The Light at the End of the (Residency Permit) Tunnel

Today marks two weeks since I started the process of applying for my residence permit. I was crossing my fingers and toes that the migration official would accept the document that the notary covered in my blue thumbprints and the other document that she said she couldn’t do anything with. I started out in the BiblioWorks office where I replied to a few emails and then I took a deep breath and at 9 am I headed to Migration.

The official in charge of cases like mine was eating his breakfast when I arrived. I started by telling him that I had taken the two documents to a notary as he had told me to do on Friday. His reply was, “What did she say?” so I told him that she said she could only do an authentication of our signatures on the one and nothing on the other. He said that was fine but then he wanted new photocopies of the one covered in blue thumbprints. He also tried to convince me that I should apply for a 2 year residency permit rather than just one. (The price of 1 year is just under $200 USD and a 2 year is about $90 more.) He said I could think about it and come back later in the week but I said no, I would only like it for one year and I would like to submit my documents today. When I got back from making photocopies, he accepted all my documents and then sent me to the bank to pay. On my way back from the bank, I stopped and had photocopies made of the deposit receipt. When I got back to Migration, I was told I had to wait for a different officer. She was quite busy so I waited for ages. When it was finally my turn, I gave her the original receipt as well as the copies. She asked me for the “sheet” the other officer had given me to take to the bank and didn’t seem impressed when I told her he hadn’t given me anything because I already had the bank account number (in Steph’s document). She filled out my name on a special folder and sent me back to wait for my usual officer.

There were several people ahead of me but by about 10:30 am it was my turn. The officer filled out an online form, printed off copies and had me sign them and then started filling out another online form. This one involved him taking a photo of me with a webcam and five impressions of each thumb using a small device connected to his computer. After that he was supposed to click to upload the information but it wasn’t working. His solution was to madly keep clicking his mouse button. I bit my tongue instead of saying in my best teacher voice, “Take your hand off the mouse” which is my usual reaction. Eventually I did show him how to use Ctrl+Alt+Del (Supr on his computer) so he could do a force quit and restart his computer. Unfortunately it didn’t fix the problem. He spent a while on the phone with someone in La Paz and then more time exchanging WhatsApp messages with them. After about 45 minutes, it worked which meant more printing of documents, more signing them etc And then suddenly, he was printing my visa and pasting it into my passport! (With 15 minutes to spare before the office closed for 2.5 hours for lunch!)

He sent me to get two photocopies of and then we were done. He was very apologetic about the delay and thanked me for my patience. (I’m not sure he realized just how much patience I have needed over the last two weeks of the process…) I was a bit stunned as in Steph’s notes it says the visa takes about a week after you submit everything (but that hers took two weeks) and that once you submit all the documentation, migration will make arrangements to visit your house. This visit requires paying the taxi to and from the migration office for the officer who does the visit as well as having the most recent light, gas and tax bills, the ID card of the owner and a letter to the director of migration saying you live where you do that is signed by the owner. I feel like I got off quite easy and felt good about being done with the process.


Or nearly done. The official gave me a stack of papers and a bank account number. The next step is to pay 450 Bs (about $65 USD) and then take the papers to another office to apply for my identity card. He warned me that the office I needed to go to wouldn’t open until 3 pm.

I treated myself to lunch at my favourite vegetarian restaurant (Condor Cafe) where I had a yummy moussaka and touched base with “my” waiter, Edwin.

IMG_8566(I let him know that Kenna has sent me on a mission to get the recipe for the spinach pie I had there last week.It was too busy at lunch time to get it from him today.) IMG_8284

I spent the afternoon at the office doing assorted tasks while waiting for my first official initial volunteer meeting. A volunteer from Montana and her 11 year old daughter arrived in Sucre on the weekend and are staying with the woman from whom she has been taking Spanish lessons via Skype for the past few months. They will be volunteering in our library in Sopachuy starting at the end of the month. It was around 4 pm when they showed up, we spoke for awhile and then had a meeting with Roxana, the project manager for that library (she and Silvia are each responsible for 6 libraries). She helped answer many of the volunteer’s questions. This part of the meeting was in Spanish and it always makes me smile when I end up being the “translator” in the office when someone with only somewhat less Spanish than me needs help. (My Spanish is coming back to me but I am still far from fluent. I am contemplating taking some lessons once I finish off all my migration stuff.) The exciting news (for me) is that I will be going to Sopachuy with Roxana and them on October 1st to settle them in. We made a plan for the volunteer to come by again tomorrow at 4 pm so we can go through some documents.

As we were wrapping up that meeting, another visitor came by for me. It was an English guy who had hoped to volunteer with BiblioWorks while on sabbatical but his plans changed and he needs to go back to the UK earlier than he planned. In spite of this, he came by to make a donation to BiblioWorks.

Just before I left the office, Roxana invited me to visit another library with her next Monday. She told me we will have to get up super early and take a noisy school bus to Maragua. We will spend one night and then to come back we have to walk 2 or 3 hours to a main road to catch a bus back to Sucre. Sounds like another great adventure to me!

Tomorrow I will head to the bank and yet another office to apply for my ID card. It will be odd to be able to focus on my work at BiblioWorks and not have to keep dashing out to go to various offices. Oh but I do need to go back to Migration tomorrow to inquire for the American volunteer with regards to how her 90 day visa works. There seems to be something about Americans returning every 30 days to their point of entry into Bolivia to keep it valid. We are hoping this is untrue.

