“One more week” on repeat

Alan De Leon - Brazil

September 13, 2012

As I am typing this, I am laying on a couch-bed hybrid in a hostel in the heart of the University of California, Berkeley. Indeed, I am in Berkeley, California right now – not Salvador, Brazil.

I am finding it very difficult to distinguish a starting point on how I could possibly begin to explain the events of the past 13 days. This is due to the fact that my current reflections suggest that I’ve been through a whole lot of nonsense, frustration, looney-ness, adversity and change, which has led to my mind to be saturated with dense thoughts and, incongruously, ambiguity. Perhaps illuminating the source of the problem as to why my dance with Brazil has been delayed will be an appropriate place to start:
I am one out of ninety-two ambitious global “Fellows” who are spending the next year of their life in various developing countries. Out of those ninety-two, fifteen of them are supposed to be in Brazil as of right now, including myself. I use the word “supposed” because out of those fifteen, three are still in the US, including myself. In order for anyone to enter a foreign country outside the USA, a VISA is necessary, which is basically a permit to be within the sovereignty of another country for a given interval of time. You apply for VISAS at embassies or consulates, which are foreign government institutions that represent their respective nations and their laws.
The Brazilian Consulate, particularly the one conveniently located in Houston, is the institution I’ve been negotiating for months now in obtaining a Brazil VISA – as you have probably guessed by now though, they have not allowed one to me. The reason is that there is a conflict as to which type of VISA I should be issued (yes, there are MANY types of VISAS). The kind of VISA which I am interested in – and have been recommended by Global Citizen Year to obtain – is a VITEM I VISA, or a Student Exchange VISA. In my attempts to apply for the VITEM I, the kind of language that Global Citizen Year and I have communicated to the Brazilian officials has not convinced them of my eligibility for a VITEM I, but rather a VITEM IV VISA (in other words, a volunteer VISA). The consulate believes my mission in Brazil is more oriented towards a volunteer-kind of experience, and not an educationally purposed one – that is definitely not the case. Personally, I normally wouldn’t care what kind of VISA I’m issued. As long as I have access to travel to Brazil, why should it matter, right?
The problem is that a volunteer VISA takes 3 months to process, while a Student Exchange VISA takes just 1 hour – I obviously don’t have 3 months of time to spare here! All the other fellows except for me – and two others who are also served by the Houston Brazilian Consulate – have been oversees and immersed in their countries for the past 13 days while we have still been in California! It just sounds irritating and disappointing, doesn’t it? Documentation has been sent to the consulate to prove our eligibility for a VITEM I VISA, but they simply have not been cooperating with me or the other 2 fellows, to the point to where they have indirectly harassed us by abusing their autonomic rights and authority. Every other day for the past 3 weeks, I have been told that I will have my application accepted and my flight set to fly to Brazil in one week, but it has been nothing but empty promises due to the consulate’s behavior.
It’s like “One more week” has been on repeat.
There HAS been good news, however. My unexpected date with California has actually been very productive, meaningfully challenging, and even transformative. I have been in California for 23 days now, the first 2 weeks being spent at Stanford University for leadership and cultural adaptation training. It was a very concentrated process, which went as far as being lectured and educated by Oxford and Harvard intellectuals, to having a purposeful discussion with Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.org, to going to Facebook Headquarters for innovation training.
This does not even scratch, or even touch, the surface as to just how dense the training was; and spending it in a college atmosphere with a high intellectual profile like Stanford’s only supplemented the learning. Cool place, but I’m GLAD I didn’t apply there! All of the Stanford buildings and architecture remind me of my Mexican neighborhood back in Monterrey, Mexico: white concrete walls, red-orange clay roofs, flower pots in all directions, and street names in Spanish. Stanford has conspicuous Latino influence in its founding and growth, and consequently, it was too comfortable for me, and not culturally shocking enough.
After Fall Training ended, which was ten days ago, the fellows boarded their buses to the airport, while I stood behind and waved goodbye at individuals that were carrying with them the keys to opportunities that I’ve struggled painfully to obtain all my life. Thirteen days later, I have tackled a different kind of animal: one that has been, in many ways, more demanding of my abilities and emotional, physical, and mental capacities than Fall Training was.
As of right now, I have slept in nine different locations in these past thirteen days. I will explain how that has been, why it has happened that way, and what I am doing from here. I will definitely describe more intimately how exactly I’ve experienced change, how I feel emotionally and psychologically, and shed light on my recent happenings. For now, I will only answer one question: I am leaving to Brazil in one more week, but this time, it’s “the truth” !!!!!
Oh, yeah: people call me the “The Truth” now, too. I am not even joking. Find out why in the next post, coming within the next week (or even tomorrow!).
And don’t worry, now that the boring stuff has been said, now the REAL fun, introspective, and crazy things can be blogged! I hope these pictures I’ve taken within these past 13 days serve as a teaser for what to expect next!

Alan De Leon