Darn… qué?

6 11 2009

Today I had my first ‘Darn Spanish!’ moment. I went to the Foreigner’s Office to register for my Residents card. I started out well, freezing cold but happy, confused about the lines – but happy. I chatted to a Chilean who directed me the wrong way accidently – but still happy. Still happy in a full room of waiting people because I was by the door and had air thanks to losing my seat when I misunderstood an announcement. It was only a 40minute wait til I went in and sat down. Then the lady looked at my passport and couldn’t find the stamp for my entry. I didn’t remember getting stamped so I said there wasn’t a man. Then she asked if I had my ticket with me which I didn’t because it was a torn up scrap of paper since I just printed off an E-ticket. She seemed nice and patient, then someone came to get her, she took her bags, left and handed me over the other lady who talked really fast and clipped at me, and didn’t change when I asked her to slow down. In frustration at trying to tell her I couldn’t understand in Spanish, my frustration making it really hard to find words I burst into tears at which point she got really dismissive.

I couldn’t understand anything else and I asked if I could just call my friend who speaks Spanish and she could explain it to her. She kept pointing me to the helpline. I assumed she was telling me I had to leave and come back with a ticket which I said I didn’t have. I had found a baggage ticket for the flight, but she wasn’t interested in what I was showing her. I finally got her to write down when and what time and what with, and clarified I didn’t need a number.

Then she just left my papers on the desk and walked back to hers, my queue to leave I guessed. I said ‘nothing more’ she waved me out and I left.

On the way back to the bus I kept thinking it is hardly fair that because I can’t remember their immigration doing their job she should be so unhelpful. It would have worked so much easier if she’d shown a little compassion and a touch of patience with me and slowed down to make it a little easier for me to form and understand sentences. I wondered if you have to be particularly uncompassionate to work in a place like that or if the days of endless unprepared people do it to you. Either way, I was so frustrated with administration and policy. But I’m not the first migrant to feel like that, nor is it a Spanish experience. I’m sure today countless people in Australia went mental trying to make themselves understood to apathetic immigration officers and some very patient and attentive ones too. Others are in cells or on boats waiting their chance to argue their case.

On the other hand, I got on a very efficient bus and came home to the incredibly generous ‘Spanish Mum’ Marina. But before that – I sat on the bus and took out my map, and the lady across asked if it was a map and if I was a foreigner. My face conversation instigated by a Spanish person. Someone talked to me, someone lovely and interested and kind. And while I was marveling at just how gracious God is to give me such a conversation, we passed a cathedral and she crossed herself. These lovely kind people with no idea where grace and how we live fit together. This is where I need to be and God will use me. And these things are just part of the journey.


Of course when I got home and had the space and calm to think, I looked through the passport and found very clearly exactly the stamp I needed right in the middle of the page they were looking at 🙂 So now I go back in 2 weeks and wait again, this time without a number – and hopefully I can move my class after morning tea so I don’t miss another day.

Either way – another day in the life of an ‘alien’ or ‘stranger’ in the world.




2 responses

8 11 2009

That’s a heart breaking story dude!

I can only imagine how frustrating that can be. I remember the fear I felt in France trying to buy train tickets & that was just inconsequential. This would have been terrifying!
Just think of this time next year when you will look back at the old you with pity!

Praying for you & hoping that the next appointment goes well.

Tim, Shona & Annika (OK, Annika isn’t praying for you, but I’m am pretty sure that some of the Da, Da, Da noises had a sympathetic spanish feel to them…)

9 11 2009
Carol Kent

Hi Chloe, Feel for you as you adjust to all things new. Praying that your papers etc will all be in order the next time. Remember that God is good – all the time and know your every need.

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