One of the assorted tasks I took care of this afternoon was getting Maritza to take a photo of me for the BiblioWorks website. Thankfully it looks better than the one on my visa!


A Trip to Presto

BiblioWorks has a municipal library in the town of Presto and a school library in the village of Tomoroco which is not far from Presto. Some of the local authorities have changed recently (there must have been elections) so Roxana and Silvia, our library technicians, have been visiting the libraries to form new library committees and help the committees and librarians with their planning.

Silvia invited me to accompany on her trip to visit two of the libraries that she is responsible for.

We left Sucre at 4 pm on Tuesday and took a big bus to Presto. IMG_8299 We took along 4 boxes of books that were purchased on behalf of the mayor’s office for the library. About an hour and half into the trip, the road became much bumpier. At first I thought we were on a dirt road (I couldn’t see very well from my seat) but when we stopped for a short break in a town, I realized the road was paved with stones.IMG_8298We arrived in Presto around 7 pm, checked into our “alojamiento” (literally accommodation but seems to usually refer to a place where you can rent a room with a shared bathroom). Then we went back and made arrangements with Don Jaime, a member of the town council Silvia, knows to stash the boxes in a shop near the bus stop. This took a bit of time and then we returned to our room, had hot showers and called it a night. (I was thankful I had had a proper Bolivian multi-course lunch and wasn’t hungry for dinner anyway.)

Wednesday morning breakfast was tojorí (a drink made from corn that I don’t recommend) and bread. IMG_8309 I avoided looking at the water the glasses were being rinsed in as well as the cloth with which they were being dried and hoped my stomach would too. I was hoping for tea or coffee but neither seemed to be on offer.

We headed to the library and set up for the meeting. Silvia had a powerpoint presentation for the people present (the librarian, representatives from the town council and from the schools). She had also prepared documents to be filled out (by hand) with the roles for the library committee, a change to the library hours and a plan for the library. IMG_8345

Then we spent some time chasing down officials who hadn’t been at the meeting but who had been appointed roles on the committee (such as the secondary school principal).

For lunch we stopped a very local, very basic place. Silvia suggested I have the soup saying it was a rice soup and asked the woman to prepare me a tomato salad. She knows I am vegetarian and has a better grasp of it than many Bolivians but it is still a bit of a stretch. I gave her the chunk of meat that was in my soup (I think it was chicken) and ate the potato and the glob of rice. Then I attempted to pick out the garbanzo beans and a few green leaves that were in the oily broth while avoiding the specks of meat. I was only semi-successful. My tomato salad was fine. By this time I was feeling the effects of no caffeine so I bought a bottle of (warm) coca cola. I managed to drink about ½ of it and stashed the rest for later.

We visited a cousin of Silvia’s briefly. We had to tiptoe past her husband who was passed out on a bed in the front room (alcoholism seems to be rampant among Bolivian men). The house was very basic but the cousin was kind and gave us some bread she had made. Her youngest child has cerebral palsy and is blind. He was sitting on a bed in the kitchen and I spoke to him and sang songs while Silvia and her cousin caught up. I was happy I remember some of the Spanish songs from when I taught preschoolers from Latin America in Calgary many moons ago.

At 2 pm, we headed back to the town hall because we were supposed to be getting a ride to the school library in Tomoroco for another meeting like the one in the morning. The person who was going to take us was nowhere to be found. Various other people offered to take us in 30 minutes, in a hour etc but nothing panned out and finally after 4 pm we gave up. I think the official starting time for the meeting was 3 pm and it is about a 20 minute trip. We were told that someone could give us a ride in the morning at 8 am but nothing sounded very certain and it turned out the principal of the school in Tomoroco was going to be in Presto the next day so we couldn’t have the meeting then.

We went back the the Presto library and Silvia caught up on paperwork while I looked around the library and leafed through a Spanish textbook.

Someone Silvia spoke to mentioned that there was a soccer match that night and invited us to watch. At first I thought we were going somewhere to watch a match on TV but it turned out to be a match between players from the mayor’s office (who all had matching jerseys) and other men from the town (who wore an assortment of jerseys). The match was being held in quite a nice, new looking sports hall. IMG_8401

Before we headed to the match, we passed a woman cooking chips (french fries) and frying eggs on a special cart. IMG_8400Silvia decided she wanted a “hamburguesa” so we stopped. I (mistakenly) assumed a hamburguesa would have meat so I decided I would just have some chips. However it turned out these chips are meant to be part of a dish called “salchipapas” which means they are topped with “salchicha” (slices of neon orange sausage), a fried egg, mayo and ketchup (Bolivian poutine?). The woman was willing to give me them without the egg and sauces but not without the sausage. Silvia said to get them anyway and she would eat the salchicha. Her hamburguesa turned out to be a fried egg and chips in a bun with mayo and ketchup. We added the salchicha to it and I ate my plain chips.

Back at our lodging we discovered there was no water (it was cut off to the whole town). Thank goodness for wet wipes! I had water in my water bottle so we were able to brush our teeth.

In the morning, there still wasn’t any water but the woman at the alojamiento brought by a bucket of water. Apparently it was from the river but it looked ok… I tried to zap a litre of it using my Steripen but the batteries were low and it wouldn’t work. I took my chances and brushed my teeth using as little as possible.

