Sorry to have left such a downer of a post up for so long. Last week was a sort of perfect storm of bureaucracy, but things have calmed down and gotten better. I just haven't had time to write in the blog.
The good news is that things were worked out with the condomínio and we didn't have to pay anything extra (just a fine for paying the oldest bill late, but I figured it was easier to just pay the fine than to keep fighting to prove that the bill must have come before we moved in, just to save a few reais). I solved the problem by calling different people at different offices until I talked to someone who was halfway intelligent. (This was Ray's tip; it works like a charm!)
As for my visa, it turns out the first person who told me my application had been lost or never received was wrong, and after talking to two other people in different departments, I learned that everything is A-OK and on track. (I'm going to go with 2 out of 3 in this situation.) I had to go to the policia federal (where the immigration office is) here in Springfiledee and turn in a couple of things, but it was pretty painless. I hope I don't jinx myself by saying this, but it seems like I should have my RNE (permanent residency card) by the end of the year. Phew! ::Crosses Fingers::
I also solved some other problems by using www.reclameaqui.com.br. It's a great website where you can post complaints about companies. I think the people who run the site call the company and inform them of your complaint. I got a phone call from the company I complained about (NET), and they helped solve my problem! Amazing. If nothing else, there's a certain relief that comes from typing out your rant for a public audience (ahem, not all that different from blogging).
So my lesson of the week was that, in this country, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, too; you just have to be extra, extra squeaky, and you have to squeak in front of lots of different people in order to find someone willing to grease you up. hahaha.
OK so now that I've given you all that update, I wanted to tell you a funny story about Brazilian Charm. If any of you are in any doubt as to how Alexandre was able to woo me into moving to Brazil with him after such a short trip to the US, this story may help to clarify things.
Yesterday, we were on our way to the in-laws' house for traditional Brazilian Sunday lunch. The military police had set up a random checkpoint on the highway, and we got pulled over. No big deal -- Alexandre was driving (not me with my questionable use of my California license), and everything's in order with the car.
Of course, the police start out by being stern douches in order to intimidate anyone who may be doing something illegal. Alexandre has a shield that deflects douchey-ness. Nothing fazes him. He was sweet as pie with the police officer, using lots of "yes sir"s and "of course, sir"s.
Alexandre also has a technique that he uses any time he needs to talk to (read: please) someone who works with law enforcement: he finds an excuse to mention that he's a doctor, and he also finds a way to work his military service into the conversation. (Since the highway patrol and some police officers in Brazil are military, police officers and the army are bros, comrades, kindred spirits.) Then, the law enforcement person (whether it be a cop pulling him over, like in this case, or a patient with a chip on his shoulder, or an indifferent drone at the policia federal office) suddenly feels a new affinity for Alexandre. They seem to think, "hey! He's a doctor, so he must be serious and established and a good guy, but he was in the army, so he's "rustic" and down to earth, like me! Wow!" Then they become a little less douchey.
Anyway, this technique worked like...well, like a charm on this officer. The officer started telling Alexandre all about his life (while we're still pulled over on the side of the road, mind you), told him how his daughter wanted to study medicine but couldn't decide between ophthalmology and pediatrics, how he'd just moved to Springfieldee for work but he left his family in his hometown and only got to see them on weekends, etc. Alexandre said nothing about the fact that it was a little bit inappropriate for the cop to pull him over and proceed to make 10 minutes of small talk. Instead, Alexandre listened intently and was friendly and made appropriate, empathetic comments. The cop even went into a rant of sorts about how he hates that cops get a bad rap for being corrupt, about how civilians are just as corrupt for offering bribes, and how many cops do their jobs because the like it, not because they need it; how he himself had gotten a degree in engineering but decided to serve his community instead, and how he himself had turned down numerous bribes.
By the end of the conversation, the cop seriously said, "OK, your registration checks out and everything, don't worry. I work over at such and such precinct; feel free to stop by for coffee sometime!"
So the exchange started with "License and registration!" and ended with "Stop by my work for coffee sometime"!?!!? What the heck happened?!!?
Brazilian charm, that's what.
I don't know how Alexandre does it. But he is like a freaking Indian with a recorder, and all of us are nothing more than little snakes, helpless to his wiles and affections.