Thursday, December 28, 2006

Logbook: Brazil Visa Gambit

BrazilvisagambitMy boat ride up the canal to Tortuguero was rained out again on Tuesday so I chilled out for a while, reading the only English book I found in the hotel’s “library.” Thankfully, it was Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness & The Secret Sharer” which I have never read, and I am now a later-in-life -- but earnest -- fan of Conrad’s writing! When the rain slacked off, I walked around Limon and stumbled on a laundry to which I promptly returned with my bag-o-clothes. The rest of the day was happily spent doing other miscellany. On Wednesday morning I set in motion the “Brazil Visa Gambit.” Okay, so what’s that all about? Well, the story goes like this: In preparation for my upcoming series of ocean voyages, I had done some checking on “entry requirements” for the various countries which I will be visiting along the way. The only one which requires a visa is Brazil -- and this is only in reciprocity because the US requires Brazilians to have a visa to enter the States... Go figure.

Anyway, back at the beginning of the month I had gone to the Brazilian embassy in San Jose to apply for a visa, but was rejected because of a little timing problem. You see, entry into Brazil must occur within 90 days of the date on which the visa is granted. Since I am not going to arrive in Brazil until March 29th, that means I could not get my visa until today, December 29th. Since I was not willing to hang around San Jose for the entire month just to get my Brazilian visa, I went to the coast -- as you know -- and tried everything I could think of to avoid having to come back to San Jose to get the visa. After numerous Skype calls -- to the ship, its port agent in Brazil, etc. -- it became clear that I will need a visa and that I will not be able to get one along the way unless, for example, I would be willing to fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires during my layover in February. All things considered, it seemed to me that a trip back to San Jose this week would be the smallest sacrifice -- hence my use of the word “Gambit” -- to gain the advantage of having the Brazil Visa issue resolved.

So, I caught the bus from Limon on Wednesday and arrived in San Jose in the afternoon. I took the rest of the day to fill out the forms, get a photo taken and find an English book store -- or at least a book store that had some books in English -- where I picked up a couple more works by Conrad and a few others to read aboard ship. Early yesterday morning I went to the Brazilian Embassy and carefully explained my situation -- especially my critical timing issue -- to a woman who said, “Well, this all seems okay to me, but this is my first time doing this.” Great. With an ongoing sense of uncertainty, I left my passport and papers with her then spent the rest of the day wandering around San Jose generally killing time. This morning, I went back to the Embassy and was just tickled to receive my passport with a Brazil Visa dated today, just like I need it to be! Perfect!

In about an hour, I will catch a bus back to Limon having successfully executed the Brazil Visa Gambit. Now, for the part of this that strikes me as ironic: I have invested three days -- not to mention the $100 processing fee, additional travel expenses, etc. -- to get a Visa that I will use for less than three days of port calls in Brazil during which I may not even get off the boat! As I have mentioned before, this is one of those “circumstances” that often arise on The Voyage, and I continue to experience them with humor and good cheer -- a good sign of my ongoing positive state of mind. When I get back to Limon, I hope to finally be able to take the boat ride up the canal to Tortuguero. I also look forward to making final preparations to continue my “surface circumnavigation of the earth” on the high seas. The Voyage of Macgellan continues!

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