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Mission Impossible

In general, I kind of like the challenge of figuring out how to do logistically difficult things. But we have a situation (Houston!) going on right now that really looks impossible, and I am exhausted from trying to sort it out with no progress. I have concluded that we need a miracle. It’s a little complicated, so hang with me.

Daniela Bermudez and I made a deal that if she would work for me for a month, I would pay her way to the mission trip in Peru on July 7. Today Daniela concluded her month of work and it was very fruitful. She deserves the trip to Peru, and indeed, the tickets have been purchased, including a two-day excursion to Machu Picchu. In our best laid plans, we forgot to factor in swine flu. Daniela is Mexican and added requirements are being put on Mexicans now because of swine flu.

In order to get a visa to enter Peru, she has to present a medical certificate of health no more than one week prior to travel. OK. One week before July 7, Daniela will be in El Salvador on a mission trip. When she inquired to the Peruvian consulate in El Salvador, she learned that they only issue visas to foreigners who live in Peru, even though the Web site clearly states it issues visas to foreigners visiting El Salvador. This seemed so unbelievable that we had to confirm it a few times, but it is true. So heads up all you Euro backpackers who think you might make your way from El Salvador to Peru – you can’t if you need a visa to get into Peru.

Next we thought about having her hold up a couple of days when she connects through Dallas on her way home. A friendly consulate employee there told her over the phone that he would issue her a visa for all her trouble with El Salvador. Apparently there is some wriggle room with this 7 day advance requirement on the health certificate so that he could issue the visa about 15 days in advance of her arrival in Peru. But when he found out that Daniela has pushed the limits of her student visa, he retracted and said he couldn’t do it because she had no legal basis for being in the United States after today.

What about Mexico? She’s gone home today and has about 10 days before the El Salvador trip. If the 7 day advance requirement for the health certificate was flexible in Dallas, maybe it’s flexible in Mexico as well. So she called the closest Peruvian consulate to her today, the one in Monterrey, to learn that people from Chihuahua have to go to Mexico City to get visas for Peru. Mexico City is 20 hours by bus from Chihuahua! Why doesn’t she just walk to Peru for Pete’s sake? And flying to Mexico City from Chihuahua costs $400. It’s literally cheaper to come back to Dallas and fly to Mexico City than to fly from within Mexico. But $400 is just the flight. It takes three working days to get the Visa, so she would have to hold up in Mexico City for three days. Is this just completely unreasonable, or is it me?

Next we were trying to call the Peruvian consulate in Guatemala City. All day, no answer. And their Web site is no longer existent, apparently. But as I was working on this blog, I came across a service that gets visas for Americans or foreigners living in the U.S. and learned that apparently Mexicans have to return to Mexico to get their visa to go to Peru. I guess she could come back to Mexico City from El Salvador, get the visa, and then go back, changing her plane ticket to leave for Lima from three days later than scheduled. We’d also have to change her Peruvian flights from Lima to Cajamarca, cutting the trip from 11 days to eight.

There are other options, but they aren’t pretty: Cancel the El Salvador trip and leave for Lima from Mexico City, but that would suck to miss El Salvador. She could cancel the Peru trip, but that would suck too. Regardless of what she does, from what we can see now, it’s unavoidable for her to lose money.

I’ve done a lot of international travel and it’s always a challenge to time everything right, but the situation Daniela is in because of this swine flu thing is insane. And this whole experience has given me a better appreciation for how easy it is for Americans to just skirt around the globe at our leisure. We don’t even need a visa for Peru. And if we wanted to stay longer than the 90 days we’re given upon arrival, all we have to do is ask once we get there.

Please pray for a miracle that all of this might work out and Daniela will be able to do both trips. And check back in July to learn how it all went down.

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