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Published: August 16th 2010
Our friend D
She helped us so much our first day here.
Our next stop after getting our lifetime Prague transit passes was the Alien Police Station. Nancy and I had no idea where it was located, but D knew.
D took us under her wing and off we went on the subway to the Flora station. Exiting the Flora station we climbed on board a bus that we rode for five or six blocks. Once off the bus it was a short walk to the offices of the Alien Police.
We entered the building and walked up a flight of stairs. I had noticed there was a crowd of people standing and sitting outside the open door. The hallway was full of people. I am not sure why the large number of people waiting surprised me, but it did. After all Prague is the capital and this is where people coming to stay for longer than 90 days must register. Not only was the hallway full, but there was a long line of people running from the hallway to a counter in another room. D, having been there before and being bold, marched to the front of the line and spoke to a
young man, his desk had a sign saying Information. Two men were in heating conversation with him but she broke in and asked a question or two. The men then returned to their discussion of 'whatever'. She waved us forward.
“Just stand here,” she said and walked into the room. The room was lined with 19 interview booths. Only 6 or 7 booths were manned by Alien Police interviewers.
“This is going to take forever,” I thought.
D returned and at first told us she had been informed that they only interviewed 20 people per day. We groaned inwardly since there were obviously at least 200 people in line. The 20 numbers for that day had already been given out and she had been told we had to come back again tomorrow and try. She said, "We better be here by at least 7 a.m." We were thinking that 5 a.m. might be more like it. Off she went and stood in another short line. Then she motioned for us to follow her. We walked across the room and stood for five or ten minutes and then, at D’s suggestion, we sat down. She talked to several people and was told to go over to the lady at the end of the hall and plea with her. It was our final chance for the day. There we quickly discovered that we were in the wrong room. This was the room for people entering the Czech Republic on a long-term basis from non-European Union (EU) countries. Of course, the USA is not part of the EU, but US citizens are processed in the same room as EU citizens. That office was on the opposite side of the building. They told her to take us outside and go past the Billa grocery store which was on the ground floor. That didn't seem to make any sense to us as walking through a grocery store to find an official office was not what any of the three of us expected. D had to ask several people for directions. Most shook their heads, having no idea where the office was located. However, the 4th or 5th person she asked knew. Soon we were there. I was relieved to see there were only 6 other people there and three worked interview booths.
At the end of the room was a ticket machine. Identifying ourselves to the machine as US citizens, the machine printed two tickets with the numbers 494 and 495. I believe numbers are assigned by country. If I am right we were the 494th and 495th US citizens to be processed, but I do not know if the count starts each year or each month. I did notice other numbers that were much lower; i.e. 13, 19, 43, etc. I assumed these were people from other countries.
Our wait was only about ten minutes at which time our numbers flashed up on the electronic board. Again with D’s help, as with other things that day, we were able to fill in the required forms. It was most interesting to us that the official in charge of registering folks from the USA spoke not a word of English. Obviously since we spoke no Czech without help we would have been in real trouble. You feel pretty dumb when you can't read words like 1) Family Name 2) Given name 3) Date of Birth 4) Mother's maiden name, etc. Within ten minutes or so our passports had been stamped with the approval stamps and we became legal aliens for the coming year. All this was the culmination of months of visa applications, much help from Katharina at the seminary with this process, good work in the Czech Embassy in the USA from a very helpful employee there, lots of $$$ for visa applications, health insurance, airline tickets, arrangements for our home while we are gone and much much more. What a relief.
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