Pushing

Conversation on the cell phone with my lawyer when I went to get Kaitlynn’s birth certificate with the name change.

“They printed out the paper for me to verify the info before they print it on the official document. First, my name is spelled wrong. Second, Kaitlynn’s date of birth is wrong: January 1, 1800. They tell me I have to go to window 6 upstairs to have it corrected,” I said.

“No, no, no. Don’t got to window 6. Go downstairs and ask for So-and-So.”

I walk around the block. The lines to get through the gate is 50 people deep. The gate blocks the stairs which I need to get down. Inside the gate there is an armed police man. I cut to the front of the line feeling the burning stares on my back. I tell the cop I need to go down. Guarding well his circle of authority he say that So-and-So is very busy and I can’t go down. I look through the gate and see a sea of people swarming around in lines as well. Back to the cell phone with lawyer lady.

“So how long do you recommend I wait to get down stairs?”

“Just go down stairs!”

“There is an armed guard and a closed gate. He says I can’t go down.”

“Just go up to him and explain that you need to make a correction on a document and he needs to let you down.”

Deep breath. Marching up to the front of the line once again I tell him what she said. He looks at me, looks at my document, looks at me, looks down stairs, looks at the line, looks at me. I don’t budge. Even though they are pushing up against me to get down too. He opens the gate and lets me downstairs. The gate crashes closed quickly almost nipping my heels. Back to the cell phone.

“I am downstairs. Now what?”

“Now you go to the end window and tell the lady you need to see So-and-So.”

Pass windows D, C, B, and A all marked as well as window 6. I pass the milling crowd. Then the shouting begins.They are not happy that I have cut to the front.

“There’s a line lady!” “Go back to the end of the line!” “We were here first!”

It is in moments when a crowd of four-score and some all start shouting at you that you employ your gringo powers and start speaking to yourself.

“Just pretend you don’t speak Spanish. Just act like you don’t hear a thing. Come on guy, hurry up so I can find this person.”

I had known to invade the personal space of the guy before me. He started to gather his things. I moved an inch closer and put my folder on the ledge beside his things. Visions in my peripheral made my heart pound. Then one of the shouters came closer.

“Fine then. It’s my turn. I will go next!” She lumbered up and shouldered me into the wall as I began to speak and leaned back into her to scoot her over out of my way.

“I need to see So-and-So about correcting a document,” I said using my outdoors voice and speaking over the other lady trying to push her way in. The tired lady on the inside pointed to the door marked: Authorized Personnel Only. I pushed it open and walked through. Asking around I found the desk of So-and-So. It was also through a door marked: Authorized Personnel Only. I walked on through. I felt as though I was trespassing. Maybe I was Authorized; the crowd seemed to think differently.

Finally I was able to talk to So-and-So who pointed to the desk next to hers. Doctor Dude was the one who I needed to talk to. I talked to him about the changes that needed to be made. Since all public records are bound in handwritten ledgers he said he had to look for the book. He left.

While he was gone I was not without “entertainment”. [WARNING! THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION IS RATED PG13 maybe R.]

Two of the three that shared this office were the gals left revising their cases. Missy Miss began to talk with So-and-So.

MM: Did you ever hear what happened to that 8 year old girl?

SS: It is a sad story! She was locked by her uncle in a room with her younger brother. Somehow they escaped. The next night they were found down by the river. She was missing a foot and her belly had been split so her intestines were laying on the ground.

MM: Horrible! Was the uncle an adult?

SS: I don’t know. But did you hear about this other case?

MM: What is it?

SS: A child prostitution ring was discovered. They had been using kids and charging 5 Bolivianos [75 cent U.S.] each time.

MM: That is why the penalty for these offenders needs to include rehabilitation. They enter into the prisons and come out worse than before. If we had a system of rehabilitation we would be sure that this would never happen again.

SS: We cannot be sure that would even help.

This conversation took place while both of them read over cases and tended to a few other people who came through. I had spoken Spanish when I entered the room. Did they think I would not capture what they are saying? Or is this simply the way everyone speaks?

They did not cry. They spoke in a matter of fact tone. I did not cry. I still am not crying. Even after being shut down by an armed guard, passing through denied doors, standing face to face with incompetence, getting shouted at, was shoved into a wall and was made to wait in a room where they were telling true horror stories I was not immediately outwardly affected. I came home to figure out what was for lunch and talk to my kids about how there tests went. I swallowed it all down into my garbage disposal I like to call my soul.

I am chronicling this to note my hardened and compartmentalized being. I am a changed person. I repeated to myself subconsciously and consciously dozens of times this morning: I don’t care.

What happened with the book Doctor Dude went to find? He came back and told me, ” The book is in movement being used by someone else. Come back in the afternoon at 3:30 or 4 and I will look for it again. The book has disappeared.”