We returned to the same woman for breakfast but today it was api (purple corn juice) and a buñuelo (fried dough). IMG_8404I preferred the api to the tojorí but the buñuelo was pretty greasy. I also had the rest of my coke (still warm and now a bit flat so it was truly medicinal).

Don Jaime went by on his motorcycle with his toothbrush in his mouth as we were eating. Apparently he was heading to the river.

Optimistically we returned to the alcaldía (town hall) to meet with the alcalde (mayor) and see about our ride to Tomoroco. We had decided we should still go in spite of the principal (who holds the key to the library) being in Presto because we needed to check on the state of the playground BiblioWorks built at the school. Part of the agreement when it was built was that the community would be in charge of its upkeep and we had reports that it was a mess.

Several sources informed us that the mayor had had a big night and wouldn’t be in for awhile. We decided to do some library promotion at the primary and secondary schools instead. The primary principal was very supportive and we visited each class to invite the students to the library. My job was to show off a big book with tales and puzzles that hadn’t fit in the boxes we brought on the bus so we had been carting it around. There was one class of 4 year olds, one class of 5 year olds and two classes each of grade 1 to 6. The primary school building looks fairly new and modern. It is built in a circle with the classrooms facing into a central plaza. IMG_8411

In spite of the newness, there were signs of a lack of care being taken with it – broken door handles, a broken window, dirty walls. The classes were not huge, about 20 students max, and many of the teachers had obviously taken care to put up posters and learning aids they and the students had created. Classes were just starting as we went around and in most rooms the students were eating bread (except in a music class where they had bowls of a rice mixture – which I found odd as several students were playing wooden flutes…) Many of the students were enthusiastic about the library and most knew where it was. Teachers were invited to bring their classes to the library but most were non committal. They were more keen on the idea that they could borrow books from the library to use in class if they left they ID card with the librarian.


We then headed to the secondary school. It was just before recess but we managed to talk to the five classes. There are only one class at each level and the classes were again fairly reasonably sized. The secondary students were most excited to hear that the library hours would be changing as of Monday (opening two hours later which means it can stay open until 8 pm) which would mean they could go to the library to do homework and study. The current hours meant the library closed soon after the end of their school day. (The librarian had been far less impressed by the change which had come about due to a request of the secondary school staff.)

The mayor still hadn’t appeared when we got back to the alcaldía. We hung around for a bit and eventually the man in charge of works said he could could give us a lift to and from Tomoroco if all we needed to do was take some photos. We set off down the dirt road in a truck. At one point we stopped and picked up a woman who needed a lift. She hopped over the tailgate and then called out when we were passing where she needed to be.

At the school, the playground was a bit of a mess. Silvia will be informing the village officials that if they do not clean it up, the structures will be moved to Presto. (She had mentioned this to the primary principal who eagerly offered to supply a crew to do the moving if it happened.)

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Back in Presto, the mayor had showed up so we had a quick meeting. He wasn’t very perky but we covered most of what was needed. He seemed a bit put out that the cost of the books we had brought were to be covered by his office as per a previous agreement with BiblioWorks but Silvia can be quite firm.

We then went to have lunch. We went back to the same place as the day before but this time I choose to have rice, boiled potato and sliced up tomato with some slight hot green pepper.

Silvia was going to be leading that afternoon’s book club for children at the library so we headed back to our room to relax a bit and pick up the things she needed for the activity she had planned. The water was back on so we freshened up as well.

Many, many children showed up at the library. A few asked about the book I had shown them in their classes but unfortunately it wasn’t ready. Silvia told a story about a rabbit who didn’t take care of her golden teeth that had a strong message a dental hygiene (very important in this country where children eat sweets from morning to night!) and then passed out a worksheet that covered the guidelines for tooth brushing. Not many children were inspired by the sheet (nor was I) but many stayed in the library to do puzzles and look at books. I offered to read a book to a young girl. She chose a Spanish translation of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (El Gato Con Sombrero Viene de Nuevo) which gave my Spanish a good workout. As soon as I started to read, we were joined by more and more children. When we came to the part where the small cats join the Cat in the Hat and he calls them my letters, I had the children join in (which is a good reading strategy and helped me as I wasn’t sure of the names of all of the letters!). Silvia took a group outside for a game as well.






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We finished up, made a quick trip back to the alcadía to get another signature on a document and then picked up our things at the alojamiento and headed for our bus. The bus back was a van (it reminded me very much of the dala dalas in Tanzania) and the trip was about 30 shorter than on the way there.

All in all it was an interesting opportunity to see a small town in Bolivia, to see Silvia in action, to visit one of our libraries and local schools, to marvel at the number of dogs, pigs and donkeys wandering through town and to sample local cuisine (which so far my digestive system seems to have been able to handle). It was great to travel with Silvia who was very patient with my questions and happy to share her country with me.

Quick Residence Permit Update

On Tuesday morning, I picked up my medical certificate from SEDES and then popped into Interpol to see if my certificate from them was ready but it wasn’t. The woman told me she would call me when it was ready.

Tuesday afternoon, my colleague, Silvia and I set off for Presto (but I am going to write more about the trip in a separate post).

