Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Maputo Bound (Part two... or how my papers moved)

So.... the saga continues.

That first night in Maputo was cold and noisy. The feral dogs antagonized the neighborhood guard dogs.

Barking ensued. Lots of barking.

After breakfast, I caught a city bus (or chapa) for the government offices in charge of my paperwork. It takes 40 minutes or so by bus and is a bit of a circuitous trek off the beaten path.

I made it by 10:30 am only to find the doors locked and the lights off.
    --What? Was it a public holiday?

I looked around and found people watching me jiggle the door handle in dumb confusion.

I turned to them and asked, “Isn’t this the place where I get my Equivlencia?”
-- “No, they moved.” The man looked at me kindly and with much more patience than I deserved. I could see he had had this conversation before.
-- “Moved?” I toyed with the tone in my voice and opted for flat. “Where?”
-- “You have to go back downtown.... then it’s around the corner from the Department of Education.”

I pressed him for clearer directions after insisting I was not a local, but all he could accomplish was to write down the exact same information above. Sigh.

So with a new destination in mind, I retraced my steps to the center of town (another 40 minutes back) and I found the new building. But by this time, it was dangerously close to lunch and I was not sure any staff would even be there.

The building was beautiful. Be-UTE-i-ful. Beautiful!

It shone with the glow of tile wax and chrome. Its steps were covered in well-edged tile and its walls were smudge-free. The furniture looked like it was cut from a magazine --modern faux-finish accented with chrome.

I looked down at my (now) dusty sandals --ineffectively hiding chipped nail polish-- and smiled a little. I was going to dirty up their polished interior. 

As I entered the main office, a clerk was hammering out the finer points of the equivilencia process to a woman in tight jeans and platted hair. She had a beautiful degree stenciled with Arabic calligraphy and bright colors. I spied it over her arm, but the only word that made sense was ‘Qatar’. I smiled at her impishly and waited.

When she left, the clerk asked what I needed and I handed him my file number. I wanted to see how things were progressing, I explained. He handed off my identification number to an underling, who took it and walked woefully to a long row of file cabinets.

I sat down to wait.

Would I have to wait two days for them to find it like last time? I wondered.

Twenty minutes later, I was called up to the desk. The clerk looked confused, my file open in front of him.

-- “We have your file...” he started, “but I don’t know what it means.”
I waited silently. Praying. He obviously had something more to say.
-- “You need to speak to my Chef... but he is at lunch.”
-- “Can’t I see what it says?” I asked, reaching for my file.
-- “No... no. You must talk to my Chef.” He shifted the file slightly away from my hand. A flash of fear in his eyes at the thought I might take it by force.
-- “Did they refuse it?” I asked after a long, pregnant pause. My hands obediently by my sides.
-- “Come back today at 3 pm," he offered. "My Chef will be back from lunch by then.”
Clearly, he did not want me to touch my file or know the secrets it held, so I relented and agreed to return at 3 p.m.

I confess my hopes were not high when I left. My last diploma was rejected... and I was starting to think this one would be as well. Ugg.

I returned to the guesthouse deflated, ate lunch, and napped. But as three-o-clock ticked ever nearer, I found myself back in the shiny, waxed office.

Once the clerk met my eyes, he asked me to take a seat and wait. He had to find his Chef do departemento, he explained. But after looking for awhile and making a few calls, he learned that the Chef was in a meeting. I’d have to come back in the morning.

-- “Can’t you just tell me the results of the file?” I pleaded.
-- “Can you please come back in the morning?” He (almost) pleaded. “Come at 9 am.”
-- “What time does the Chef come in?” I asked.
-- “He gets in at 9 am.”
-- “What time do you open?”
-- “7:30 am.”
-- “I’ll be here at 7:29 in the morning...” I stated flatly.
He nodded that he understood completely, and I left him with a smile. Or was it a leer?

The next morning, I was feeling half nauseated (must have been the chicken I ate on the bus), half nervous (what if he denied my degree?) when I entered the office doors.

I was not there a minute before the clerk called me to the front of the line. (Yes, there as a line at 7:30 a.m.!)

-- “The Chef is not in the office today...” he informed me.
-- “Is there someone else I can talk to?” I queried. “I need to help clear up a misunderstanding.”
-- “Yes. Yes. Let me get her,” he mumbled quietly and scurried off.

While I sat, I prayed. It had been 7 months of this. I’d been filling out paperwork and shuttling back and forth to Maputo for 7 months... and they still had nothing. Why, Lord? What is the hold up?

Eventually, a round-faced woman in a polyester skirt suit called me to the front desk. Her purse was on her shoulder... and I could see she had to leave any minute.

-- “The Ordem de Medicos (or medical board) insist you are not a doctor,” she explained. Lights were going on in my brain.
              --They thought I was a doctor? Oy! Vey!

I nodded to show I understood and waited. She continued to outline that every office they had sent my documents to (two different offices at the medical university and the medical board) all were at a loss as to what to do with me.

I continued to wait.

-- “The Chef has a meeting to go to... we are late,” she confessed. “But I’m going to ask my second in charge to take over this case.” She paused a minute, then added, “There has to be an answer.”

I thanked her and went to wait a bit longer. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made this journey in vain. Would I have to return to push on this paper in a few more weeks? When would this merry-go-round stop?

Ten minutes later a thin man in a pressed, white shirt and olive green trousers called me forward. My file sat open before him. He seemed genuinely nervous... almost chagrined.

-- “Senhora, we don’t know why the medical board refused your degree...” he explained. “We are going to send it to the Ministry of Health for a review and get back to you as soon as we can.”
-- “Sehnor,” I interrupted kindly. “The medical board is right. I am not a doctor... nor do I pretend to be. The confusion is due to the Portuguese word for midwifery. I am a midwife. My degree is in midwifery. But the word in Portuguese for Obstetrics... is the same for Midwifery. There is no other way to translate this degree.”
As I explained his eyes lightened with understanding and he allowed me to continue without interruption.
-- “I spoke with the doctors in Chimoio,” I explained. “My equivalencia should be for a degree in nurse-midwifery not obstetrics.”

He smiled in relief as I explained and promised to send the file off that morning for approval. He apologized that I had to come so far and especially being that I had to travel through insecurities to get there... and even offered to send my documents directly to Chimoio via courier once they were ready. That was a first.

We exchanged numbers and I left. This has been my 5th trip in 7 months... and I hope it will be my last. My fingers are crossed that the courier will actually work out, but I’m not very optimistic. I suspect I’ll have to return to Maputo again. The question is when.

From there, I was tempted to leave back to Chimoio that night but I was booked for another night in the guest house. I wasn’t sure if I should stay or go. I opted to stay that night and left the next day.

But... the trip back is a story unto itself. I’m still exhausted from the trip... and would rather write when my mind is clearer.

More to come.

Please pray that my documents (no doubt on someone’s desk at the ministry of health in Maputo right now) are approved, stamped, and signed off in record time. Thanks.