Butterflies, niggly things and necessary evils

Brazil's Consulate General in Central London, just off Oxford St

With just a month to go before I board a plane and embark on a new life in Brazil, it’s not unusual that I should be starting to get butterflies in my stomach, right?

Strangely, it’s not the big move, temporarily mothballing my career, the new language or anything like that that’s worrying me, but rather all the little things involved with shutting down UK operations.

Niggly, little things.

All doable – just time-consuming, bureaucratic and petty.

Today I applied for my visa – an experience that was quick, pain-free and straightforward. Bravo, Brazil.

But one of the annoying things about international diplomacy is all the tit-for-tat measures put in to make applying for a visa more costly.

My student visa is meant to cost £32 for the year. Bargain!

Oh, wait – not if you’re from the UK. There’s an extra £124 on that – because the UK charges it for applicants wishing to stay for more than 180 days. The joke is – I can go there for free for up to six months as a tourist. 2 x free ≠ £156!

Superficially, the reciprocal deal seems fair. But it does irk me, as someone going to Brazil to spend money and learn the language, as I am effectively being punished for my country’s immigration policies. It’s just petty.

I should probably stop moaning and just see it as something unavoidable – a necessary evil.

Turning the corner off Oxford Street, I spy the Brazilian flag dangling lifelessly in the summer sunshine. It seemed fitting.

First in the queue, it was the moment I’d been worrying about for the last couple of months: the time it had taken to gather all the documents – the police background check, the original university acceptance letter, the various support letters, bank statements, redundancy notices…

My ticket number is called – novecentos e dois.

A woman with just Visas above her head (probably not her name) meticulously reads through all the documents I’ve coyly handed her.

She smiles and asks about my life – the softest interrogation I’ve ever been through, but an interrogation nonetheless.

I tell her that Brazil captured my imagination in many ways this January (it was painfully clear that she knew exactly what I meant) – and with that, she says everything’s fine and hands me a receipt to come back to the Consulate next week to pick up a shiny year-long visa in my shiny new passport.

A few months of waiting, and in about five minutes it was over and done with. Anticlimax or what.

Visas – a necessary evil, indeed.

32 days to go…

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