A little review:
As I mentioned before, everything went far better than expected on Tuesday. In fact, Fermin was in and out of the Consulate in less than three hours, which is very unusual. Most people seem to wait for hours and hours, only to turn in their passport and wait more hours while they affix the visa sticker and get around to giving it back to you.
One oddity was that he was not interviewed at all during his entire time there. He handed in the letter that said he had an appointment, turned in his passport and went to another area to wait, where he sat with Pablo, the husband of a friend from immigrate2us. Everyone else in the area seemed to be called up to answer a few questions like, “is your wife here?” or “did he/she come to visit you in Mexico?” and then told to wait a while longer. He was never called up, but after an hour or so they called a bunch of names and handed him, the friend’s husband and some others their new-visa-containing passports.
I was back in the hotel, thinking I might as well sleep in, imagining I’d have hours to sit on the porch of the Meson de Maruca hotel reading The Life and Times of Mexico while waiting for Fermin. About 10:15 a.m., just after I had gotten out of the shower and dressed, someone knocked on the door. I expected the maid far more than my husband, but it was him, and he had his passport in hand, announcing he was already done.
The friends I mentioned before had flights out of El Paso Wednesday morning, and were heading to cross the same border bridge we had to go to for the final fingerprinting and processing. We followed the other couple and hung out together in the building at the border while Fermin and Pablo followed the directions of an amusingly strict border patrol woman.
Imagine a waiting area ala your local DMV. There are a few signs, but generally people wander in with their residency packets and sit down somewhere in the chairs. As soon as one of the agent realizes these newbies are out of place, they sternly direct them to where they need to go. The family members (like us) sit in the back, and depending on how full the area is, another stern agent herds people “para atras,” as he sees fit. We were there for almost an hour, so after we say how the flow worked, we would watched amused as someone would wander in, sit down with their spouse in the line to get fingerprinted, and then be reprimanded and sent to the back of the room.
All in all, this part of the process was surprisingly efficient. Every time the lady would walk out with a handful of stamped passports, we hoped our hubbies were next. Then they were, and then we left. Fermin and Pablo walked across the checkpoint, while I got in the car and drove about 30 feet to the inspection area. There, the bored agents tapped my car, checked my spare tire area, and asked me where I had been and where I was going. They stopped to chat behind my trunk, and generally seemed to be taking their sweet time to get people through. It took at least 20 minutes for them to inspect the two cars in front of me and mine. So much for efficiency.
Our first stop when we crossed into El Paso was for food. Neither of us had eaten all day. We got off the freeway near a suburban commercial area and ate our first meal back together in the U.S., at the very exciting Nothing but Noodles restaurant, which is basically Noodles & Company Deux.
I’m leaving work now, so more updates later tonight and tomorrow.