I have disappeared. How else can I face this kind of visit to government offices not only once but now twice in one day? By the way, this encounter is pretty normal. Normal?

Afterthought: And I wonder why I deal with anger issues. All of the above and I don’t yet have the birth certificate.

18 thoughts on “Pushing

  1. Ok Ang, Wow. What a story. I don’t think you have disappeared but are calloused as to not be broken by all that you had to hear and experience. You need to be a rock for your church and your family. I think the office people had it right in wanting rehabilitation for people but supposedly the US has that and those kind of offenders are the worst re-offenders. Apart from God they cannot change. That is why silent whispers of prayer upwardly may be all that get us through and can send reforming powers to those who need it.

    1. Emily, I agree that prayer makes a difference. That should have been my default in that room. I will try to do better about that. Thanks for letting me know that you don’t think I have disappeared.

  2. Beatifully written in a truly sad way. Started to read and couldn’t stop.

    I think we have to remember that the vast majority of kids live with loving parents. We need to pray intensely and intensively for those that don’t.

    What you need to remember is that you are in the front line and that you ARE dealing with this. You started the House of Dreams and have made a HUGE difference to the lives of those you have sheltered there.

    Angie… perhaps that conversation took place so that you, a skilled wordsmith, could relay it to us. It has made me think and strengthened my resolve to make a difference.

    Tim.

    1. Tim, you are a thoughtful and kind person. It is easy to lose sight of the good when barraged with so much junk. Thank you for bringing the truth to light.

  3. I, too, have pushed physically through lines. It is a bit unfair, but it is the way things are done. Last time was about a ticket on a plane, and at least I grabbed the lady in front of me (who was being ignored because she was female and alone) and slapped her passport down as soon as they took mine and said, “She’s with me.” The only way for her to get out at that time since a woman alone had no value to be heard.

    Then an interesting conversation ensued where the two of us tried to shout over the crowd the answers to the questions of “How many bags do you have?” and “What is your final destination?” while not knowing the answers for the other and not yet having found a common language.

    At least that time, I justified the ones I left behind when I pushed through with the one I took with me.

    Perhaps you are not hard… but you can not stop it all. You stopped this possibility for Kaitlynn. And you used your voice.

    How long, O Lord?

  4. Angie, this passage came to mind after reading your post.

    Isaiah 61:1-3

    “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
    to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
    to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
    the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
    and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.”

    Love you!

    1. Becky, thank you for sharing this passage. It is, at times, tough to remember the good plan he has. Everything within me wants to skip all the negative mentioned in these verses and go right into the good stuff. I love you too!

  5. awesome post today ang! sorry the whole birth certificate thing is difficult. as far as being changed- everyday we travel and with every new church we go into, or time with our family that haven’t lived abroad i know i have changed completely. sometimes i just feel weird. things don’t effect me the way they used to, saying bye and missing people are just part of my life now. sometimes i’m surprised that my daughters are sad to leave people and say bye; which shouldn’t surprise me but i know that i have changed! i do praise the Lord that we have and trust in a God that is never changing and always there for us!! love you girl and miss our coffee times!

    1. Beth you can know that you are sorely missed by me. You bring up our kids. I wonder sometimes if we are exposing them to too much. I have to trust that God will guard their hearts.

  6. Wow…wow… Well Angie, I am very proud of you. You have a lot more than the average person to be successful in these matters.

    Now, I think you could turn this into a novel…fiction based on true life.
    Love you

    1. I love you too dad. Thank you for the encouragement. It helps tremendously to know that you are with me in all this. This novel I am working on is heavily influenced by the countless encounters similar to this one that I have had over the years.

  7. {{{{Angie}}}} so sorry that birth certificate thing is such a complicated story and linked to a lot of cross-cultural stress – I can so emphasize – there are times when we can take it more easily and at other times it wears us out.
    May the Lord go before you and open all forbidden doors and find all disappeared books for you!

    1. Amen, Jutta. Thank you for your sincerity and understanding. I have noticed that I can handle it more easily at other times. It is good to know I am not the only one who has faced this.

  8. When you enter the world of bureaucracy it is like moving into a time warp, where everything moves at about 1/10 of the speed of the world outside. Flesh and blood people turn into forms, to be perforate, stamped and collated.

    The Bolivian court systems sounds a little like the New Jersey turnpike. When entering it you must leave your soul behind, because if you don’t play by it’s rules, and cut people off, you will never make your exit. :)

    1. Ed, I would take the Jersey turnpike over this any day. Actually, the traffic here might be comparable to what you describe so I might already be doing that as well. You are right in your diagnosis about bureaucracy. I just really don’t like being stapled – it hurts! :-/

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