School starts in Iquique next week, and I went to bed last night determined that today we would make some progress on this issue. Lest you think we have waited to the last minute, let me explain that the process to re-integrate our children into Chilean schools began months ago while we were still stateside. The very first step was producing an official "certificate of studies" (think report card) with the three oldest kids' final grades for 2012. This certificate was notarized; authenticated by the state of Delaware; legalized by the nearest Chilean consulate; authenticated by the Secretary of State of the USA; hand-delivered by our brother-in-law for legalization and translation at the Ministry of Exterior Relations (foreign affairs) in Santiago. It sounds so smooth written out like this, but trust me, the reality wasn't quite so. Many hours, frustrations, and dollars later we finally had the multiple-stamped final document in hand - Step One!
Next came the in-person visit to the Ministry of Education in Iquique (after researching online) and additional paperwork to add to the certificate studies in order to appeal for a "validation of studies" so the children can move on to the next grade in Chile. This additional paperwork included a formal request form; birth certificates printed by the Chilean Civil Registry office (another lengthy process, thankfully completed several years ago); the last certificate of studies from Chile (in 2011); and copies of the student's and parents' Chilean ID cards. I was also told we needed a form from the school they would be attending, which threw a wrench in the works since the director wouldn't return for another week or two - Step Two!
The process was put on pause until today, when the school director returned and I obtained the form and headed downtown to the Education office, drove three times around the block to find a parking space, walked fourteen city blocks round-trip to obtain cash and photocopies of the precious original documents I was about to release into a stack of similar requests, returned to the Education office to take a number and finally spoke with the person in charge and delivered my forms to be sent to Santiago, receiving in exchange another form indicating that we were "in-process" and that my children were allowed to start school in the meantime - Step Three!
Now that I had official permission and the director was back at school, I headed there to register the three oldest for classes. I was redirected home with the announcement that registration is now online, and spent the next hour or so updating and printing and compiling the forms that I needed to take back to the school office upon completion. Compelled to finish this task today, I sat in the hot office while another parent (who did not do his forms online) painstakingly registered his one child. Finally, I was called to the desk for a relatively quick registration, only to be told it was not complete until I turned in one final requirement: 2 reams of legal-sized printer paper, 10 rolls of toilet paper, and 2 rolls of paper towel per child (these items being separate from all the rest of the school supplies that appear in the three-page, single-spaced list requested for each student.)
Needless to say, we headed from the school to the grocery store. By way of the mall - because I also needed to look for "delantales" (white lab/school coats required for daily wear) and to price the textbooks which would be next on my list. At the grocery store I joined the hot and tired parents thronging the narrow school supply aisle, trying to obtain the necessary items still on my list (did I mention I already went shopping in bulk at the Zofri last week, but am not nearly done?) Finally, with a full cart I called it quits knowing very well that I would be back doing this same thing tomorrow. It was almost 7 PM and I had left the house at 9:30 that morning, returning only for a quick lunch and the online registration between errands.
But the day was not done, because my long day was simply going to roll into my husband's very long night. Explanation: We need to deliver Ian and Alec's visa application to the office of Extranjeria (foreign affairs) in Iquique but as we learned the hard way, the only way to get in the door is by standing in line from the wee hours of the morning. Pedro had already coordinated with two young men from church to do this tonight, but we knew of a Bolivian young lady who also needed to get into this office. She recently began attending church and we wanted to help by offering her one of the spots saved by Pedro and the guys - but we didn't have a phone number for her and knew only that she worked at a Chinese restaurant on a certain road.
So, we piled the kids in the car and headed out around 9 PM to find her. What you should know about Iquique is that there are Chinese restaurants on just about every other corner, so it wasn't until the third restaurant that we tracked her down to share the news. She was very happy, we headed home and got kids to bed and ate a late dinner (Chinese, of course!) and then I napped on the couch until 12:30 AM when Nicolas and Mario arrived for the big all-nighter. Around 1 AM, Pedro and the guys left (he called around 1:30 to say there were in line behind more than a dozen others) and now at 2:30 AM, I am ending this post and going to bed.
And that, my friends, is why I say ... It's Been a Long Day! But GOD is always faithful. Good Night!