“And the letter from your bank?” the nice clerk at the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque asked me from the other side of a thick glass partition.
She was rifling through all the papers I’d brought down with me, more papers than she needed to see, it turned out. Silly me. I’d methodically followed a list I’d found online of the documents required to apply for a Mexican residence visa. A letter from my bank was not on that list.
She looked up from the papers and smiled at me kindly.
That’s one of the many characteristics that endears me to Mexican people: They’re so quick to smile.
I smiled back at her, to mask my panic.
“A letter from my bank?” I sputtered. My hands were shaking. I’d thought I was prepared. I’d hoped to accomplish this mission with this one trip.
“Yes, we need an original letter, giving your name and how long you’ve had an account with the bank, in addition to these bank statements.” She pointed to the six months’ worth of original bank statements I’d already supplied.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, is not exactly right around the corner from Taos, where I live. It’s a good three-hour drive due south, if you count getting lost in the tangle of streets in the center of the city, as my friend Judy, who was good enough to drive me down there (I’ve sold my car), and I did. We’d left Taos at around 7 a.m. It was now after 10.
“Well, I’ll have to come back,” I said, struggling to be philosophical and thinking, It’s ALWAYS something.
She nodded and smiled.
“And you’ll have to make an appointment to meet with my boss,” she said. The first date available to me was November 25th, the day before Thanksgiving, nearly two weeks away, and only days before my one-way flight to Mexico.
“Wonderful!” I falsely enthused. “I’ll be here, with the bank’s letter.”
One of the benefits of having served in the Peace Corps for two years is that you’re acculturated to things like this. You’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, not to fight city hall, especially since it’s not your own city hall. I was already in my early fifties when I served in the Peace Corps in Gabon, having left the rat race of New York City in the dust. It was in Gabon that I learned, at last, how to go with the flow. Patience and tolerance had never been among my greatest strengths; I began to learn these lessons, in Africa, in my fifties. [For the whole story, read my Peace Corps memoir, How to Cook a Crocodile (Peace Corps Writers, 2010).]
This kind and patient consulate clerk then handed me a small slip of paper with contact information on it, including telephone numbers she’d highlighted in yellow for me, in case I needed to reach her. If it hadn’t been for the glass partition, I would have hugged her.
Telephone numbers that might work! I thought. I’d had no luck at all telephoning the consulate in advance of this trip. It had been impossible for me to get through to a real, live person who could offer information, so I’d taken my chances by just showing up, armed with an overload of documents.
“Muchas gracias,” I said to her from the bottom of my heart, finally able to access a couple of words from my miniscule Spanish vocabulary. “Hasta pronto!” (See you soon), I added.
November 25th will come soon enough. And if all goes well, I’ll get the green light for a temporary residence visa that in time might morph into a permanente. I won’t be just a tourist in Mexico, only allowed to stay up to 180 days (before needing to leave the country and re-enter with a fresh tourist stamp). We’ll soon see. In the meantime, I’m trying to wear my rumpled old Peace Corps hat and go with the flow.