November 7, 2006
It was pouring rain when I got up this morning. Craig and I had to walk to the Brazilian consulate to attempt to get visas, so I threw on my waterproof pants to stay dry. Craig didn't like my sense of fashion and tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted that as long as I had them, I might as well use them. He wore a pair of shorts in stark contrast.
When we got to the consulate, Craig wasn't even allowed inside because he was wearing shorts. It hits 40 C (104 F) nearly every day here, yet you're not allowed to enter the building without pants. If I had worn my shorts, we would've been turned back immediately.
The first thing I noticed when I walked inside was that nobody spoke anything but Portuguese. I would think that since it's an official government building, somebody there would know English, or at least Spanish, considering that the building is located in a Spanish speaking country, but that wasn't the case. Instead, I had to wave my hands all around to communicate.
I learned a lot of bad news from my pantomiming. In my numerous attempts to get the visa from Buenos Aires earlier this year, I learned that it would cost $100, and I could only pay in US dollars. A few days ago, I withdrew $100 from an ATM exactly for that purpose. However, today I learned that I would need 300,000 Colombian pesos, which is worth $136, and no other currency would suffice. So nobody in the consulate speaks the language of the country they're in, yet they don't use any form of currency other than the one from the country they're in. Besides that, the price went up dramatically since last time I checked. I've never heard of anyone having to pay $136 just to enter a country as a tourist and spend their money there. I was also informed that my visa would only be good for one year, whereas previously I was told that it would be good for five. On top of that, I learned that my photos that I got specifically for purchasing visas, which are official passport and visa size, weren't big enough for the Brazilians. The only good news was that if I got everything in order, I'd get a visa today or tomorrow. I left the consulate with a lot of work to do.
I must point out that the only reason the Brazilian government is being such a pain in the ass is that the US government does the same thing to Brazilian citizens. For them it's even worse, though. They have to pay money just to apply for a visa, and they might not even get it. They also get the pleasure of being fingerprinted when they enter the country. I still think the US government should have to pay for my visa, but of course that will never happen.
Back in town, we found an instant photo place and got our pictures taken. Then we went to a money changer, where I tried to change my US dollars into Colombian pesos to pay for the visa. The guy wouldn't even take half my money, though, because the bills had a few marks on them. I got them from a bank's ATM only a few days ago, and now they were worthless! I ended up having to borrow some money from Craig to get enough pesos. After we had our money, we picked up our photos, Craig threw on some pants, and we went back to the consulate.
This time around, they actually accepted our applications. A few hours later, we had our visas!
We wanted to be ready to go tomorrow, so we went over to the airport and got stamped out of Colombia. Next we took a bus into Brazil. The border is completely open in this area, so the city never really ends, and the only way you know you've entered a new country is that you start seeing green and yellow everywhere. We found the immigration station in Tabatinga and got stamped into Brazil. Next, we found the port, went to the boat, and took a look around. It's more expensive than the Peruvian boat, but also a lot nicer. With confirmation that the ship will leave tomorrow afternoon, we were all set to head to Manaus in hammocks.