Eating Healthier, Saving Moolah, Moving Forward

I need to first say that TODAY is my dad’s birthday. Happy Birthday to you, Dad. You provided me with a lifetime example of what I needed to look for in a husband and how a dad should care for and love his children. When I was younger, I thought that my dad is how all dads are, and as my naivety faded as I got older, I saw that I am really on top of really blessed because there really are not THAT many dads who are as wonderful as mine.

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#tbt to 2014. Only one of them looks like they have aged since last year.

Same goes for you too, Mom…who, no fooling, celebrated her birthday on the 1st.

...same goes for this 2014 photo.

…same goes for this 2014 photo.

Next week: shout out to Aunt Pooj whose birfday is on the 15th. She’s your reminder that your taxes are due.

I loved her rather aggressively as a small child.

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In mid-March I did a 5-day challenge with Fitness Blender and it kicked my arse. In between that, I have been exercising for 30-60 minutes 5 or 6 times a day since early February. However, I have not really seen any numerical differences on the scale and my pants fit the same as before…a.k.a. not well. I do feel stronger (I can do five push-ups straight through instead of suffering through one) and in much better shape, but honestly, I’m tired of feeling lumpy and much larger than the size I’ve been almost my entire adult life.

I’m freely admitting that my diet sucks. I am totally addicted to candy lattes (my current version of ‘coffee’) that probably have ungodly amounts of sugar in them but I’m in denial so I refuse to look it up. I don’t even want to know because I know it’s bad. But hey, I order it with fat free milk so of course I can throw down 24oz. a day and think I’ll see my body magically decrease in size. Reality: I am probably only burning half of one of those lattes in an exercise session, because as I so sadly read, I am likely overestimating calories burned during exercise and underestimating caloric intake. It’s so hard, because caramel lattes bring me to my happy place at work…and Starbucks’s in Chile are popping up faster than tulips in the spring.

I also have another large problem, and that would be portion control. I eat one piece of something filled with butter and sugar and think, oh hey, what’s one more…which spirals into five more.

Third,  I will go out to eat and think, ‘well, I never come here, so I might as well get the most awesome thing on the menu’. But I end up doing that more than once a week to different restaurants because I ‘never go to that restaurant,” and I end up eating the junkiest junk on the menu at more than one place more than once a week.

And finally, I love food. I have a hard time saying no. It’s pretty easy for me to say no to some things, but food is not one of them.

However, I have realized in the past 8 weeks that pure exercise is not gonna cut it. Literally. I have to make small goals for myself. Instead of 5 sugar-infused liquid beverages per week, ideally 1 either on Monday or Friday to either help me face the week or celebrate that the week is over. Instead of choosing the most exotic thing on the menu, actively look for a good choice that won’t leave me hungry for that burger I didn’t order. I can’t do dieting. I can’t do non-processed foods. I can’t do non-sugar, non-fat, non-dairy. Sorry I’m not sorry. So, I’ll just have to do less of what I really like (burgers and lattes) and more of what I’ll tolerate (salads and vegetables).

I will also tell you a thing about eating in this country: it’s hard not to eat crap. A lot of their foods are processed and full of weird stuff. Kids birthday parties and family get-togethers are packed with soda, chips and cubes of sugar disguised as candy. You don’t want to be the weird, rude foreigner that chews on celery and carrots they brought along with them and say no to your sister-in-law’s homemade lemon cake. You eat that lemon cake with a smile on your face.

On the flipside, their fruits and vegetables are a-plenty and much cheaper than in the USA. This is good for Joaquin, a raging banana and strawberry addict, and good for his mom who puts the not-so-good-quality fruit in a blender for a smoothie.

Andrés and I are also in an attempt to not be like madmen with our checking accounts and be “fiscally responsible adults”. We’re planning a fairly big life change in 2016, and in general, life-changes require money. We are actually already pretty fiscally responsible. We’re not in debt, we don’t spend more than we have and we have savings. We’re just trying to get that pile of savings a few feet…erm…inches…higher by the end of the year. And maybe that means the end to “Sushi Tuesdays” and the start of “Sushi Once a Month”. Boo-hoo. Saving and eating better doesn’t mean you can’t have the things you like, you just have to have less of them. Novel concepts guys.

Mid-March we sent in step 1 of 1,098,921 for Andrés’ US residency application (what most Americans know as a ‘green card’). You’re not a citizen, but it’s the next best thing (paying taxes, fun). The giant binder of information on ‘why my foreigner husband is good enough to live and work in your country’ was sent to a random address of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Chicago. They let us know that they got it and just as soon as it arrived in Chicago, it was shipped off to California. Why they can’t do everything in one place with one organization of the government, I don’t know. Once the Californians deem him good enough, they send it to a completely different government entity called the National Visa Service (NVS) and they have to deem him good enough and rich enough and healthy enough and tall enough and skinny enough and physically fit enough and smart enough to come to our country. Maybe I made a few of those up, but the list really similar to that.

