Written by: Bill Feest
I have finally made it to Brazil! The process of getting here has not been easy, that’s for sure. But if nothing else, it has certainly taught me a lesson or two. Most notably, I learned to get creative with the resources available and to be persistent to no end. Let me explain.
The entire process of getting a Brazilian visa took, from beginning to end, over 100 days. I learned that a part of the reason it is so difficult is because it’s intended to be. And not because the Brazilian government simply feels like it, but because the U.S. makes it very difficult for Brazilians. So there is a reciprocal treatment to Americans because of political reasons. So, after many documents had been prepared and other hoops had been jumped through, last week I found myself at the final step in the process, traveling to the Brazilian Consulate in Washington DC only to be told that the workers were on strike and that it would take several weeks to issue my passport. That was no good. I was already late and had missed out on a week of training which my fellow interns would have the advantage of going through without me.
The first thing I did was to reach out to everyone I knew who may have had any experience with such a problem, especially every contact I had in Brazil. Next, I called the offices of various state representatives to see if they could help in any way. Fortunately, the office of Congressman Bob Gibbs offered to contact the consulate on my behalf and request expedited processing. They did warn me though that the U.S. can’t actually do anything to force another government to do anything like this, but that they could only ask.
That’s when I got really
annoying persistent. I figured if there wasn’t anything anyone could do to make the consulate push my paperwork through that I would pester them until they got sick of me. Every morning I showed up at the consulate and casually asked if my visa was ready, as if I had completely missed the part about it taking several weeks. And each morning they told me no and to come back in two weeks. It was my hope to be on my way to South America by that weekend, so on Friday when they told me once again that the visa was not ready, I smiled and said, “No problem, I’ll try back in a few hours.” At this, the consulate official frowned, stared at me for a few seconds, then through gritted teeth told me to take a seat. Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got my passport back with a valid visa and am officially on my way to Brazil.
So in the end, I don’t know if it was political pressure, someone calling in a favor, or simply some overworked Brazilians just wanting to get rid of me, but the experience definitely taught me something. When faced with a problem, get creative, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be exhaustively persistent.