On Thursday morning, while we were visiting the primary school in Presto to promote the municipal library there, my phone rang and it was the woman from Interpol saying my certificate was ready. We got back to Sucre too late that night for me to pick it up so I picked it up first thing Friday morning after a stop at a photocopy shop where I got two copies of each of my assorted documents for migration. I had to make a photocopy of it for Interpol while the woman held on to my passport. I had three copies made – one for her and two for migration. My next stop was the migration office to find out if I had everything. The man was encouraging about my paperwork and the timing (the visa I used to enter Bolivia expires next Saturday). He told me to get two copies of my passport and to get the two documents from BiblioWorks notarized and then to come back on Monday (or possibly any day next week, I didn’t quite catch what he said but I confirmed that I could come on Monday). The photocopies were easy. There didn’t seem to a be a notary on the corner the migration official said there would be but I found another nearby. The notary said because the documents were signed by Maritza (the director of BiblioWorks) she needed to be present as well. I went back to the office and let her know. She said we could go to her notary in the afternoon at 3 pm. We did but the notary didn’t show up until 4 pm. She said she couldn’t “legalize” the documents because she didn’t write them but she did do some acknowledgement of our signatures on my contract that involved signing each page and putting a thumb print in various places. (My thumb is still blue around the edges despite multiple scrubbings.) She told me to ask the migration officer for an example of what is needed on the other document. So on Monday I will head back to the migration office and find out where things stand.

Back to the Pursuit of a Residence Permit

First, thank you to all the friends and family who checked in after my last post. I felt the love and support from all corners of the globe. I also felt better after I had some hot chocolate and listened to an audiobook and then I went to sleep.

Today I stopped by the hospital on my way to work to see if I could make a doctor’s appointment for the afternoon. (They only let you pick up lab results from 3 pm to 8 pm and I needed the results to take to the doctor so he could write up my medical certificate.) The line at the information desk where you make appointments was ridiculously long so I decided to come back later.

I spent the morning sifting through the email inbox of the volunteer account. I deleted a few, archived a bunch, starred some back to and began draft replies for some. The previous volunteer coordinator left in May and while she attempted to check the account and forward important stuff to Maritza, the director, Maritza’s English isn’t great and I think some people may have fallen through the cracks.

A previous BiblioWorks library technician stopped by just before noon and brought ice cream so there was an impromptu gathering to catch up with her.

On my way home for lunch, I stopped by the hospital and this time I was able to make an appointment – sort of. I got a ticket for the afternoon session which starts at 2 pm. At home I dropped a load of laundry off across the street and ate. I made my way back to the office, touched base with Maritza and then packed up as I decided that I wasn’t likely to make it back in post- running around.

I got to the hospital a bit before 3 pm and waited in line. It was still not quite 3 pm when my turn at the window came but the woman happily gave me my results anyway. I made my way to the corridor outside the doctor’s office which was full of people – many of whom were medical students. I asked and it appeared that only two patients were waiting for the same doctor. After a while the doctor stuck his head out and called out a few names, one of which was one of the two I had identified. Five of the students, the patient whose name was called and the other patient who said he just had a question filed into the examining room. The patient with the question emerged shortly after. When the other patient emerged, one of the students called my name. I gave the doctor my blood test results and the chest x-ray. He passed the x-ray to the students, took my blank medical certificate and excused himself. After awhile he came back with it. He had obviously typed it up on a typewriter in some other room. He asked if I knew the “dirección” of the hospital. I was a bit confused as dirección means address and I definitely didn’t know the address of the hospital. He said he would show me and I followed him out. It turns out dirección also means administration and I needed to go to the admin office to get the form stamped. The hospital is a lovely old building and I stopped to take a couple photos from the second level after the stamping was complete.


My next destination was SEDES (Servicio Departamental de Salud del Departamento Autónomo de Chuquisaca) to get my medical certificate authorized (or maybe authenticated?). I spotted a photocopy shop a block or so before I got to the office so I got two copies of the certificate (as per Steph’s notes). The copies were 20 centavos each (3 cents USD) and I paid with a 50 centavos coin. I received a candy as change. The only place that seems to have 10 centavos coins is the grocery store.

When I got to the SEDES office and found the desk I needed, the woman wrote me a bill for 70 Bs ($10 USD) and sent me downstairs to pay. She said she would need a photocopy of the receipt when I came back. There was no one at the cashier but eventually someone said that the person would be back soon. A line began to form behind me. After about 10 minutes, the woman showed up and I paid. I went back outside to find a photocopy shop and ended up back at the one I had been to before. This time I paid for my copy with two 10 centavos coins. Back at SEDES, the woman took my original medical certificate, one photocopy of it and the photocopy of my receipt. She said to come back at 10:30 am tomorrow. Once I have my medical certificate back the only document I will still be waiting for is my Interpol police check. I applied for it last Tuesday and the woman said to check back in 5 days but I suspect Saturday and Sunday do not count. I will stop by the office tomorrow though just in case.

The fun won’t quite be over once I have all my documents though. I will need to get two copies of each and take them all to the migration office. I will also need to go to the bank to make the biggest payment yet – 1350 Bs (nearly $200 USD). Hopefully migration won’t send me off for any other documents though apparently once I submit everything, they will organize a house visit and I will need a letter from my landlord as well as copies of the light, water and tax bills.

In other news, it looks like the visit to two of our libraries is going ahead and Silvia and I will be setting off tomorrow afternoon sometime. We will spend two nights in one town and visit a library there as well as one in a nearby village. (I’m packing toilet paper, wet wipes, peanut butter and my sleeping sheet as well as the usual clothes and toiletries.) Maybe by the time we come back, my Interpol certificate will be ready…

Feeling Far Away



I am feeling far away from friends and family tonight. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is the first time I have stopped running around like a chicken with my head cut off as I settle in to Sucre and attempt to get my new position and my residence permit sorted out.

