April 25, 2006
The first order of the day for me was to make one last attempt at obtaining a Brazilian visa. I went back to the consulate when they opened at 10:00 and stood in a long line, patiently awaiting my chance to explain myself. When I got to the front of the line over 30 minutes later, I found out that my efforts were fruitless, for multiple reasons.
"You have to fill out your information in the computer first, then wait in this line," said the consulate employee. I wondered why the guy at the entrance told me to stand in line first, but as it turned out, that was the good news. When I started to walk away, the lady gave me the bad news: "Then I'll need your passport, one photo, your ticket to enter and leave Brazil, and $100 cash.
"But I don't have my ticket yet."
"Aren't you flying there?"
"No, I plan on taking a bus to Iguazu, then continue overland to the north. I'll probably exit Brazil in three months or so, but I'm not sure when yet."
"If you're not flying, you'll need a bus ticket into and out of the country."
"Didn't you hear me? I don't know when I'm leaving the country yet, or even where I'll be leaving from. It's called backpacking."
"Until you have the ticket, you can't go to Brazil."
I was too pissed off to say or do anything that might help my situation, so I left. I've been to 17 different foreign countries and have never been treated like this before. Still, I can't really be mad at Brazil.
There were no visa requirements for Americans to enter Brazil until about five years ago when the US government started charging Brazilians $100 to visit. The US government has long been notorious for treating all visitors like suspects in a crime, and Brazil has simply had enough and decided to to the same to Americans. It's really frustrating for me because I'm caught in the middle of two conflicting government bureaucracies, and I'm just a backpacker who wants to travel somewhere new. I guess I can cross Brazil off my list of destinations.
My next idea for places to go was Paraguay. Unfortunately, I need a visa to go there, too. On my way back from the Brazilian consulate, I stopped at the Paraguayan consulate. I decided that it probably wouldn't be worthwhile waiting there considering the line of at least 500 people stretching two city blocks. Back at the hostel, I learned that the line is there because this week, the Argentine government has agreed to legalize all Paraguayans who are currently in the country. Wow, this is my lucky day! It was already too late to try to go back to the consulate, but tomorrow I plan to try to skip ahead of that massive line on the grounds that I'm actually trying to go into Paraguay, not leave it permanently.