Select Page

It was with absolutely no fanfare at all that I went to pick up my new carnet (national ID) today at Registro Civil. I am now a fully-functioning legal alien resident of Chile, once again, free to come and go on my own free will (flight prices, mountain pass-closing snowstorms and the occasional border blockage notwithstanding).

The only interesting thing about my picking up my carnet today (besides the fact that I went to the best bakery in all of Santiago to pick up some sweets for a certain someone who is a major fan), is the fact that on my colilla, or proof of payment for my carnet, it said that I could pick it up any day after and including the 31st of October. But October 31st was feriado (a holiday). Was Registro Civil being punished for its recent paro (like a strike) and being forced to work? How bizarre.

Which brings me to a detail from when I used to work at a very lovely and well-known, large, storied language institute here in Santiago. At the beginning of every academic year, in March, the gringos would ask when the last day of the academic year would be, you know, to make plans and whatnot. And every year, we would be greeted with blank stares. The end of this trimester, they would tell us, is twelve weeks from now. But there were many (strangely not really three) trimesters, and no one ever knew when the end of the year would be. It seemed it was too complicated an algorithm for the lovely, well known, not-so-large, storied administrative director to figure out.

This I held against her for really far too long, listing it in my mind as one of her failures as head administrator. How can you not know when the end of school is? You add up the weeks, discount the myriad national holidays, the week the students get off for Sept. 18th (national holiday), for the winter break, plus teacher’s day, assume that classes are cancelled for the traditional days of rioting for the anniversary of the golpe militar (military coup) and el día del jovien combatiente (too long to explain here), consider whether APEC or other similiar heads-of-state might be meeting in our fair city, to cause anti neo-liberalismo riots, and poof! you’ve got your answer.

Or have you? (do you?) Well, it seems that this year the Chilean government established a new national holiday on October 8th, for October 31st, a time period so short, that not even the Registro Civil (one of my favorite bureaucratic entitities here in Chile, and not only because they have a location with places to sit outside and lock my bike not five blocks from the aforementioned bakery and two good friends’ homes), not even Registro Civil was able to input the data into their computers soon enough to give me an accurate view of when my carnet would be ready. Which, I was told, it was days before the appointed date. That darn Registro Civil, working at the speed of light. And they gave me five more years from the new date of issue before I have to get another one. Clever beavers.

*****And the new holiday? Protestant and Evangelical Churches. They’ve got their own day. Well kind of, because they kind of have to share. I wonder how they feel about it being on the eve of one of the biggest pagan holidays?