I have spoken to friends both yesterday and today as well as chatted/messaged with others so it isn’t really a feeling of being cut off completely.

This time zone has made it easier to contact people in North America. The difference between here and Switzerland is tricky – when I get up in the morning, it is the middle of their day and then by my late afternoon they have gone to bed. I will need to more effort to connect with those friends on weekends.

Spending an extended time in Calgary in August was great for reconnecting with people but it has left me missing them more acutely.

There is a woman from Malaysia staying in the same house as I am. She has been traveling around South America for a few months and has decided to stay in Sucre for a bit. She has been here already for one month and plans to stay for one more. We share a kitchen so it gives me someone to talk to and we spent some time checking out the parade together on Saturday. She is working on learning Spanish and asks me questions which is great for my own Spanish.

I am thankfully that in this day and age it is actually fairly simple to keep in contact with people all over the world – maybe not always synchronously – I can’t imagine what it would have been like back in the day when phone calls were prohibitively expensive and you had to rely on the post. That being said, spending time with someone online is never the same as spending time with someone in person.

In any case, tomorrow it’s back to the office and to chasing documents around the city which should keep me good and distracted. (Plus in the course of writing this post I have managed to chat with friends in Canada, the US and S. Korea.)


The Never Ending Quest for a Residence Permit

Friday morning, I showed up at the hospital shortly before 7 am and got in the line at the laboratory reception window. It was about 7:15 when I made it to the front and then I was told I needed to go a pay at the cashier first (the cashier was late but was open by this time). I waited about 10 minutes to see her and then another 10 minutes back in the original line. This time I was given a laminated number and sent to a waiting area by the entrance to the hospital (after the woman said my results would be ready at 3 pm which I was surprised by as the afternoon was a public holiday). Eventually someone called my number and I was taken into a hallway where there were several stations for blood sample taking. I signed off on a form about HIV and had two vials of blood drawn. I then asked at the information desk if I could make an appointment to see the doctor to get my certificate written up after I picked up the results at 3 pm. She said no as there weren’t going to be any appointments in the afternoon. It was about 8:45 by the time I made it back home.

After eating breakfast back at home, I set out to tackle another item on my list: proof that I have enough money to support myself while I am Bolivia. On Thursday, I had printed out 6 months worth of bank statements and a copy of the letter I used to get my original Bolivian visa stating what I would be doing at BiblioWorks. There is a street not far from me that is lined with offices of lawyers and notary publics so I headed there. At the first office I stopped at the notary wasn’t going to be in until 11 am so I kept going. At the second office, I was told that I also needed a copy of my passport so I went back down the street a bit to find a photocopy place (they are fairly prevalent especially near any sort of office that might ask for a copy of something). I went back and a woman typed up a letter for me and then had the notary (who may have been her mother based on the conversations they were having) read it over. The notary made a crack about me having “mucha plata” (literally lots of silver but plata is used the way we use the word cash) but she signed and stamped the form. She then wrote out a receipt for 40 Bs (about $6 USD) but told me I owed 50 Bs. The form the letter was printed on said it was 3 Bs but I am not sure what the other 7 Bs were for…I wasn’t going to argue over a dollar.

There wasn’t much else on the list that I could accomplish so went to the market, made lunch and puttered around until 3 pm when I went back to the hospital to pick up my results. The hospital was closed so I think I won’t be able to pick them up until 3 pm on Monday. (There were signs all over the laboratory reception saying that results could only be picked up between 3 and 5 pm.) I will pop in Monday morning to confirm and to attempt to make a doctor’s appointment.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the parade route and marveling at the costumes. Many of the groups were from different schools. It was great to see some schools promoting inclusion on their signs and to see among the dancers some students in wheelchairs or with walkers and some with Down’s. Eventually I found a free spot in some bleachers and hung out for awhile before resuming wandering.

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Saturday morning the hospital was still closed. I ran some errands and marveled at the stalls set up along the parade route selling cooked food and all sorts of other goods. I picked up some cleaning products and came home and deep cleaned my bathroom.


Mid-afternoon the parade started again. I wandered and sat in a few different spots. Each group dances along certain stretches of the route and then takes a break before moving on to dance in the next stretch. So it can be a bit of a wait between groups.

I came home to add a layer and then later headed out again. In the meantime the crowds had grown much thicker and it was much harder to find a place to see well. I gave up. I can hear the music from my place and I have been told it will go on until 2 am or later.

Tomorrow may be a bit of a let down after so many days of dancers and music and cars covered in blankets… With it being Sunday, my quest for a residence permit will be on hold.




Day Four of the Resident Permit Saga

My first stop this morning was the law courts to pick up my criminal record check. I was there a bit early. They open at 8 am but that means that the employees show up at 8 am and then turn on the computers etc Eventually I got the certificate. I also got a photo of the photocopy bus but it wasn’t yet open for business.


I then set out to find the FELCC office – third time lucky! It was in the offices around the corner from BiblioWorks and they had a helpful list of the necessary documents for the certificate I needed (as well as a variety of others) posted on the door. I was missing a photocopy of my passport and a photo. I went home and picked up a photo and had a photocopy of my passport made on the way back. The secretary took my bank receipt and handed me the blank certificate and I took a seat to wait for the officer. The office was tiny and there were only three chairs so there was soon a line out the door. The officer took my passport, the certificate, the photo and one photocopy of the bank receipt and filled out the form on the spot. He then gave me the certificate (but kept my passport) and asked for a photocopy of it. When I brought him the photocopy, he gave me back my passport.

