Anna's Journey


In Sevilla on September 26, 2010 at 10:19 pm

 I have been thinking about what it must be like to immigrate to another country. Before this week I could only imagine how frustrated and helpless a person or family must feel as they attempt to navigate foreign bureaucracies.

Only this past week, I too felt lost and frustrated as I stood in the grand Plaza de Espana in Sevilla at six in the morning, waiting for the Office of Extranjeros (Foreigners) to open. It was still dark as I leaned on a wall with a small group of other foreigners, yawning and holding my documents tightly to my chest. I started chatting with two American study abroad students, and realized that I did not have all of the copies and photos I needed. I became suddenly nervous, as this was my last chance to get my temporary residence card. I would not be able to get to Sevilla that early again. Pushing the nervousness aside, I walked quickly in the direction of a copy store. It was closed of course, and would not open until nine. I returned to the line of people, who had at that time joined a larger group within the Plaza de Espana at the doorway to the Office of Extranjeros.

 I found the American girls again, who thankfully had saved my place in line. Already the number of people waiting had more than doubled. We waited. The sun began to rise, and at eight I set off again to find an open photocopy store. The stores were still closed, so I jogged back. On the way, I ran into a newspaper stand with a sign reading “Se hacen fotocopias”. They made photocopies! The owner made my copies and pointed me in the direction of a photo machine at the nearest bus station. I informed him that he was saving my day.

 I galloped down the street and entered the bus station, searching for the machine. I finally found it, inserted my coins and took the pictures. I could have laughed when I looked at them, as I have never looked so distraught or exhausted.

A long morning

 I ran back to the Plaza de Espana. It was almost nine. Resuming my place in line, I thanked the Americans again. A few minutes later, the line began to move into the office. One at a time, we obtained our numbers and retreated to the waiting room. Aside from the American girls, our room contained two Americans who were also teaching English, a girl studying public health, a couple with a small child, an older couple who smiled and waved at the child, and a silent man from Morocco.

 We waited and waited. We waited 2 ½ hours for our numbers to be called. Jason brought me a croissant and some water. I was starving. Finally, at almost 12:00, they called my number. I went into the office, and was greeted by a friendly, middle-aged bureaucrat who was joking with the others in the room. He handed back almost all of the documents I brought, including most of the copies and the photos, stamped my papers, and told me to send an email which would receive a response directing me when to pick up my card. Although bureaucratic systems are difficult, the Spanish people within them have all been kind and understanding.

 I left the Plaza de Espana with my resident number in hand. For me, this was nearly the end of the process of becoming a temporary resident. But for those who are forced out of their own countries and into another, who struggle to become residents, learn a new language, and find a job that can pay the bills, this stop would only be the beginning.

At the Plaza de Espana, the day before my fiasco


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