Today a miracle happened. A miracle of monumental proportions, the kind you write home to mom about, the kind that changes lives. To understand the miracle this story has to go back a ways. But don’t all the best stories?
We were married in March of last year. At my Federal Police residency interview a kind young woman told us that they were issuing me a temporary ID and that when the inspectors arrived at our house to verify our Bona Fide married status then I’d be issued a permanent ID number. They’d swing by unannounced sometime in the next few months.
A few months went by, and in the meantime I tried to use my newly married status to do things to normalize my life in Brazil. We tried to get a joint bank account. Sorry, you need a National Foreigner Registry number (RNE#, in Portuguese) for her to open an account. I tried to transfer my U.S. driver’s license to a Brazilian one. I had been driving on an international license, something you probably shouldn’t do for over six months but living in this rural area without driving just wasn’t an option. Sorry, just to enter the driver’s license transfer request into the system and start the process we need your RNE#.
In June after the license debacle I called the Federal Police to see what I could do; this RNE# was definitely essential to being a functioning Brazilian. I spoke to the lovely young woman who processed our marriage paperwork. She informed me that I needed “to wait.” How long? “Wait.” Is there anything you can do in the meantime? “You’ll just have to wait.” Can you tell me where I am in the waiting list? “No, you’ll just need to wait.”
I drove out to the middle of the farm and performed a few sessions of primal scream therapy within the truck. I tore at my hair and roared my terrible roars and gnashed my terrible teeth and rolled my terrible eyes. And then I pulled myself together and waited for the Federal Police inspectors to arrive.
In August the Federal Police went on strike. For three months.
In December two very sweaty police officers finally found their way over our front gate, down our long dirt road, and were vigorously greeted by the farm dogs. Brave men. Don’t ask me how they found us, since they hadn’t stopped at the house in town to ask our relatives for directions. That’s small town life for you–ask anyone in town where Mr. Crônicas lives with his American wife and you’ll have directions to our farm in no time. Try to find us in a phone book (or find any phone book at all in our town) and you’ll be searching until next year.
Strangers to the farm are a Big Deal, and official strangers an even Bigger Deal. In between interruptions from well-intentioned in-laws who weren’t sure this gringa was equipped to deal with such auspicious visitors and dodging small, curious children I attempted to grill the inspectors for information as I showed them our shared closet and marriage photos, offered them coffee (a Brazilian hospitality must-do; they refused), gave them two bottles of cold water (accepted), and I was given a protocol number and a phone number to call. “Make sure you follow-up regularly,” Mr. Very Serious Cop warned. “If your paperwork gets issued to the Governor Valadares office and you don’t pick it up in time, they send it back.” “You have two months,” Mr. Friendly Cop reassured, “Just stay on top of it. There’s a website you can check too, although it won’t show up there until that contact you have enters your paperwork.”
Mr. Very Serious Cop clearly had decided anyone who was crazy enough live at the end of this dirt road in the middle of nowhere must have done it for love; he had other places to be. After only visiting our house for less than twenty minutes he dragged Mr. Friendly cop away, and the two officers waved goodbye and began hiking back down our driveway. I filed away my important piece of paper with the phone number and I put it in my calendar to call my Federal Police contact person in a month.
In January, I called his offices. He hadn’t gotten a chance to enter it yet, as he had been on vacation during the month of December. Call back later.
I called back in February. Sorry, he was out of the office on vacation.
I called back in March. Sorry, he just got back in and was still digging through the huge backlog of cases.
I decided I needed to get one of these government jobs.
(Just wait. It gets even better. To be continued next week)