I continued on to BiblioWorks and accomplished a bit of work in the office. I left for lunch a bit early so I could go to the Colegio de Medicos to purchase a medical certificate. On my way there I passed the dentistry school and there were students dancing in the street, a band playing and confetti being shot into the air.


Once I had the certificate, I stopped by the hospital closest to where I live to see if I could get it filled out there. I was able to make a doctor’s appointment for 2 pm.

I treated myself to lunch at vegetarian restaurant that I hadn’t been to yet, El German. A typical Bolivian lunch consists of three courses (soup, main and dessert) and most restaurants do a set lunch menu that changes each day. I sat at a table for six where I was joined first by a very quiet older man whose granddaughter and wife showed up a bit later and then we were joined by another older couple who were much more chatty. They had lived in Belgium for 4 years at some point.

Then I went back to the hospital for my appointment. There was a waiting room but I was told to go down the hall and stand outside the consultation room. I waited about 5 minutes and then asked the people waiting beside me if I should knock. The man said to so I did and it turned out the doctor was already in with another patient. The doctor said to wait a few minutes. It is a teaching hospital and a few minutes later a student (intern?) showed up, and then another and then another. We all went into together around 2:20 pm. The doctor filled out some paperwork, asked a few questions (none health related), gave me a form for blood work and another for a chest x-ray and told me to come back in the morning at 7 am for the lab work (before breakfast). I went and checked at the lab to see if I had an appointment at 7 am but as expected, that is the time to show up to get in line. I was able to get the chest x-ray right away (well after I paid and waited for my turn and then waited for the film to be developed) and left with it.

Back at BiblioWorks, Maritza printed out my six months worth of bank statements and a letter about what I am doing at BiblioWorks so I can visit a notary tomorrow (post blood work and breakfast) to get an “Acta de Declaración Jurada” saying that I can support myself during my time in Bolivia. (I will also need to go to the market because I am told everything will be closed Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.)

The BiblioWorks office is closed all day tomorrow because tomorrow afternoon is a holiday for the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe and we worked Tuesday morning which was also a holiday for the actual day of the Virgin of Guadalupe so we are taking tomorrow morning instead.

I suspect that with the half day holiday tomorrow, I will have to pick up my blood work results and see the doctor on Monday to get my certificate completed.


Day Three of Getting a Resident Permit – the Adventures Continue!

This morning I started with a trip to the law courts to get a criminal record check. It was the fastest most efficient visit yet! The man at the gate sent me in to talk to the woman at the information desk, she told me I needed a photocopy of my passport. Conveniently, just across the street was a VW bus with three photocopiers and two people in it that was open for business. I went back in, took a number, sat for only a couple minutes, went up the window, gave the man my passport and 50 Bs and he told me to come back tomorrow. (This is the only one of three certificates I need that I didn’t have to make the payment at the bank and then pick up the certificate at one office before going to another.)

Feeling pretty pleased with myself I decided to tackle my F.E.L.C.C. certificate. According to Steph’s note, the office is on Calle Jaime Mendoza on the corner of Idelfonso Murguia. Google maps found Calle Jaime Mendoza but had no idea about Idlefonso Murguia. It looked to me like Calle J. Mendoza ran a short distance between two traffic circles with a limited number of side streets so I decided to take my chances. It was about a 30 minute walk from the courts (uphill) but I also had to pop into the bank to make the payment. The bank wasn’t overly busy and it was a lovely morning so I set out confidently. I found Calle Jaime Mendoza, walked to one end, no sign of Idlefonso Murguia or any official looking buildings so I headed the other way. I got to the traffic circle and still nothing. I asked a few people and when two both said I needed to turn left at the traffic circle, I went for it. It turned out that Jaime Mendoza kept going (mainly downhill). I found a building that looked like it could have police related and spoke the old man at a garage door. He had no teeth and was not very comprehensible but it seemed to be saying that the office had moved and I needed to go closer to the centre. I kept walking down Jaime Mendoza (which turned out to be a major road that runs for a long way). I stopped at what said it was a police station but turned out to also be a library. No police in sight but the person in the library said to go four more blocks down to a pedestrian overpass and the office would be under it. I found a building that said something about community policing but no one was around. I started asking shop keepers. Several told me to go back up the road – first to the previous underpass, then two blocks, then four… I was about to give up when one of them called me back and said to turn at the next corner and ask at the police outpost. I did and although the police officer didn’t seem to know what I was talking about, there was a woman waiting for something and she told me the F.E.L.C.C. office moved to Villa Harmonía near the Q micro stop. When I checked Google maps it showed Villa Harmonía as a long way away. By this time I had been walking for over 2 hours so I gave up and went home for lunch.

I successfully dropped off some laundry at the place across from my house (which only seems to be open midday) and was told to come back in an hour to collect it. They wash it and give it back to you to hang out to dry yourself (or at least that’s the option I went for). I had lunch, picked up my laundry, hung it out and headed to the BiblioWorks office. Maritza called information (I think) to find out the address of the F.E.L.C.C. office and confirmed that it is now in Villa Harmonía but said it is very far and would be an expensive (20 Bs, about $3 USD) taxi ride. Luckily Juana was in the office (she only works a few days a week) and said she lives very close to the office so she would take me on her way home. We decided to leave at 4 pm to allow an hour to get there and time before the office closed.