Once two government entities find him good enough, they let the US Embassy in Santiago know he’s a stand-up guy and we get a notification to go to an in-person interview, but not before Andrés is medically examined by a consular approved doctor saying he’s good enough. Then Sr. Consular Officer interviews Andrés and makes sure he’s good enough. If we get through that, they give us a package to bring to the immigration officer that checks us at the point of entry at the airport and tells Andrés if he’s good enough to finally enter the USA as a resident.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD MY HUSBAND IS GOOD ENOUGH TO ENTER MY STUPID COUNTRY WHY DO FIFTY PEOPLE NEED TO TELL HIM HE’S GOOD ENOUGH AND TREAT LEGAL IMMIGRANTS LIKE THEY WANT TO BREAK THE LAW. FIX WHAT’S BROKEN. FIX YOUR SYSTEM.

Oh, and the whole process from applying abroad costs over $1,000.

Super.

It involves a lot of waiting, a lot of steps, and a lot of patience. We’re hanging tight in Chile until things pan out and trust that God has everything under control. He always does, doesn’t He.

On an end note, our 1+ year old has taken to talking to himself. He is fluent in babble.

How I Applied For Residency In Chile – But Not My Own

Part – or almost all – of my job includes following my boss’s instructions. He is not Chilean, and neither are any members of his family, so when they moved here he applied for a work and residence visa (visa sujeta a contrato) –  before I was hired.

Then I hopped on the corporate train and one of my first huge tasks was to help the rest of his family members apply for their visas. It was like trying to drive a toaster through a car wash, if I may quote Kevin Bacon in one of the greatest movies of all time.

My boss is the only member of their family that has the right to a principal visa (titular). He is the only one that has a job, and therefore his visa is subject to work contract. So, his family members had to apply as his dependents.

The application itself is pretty simple. Name, DOB, birth country, passport number, education level, current visa (in their case, tourist visa as that is how they entered Chile), etc. Then, they needed all sorts of other papers.

The huge catch is that in order for them to prove themselves as legitimate dependents of the principal visa holder, they need to attach his kids birth certificates and his marriage certificate to the application package. This is easy enough if you are married or are born in Chile, but being foreigners, it is an unlikely scenario. One child was born in Africa, the other was born in South America and my boss and his wife were married in Europe. Deep breaths.

First off, if the marriage or birth takes place in a country other than Chile, the Immigration Department requires that the original certificate bear a stamp from the Chilean consulate in the country where the certificate was issued. It would be nice if the Immigration Department put this in huge bold letters on their website before foreigners come to Chile and discover they probably need a stupid stamp 5,000 miles in the other direction. After the certificate is stamped, it needs to be brought to the Department of Exterior Relations at Agustinas 1320 in Santiago Centro for another stamp. Then, if the original is not in Spanish, it needs to be translated at another counter at the same address. The cost is per word, and the wait time is usually 10 days, or 5 days expedited and pay extra. Then and only then can you make a photocopy of all translated pages, all stamps and the original certificate to send with the visa application. Don’t send the original, it will get lost in an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole and you’ll never see it again.

Well, you can imagine my horror nearly two years ago when I discover that I need stamped birth and marriage certificates at the Chilean consulates on three different continents before I can do anything else. Mission:Impossible. On top of that, a Chilean consulte does not even exist in the African country where one certificate was issued. It had to be redirected to the consulate in Kenya or South Africa.  Head:Exploding . This was just impossible for me to organize on my own, so the company had to hire a very pricey company to get someone to do this for us, and it still took them over a month. Crown Relocations, I wouldn’t recommend them. At least not their operations in Chile. They were disorganized and our account manager left their company in the middle of the process and no one told us.

Long story long, they got their visas.

Now, here I am, almost two years later, a seasoned war-visa-veteran. Once you have held temporary residency for one year (my case) or residency subject to work contract for two years (my boss’s case), you qualify to apply for permanent residency. It takes longer to approve, but the benefits far outweigh the wait. If you are not out of Chile for more than a year, it never expires, and you only have to renew your ID card every five years, instead of having to have a new ID issued every time you renew your temporary, work, student visa.

You are allowed to apply 90 days before expiration of the current visa, so I got things in order for them early.

