I figured the title would catch a few readers eyes! I was not deported, but thinking of it what not out of the question this week when a clerical error made by the Brazilian consulate in Washington DC on my visa application did not allow for me to get registered with the Federal Police of Brazil...an absolute must for all foreign-born residents. Read below for the story!
This week has been full of interesting surprises and has got me to thinking more about how exactly I'm going to spend my time here.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are my rough days and are mentally exhausting. I have a two-hour lecture on Public Accounting in Portuguese from 9-11 and then Portuguese language classes from 3-7:30. So, it's Portuguese all day, which is awesome from a learning perspective but you can also sympathize with me here...by 8 PM, my mind has had to think about everything two and three times over! Because I just can't read the book or listen to the lecture, I have to read and listen with my trusty Portuguese-English dictionary, writing down or highlighting words every few minutes that I don't know. Then it's a challenge to look that word up while continuing to listen to the lecture so that I can keep up with the lecture. Nothing worse than looking something up and then being lost for the next 20 minutes because I didn't pay attention to the lesson when I was looking the word up. Anyways, you get my point...back to sympathy...8 PM rolls around and I just want to speak and think in English for a few minutes for some mental relaxation. I also think I've been sleeping like a baby here because of all this. My mind is exhausted after a "day in the life" here so when I hit the pillow it's lights out!
Good news is that this week I had another test in my accounting class and...I think I did much much better! I'm surprised how much more Portuguese I've learned in just a week to go from a solid C on my last test to an A on this one! haha. I was feeling good when the Professor said, "let's go over the two hardest problems on the test" after we turned it in and I got them both right! Now some of you are thinking that this shouldn't be hard for me because I'm an accounting nerd but here in Brazil, they use even a different system of accounting in the public sector. For you americans, Public Accounting is a profession but here in Brazil, it's actually the system of accounting they use for the public sector...in America, we know it as modified-accrual...the type of accounting we use for governments and non-profits. But, they don't use modified-accrual here. They use a nice mix between cash and accrual accounting, so I do in fact have to think before churning out my T-accounts and journal entries! Ok, enough on accounting technicalities...some of you are yawning I'm sure! haha
Here was another fun experience. So most of you know that I really took college involvement seriously. It was a ton of fun and I enjoyed being busy, always having something to do at UC. Well, now that I've been here a month and have my schedule set, I'm picking out my time in my schedule where I can do something here and there. I get restless otherwise. Well, there's these organizations at school that are called "Junior Businesses". They are like mini businesses or consulting organizations run by the school and they work with big companies to provide free consultation. Very popular here! So, I was thinking that that would be a good thing to get involved with and will surely keep my accounting skills sharp since that's a key area of need in these groups. What I didn't know is that there's like a 5 stage interview process to even join! I made it through the first one with the help of my FGV buddy. I had to write some essays on the Brazilian economy (in Portuguese, of course) and luckily I made it to the next round where I had to take an Economics dynamic (test). Not so sure how I did on that puppy, especially because they wouldn't let me use my dictionary either! The first third was ok...the typical econ questions like: If Jimmy is blonde and the receptionist is short, how old is Bobby's mother? The second third was a brain racker: If this graph shows the supply and demand of an elastic good that's imported, draw a new graph after interest rates have been increased to control foreign currency fluctuations. The third section I hadn't a clue. They were questions from the Brazilian newspapers like: What did Dilma Rousseff (Brazilian President) say in June in her State of the Union address about Brazil's relationship with China on electronic imports? YIKES! I hadn't a clue, so I took a wild guess based on what I thought would make logical sense. Awaiting the results...we'll see! If I pass, I get to do a team-based consulting exercise, that will be interesting with my now 8th grade level of Portuguese haha.
So, this brings me to another point. If you ever go abroad, study up on your own country! Never in my life have I been asked so much about the American system. Everything from economics, to trade agreements, to our constitution, to how our public officials are elected! I've found myself googling lots of these topics so I can answer intelligently to these questions. I feel like more of an American expert here in Brazil than I even did back home! Which is another challenge because all of the news is not readily available, I have to search for it.
I was really thrown off my game this week in class when the professor was asking me questions about the General Accounting Office of the US Government and how it compared to their equivalent.
What else...? On Wednesday for my Brazilian Law class, we got to go to the Ministerio Publico and had class in the courthouse with some Brazilian attorneys. Very very very interesting stuff! We got a tour of the facility and had some good dialogue on the system. Here was the most interesting fact to me: Over 13,000 new cases go through the Sao Paulo courts every month. I was shocked! This seems absurd, but we were assured that the system was not out of control and that there wasn't really pressure between the courts and police about who was doing a good job or not. But, the more I think about it, I'm not that surprised. I, alone, have witnessed at least a handful of crimes since I've been here and I'm just one person who's only traveling in so-called safe places in the third largest city of the world!
So, the moment you've all been waiting for...the deportation! haha. So, in order to stay in Brazil for the year, I had to apply for a year-long student visa with the Brazilian consultate in Washington DC. The application was extensive, requiring multiple forms to be signed by both my home and foreign institutions, notarized by local governments, disclosures of personal wealth, objectives, police records, etc...not to mention a hefty fee! Upon getting to Brazil, you must register with the federal police because I will be here so long, they want me on record! Again, more forms and fees. So, this Friday, I had my appointment to go in and finalize the paperwork and get my fingerprints taken, etc. It was an extremely frustrating process. My appointment was scheduled for 9 AM and there was no one there for me. Even worse, our group could see all the workers in this meeting through some glass windows. It was about 10 AM before a lady came out and said, "we're sorry, we're having a mandatory meeting on improving customer service...not sure when it will let out." ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! How can you improve customer service when you have a boatload of people waiting for you with scheduled appointments over an hour ago?! I can't imagine what people with 8 AM appointments were feeling like. Again, I don't know what I had such high expectations. Half of the public sector is on strike here. Police, universities, you name it, they're not working. Nevertheless, the meeting let out by 10:30 and I was in line...not for long, because when they started matching my documents, my processor realized that the dates didn't match. The visa in my passport said that it was valid until July of 2013 and my visa paperwork, which was done by the consulate, had a hand written note that said valid until July of 2012. Clearly the person who wrote the note made a clerical error, it was hand written and he put 2012 instead of 2013...everything else said 2013, but after a few minutes of trying to convince them that it was an error and even having a conversation with the supervisor, there was nothing they could do. I am now forced to spend another morning or afternoon at the Foreign Affairs Ministry sometime in the next week and have additional forms processed for me that says the hand written note was a clerical error and that I am legally authorized to be here. The bad news about this all is that until I get registered with the police, I am technically held in a "detained" state, you could say, because the form I get from the police authorizes me to actually travel to other countries, including exiting Brazil and entering the US. Good thing I don't have any immediate trips planned elsewhere, otherwise I wouldn't be able to go! Let's hope this gets resolved quickly...the pleasures of traveling abroad!
So, this has been a long post but I hope you've enjoyed some of the stories. As a means of closure, let me send a gigantic THANK YOU to all the people who have offered me a way to get Skyline chili! In fact, I've been put into touch with someone who is traveling to Brazil next month from Cincinnati who is going to bring me a can or two in exchange for a Sao Paulo city tour! My dream is complete! This brings me to a very important lesson to be told. Tell the world what you want! haha. Chances of you getting it increase exponentially!
I'm going to make another post shortly about Brazilian culture, which will include lots of pictures and YouTube links so you can actually see all the things I've been experiencing!