Great news, today! My visa was extended. All American tourists to Brazil have to apply for a visa. It's good for 5 years, but you can only stay for 90 days at a time without applying for an extension. With an extension, you can stay for a total of 180 days per year. This was my third visit to the Federal Police. The first two times I went with Renzo. On the first try, there were too many people ahead of me, and they told us to come back in the afternoon. When we returned, we learned that I would have to fill out a form and pay 22.80 reais online, and then return with the passport, my entry paper, a bar-coded proof of payment, and proof of a return ticket to home. The woman in charge of extensions also recommended that I come back closer to the date that the visa would expire. This was a bit of a problem for me because the Federal Police is several miles from home, and I don't know how to get there on the bus. Renzo is back in school, so it's not convenient for him to take me any more. It was also really comforting to have him with me because the office is always packed with people who have lost their passports, need a new passport, or other problems with these types of documents. Visa extensions are a minor part of what they do in this office, and Renzo was really helpful in navigating where we needed to go and who to talk to.
This afternoon, I decided to strike out on my own. I reviewed my maps of Goiânia and decided that it would be a good day for a walk. I had talked to Renzo about this the last time, and he told me that it would be a safe place to walk if I decided to do that. I walked up Rua 9 from home until I arrived at the Bougainville Shopping Center. I turned left as I had planned and walked another block to where I was supposed to turn right. It was a different street than what I had picked on the map, but it was one that I recognized, so I turned there anyway. It seemed like I walked forever, but I was passing some streets that I had written that I should watch for, and I recognized some landmarks. Finally, I saw the Goiás stadium located across from the Federal Police. After about an hour of walking, I arrived at 3:30 at the office which closes at 4 PM. I decided to be open minded about what would happen - I hadn't intended to cut my time so close.
I passed the long line of people waiting to talk to a passport officer, and continued to the back of the office. I would NEVER have known to do this if Renzo hadn't gone with me the first time! I interrupted one of the employees and asked him to call the woman who takes care of visa extensions. He returned and told me he had asked for her, and it sounded as if I should wait. By 3:50, I still hadn't seen her, so I asked someone else. That woman told me that the person I needed to talk to was gone until tomorrow, but she agreed to help me! I had another form to fill out, and she told me that she could help me in English if I had any problems. I filled out the form, signed it, and she completed the paperwork for my extension. I was ecstatic as I left! It's such a morale boost to be able to do these kinds of things on my own.
My other errand for the day was Breno's birthday present. I had intended to go to Flamboyant, the large mall, but I had seen a sign for Goiânia Shopping, one of the nicest malls here, on my way to the Federal Police, so I decided that I would try walking there. I turned left on a likely looking main thoroughfare, and hoped for the best. I passed one landmark that I recognized, but I was very unsure of myself because I've only been to this shopping center once since I've been here this time, and that was before Christmas. I continued walking and thought about the possibility of grabbing a taxi if I didn't arrive at the mall really soon. Just then, I saw the Golden Arches! I don't like McDonalds, especially in other countries, but it was a comforting sight to know that I was headed in the right direction.
I bought the gift, tried on some clothes, learned that I have dropped two sizes in pants (yes!), and treated myself to a chocolate sundae. I took a taxi home, not because I was lost, but because I was tired after probably at least 5 miles of walking. Tomorrow I'm making a special dinner for Breno - chicken cacciatore over rice, spinach souffle, garlic cheese bread, asti spumante, german chocolate cake, and ice cream. It's his 21st birthday!