Tag Archives: Arizona

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.



“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.


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

An Arizona Monsoon

Arizona is unique. Why? Because we receive rain from two places: the California area & the Mexico area. The Grand Canyon state is host to practically every type of topography. We have the desert in the lower region and the pine forests in the northern. Our climate can suit almost any person, whether you like the dry heat, or the moderate, cool temperature in the upper region.

What makes this state even more interesting is that every summer in Arizona we have a monsoon season, which can be described as hurricane and tornado-like winds, down-pouring rain and magnificent lightening shows. This part of the summer also witnesses the mighty force known as the haboob, which can only be seen in Egypt & Iraq. It is a wall of dust that carries itself over cities and neighborhoods, forcing drivers to pull off to the side of the road because they can no longer see in front of them.

During the monsoon season, the clouds build up all day long and sheets of rain let loose in the late afternoon and evenings. Frequently two storms build up from the southern region and the northern region, bursting inside the Valley. At other times, the monsoon combines with the dust storms to create a massive storm of epic proportions. The aftermath of a monsoon reveals knocked down power lines, metal street signs twisted in ways not thought elementally possible and trees bending into the streets after being uprooted. Roads are overwhelmingly flooded, making sidewalks invisible and cars shooting up walls of water. The canals, which are usually empty all year, are finally flowing like a river. Kids are swimming in lakes of water that once were grass areas. Some even bring out kayaks and paddle across the grassy lakes.

No matter the inconveniences that also arise after a monsoon has passed, such as blackouts and humidity, it brings with it excitement and relief for many Arizonans. We get to see the preview of it all day outside our windows as the clouds become larger and the sky grows darker. Cooler air offers a welcome comfort after experiencing scorching days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Monsoons become memorable events because it reminds us that life is still supported in a state that continually faces droughts and gives us something to look forward to in the Spring: blooming cactus blossoms & fields of flowers.

The first of a wave of monsoons this season.

The brewing storm in Downtown Phoenix.

Trees have been blown over by the monsoon winds.

This family is loading up their kayaks after taking a cruise in the grassy lake.

A kid takes a break from riding his bicycle through the grassy lake.


A video of a grassy area transformed into a lake after a heavy monsoon rain.

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Filed under Arizona, Nature, Outdoors, United States