Fun At The Embassies

The night bus from Uyuni to La Paz was surprisingly comfortable – coche cama – with place for legs and almost horizontal sleeping position. We were quite tired after the 4 days of jeep trip so sleeping was really not a problem. There was only one stop for toilet at the middle of the night. Toilet cost 1Bs, but I could not find any coins in my pockets. So I took our wallet out of the bag we had between us and under our legs and pulled out some cash. That was a big mistake.

On Easter Monday morning we arrived to La Paz, found a hostel, made a little demonstration of Czech Easter customs, got breakfast and found out that the wallet with credit cards, money, passports, vaccination proofs and driving licences was not in the bag. And that´s where the fun begun.

First visit to tourist police. They asked us for photocopies of the stolen passports, which I had, but Misa did not. The suggested solution was to go to Czech consulate and get some documents to prove who we are. We were given address of Czech consulate in La Paz, called a taxi and went there.

Czech consulate in Bolivia is really a joke. It is in the suburbs (not in the district where all normal embassies are). It shares building with color paint factory called Monopol. It consists of one consul – señora Patricia Reznicek – and half of an assistant who mostly deals with paint factory customers but also was in charge of our problems.

We were told that the consulate cannot do anything unless we bring paper from tourist police that we had been robbed. But we were assured that if we manage to get that from the police, than we can come back in the afternoon when señora Patricia will surly be present in the office.

So we went back to the tourist police. We were told, that they cannot do anything unless we bring the proof of our identity from the consulate. It started to feel like a fight with windmills. To break the infinite circle Misa suddenly remembered she had scanned her passport 2 years before and still has the scan in mail. So we print it and at the end of long bureaucratic day managed to get the “Denuncia” document which stated we were robbed and listed all the things stolen. It was too late to go to the paint factory that day, but we felt like we have achieved the first step.

Next day Misa was sick and on antibiotics. So I wanted to call the consulate before going there to ask if we both have to come. I called the number I was given the day before only to find out that the line is out of order. So we both decided to go, even with the sickness. At the paint factory we were told, that señora Patricia had some travel problems and that she is still not present. But no worries, the assistant made photocopies of photocopies of our passports and of the Denuncia and promised to start working on it before señora comes. We were told to come back in the afternoon, that señora Patricia will for sure be there. I also got another phone number that “should work better”.

In the afternoon I called instead of going to the paint factory. Señora Patricia was still not able to get to her office, but the assistant manage to talk with her and the message for us was that the consulate will not help us in any way. The assistant of the Czech consulate suggested we go to German embassy and ask for help there, that they might issue temporary travel document for returning to Czech Republic. Wow! After two days and getting them all the documents they had asked for, we got no help and one suggestion which does not even solve our situation – my return flight is from Panama and Misa´s was to London, so neither could be made with temporary travel document valid for a flight Bolivia-Czech Republic.

The next day we went to UK Embassy first. This one is legit. In the right district, has actual building for itself and has staff that is not occupied by selling paint. However they refused to get Misa a travel document good enough to get back to London where she had lived for almost 2 years and where she was paying taxes, etc.

Next we went to the German Embassy. This one is legit too. Everybody spoke German there which only surprised us because we already had the experience of Czech consulate where nobody spoke even English, let alone Czech. But all they could do was to issue the temporary travel document to get to Czech Republic. We were advised to buy direct flights. But later they suggested we go to Spanish embassy, because they “might be able to issue better document” than the German Embassy.

The problem with the Spanish Embassy was that they close for siesta at 12:00 and do not reopen until next morning. So that was the end of fun on day 3.

On day 4 we went to the Spanish Embassy again. This was the only embassy/consulate where we were not the only ones. Quite the contrary, there was already a big crowd of Bolivians, probably trying to get to Europe through Spain. The Spanish policeman in charge picked us from the crowd and took us inside before all the waiting Bolivians. Racism in action, but we did not protest.

Not surprisingly the Spanish Embassy is a legit one too. Everybody even speaks Spanish inside :) The officer explained to us that they can only issue the same document as the Germans and that it is valid to go to any Schengen country, but that does not include UK. But after showing him Misa’s flight ticket from Santa Cruz to London with change in Madrid he finally agreed to issue the document with Misa´s itinerary and said that she might be deported from London back to Madrid, but that it would still be hundred times better that staying in Bolivia forever. Quite unexpected humor and honesty I would say.

It took another day to get the document done, but on day 5 Misa has been mas o menos solved. I was not solved but before starting to travel Chip advised me to get a second passport and leave it at home for exactly these cases. So I decided to get that passport shipped to Bolivia instead of asking for any more help from the embassies, but that is another story.

During the week I also wrote señora Patrice an email (her assistant refuses to give out señoras phone number, but gave me her email address, at GMAIL!). I wrote it in Czech, very politely saying that I was totally disappointed by the service Czech citizens get from the consulate. She replied, that as a consul, she is not required to and does not speak Czech. Then the next day she called, probably out of bad conscience. I finally got a chance to speak with this mystic señora Patricia. She has quite a pleasant and caring voice, I explained the problems and she repeated she cannot do anything for us. Then she suggested that we can also illegally cross to Peru and get to proper Czech embassy in Lima and maybe get some help there. But the bad part is, that some of her “clients” have been previously caught doing this and therefore it is up to us to decide if we want to go through the risk. Thank you very much.

Now if I was not in such a delay with the blog the story would end here. But at the time of writing Misa is finally in Prague after spending some time in London for her graduation show and also for more fun at the Czech embassy in London where she had to get another document to go to Prague.

Another afternote is that a few weeks later I was partying in Santa Cruz while waiting for my second passport to be delivered. I went to this one bar where all my new friends were surprised that somebody from Czech Republic has made it so far. They also said, that the only other half Czech they know will come to the bar shortly. And this is how I met Pablo Reznicek, nephew of señora Patricia. And he told me their family history: his Czech grandfather came to Bolivia and was earning his living by painting houses. Later he founded Pinturas Monopol and gradually build it from a small company to almost a monopoly (I don´t remember if he actually named in Monopol in the beginning). So that explains a lot about the consulate, doesn’t it. The consulate is part of their family paint business, just happens to be financed from our taxes and offers no help in exchange.