October 24, 2002 - Advance of Bucks County: Russia RPCV Sue Blank used to Russian Red Tape

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 9:52 pm: Edit Post

Russia RPCV Sue Blank used to Georgian Red Tape

Read and comment on this story from the Advance of Bucks Georgia RPCV Sue Blank who became used to Russian Red Tape when she decided to get married in Russia.

Weeks passed until less than 24 hours remained before the wedding with no permission in hand. They enlisted the American Embassy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the KGB and assorted relatives. The prospective groom raised his voice several decibels. This did the trick. Almost. Read the story at:

Red tape in any language*

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Red tape in any language


During my time in Georgia, I learned to love the warmth of the Georgian people, their country's beauty, their marvelous wine and many of their foods. I admire the complexity of their language; their music enthralls me. Their children are beautiful and quick; by sixth grade they can read words in three different alphabets, Georgian, Russian and English. But I could never adjust to dealing with Georgian bureaucracy.

We were aliens there, foreigners asking permission for Kate to marry a national. We had an official list of requirements -- conditions to meet, forms to file, documents to present, fees to pay. No previous marriages on either side, no request to stay permanently in Georgia complicated the situation. We met the conditions, executed the paperwork, paid the fees and arrived well in advance of the wedding date for the form granting permission for the marriage. Our ordeal had begun.

Georgian ministries have a tricky way of listing hours and not keeping them. An office whose formal publication advises applicants to arrive between 10 a.m. and noon tells them when they get there that it sees applicants between noon and two p.m. At two p.m. ministry staffers take a 15-minute break. Eighteen minutes into the break a tray of cold drinks and snacks arrives and disappears inside, and one knows that the break won't end for a while.

By staggering hours, ministries neatly compound difficulties. The first ministry sees applicants in the afternoon, the second opens only in the morning, making a return trip to the city necessary the next day. One must deposit money in a specific bank, but no one knows where it is. The form includes a phone number, and one is advised to call for directions. No one answers the phone, however. We stop at three other branches of the bank for directions, but no one there can help us. Is this a phantom branch? A chapter from a Kafka novel?

That official list of requirements for permission to marry doesn't contain all the requirements, either, or else ministry staffers were thinking up new ones on the spur of the moment, something I rather suspected. Kate submitted a required form in Georgian and English, bearing the necessary stamps and seals and signatures guaranteeing its accuracy and authenticity.

"How do we know what this English says?" demanded a ministry employee, eying it suspiciously.

"The translation accompanies it, paragraph by paragraph," Kate pointed out.

"But it may be inaccurate," he objected. "Get another translation and have it notarized. Then you will be finished."

But she wasn't. When she submitted her second translation of the document, duly notarized, the office wanted a second copy. The ministry does no copying; Kate went back out on the streets and found a place to copy the document, and when she returned, the ministry had closed. Did I mention that each visit to the various ministries required about three and a half hours of travel between the village and capital and back again?

When Kate and her fiancee had assembled everything necessary, notarized and copied, they appeared as instructed for final permission, promised for Thursday. They called from downstairs to be invited upstairs where business is done. No invitation? No access. They got a one-word response: "Monday!" The staffer upstairs hung up and declined to answer the phone thereafter. An armed guard kept access to the stairs secure.

On Monday the visa did not satisfy, though it had been fine the previous week. As a member of the first Peace Corps contingent in Georgia, Kate had a special kind of visa. Staff at the ministry had not seen it before. They decided it was illegal. "But your government issued it," Kate pointed out. No matter. It also became necessary to prove that her father and I would leave the country. We provided our plane tickets and a copy. "This shows you bought a ticket; it doesn't prove you will be on the plane," said an official cagily. How could we prove this? He shrugged; that was not his problem.

Weeks passed until less than 24 hours remained before the wedding with no permission in hand. We enlisted the American Embassy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the KGB and assorted relatives. The prospective groom raised his voice several decibels. This did the trick. Almost. At three in the afternoon the Ministry of Justice assured the beleaguered couple that all roadblocks had been overcome. They would get their permission -- in about a month. But with a bit more pressure, the couple completed the final paperwork minutes before the ceremony the next day, and after that, it was party time.

©Newtown Advance 2002

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Interests - Peace Corps Stories; COS - Georgia; Special Interests - Married Couples PCVs in the Field - Georgia



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