I managed to reply to a few emails to people inquiring about volunteering and touch base with some people who should be here soon and then it was time to go.

The micro was quite full and traffic was very jammed in places but I saw some new parts of Sucre as well as figuring out some of the ways babies and toddlers are strapped to their mothers. The trip took an hour and then we walked up a steep hill to the office where the woman behind the desk informed us that they don’t do the document I need. Instead I need to go to the police offices around the corner from BiblioWorks where Interpol is. Blurgh.

I said goodbye to Juana and headed back towards the centre of town. I managed to get dropped off a few blocks from my place, came home and had dinner.

Tomorrow I will go pick up my certificate from the law courts and then try again to get the certificate from F.E.L.C.C.

I think I won’t plan on accomplishing anything else tomorrow until I see how that goes.

In other news the preparations for Saturday’s parade continue. There are bleachers being set up along one road and on other the curbs have paint markings to show the sections. (If the wifi were cooperative, I’d add some photos but I have already lost this post once – luckily I draft my posts in a document first just in case.)



Day Two of my Resident Permit Adventures

This morning I went to pick up the FELCN certificate from the office across town and lo and behold it was ready! Along the way I passed a procession of cars draped in blankets and covered with items. Some had silver items, others had stuffed animals. All were interesting.


Back at the office, we took some photos to celebrate reaching 1000 likes on the Facebook page and then I took another look at the paper I got yesterday at the migration office. It had an entry for another certificate that was not mentioned in Steph’s document so I went back to the office to double check that I needed it and to find out where I need to go to get it. It turns out I do need it and I have to go to the law courts to get it.

Then I went to the bank to make my INTERPOL certificate payment. Today is officially the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe so there was a mass going on outside of the cathedral in the Plaza and the decorated cars were lined up for it too. The bank was relatively quiet.


I stopped and got photocopies of the bank slip and the certificate I had picked up earlier. By the time I got back to the office, it was nearly lunchtime. I went home and ran into my landlord who had brought by a photocopy of his identity card as well as an electricity and water bills (all things I needed for INTERPOL). I showed him the letter I needed stamped by a lawyer and the rental contract I had typed up. He said he would meet me at 3 pm and we could go to his lawyer together. He also suggested I stop by the INTERPOL office and see if it was necessary to have the letter notarized or if it was possible to just have our signatures verified.

After I ate my lunch, I headed to the law courts to see what I could find out. I found out they are closed until 2:30 pm and there was a long line so I didn’t stick around. (I’ll try again tomorrow morning when they open at 8:30 am.) From there I headed back to BiblioWorks, stopping by the Interpol office (which is around the corner). They are also closed until 2:30 pm.

I went back to BiblioWorks packed up my computer, explained that it was unlikely I would make it back today and headed back to Interpol. The office was open and the woman said it wasn’t even necessary to have a proper rental contract a letter would do. Then I headed home to meet Javier (my landlord). He showed up shortly after 3 and we got in his ancient VW Beetle. Once we were in the car, he called his lawyer friend who said he would meet us at his office in 15 minutes. We drove there and stood outside waiting for him. I showed him the printed copies of the letter and contract and he said they need a few changes. Luckily I was clever enough to have put them on a USB drive so he was able to make the changes and then print copies for our signatures and his stamps.

Javier took me to buy a yellow folder and then he headed home while I went to try to find the office where I could get my application for INTERPOL. I couldn’t find the street Steph said it was on on Google maps but she gave the cross streets and one of them was only a few blocks long so I decided to take my chances. It was in the same neighbourhood near BiblioWorks where I had picked up yesterday’s form. I finally gave up looking for the mystery street and went to the office I had gone to yesterday. It turned out that was where I needed to be. I got the form from the same woman as yesterday and she still only wanted the original bank receipt not my photocopies but this time she didn’t take my photo.

I made it back to the INTERPOL office before they closed at 6 pm and the woman took all my documents, asked for more information as she filled out my certificate and then fingerprinted me. (She gave me two squares of scrap paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer to attempt to clean my finger off after  – I was unsuccessful.) She gave me a number to call in 5 days and took my mobile and said she would call me as well. Steph’s notes say it can take from 2 weeks to 2 months to get the INTERPOL certificate but I have my fingers crossed that it will closer to the 5 days…

In the meantime, I need to a background check from FELCC (?) and a criminal background check from REJAP (the law courts one) as well as a medical certificate which requires blood work. I need a copy of a work contract with BiblioWorks as well as a letter from them saying what I will be doing. I have to take 6 months worth of bank statements to a notary to get a letter saying I am able to support myself. 

All this running around is getting me quite familiar with Sucre (and Bolivian bureaucracy!).


Getting a Bolivian Residence Permit – step 1

My first post from Bolivia should probably have been about finding my way around town, my new favourite vegetarian café, the dance groups practising for the upcoming Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe or other interesting things. However when there are interesting things going on, I’m less inclined to write. And so, we are starting with my journey towards a residence permit.

I had to wait to start the process until I had a “permanent” residence and since I moved into a place that qualifies as that on Saturday, I took another look at the detailed instructions left by Steph, the previous volunteer coordinator who went through the process in October/November 2014, and headed to the Migration office this morning.

