Stamp of Approval

So yesterday I flew to California for the day. Yup, just the day. My mission was to get my Ecuadorian visa. I took a super early flight out of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona where the baby blue skies were speckled with some stray, wispy clouds.

The desert landscape spread out below us the entire flight.

During descent, one flight attendant came over the speakers to insist that everyone turn off and put away their portable electronics because Burbank was consumed in fog and clouds. I suppose the devices were interfering with the pilot’s navigational system. I looked out the window and sure enough, an entire blanket of puffy clouds had made the celebrity haven completely invisible.

The plane slipped through the clouds and I kept glancing as hard as I could to see any sign of land below us. After about a minute of falling through whiteness I saw it just as we landed. It was if the sky and earth had left no distinction between each other.

Side note: I highly recommend the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank because it is much smaller & less busy than the LAX International Airport. Plus, it has great historical & educational displays throughout on the people and events that held significance. Such as, Amelia Earhart & Charles Lindbergh!

My shuttle took me directly to the consulate, which is located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California on the fifth floor of a building that is also home to the Brazilian consulate (seventh floor). I walked into a completely empty room decorated with orange chairs and colorful artwork.

No one was even at the desk behind the glass windows. After standing for about 5 minutes I located the service bell and pushed it. Unanswered.

I contemplated pushing it again but then the consulate door swung open and a lady, and a couple behind the lady extravagantly entered the room.

The first lady pushed her way in front of me thinking someone was helping me and then she realized there was no one. In broken English she asked me if I had been helped and I said, “No, I suggest you push the button.” She pushed. Miraculously, someone appeared.

The lady didn’t even allow me to go, instead, she spread all her paperwork on the table and started talking in rapid Spanish. Apparently she needed to fill out more of her paperwork because the lady behind the glass acknowledged me and asked what I needed.

“I need to get a student visa.”

“Do you have your paperwork.”

I handed her my manila folder with all the paperwork complete, or so I thought.

“What will you be doing in Ecuador?” she asked.

“Student.”

“Student?”

“Yes, I’m going to be a student.”

“Oh, okay.”

She glanced at each piece of the required papers and forms for not more than 10 seconds. There was about a total of a minute of flipping papers and then an unexpected speed-bump.

“This isn’t notarized,” she said, pointing to my financial paper from the bank. “This needs to be notarized.”

My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught.

“I can’t give you a visa if this isn’t notarized.”

“Well, is there some way I can do it here or around here because I flew in just for the day to get this visa.”

The lady beside me decided she had finished completing her paperwork and that she could continue where she left off.

::rambling Spanish between the two::

The lady behind the glass put her hands up in universal language, which I took as meaning “too much, too much, let me finish with her and then I’ll come back to you.”

“There is a notary in the Brazilian consulate who can help you. Go get this notarized and then I can help you.”

On the way up to the seventh floor I call my mom and update her. I soon find myself sitting on a small love-seat in the smallest reception area ever waiting for a notary. My phone rings.

“I faxed a copy of your financial paper to the guy at the bank. He’s signing it right now and having the notary sign it too. It will be faxed right afterward.”

My head felt immediately lighter. THANK YOU MOM!! I go back down to the Ecuador consulate and tell the lady. After a few more bell pushes, she said she had received the fax, asked for the $130 cash ($30 for the paperwork, $100 for the visa) and said it would take 45 minutes to complete the visa. Fast-forward.

“Allison.”

I walked up to the glass window.

“Here you go.”

I got it! I will now be able to stay in Ecuador for up to one year.

The mission was completed.

After a whirl-wind day trip to California, I can finally breathe and start preparing for my move to the equator. I don’t think it has really set in yet. In 32 days I’ll be in Quito, Ecuador.

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Filed under Arizona, Ecuador, Latin America // South America, Travel

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