Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two steps forward, one step back…



25 Days before take off and we’re pretty much still where we started… Yesterday Dilcia, her mom Teresa, six-month old baby Selvin and I went to Juvenil Court in Santa Rosa de Copán to ask for an authorization to get a passport for Dilcia and for me to be her guardian for the duration of our trip to Spain. The permission of both parents is required for this, but since Dilcia’s father’s absent (he left Honduras about six years ago), we need permission from a judge. The whole trip to Spain basically depends on this judge, whether he’ll be giving us permission or not, so it was an important day.

Call me a control freak, compulsive or obsessive, but I do like to be organized. So on Monday morning I had all the paperwork more than ready, a set of decent clothes without paint stains laid out, and I got up extra early to take my dog on a long hike before locking her up for the rest of the day. The hike was delightful, but just as I crossed the bridge back into town; I twisted my ankle, lost my balance and made quite a spectacular dive forward, scraping arms and leg over the gravel on the street. Sh*t!
So instead of having a quiet breakfast, I was picking pebbles out of my arm and hand. So far, not so good….

The last direct bus for Santa Rosa leaves at 8.00am from Copán and I had Teresa and Dilcia promise me that they wouldn’t be any later than a quarter to at my place, only a block away from the terminal. Alas. I waited for them in my decent clothes and bandages, but no show. I called Teresa on her cell phone and found out they were only half way. And then the bus left…
At 8.40am, they finally arrived at my place. I was tempted to postpone the trip, but that would probably mean that the whole thing would repeat itself the next day. So we decided to take the first bus leaving town and to take it from there.
Luckily enough, the first bus to leave was not one of those busitos that seats 20 but fits 40 people, but a regular coach. We even had a whole seat each. However, our luck changed when we got to La Entrada (a record time of 2 hours later! This trip normally doesn’t take more than 45 minutes in a regular car!). A “direct” bus to Santa Rosa was already waiting, but it was packed and we had to stand the whole trip, Teresa swaying the baby on one arm, Dilcia doing her best not to throw up, and me holding on with one healthy hand, balancing on the one foot I hadn’t twisted.

But we made it. Just before 1 o’clock, we arrived at Juvenile Court where we heard that the judge wasn’t back yet from lunch, so we took a little tour through central park, just a block away. After all, it was the first time for both Dilcia and Teresa to visit Santa Rosa de Copán. Fifteen minutes later we presented ourselves again at Juvenile Court.

The judge wasn’t back yet and the secretary wasn’t friendly at all. As so many bureaucrats in Honduras (and the rest of the world too), it seemed like her only goal in life was to make people feel miserable. Now, I do happen to have a nasty streak too, and I’m also as stubborn as a mule and when she figured that out, she actually started to attend us. After explaining for the third time the reason we were there (“No, the father couldn’t come because we don’t know where he is which is why we’re here in the first place!!!”), another secretary or legal aid or whatever came over and said she could help by already started to fill in the paperwork. So she asked Teresa to come behind the counter and then took her behind a partition for the interview.
They were out of sight, but not out of hearing range, and to my surprise, the woman was asking all kinds of questions about Baby Selvin. So I yelled out that we needed a passport for Dilcia, not the baby. So then I was asked to come behind the partition too. Let’ the party begin! In the end, Dilcia sat in the waiting area the entire time and was not asked a single question!!

I’ve learned long ago that in situations like this you don’t show all your cards from the start. Whatever piece of paper you give, they always want something else. So I started by handing over the official letter of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History.
Well, the lady said. That’s fine, but you also need a letter that describes the event in detail.
No problem, here it is!
… And a copy of the birth certificate of the girl…
Check!
…And one for the mother…
Done!
... And a form of inscription…
Here you go!
This went on for a while, the stack of paper on the desk growing, but in the end they got me, predictably, when they asked for Dilcia’s student records. Damn! Didn’t have those!
But that wasn’t the biggest problem. We could get those easily and send them by email the next day. By then I’d already figured out we weren’t going to walk out of the office with an authorization in our hands anyway. But that wasn’t necessarily a problem either, because I could authorize someone to pick up the paperwork. Not that that would be a piece of cake, but probably easier than making the trip again.

At 2.15pm we left Juvenile Court, saying goodbye to all four women who by then were helping us out, as if we were best friends. Unfortunately, the last direct bus for Copán had already left and we hadn’t had lunch yet.
After a quick bite at Super Pollo Express (every campesino’s dream, my biggest nightmare), we stopped at a pharmacy where I bought a disposal diaper to change Selvin’s soiled paints, then we hopped in a taxi and into the bus for La Entrada, that was blessedly empty. (Not for long… Twenty minutes later we passed by a bus that had broken down and all its passengers where piled into our bus). In La Entrada we had to wait for almost an hour for yet another overfull bus heading for Copán. And just when I thought all was under control, no more buses to change to, I got a phone call from Juvenile Court. The judge had revised our paperwork and said we had to bring two witnesses to court who could give a testimony that Dilcia’s father had indeed left Honduras six years earlier. Damn! I asked if the witnesses could do so in Copán with a lawyer, but no, they would have to come to Santa Rosa de Copán personally.

We finally arrived in Copán at 6.15pm. Our friend Argi had arranged for a taxi to take Teresa, Dilcia and Selvin home. I was exhausted and didn’t want to think about witnesses and court appearances. Let that be tomorrow’s problem. But one way or another, it means going back to Santa Rosa….

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