. . .And then it happened, it took me by surprise.
I knew that he felt it too, by the look in his eyes. . .
It was a look of disbelief, actually.
The text message had arrived on our Greek phone Monday morning. But, as with regular mail, we've become rather relaxed about checking for texts in this expat life of ours. So it was late Tuesday when I noticed the message that seemed different from those of the usual telemarketing kind.
'But, of course', as we say here, it was in Greek ,as most text messages we receive are. We tried sounding out words. Google translate indicated two of them were something to do with 'residence permit' and we promptly forwarded the message to our attorney with the question, 'Is this it?'.
It was at our attorney's house last Sunday morning, while chatting on her porch (it was an appointment; we were picking up legal documents, but as I've said before, we do things differently here) that she'd reminded us to watch text messages: that is how we would be notified of our residency permits.
Now for those who've been following the saga here and on Facebook you know that we've been in the midst of the renewal process for what feels like forever. Those plastic cards are what allow us to live full-time in Greece and conversely, to leave Greece. Back in December we began identifying the required documents. In February we gathered them, had them notarized and apostilled. They were translated into Greek and submitted to immigration officials in mid-March.
At that time we received temporary -- papers with our photos stapled to them -- residency permits which would serve as identification until the small plastic cards were issued.
|Two years ago after receipt of our first residency cards -|
Two years ago when we first went through the process, it took - what we thought at the time - a very long seven weeks to get the cards.
This year it took 4.5 months.
|Why we live in Greece - views like this|
With that kind of backlog, we probably should have been pleased back in early July when we stopped at the Immigration office and was told by Mr. Milas (the face of authority who sits behind the glass enclosed counter holding your life in his computer), that we needed to be patient as it would likely be six months and we'd maybe have cards in September. . .
|We couldn't leave Greece so we flew to Thessaloniki from Kalamata|
He clarified again that we could not leave Greece (other than to go back to the US) without those cards. So the spring and summer travel seasons passed us by and as we've watched them go, we learned several important truths about ourselves:
* We really aren't good at being patient! ('We've already lived here for two years! How long can it take to issue two plastic cards?!' we'd snarl periodically.)
* We are getting older and our travel days are limited. (Do we really want to be in a position of not being allowed to travel while we are able? - That well may be a question that determines whether we decide to renew our residency permits again in three years.)
|Greece - we can call it home again for another few years|
* Our move to Greece was to be a launch pad for travels on this side of the world and when grounded, we get cranky. (Yes as we watched great travel deals come and go on the computer screen, we'd sigh and say, 'If we weren't being held in detention. . .')
*We value our freedom yet have taken it for granted. ( We Americans pride ourselves on being from the 'land of the free' so when some government tells us that we aren't free to travel, it feels very uncomfortable.)
*The immigration process is humbling and intimidating. We finally understand the concept of being square pegs trying to fit in round holes.(Do we meet the financial and health insurance requirements? Did we get the right documents? Will they accept 'xyz' document as proof of. . .?)
*We empathize with immigrants.
*We have learned and grown. When I first wrote here about our frustrations of 'being grounded', I received many interesting responses from you, telling of your own, or the experiences of your friends and family members when applying for residency in the United States. They were enlightening, some downright amazing.
|You are not allowed to smile in these photos but you can laugh out loud when you look at them!|
The text message turned out to 'be it' and the next morning we raced to the Immigration Office to collect those precious cards. It was all over in less than 10 minutes, and really rather anti-climactic.
But I can assure you that as we handed over the temporary permits, our passports and watched as the official checked one document against another and studied his computer screen, we held our collective breaths (we've learned nothing is 'a given' in this process). It wasn't until we had the cards in hand and were leaving the parking lot that we breathed a sigh of relief.
|A toast to you all for your support and encouragement: Yamas!|
Let us offer a toast of thanks to you all! You helped ease us through a most tedious process.
|Our friend and attorney, Voula|
Also a 'shout out' to our attorney, who has held our hands and gone 'to bat' for us with Immigration officials.Voula Spireas came into our lives nearly four years ago at the recommendation of fellow American expats. She divides her time between her law practice in Kalamata and her family home in Kardamyli, now called Yioryitsa's Backyard. There she operates an Airbnb and the courtyard has become a gathering place for special events. Voula is a stalwart of the arts, culture and historical community. And the best part of this process has been that she's gone from being 'our attorney' to being a good friend as well.
I close with a promise no more posts about residency permits (for at least two and a half more years when the renewal process starts up again).Safe travels to you and yours! And next week I will get around to telling you about driving in Greece. . .I've got a real horror story for you!
Linking soon with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday