The two questions I’ve been receiving most often these days have been: How is your rat situation? And: Have you gotten things sorted with Immigration? I have a positive response to the first question and a complicated one to the second.
I think I finally discovered where the rats were entering the apartment and have blocked it off. Of course the greatest motivation for finding the hole was seeing a rat scurry across the living room one evening while I was home alone watching a movie and then scaring another one (and myself!) in the kitchen. It was the first time I had actually seen any, and all I could think about was my housemate leaving for South Africa for a week and leaving me alone with them. We caught one in a glue trap the next morning, couldn’t bear to be in the kitchen so ate breakfast in town, and then called a neighbor to come and dispose of it (yes, still alive) in the evening so we could cook dinner. The hole in the broken air-conditioner in the living room is now blocked, and I have seen no further evidence of rats.
Immigration takes a little longer to explain. See if you can follow. (I’m not sure even I can.) Immigration absolutely will not accept my criminal background check. They insisted I can get US embassy verification. I insisted that the embassy does not have the authority to do that. But Immigration says it is out of their hands and in the embassy’s hands. I called the embassy again, explained the situation and asked for advice. They said that they do not have authority to verify a background check, but they can write a letter (with an oh-so-important stamp) stating that I claim that it’s an authentic document. I said, “Fantastic! So I can send you the documents?” The man I spoke to said, “No, you need to come in person and give an oath.” A roundtrip flight to Maputo costs about $250, or roundtrip by unairconditioned bus costs $80 and takes 16-18 hours each way.
Wanting to avoid a trip to Maputo, I called Texas Department of Public Safety to see if there is any way I can get a stamp on a criminal background check. Yes, I can get a notarized background check through the mail. “Fantastic! So I just need to send you a letter requesting that?” “Yes, with fingerprints.” I can easily get fingerprints done here in Beira, but the fingerprint card is all in Portuguese, which TXDPS won’t accept. (Yes, I asked.) Again, I called the embassy to see if they could send a fingerprint card to Beira. No, I have to get fingerprints done at the embassy.
Yesterday I bought a bus ticket to Maputo for Thursday and a return flight on Tuesday. US Citizen Services at the embassy is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9am – 11am. My plan is to be there first thing on Friday to give an oath but also to get fingerprints. But I’m also giving myself Monday in case I can’t get everything taken care of on Friday.
To further complicate matters, my current temporary residence visa expires on the 27th. I return from Maputo on the 26th. If Immigration won’t accept my paperwork, I need to leave the country. That didn’t seem so bad when I first thought of it because I could make a visa run to South Africa and also see a rheumatologist (will write about my health problems in another post sometime). However, someone mentioned that I can’t just leave the country and come back on a tourist visa because I can’t apply for a residence visa on a tourist visa. I can only apply for a residence visa on a temporary residence visa which means I would have to leave the country and go somewhere with a US embassy so that I could apply for a new temporary residence visa. That, of course, takes more time than just running across either the South African or Zim border.
So we’re praying that this will get sorted. The further I proceed, the more frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive it becomes. I hope the end is in sight.