I keep forgetting to update my blog. It’s not for lack of material, because I have so many ideas of what to say about this experience: driving in Athens, the drama of the Greek in-laws, the fear of grocery shopping when you can’t read the labels, the beauty of the islands, the Greek concept of service, and on and on.
Because my last blog was several months ago about the insanity of trying to obtain my residence permit, everyone keeps asking me: are you legal yet? The answer is YES. I am a legal alien. And, the reality is that I was always legal here; I just didn’t have the documentation to prove it.
So, how does one get the necessary documentation? After a lot of waiting, which I will nominate as the Greek the national past time (not unlike baseball) and listening to the national instrument of Greece, the rubber stamp, one needs two things: cash and a lawyer. It’s sad but true that, in order to accomplish a mundane administrative task, these two things are necessary.
Here are some of the documents that I needed to prove my legality here:
- A document stating that this is my one and only marriage, stamped by a stranger at a “KEP.” As far as I can tell, KEP is a government office whose sole purpose is to stamp things as being authentic with absolutely no evidence of their authenticity. As long as you have a passport, they will stamp whatever you present to them as true, with zero verification of the accuracy of what’s written. (I am resisting every urge to write a document proclaiming me Queen of the Universe, with all the rights entailed therein, and marching into KEP with my passport for a stamp.)
- An “apostille” stamped document of our marriage certificate, which entailed first requesting a copy of our marriage certificate from Key West, FL, and then having my long-suffering brother in Florida send the document to the Attorney General in FL, who then stamped it and Fedexed it to us in Greece, where we then took it to an official government office to have it officially translated to Greek. In case you’re wondering, the Greek translation office workers speak minimal English. Luckily, I am a huge fan of irony, so this was pretty funny to me.
- Then, that well-traveled, officially-translated, document with multiple stamps is given (ahem! reluctantly) to someone in yet another office who hands us a document saying that those documents exist. A meta-marriage license, if you will.
- Then, we take the meta-marriage document that says those documents exist, along with the apostille version of both kids’ birth certificates (see above, and substitute the requests in Colorado and long-suffering friends Sarah D. and Kathy) and take them all to the “Mayor’s Office” in downtown Athens to register our family. Ummm, let’s pause for a moment and just hope that the office is not occupied by disgruntled workers who don’t want to lose their jobs, as happened when we went. Also, hope that the office is not on strike, as it was the four days following the occupation.
(At the risk of being insensitive to the plight of the Greek government worker, I have a hard time understanding how occupying and striking will convince anyone that you actually *want* to work. Maybe, if you want to convince someone that you want your job, you should, well… do your job? But, I digress.)
- A letter confirming that I have medical insurance. Since my stateside insurer refused to give us a letter confirming my insurance coverage, I had to get Greek private medical coverage, which entailed several appointments with two salespeople visiting my house and offering me huge, expensive coverage options. Their suit-and-tie with briefcases visits reminded me of the traveling vacuum and knife salesmen of my 70’s youth. In the end, I disappointed them by purchasing the cheapest possible insurance. However, since all the catalogs and documents were in Greek, I’m not sure exactly what is covered or what I signed away. I think I’ll be their best customer.
- Two photos, which I took on our first visit to the office of bureaucratic hell. If I ever have a mug shot, I think it will look a lot like the photo — sleepless, angry, no makeup, and bad hair. On principle, I refused to have it re-taken. And, it makes me laugh.
Then, I gave everything to a lovely lawyer who took all of these documents, along with several others and lots of cash, to the office where I had my awful experience, and then that office took possession of all of these precious documents, and I had to trust that they would issue the residence permit, which after several weeks, they did. It was all anticlimactic, even more so since no one has asked for it yet while traveling. Sigh.
So I am grateful that I can walk the streets of Athens, humming in my head that Sting song, which I offer as your earworm of the day:
I also know how lucky I am that my residence issues are resolvable. Instead of the terror and gratitude of last post, now I’m feeling grateful and lucky, and ready to report on the beauty of this country!!! Stay tuned….