Changes in the Ecuadorian Immigration Law (and it's aftermath on me)
Nathan and I have been stuck in Quito for the last few weeks waiting for all the visa paperwork to be organized and processed by the immigration office. It has been a real pain and both of us have been itching to get back into the jungle and start doing some work.
On the 20th of June, Ecuador opened up its borders to everybody, meaning that everyone from no-matter what nationality can enter the country on the T-3 (Tourist 3 months) visa. This is all fine and dandy, however, this has also meant that any prolongations and extensions on tourist visas have been scrapped. Largely to a massive influx of Chinese and Colombian migrants (El Comercio 27.08.2008). This has also changed the way in which the government deals with other types of visas.
When I arrived to the Visa office two weeks ago, I panicked... A very, unhelpful clerk with the same dull personality as the run-down and yellowed walls of the immigration office basically told me to leave the office and stop bothering him with all sorts of questions relating to possible visas... I jumped into a cab and went straight to the Natural History Museum to accost Santiago, one of our collaborators who told me that the Museum would be more than happy to sponsor me... all I had to do was to write a formal collaboration agreement between the Museum and the University. Luckily Richard (my boss), was still in the Galapagos and would be passing by Quito in a couple of days, meaning that the agreement could be signed by him. After sitting around for a couple of days the agreement was signed I was able to get all the documentation I needed from the Museum (copies of official records, legal papers, visa requests, contracts, declarations etc...). All had to be sanctified by a notary... so I rushed to the notary office who told me to go back to the Museum and get the copies stamped by the Secretary to basically state that they were true copies. After getting all the stamps I went back to the notary got the stamps, I jumped into a cab and headed drove to the immigration office, where I was told that the paperwork would be reviewed and to come back on thursday. So today I got the answer, I have to go back tomorrow to pick up the visa... so hurray... but it has been a major pain in the ass, having to run back and forth to the Museum and notary... i had to get a public record, copied, stamped as being a true copy and then notarised... I mean come on, it's a public record, any public office (including the mighty ministry) should have access to these...
During this time Nathan and I have basically been getting fit (at the gym) - and yes this makes sense, sport at 3500 m is a pretty good way to make sure we don't collapse from doing 8hr of trekking in the jungle (which is hot and humid)... going to museums and eating lots of meat and prawns - all of which will now be over since we are leaving tomorrow afternoon to Coca...
Quito by night