For the past five months, my life has gone like this, almost twice a week, every week:
It’s 2 AM and the dirt path ahead of me is only a ghostly gray outline that I can barely see in the scarce light that’s being reflected by the overcast sky above. And it’s drizzling, not enough to get me really drenched, but strong enough to be just annoying.
Several islands of light fleetingly dot the road as I walk past a few ranchos (shanty houses). I’m bathed by their light bulbs but I’m soon plunged into total darkness once more. In a few minutes, the road won’t be this dark, but that’s not much assuring, as I’m about to cross through a very dangerous area (zona roja) where hardly a day passes without the cops dragging away a dead body or two. The terror I’m feeling is delightfully electrifying.
What was I doing at that ungodly hour, in such a terrible place?
Well, I was on my neverending quest for the necessary documents so Kathryn and I could finally get married. The reason I was this early in the morning in such a dangerous area is that I had to catch the earliest bus to Caracas (4 AM!!!) so I could stand in line to request a copy of my birth certificate. But it was a time sensitive matter; if I wasn’t able to reach Caracas before sunrise, I wouldn’t be amongst the first 20 persons that the governmental agency handling these matters would attend that day. Yep, it was a matter of first come, first served… and only the first 20 people. If I made it to spot #21, I could kiss any chances of success (I may have) goodbye.
And I kissed my chance goodbye at least a dozen times during those five months; I usually was # 29 or # 31… never a lucky 13 or a 19… It came to the point that if I wasn’t sitting on a bus, ready to depart Caucagua at 4:30 AM, it was just a matter of aborting the mission.
Yeah, it was as bad as that; I was already beginning to think of it as some sort of gonzo suicidal, do-or-die kind of thing… and it was no wonder, considering the dangers I had to face almost twice a week.
What else could I do? In my country, good bureaucratic service is just a wet dream, even in this digital day and age. Down here, you still have to do almost every red tape requisite in person, Internet notwithstanding (to add salt to injury—no, make that rubbing salt—Kathryn was able to get her entire share of documentation by mail. Sigh).
Then, on the glorious day of May 11th… I was able to pick a copy of my birth certificate.
And now there’s the background check…
And the vaccination records…
And the passport photos…
It’s a neverending paper chase, I tell you.