By D. E. Finley
When a person, company, or sadist in the US insists that you have to have a document notarized at the US Consulate in São Paulo, they must think that they are asking you to do something that is only a mild pain in the arse, like it is in the US. Or maybe they are getting back at you for some nasty thing you did to them in a past life.

To take the two to six hour highway expedition to the US Consulate from Campinas, (depending on rush hour and street vendor sales of peanuts, coffee, and portable urinals). I phoned three days ahead to get my semi English speaking driver, Marcello, to pick me up at 5:45 AM. Worried that I’d sleep through my 5:43 AM alarm, I awoke at 4:00 AM, keeping a groggy eye on the clock to make sure it kept ticking.

After Marcello picked me up and dropped me off at 7:45 AM at the US Consulate, I had to negotiate with the security guards to let me through the entrance doors before the office opened at 8:30 AM. As long as I was going to hang out at the US Consulate coffee shop beforehand, I would be allowed to enter. Otherwise, security didn’t want me loitering around the premises. For all they knew, I would raise havoc by peeking in windows at disgruntled employees or by checking for loose change in phone booths. I reassured the guards that I would be slurping a cappuccino with a pao de queijo (hot cheese roll – also a favorite food of the gourmand God, Epicurean).

To enter the US Consulate complex, I had to go through a security building past more guards and a Fred Flintstone style metal detector. In case they were bombs, the guards placed my digital camera, mp3 player, and cell phone in a pre-school type cubbyhole. This way, I’d be several buildings away from the explosion and out of harm’s way when the bomb went off (although, I might regret delaying paradise and 72 virgin, Brad Pitt clones). Perhaps, the guards also feared that I’d belt out songs on my mp3 player like an American Idol flunkey, rave about President Bush and Trent Lott on my cell phone, and snap pictures of US consulate lines longer than the Dom Pedro highway. Security also took my briefcase, since there was a built-in, 29-cent calculator, made in China. Imagine the threat if North Korea got a hold of one of those babies!

At 8:35 AM, after fresh coffee and stale employee gossip, I entered the actual US Consulate office. An agent told me to please have a seat while they prepared themselves to be open. Two minutes later, they were officially open. So, I could proceed to the official, glass window. Surprise! I would need a witness to (gawk at ME and) attest to my signing the document.

But, aren’t you my witness, Maam?” I asked. Behind the glass, she looked like she was in an aquarium.

“No, you will need a witness who does not work in the US Consulate,” Aqua Woman replied. The bureaucrats in Brazil must be as overburdened as the paper pushers back in the States.

I turned around to see an empty room with about fifty chairs. Then, I spotted one, unsuspecting man coming through the door.

“Excuse me sir, but would you mind witnessing me sign a piece of paper?”

“It’ll cost you 500 reales,” he replied with the attitude and charm of Donald Trump without his Prozac.

“I would really appreciate it,” I replied. “Everyone else in the room appears to be invisible or are just avoiding me.”

“No problem. Some sucker did the same thing for me last time.”

Aqua Woman instructed me, that before I could sign the document, I would have to go to another aquarium in another building around the corner to pay a fee.

After I paid, I rushed back to the first office. My witness was going through the exit door, “You just lost your witness,” he scowled.

“That’s okay, Mr. Dweeb.” I mumbled. I guess he had to run off to charisma school.

Talking at the window to Aqua Woman was my next potential witness. Once he had finished going through his stack of documents as high as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, I would coax or bribe him.

“This is the tenth time in three weeks, I’ve been here, Maam,” the man pleaded. “Here is my birth certificate, marriage certificate, DNA test results, hair and stool samples. These are in addition to my passport, visa, and unauthorized biography. I’ve been a distinguished professor for thirty years.”

Aqua Woman didn’t seem to be budging on this one. I didn’t have the ventricles to ask the professor for a favor that would mean he’d be stuck in the room another blink of a bureaucrat’s eye, especially if he were to go postal.

So, I ended up calling the taxi driver, Marcello, who stood in as my witness. His signature looked like a scratch from an alcoholic chicken. “Do I need to print my name too?” Marcello asked.

“No, your drunken chicken scratch is just fine,” Aqua Woman answered, “Have a nice day.”

To be positive, getting a document notarized at the US Consulate wasn’t as bad as experiencing shingles, bursitis, or trying to order cell phone service without a CPF number. It could have been worse. I could have been the professor or Aqua Woman.

Copyright D. E. Finley 2005.

To read previous articles by D. E. Finley click below:

Brazil: Advice to Dialinda

Brazil: Feijoada Anyone?

Brazil Life: Winter in Brazil

Brazil Life: Home Safe Home
Brazil Life: Hose Shopping
Brazil Life: In-Laws In Town
Brazil Life: Got Floss
Brazil Life: Hiring a Maid
Brazil Life: Brazilians are so Nice
Brazil Life: Gringa Goes Shopping at Carrefour
Brazil Life: Amazon Encounter Lodge Vacation
Brazil Life: Keeping Track of My Purse

D.E. Finley is a writer and graphic artist. You can visit her website at

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