We finally got all our forms turned into Immigration for Jessie and I to get our Visas! It was a long process, but we’re done for now. Next step is to get the kids theirs, since they all seem fond of staying here with us and all.
So yesterday, bright and early in the morning, we went to turn in some final forms, just as the office was opening up, hoping to catch them before it got packed.
We approached the only open window and I asked the woman, in Romanian, “Do you speak English?”
The usual response when you ask this of anyone under 40 in Bucharest, especially at Immigration, is, “Yes, of course,” accompanied by a look of gentle disdain, as if they were insulted that you would even imply they may not understand how to speak English.
Yesterday’s answer was funnier.
“No, I don’t speak English. I live in Romania. I speak Romanian,” she told me curtly. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to be funny or if she was crabby or if she was just telling me facts.
“OK,” I told her in Romanian, “It’s not a problem. I speak a little Romanian, but not very well.”
“I speak it very well,” she interrupted. “You’re in Romania now. We speak Romanian here. What do you need?”
From there, I somehow got myself understood, turned in the final forms, and left satisfied that the first and hardest portion of our Visas was now complete.
As an American citizen, getting long-stay visas to Romania isn’t a difficult or expensive thing, just a bit complicated. Things get even more complicated when you try to do the bulk of the work in August or September, because people tend to take their vacations during that time of year.
The past couple months, we’ve been running around from one office to another, emailing one person after another, calling one person after another, turning in form after form, in pursuit of the elusive long-term religious visa. We’ll get it, I’m pretty confident of that, but it’s definitely a process, especially when not everyone speaks perfect English and we speak very imperfect Romanian.
Every official meeting we have, someone eventually has to whip out the official, authoritative administrative stamp. In the words of the dean of the Baptist seminary in Bucharest, “The stamp is holy.” With a stamp, all doors are opened to you. Without a stamp, nothing gets done.
I’m pretty sure that, when you get to the gates of Heaven and Jesus opens the Lamb’s book of life to see if you’re in it, right next to your name will be a nicely placed Romanian government stamp. I don’t think even Jesus is allowed to do anything without one.
I’m kidding of course, but it’s funny just how pervasive the stamp is here. You get a stamp on some receipts (but not all), you need a stamp on warranty cards, you need a stamp on official government or religious documents, you need one on your health insurance paperwork and your medical certificates, you even get one on your rental contract.
Collect them all! It’s fun.
So, yes, in Romania, the stamp is holy.