The translated requirements for those with a work visa transitioning to apply for permanent residency:

1. General Documentation (including principal holder and all dependents in the following order)

  • Permanent Residency Application sent by mail, completed fully and signed.
  • Background check (certificado de antecedentes para fines especiales) issued by the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) – certificate not necessary for minors under 18
  • Peruvian nationals 18 and older must attach an original, valid background check issued by the Peruvian Consulate in Chile (located on Antonio Bellet 444 in Providencia)
  • Colombian nationals 18 and older must attach an original, valid Judicial Certificate issued by the Colombian Consulate in Chile.
  • Dominican Republic nationals 18 and older much attach a valid background check issued by the Dominican Consulate in Chile.
  • Travel Certificate, original, complete and updated, corresponding to the last year of residency. This document is issued by the PDI – Border Control Police (not necessary for those who are applying as a dependent) – located at Eleuterio Ramirez 852 in Santiago Centro.
  • Photocopy of both sides of Chilean ID card (optional for minors under 18, but if one was issued for them, include a photocopy)
  • Photocopy of passport, including ID pages and all visas that give purpose to request for permanent residency.
  • Personal letter indicating motives for requesting permanent residency.
  • 3 ID sized photographs (3x2cms) in color per applicant, with name and ID N°.

2. Specific documentation required for the Principal Visa Holder

  • Copy of valid work contract and any previous work contracts.
  • Certificate of validity of work contract signed before a notary (original)
  • Copies of any contract terminations (if applicable).
  • Certificate of past contributions to your AFP (retirement) and Health insurance of your last visa year (AFP, INP, ISAPRE).
  • Certificate of marriage or birth in the case of acquiring links with a Chilean spouse or child.

3. Specific documentation required for dependents

  • If you are a spouse of the principal candidate, attach a simple photocopy of your marriage certificate
  • If you are the child of the principal candidate, attach a simple photocopy of your birth certificate that indicates the parent’s names.
  • If you are the mother or father of the principal candidate, attach a simple photocopy of the principal candidate’s birth certificate indicating the parent’s names.
  • Accredit economic support via an affidavit of Expenses (Declaración Jurada de Expensas), issued by the principal visa applicant signed before a notary public, signaling that he/she will assume all maintenance costs in Chile of all dependents that are requesting permanent residency.

So yeah, that’s it! Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right??

Now, if you’re busy like my boss is and don’t have time to go running around the country getting all of these papers, you can hire a pretty assistant to do it all for you. Enter Amy.

In order for me to get all of these things for my boss instead of him or any of his family members, I needed notarial declarations from them indicating that I was the person allowed to get these documents. It can’t just be simple and be one big letter, because at every office they keep the letters for a collection or something.

Obviously, there were certain things I could not do for them, like getting their photos taken. But the main things I needed notarial approval from them were for the Travel Certificates issued by the PDI (only required for my boss) and the Background check issued by the Civil Registry (for my boss and his wife). They needed to do the leg work getting to a notary and sending me the letters, but I suppose that takes less time than waiting in line at these offices.

Thank the Dear Lord that I had already gone through getting their marriage and birth certificates the first time, so it was just a matter of his family sending me another photocopy.

The PDI proved to be the biggest headache for me this time around. Previously, you just handed them your Chilean ID card and they printed out a certificate saying when you had entered and exited the country. This time, I get in line for a number and the extremely overdressed, extremely cranky employee handed me a form to fill out and also explained that I needed a photocopy of their passport, including all exit and entry stamps from Chile. Hello? Aren’t you guys the ones that issue that information? Why do I need to give you information that you are in charge of? That’s like a 1st grader having to hand in a photocopy of their report card back to their teacher when it’s in front their face on the computer screen.  Yeah, that’s exactly what that is like. Why do government offices in this country refuse to publish important information on their websites?  Unanswered questions for this lifetime.

So, defeated, I went into work and had to ask my boss to send me a scan of all of his exit and entry stamps. This guy is a seasoned traveller. He sent me back thirteen pages of entry and exit stamps from his passport. He’s been living in Chile for less than two years. The PDI should give him some kind of award.

I went back the next day with my notarized letters and thirteen (completely unnecessary) pages of stamps, wait an hour for my turn, and get told by the other disgruntled employee that I will need another notarized letter to pick up the certificate in five days. You simply must be joking. I tried my best not to argue while explaining the stupidity of that request.

“That makes no sense, you keep the letter, so why do I need to bring another one to pick up the certificate?”

“I don’t know, I don’t make the rules”

“You used to be able to get this certificate at the moment of requesting it, so now why are two letters needed”

“I don’t know, I don’t make the rules”

*Face Palm* I swear they install chips in these officers to automatically respond to any prying question.

So I’m thinking, this is absolutely ridiculous. I went to the counter where in five supposed days my certificate will be ready and start explaining the stupidity of the situation to another person. I guess I stumbled across the head honcho, and he wrote his name on the back of my ticket and told me to speak to him if they gave me any issues when I came to pick it up. Finally, a win.

I went to pick it up last Friday and no one said anything about having another letter, so it was all in vain.

This was the 6th time I have mailed in an application package for a Chilean visa. I’m enough of an expert to start doing this as a living. If you’re having a problem, chances are I know the solution.

Attached are some drafts that may help you out:

carta personal permanent residency

declaración jurada de expensas

carta notarial certificado de antecedentes registro civil

carta notarial certificado de viajes PDI