So yesterday, while Alexandre was volunteering at the hospital as the lead ophthalmologist for a child eye exam day, and while I was grading papers at home, our intercom phone rang. (You know, the little intercom outside the apartment building so visitors can call to be let in.)
I typically don't answer it if I'm not expecting someone, because 99.9% of the time it's some annoying shmuck trying to sell gas for my stove or Sparkletts-style water or internet and he speaks impossible Portuguese and doesn't understand me trying to say "no, thank you" and then I end up hanging up on him.
So, I ignored the call. But then the mystery person called again, holding the button for a good 5 seconds to show they meant business. I answered the phone, ready to scold some over-eager salesmen, but instead was greeted by a woman's voice: "Danielle?"
"Yes? Who is this?"
She rambled on something I couldn't understand (the intercom's sound quality is atrocious) but in it I heard "inspection" and "policia federal" (the office that deals with visas) and quickly remembered that, months ago, when I FINALLY got my visa approved, the stupid tiny visa man said, "expect a visit to your house to verify that you two are actually living together as husband and wife." I figured it was just a scare tactic, as it had been almost 6 months, but nothing is ever too late on Brazil time!
I said, "oh, okay! Momentinho!" (I'm trying to say "Just a second!" but I invented this word in Portuguese from Spanish's "momentito") into the intercom and rushed down the 4 flights of stairs to let them in.
I was expecting, you know, police, but instead they were 2 young agents dressed in casual clothes-- a man and a woman. At first, I thought the man was there as a sort of safety measure / backup, since the woman did all the talking. But the woman was carrying the form she had to fill out and didn't bother with a clipboard, so she had to keep resting on the guy's back to write stuff down (his true purpose is revealed!).
They asked if they could come up to our apartment to make sure that we're actually living together and all that. Like all visitors to our apartment, they complained about the trek up the 4 flights of stairs. Like all visitors to our apartment, they were also immediately distracted and amused by Gatinha's shameless pleas for affection (perking up at the possibility of new friends and rolling over onto her back expectantly). As they rubbed her belly and cooed at her, I smiled, thinking, "Good Gatinha, you perfect little symbol of family and stability!"
After the agents managed to pry themselves away from the cat, the woman asked if I had any pictures of me and Alexandre that I could show them.
I thought, "Printed? You want printed pictures? This is Brazil, lady!"
But I said, "well, I have some on my computer..." and booted it up. I think it helped that my desktop is a picture of Alexandre and Gatinha in the bed. I showed them the festa de milho pictures (mostly trying to lighten the mood a bit) and a few random other ones. She asked to see some older ones, asked if I had any of us in the US. I managed to drag up a couple (and at this point quietly thanked Danette for forcing me to organize my pictures on my computer), and they seemed satisfied.
She asked where we slept and I had to show her the bedroom to prove that we share a bed. (We do have an extra bed-- Alexandre's old twin-- but I don't think they noticed it because we currently use it as an extra couch and it has a blanket on it and is also was covered in our crap: books, papers, clothes.... it's a piece of furniture with many functions!)
She asked if I was working, which I still wasn't sure if I could do legally or not. So I said, "well, the man at the visa office here didn't know if I could, so I've just been giving private English classes at home."
"Oh, you can work with this visa!" she said. "You can go down to the Ministerio do Trabalho and show the stamps in your passports to get a temporary working card. After this all gets processed, you can go back and get a permanent one. Then you can work anywhere, you can teach at a school."
(Okay, Molly? All cleared up! :D)
"Great!" I said. That was nice of her.
"And where do you give your classes here?" She was a bit confused, because our second room just has 2 desks pushed against the wall.
"Oh, well, we only have one table, so I move the dining room table into this room whenever I have a student. See? That's all of my material." I pointed to the mess of English and Portugeuse grammar books and accordion folders on my desk. In America, I would be a bit embarrassed about this sort of ghetto setup (moving the table back and forth a couple times a day), but they seemed unfazed.
After that, they asked which neighbors I knew that could verify that I live in the building and live with Alexandre. We only talk to a couple of them, and it's little more than "hello," but 2 people were home that were able to say "yup, she lives here with that young man."
With that, the agents had all of the information they needed. The woman explained what will happen next, but even though I tried to ask her some confirmation questions-- "So, is the form going to come in the MAIL, or do I have to go to your OFFICE?" -- she wouldn't break out of her legalese speak so I have no idea what we have to do and Alexandre has to call to figure it out.
But all in all it seemed pretty successful, and it's good to know that I can work legally and maybe can have some other job opportunities if the situation presents itself!