Our Ecuadorian visa paperwork had neat penmanship and was compiled in a tidy stack held together by a black binder.
The only thing we had to do was commute four hours from Banos to the capital, fork over the $60 fee and hopefully be approved in a timely fashion. Easier written than accomplished.
Pete, our friendly fellow traveler from Canada, went through the same process weeks ago and e-mailed us detailed instructions on how to stay in this country for more than 90 days.
(The background: A new Ecuadorian law changed the requirement from up to 90 consecutive days to 90 days for every 365. So, our two-month trip to Argentina did not reset our total and we would be in this country for about 110 days, violating our visa by about 20 days.)
Pete, who grudgingly made four trips from Banos to Quito for his visa, walked us through every step, including what Spanish phrase to tell the security guard on the third floor. Everything was cruising along on Tuesday morning until we came to a hitch that Pete had warned us about.
¨Show [the official] the receipt, he will take your passport, and then you wait,¨ Pete wrote. ¨When they call your name, go up to the front, and this is where you are at their mercy.¨
We waited five minutes and were called back to the window. They weren´t very merciful. They said that the director was out of the office, and we would have to return on Friday to finish paying and on Monday to receive the visa extension.
We said that wouldn´t work for us, that we have to commute from Banos. They replied that they could do it Thursday and Friday.
We ran the budget numbers on staying in Quito for the week vs. returning to Banos until Thursday. The difference was negligible, so we decided to stay in Quito.
I wasn´t excited to spend money on a hostel in Quito when we have a free tent in Banos, but I will refrain from whining for a few reasons.
This visa extension seems like a rubberstamp stuck in bureaucracy. My plane ticket shows that I plan to leave in a few weeks, and my bank statement shows that I have enough money to spend while I´m here. (Albeit, that sum is dwindling.)
These visa renewals are payback for how their citizens are treated when they try to get into the U.S. Maria, a fellow Tea Room volunteer from Massachusetts, said that some countries don´t even try to hide it, calling it ¨reciprocity visas.¨
I had that in mind as we stood on the street corner outside the office. However, I still wanted to rant. Then a pair of guys dug their hands into the garbage can looking for discarded treasures. After that, I read in the Miami Herald about how press freedom advocates say they know of about 250 cases of foreign journalists, writers, and artists who have been denied U.S. visas for ideological reasons in recent years.
My situation doesn´t look so bad. Let´s hope for some good luck later this week.