It wouldn't be a long story if it wasn't about waiting. But if you want to have an idea of how crazy Colombia can get, you should definitely read this one! > If you just want to read the plot and not the whole story, you can just scroll all the way down to Making the count.
I thought I knew what it was to stand in line. I didn’t. Now I live in Colombia, I know in Belgium, there are hardly waiting lines. Except for the crazy school inscription lines, the Belgium waiting lines are more like ‘walking-very-slowly lines’.
As most things in Colombia, getting something done, takes time. Especially when it involves public services, as Immigration. Yes, this is a story about waiting. Why? Because waiting is an art.
Luckily this week, I got the chance to practice my waiting skills like never before! Curious to know how I deal with waiting? Read on!
How it started
On Monday evening we, the three expat wives, took a plane to Bogotá to arrange our Visa. I had to cancel my first voluntary english teaching class for it, and will be missing out the last night of my sister’s and her boyfriend’s visit, so what a terrible timing! But okay, it had to be done. So I accepted the sacrifices I had to make and took off well prepared for a full day of waiting lines and people sighing. I had my computer and all my documents so everything would be fine.
Waiting line nr. 1: A delayed flight
At 6:00 PM we arrived in the airport. Our flight would be leaving at 8:00 PM. We stand in line for the check in. Once there, the lady kindly informs us that our flight is delayed, not 30 minutes, not one hour, yes two hours. We will be arriving in Bogotá at 11:30 PM.
Waiting time? 2h How to handle? We drank a coffee, installed ourselves in in front of the boarding gate, had a little chat and I took my computer to work on my blog.
Waiting line nr. 2: Entering the Colombian consulate
After a 4 hour night rest in a nice hotel and a good breakfast, the big waiting day began at 7:05 AM. Already 50 people are standing in line to enter the Consulate.
Waiting time? 1,5h How to handle? I enjoyed the morning sun, the street musician, the vendors,... Perfect for waking up.
Waiting line nr. 3: Waiting room Colombian consulate
After 1,5h we managed to enter the consulate. At the 3rd floor before entering the waiting room, our documents are being checked. I was ‘lucky’, I had everything I needed. One of my companions and other ‘expat wife’ was missing the legalization of the translation of the marriage contract (yes, it is complicated). She came for nothing and now had to wait all day for us before going home. Our third companion was also missing some documents, but managed to obtain them within two hours. Pfiuw!
So I entered the waiting room. After a revision of my documents, a discussion, 3 phone calls, and 30 minutes, I received a paper with my turn number: G051. I sat down and began my second waiting line.
Waiting time? 4h How to handle? I already said I was prepared. I brought my precious Flow magazine just in case. And because my computer battery died, I started reading and getting inspired while waiting my turn.
Energy level up
After 4 hours, I obtained my Visa!
So now it’s time for a well deserved lunch called Ajiaco Santafereño, which is a typical dish from Bogotá.
Perfect to heat up, charge my computer and charge myself for the second part of the day: The Colombian passport.
Waiting line nr. 4: Applying for a Colombian passport
We arrived at the immigration office. After receiving a document to fill in, we had to stand in line to hand over the document and receive instructions.
Waiting time? 45 minutes How to handle? Watching people and overhearing conversations. Practicing some mindfulness. In other words, trying to stay cool when I realized we hadn't moved one centimeter in 25 minutes.
Waiting line nr. 5: Registering the Colombian passport
Here I started writing the first lines of this blog post. I was sitting on a cold floor. Could hardly feel my ass anymore and was longing for fresh water while around me people were sitting or standing, heavily talking, sleeping.. wondering when the women behind the desks would finally scream out their names, get their passport and get the hell out of here.
But I wasn’t annoyed, nor stressed. At that point I realized that there is something about waiting. We are all in this together. And when you are in a room packed with too many people, for me there is only one thing to do: Search for a spot in the corner, get seated, and enjoy the play.
And that’s what I did.
I present to you: ‘The Waiting Room’ (very original, I know) – Starring:
- The girl that is nervously walking from one side to another, asking a worker when it is her turn already, rolling with her eyes because the answer is not what she hoped for. But refuses to get seated because that would be giving in to the thought that she is not leaving this place any time soon.
- The guy with ADHD, who wore a t-shirt, even though it was cold inside, showing the impressive tattoos on his arm. He sat down, walked around, went away, came back, sat down again, walked to the other side of the room, sat down there, stood up, leaned against the wall, searched eye contact and smiled at me somewhat flirty when he noticed I was watching him. Busted. I looked down, a bit embarrassed.
- The american woman, who tried to get a grip on the situation. Asking people their names and when they had arrived. Trying to estimate her waiting time and those of others. She was there before me, and when it was my turn, she was still waiting. I felt sorry for her.
- And at last, the man and woman in front of me, two strangers, sitting next to each other. They started talking and didn’t stop until his name was called and eventually had to go. They got quiet cosy so they exchanged numbers and names. I wonder were that will lead to..
Waiting time? 3h How to handle? Search for a spot in the corner, get seated, and enjoy the play.
Waiting line nr. 6: Stuck in traffic
So I and one other expat wife managed to obtain the Colombian Visa and Passport. We were so happy!
But we were also terrified of missing our flight. We had 45 minutes to reach the airport before they would close the check in. We quickly threw ourselves into a taxi and crossed our fingers. The first 15 minutes passed and we got just around the corner of the Immigration office. At that point, I knew we would be missing our flight.
Waiting time? 1h and 30min stuck in traffic How to handle? Silently and painfully waiting until we reached the airport and accepting the fact the we were missing our flight.
Waiting line nr 7: Delayed flight
When we arrived at the airport, we went straight to the airline desk to book the next flight. Because the next day would be the national holiday of Colombia (Independence day), and the airport would be closed (Seriously?!), tonight’s flights were almost fully booked. The next flight’s free seats cost a fortune so we decided to book the seats on the last flight that day, at 11:22PM. And because they felt we weren’t yet skilled enough in waiting, they delayed the flight. It took off at 00:35 in the morning.
Waiting time? 4h How to handle? - Laughing with our unluck when overthinking the day and almost peeing in our pants when one of the other expat wives dropped her very precious passport, including Colombian Visa(!), in the bathroom sink and got it soaked with water. - Having a well deserved, terribly unhealthy but delicious Mc Donalds Big Mac Menu - Trying to sleep - Trying to stay awake by working on my blog (thank god I brought my computer)
Making the count
At 02:30 I crawled into bed and felt my body already sleeping before my eyes were closed.
Good night everyone!
So lets make the final count:
Total waiting time? 16h and 45min How to handle this? - Bring your computer/work - Bring a magazine/book (in case your battery dies) - Observe the people who are waiting with you - Stay calm - Accept that certain things cannot be changed and try to make the best out of it - Get to know other people in the waiting line - Laugh (everything is better when you just laugh about it)
Hats off for Ji, who came to apply for a Visa but had to go through the whole day for nothing, and still could laugh about it at the end.
I hope you’ll think about this post next time you’re in a waiting line!
If you happen to have some other tips and tricks for waiting, feel free to share them!