I took a number and sat on a bench until my number appeared on the flat screen TV. I had a two minute conversation with the official and left with a long list of necessary documents. The list seemed pretty close to Steph’s list (but without addresses and her helpful tips). She said to start with the “Certificado de antecedentes de la F.E.L.C.N” (some sort of background check) because it is necessary for the “Certificado de Antecedentes Policiales Internacional emitido por la INTERPOL” (an Interpol police check which can apparently take a couple weeks and with my Special Purpose Visa running out on 26 September, I need to get a move on that one).

According to Steph’s notes, when she did it she needed:

  • To deposit 25 Bs into the Police bank account
  • Two photocopies of the receipt for the deposit of money into the bank account
  • Two photocopies of your passport
  • One 4×4 photograph, on a red background
  • Application form (you get this from F.E.L.C.N. office)

So first I went and got the photos taken and was told to come back at 3 pm to pick them up. Then I went to the bank, took a number, sat in a chair and waited for my number to appear on the flat screen TV. When it eventually did, I made the deposit and got my receipt. I headed back to the office, stopping along the way to get photocopies of the receipt and my passport as well as photocopies of my visa and entry stamp that I will need to the Interpol check.

At the office, I typed up two of the Interpol application requirements – a letter to the director and a rental contract, using Steph’s as models. Both will have to be stamped and signed by lawyers and at least one has to be notarized as well… My landlord says he has a neighbourhood who is a lawyer who can probably do it…

Then it was time to pick up the photos. Once I had them, I headed to the F.E.L.C.N. office which is a bit of a ways from the centre of town but I walked via a park and it was fine. It was at this point that things deviated from Steph’s experience. The man at the F.E.L.C.N. office gave a slip of paper that informed me that I needed to make both a 25 Bs and a 10 Bs deposit at the bank and that I had to pick up the application form from a different office (that is only a block and half from the BiblioWorks office) and then come back to him.

On my way back to the bank, I came across a large group of people marching and chanting. They did not appear to be happy but the tail end of the group passed by before long and I managed to get back to the bank. By this time it was 4 pm and the bank closes at 4:30 pm. I had to stand in a line outside for awhile before I even made it to the machine where you take a number but once I had a number I did get to sit in a chair while I waited for my turn. It was just before 4:30 pm by the time I was served and there were still lots of people waiting. So maybe at 4:30 pm they stop letting people in? I didn’t stick around to find out.

By the time I left the bank and headed towards the other office to get my form, the protestors had made their way to the main plaza. (It turned out they were protesting a fare increase by the microbus drivers that took place on Saturday. The micro drivers were on strike today over the issue as well.) I pushed my way through the crowd and popped into a photocopy place get my receipt copied. It took longer than before as a group of pharmacy students were sharing notes and each one needed 3 or 4 copies of a large stack of papers to share with the others.

I found the office where I needed to get the certificate. The women didn’t want anything to do with the photocopies, she took my original bank receipts. She also took the worst photos of me ever. I left her office with the photos and the form and headed around the corner to the BiblioWorks office. There I collected my computer, printed copies of the letters I had typed up earlier and said good-bye to everyone. I trudged back across town to the F.E.L.C.N. office, crossing my fingers that they didn’t close before 5:30 pm (as I arrived about two minutes after that). They were still open so I gave the man the certificate, the two photocopies of my passport and the photos the woman took. He only wanted one photo. He stamped the passport copies and then fingerprinted me along the edges of one. He passed me a filthy rag to wipe my fingers on (not at all like the police in Switzerland who had special soap and a sink in the office where they did fingerprints). Thank goodness for wet wipes. He gave me back the other passport copy and told me to come back at 9 am to pick up the completed certificate.

I gave my Fitbit to my sister this summer but I am curious about how many steps I would have racked up if I were wearing it. Oh and Sucre is very hilly so not only did I walk across town a few times today, I went up and down a far few hills along the way.

Steph’s list for the Interpol check is a bit more daunting and it will be interesting to see if the requirements are still the same…

  • Colour photocopy of your Passport
  • Colour photocopy of your visa de objeto determinado
  • Colour photocopy of your entry stamp into Bolivia
  • Four 3×4 photographs, on a red background
  • Photocopy of the certificado de antecedents de F.E.L.C.N
  • Photocopy of your rental contract for your accommodation (This needs to be written by a lawyer, then notarized and signed by yourself and the owner of your accommodation)
  • Photocopy of the carnet de identidad of the owner of your accommodation
  • Photocopy of the most recent light and water bills for your accommodation
  • Two photocopies of the receipt for your payment of 50bs
  • Application form – you will need to take the photocopies of your receipt of payment to the office of transito (Calle Escalier, between La Paz and Capitan Echeverria). When you go in, you need to go in the third building on your left (I think – it may be easier to check) and the office you want is upstairs. You will swap your receipts for the application form.
  • Yellow folder (these can be bought from most stationery shops)
  • Letter to the Director Departmental de Interpol specifying your name and surname, nationality, passport number, civil status, occupation, address in Bolivia and your reason for applying for this certificate. This needs to be certified by a lawyer.

I was supposed to be traveling with Silvia, one of the library technicians, later this week to visit two of our libraries but those plans have been canceled due to road blockades (which I think are related to the micro fare increase too). While I am disappointed not to be going, it’s just as well I’m sticking around so I can get on with the Interpol application.

Wish me luck!

P.S. My blog theme and layout have magically changed since the last time I looked. I will need to set aside some time to fix it up soon.