Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I feel like I am riding waves each day, some moments a definite rush while on top and optimistic about things to come, others an unexpected low when the swell falls out from underneath me without warning.

Most of this is linked to the drama of trying to buy a house. It's the most intense experience of "two steps forward, one step back" that I've ever been through. Except these days it feels like one step forward, five steps back. I am trying to visualize the progress, and more than anything the end result, but it is frustrating and tiring and definitely not a guaranteed outcome. I am grateful to have Rico and my mom leading the process, as I can't imagine a more competent team to deal with the hurdles we face.

I suppose we've learned that it's not enough to get preapproved, make an offer, and come to an agreement on price with the seller. In fact that's the first baby step of the process. The real trick is to actually get a mortgage, especially if you have somewhat of a non-traditional situation.

We knew all along that the initial promising events didn't guarantee the house would be ours. I guess I just didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to wait, and to deal with the apparent setbacks along the way. Still, there is hope. I shall leave it at that for now.

In other news, Rico had his residency visa interview, and it went like clockwork. Seriously, if only buying a house were that simple. ;)

Of course the process was bureaucratic and expensive, but given that we had all of our papers in order, Rico had his compulsory medical exam results in hand, and we were generally organized and prepared for the interview, I must say that the process was very smooth. We received great service from the US Consulate in Johannesburg, had the luck of being assigned nice people to review our paperwork and conduct the actual interview, and had the added blessing that Rico's visa was granted within 30 minutes of the conclusion of his interview.

In all, the process cost close to US$2,000 considering:

1) the actual fees for submitting a petition for the residency visa, and then getting said visa processed ($355 + $400);
2) the medical exam ($150 - extraordinarily cheap for a chest X-ray, vaccinations and a physical thanks to super affordable medicine in South Africa, even for those with no health insurance);
3) FedEx cost for sending original documents from Brazil and US ($200);
4) Sworn translation of all documents in Portuguese ($100); and
5) car trips to Johannesburg since they don't process residency visas in Maputo, and the closest approved doctor for the medical exam was there ($250 + $450, for fuel and accomodations each trip).

It's certainly one way they screen who can become a Resident Alien...

I found it fascinating to see who our companions were in the Immigrant Visa waiting room. One South African guy - a lawyer with a fancy watch and very nice clothes - had been waiting 2.5 years to get his visa approved. There was a couple next to us from Eritrea - apparently the man was already a US citizen residing in Denver, CO and was trying to bring his fiancee over - who spoke barely any English and looked as if their entire lives depended on the granting of the visa. Another couple - both South Africans - left the building cursing the Consular Officer after having their petition denied, presumably due to the guy's criminal record from a fight he got into with his dad outside a bar when he was 17.

One of the most interesting things to me was that they didn't take you to a private room for the interviews. You just stood at a counter and spoke through a prison-visit style telephone to the interviewer behind the glass. Everyone in the waiting room was therefore privvy to all of the details of your life story. It was heaven for me, given my terrible habit of eavesdropping and observing (my favorite context being, of course, airports).

In our interview, we were asked about how we met, what we did for a living, why we wanted to move to the US, details about our wedding, and when we plan on relocating. It was all very easy, just like answering questions at a dinner party. There was only one misstep, when I accidentally said that we met in 2008 instead of 2000. I guess it was nerves, although consciously I didn't feel at all anxious about the interview.

So we have the visa, now it would be wonderful if we could get the house...

My mom has been compulsively lighting incense for good luck the past few days. I'd appreciate any similar votes of positive energy you would be willing to cast for us, as we still have a long road ahead towards the Casa Cali.


Anonymous said...

I'm amazed at how fast and cheap the whole process was, it seems you're indeed riding a good wave. Here goes some positive energy your way: BOTA P/ F* !!!

Anonymous said...

This Google account/password/sign in/whatever is driving me insane. That was me above, in case you couldn't tell, hehehe...

nola said...

Best of luck!

Know that many people are having difficulties actually getting mortgages now even when not non-traditional circumstances. It's just very different from a few years back.

But, no doubt - everything will work out for the very best!

Marcia said...

hey Ali

i would also be in heaven with all that to listen to :)

this is one of the reasons I love airports so much!

Next time you pass through Jhb we MUST get together or I'm going to be very cross with you, ok? :)

BTW, Connor's coming home today!

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Hang in there. Unfortunately, you and Rico are paying for problems created by other people.

Are you eligible for an FHA backed mortgage (your home would need to be in a certain price range). Email me if you want info.

The Gori Wife said...

I hate that you can have all your ducks in a row, do all your homework, keep on top of everything, and still so much of it is still just good luck. I'm specifically thinking about our own visa interview, where we were lucky to have nice people just like you. But then we later had to deal with not-so-nice people for a different hangup. But it also works for your homebuying thing too. We work so hard and luck is still such a big factor.

Wishing good luck your way - in everything.

Ali la Loca said...

~Anonymous - Quem mais poderia ser?? :) Thanks for the good energy.

~Nola - Yes, we realize we're in good company in terms of struggling to get a mortgage. Fingers crossed. We should know this week.

~Marcia - Can't wait to see the babies next time we are in town. You would have loved all the eavesdropping, for sure!

Ali la Loca said...

~Monkey - I just emailed you now. Thanks for the offer of info.

~The Gori Wife - It is terribly frustrating to know that your efforts and organization don't necessarily translate into a successful end result with these bureaucratic quests. We were very lucky, for sure.