Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Paperwork

This morning we got up and went downtown to meet Philip, who took us through some of the bureaucracy. First, we went to the Residence Permit office. The visa we applied for (and received) from the Greek Embassy in the US is just the first step. This gives you the right to apply for a residence permit for one year (which you then must renew every year). This application, of course, asks for pretty much the same documents that I just submitted to the Greek Embassy in the US. In some cases, it's just different enough so that you have to go get another one. For the documents that are the same, the problem is that they require originals. (Every office in Greece requires originals. They don't care that every other application requires originals -- each bureacrat thinks he is important and that he deserves the originals.) Now one may ask: If you just submitted the same documents to the Greek Embassy in the US, isn't it rather inefficient to repeat the whole process? Ah...

So we go into the office and Philip speaks to one of the surly-looking bureaucrats behind a thick window. (The window only has a small opening at the bottom, so that you have to kinda halfway lie down to speak. I guess it's something like the way servants had to prostrate themselves while speaking with the king.) Anyway, this guy looks over all our documents and talks to us for 10 minutes. First, he says that Pelagia needs to show that she has $60,000 Euros (about $75,000-$80,000) IN CASH in a bank somewhere to get a residence permit. This is the first any of us have heard of this, so he goes to discuss the matter with other bureacrats, who are sitting around smoking and drinking coffee. Finally, he comes back with a paper detailing the requirements (which we already have, but apparently he has just discovered). He gives us some different information, and then says casually that we might as well go to the other side of the office (about 8 feet away) and talk to the guy who is in charge of this kind of visa. (Why he didn't say this in the first place is a mystery.) So we turn around and walk a few feet to a different glass window, with an even angrier looking bureaucrat. Philip explains the situation, and he tells us we're in the wrong office -- he says they don't give out these kind of visas! So Philip shows him the paper (printed by his office, and given to us by someone in his office 8 feet away just 30 seconds ago) and this appears to be the first time he's ever heard of such a thing. So he walks BACK to the first people we talked with and speaks with them for awhile. Now he comes back to us and gives us a THIRD version of what papers we need. Of course, all the documents need to be originals. Before he brushes us off, I explain that the Greek Embassy in San Francisco, the scholarship office in Athens, and the School of Modern Greek all had to have the original documents in the applications I gave them. He says well, we'll just have to call them and have them sent to us. Ok, thanks.

Next, we try to go the hospital to get a certificate saying we are free of contagious diseases. We already have such a document from an American doctor, but that's no good. This document has to be from a Greek doctor in a Greek public hospital. So we try to find the way to the hospital. It's a good thing we asked, because it turns out that the correct hospital for this CHANGES depending on the day of the week. For example, if you have a heart problem, you go to hospital X if it's Monday, but you go the hospital Y if it's Tuesday, and hospital Z if it's Wednesday, etc. So we find out the correct hospital and walk over there.

There, at the Hospital of St. Demetrios, they tell us, of course, that they're full until the end of the month and we have to call this other hospital. So we get on the pay phone and call this other hospital. They say, "Call St. Demetrios." We say, "We're here right now; they told us to call you." They say, "Oh well, we're full." So we go back to the desk at St. Demetrios and try to make an appointment. They tell us they only make appointments at the beginning of the month, so we have to call then.

With all that unaccomplished, we called it a day. (But we're still smiling.)

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