if the passportist was in her office.  This time we walked.

We got there to find out that the office was not only closed – Monday, of course, is a holiday.  The soonest we can see the passportist is maybe Tuesday afternoon.  Well this was a difficult pill to swallow.  We hit a dead end.  The rest of the day was spent getting another document from the seminary, exchanging our Saturday train tickets (except Joseph’s), purchasing new tickets (by faith) for Wednesday and taking our new document to the OVIR.  This required a long trip downtown.  I made it back to our region just in time to take part in our last English CafĂ©.

Our initial reaction was sadness and disappointment.  However, after some time we came to our senses and knew that this was no surprise to God and it is really a very small setback in the grand narrative of the Kingdom of God.  We said goodbye to Joseph on Saturday and now we hope that Tuesday we can get our stamps and be off to join him and the team on Wednesday.