Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The "Friendly" Garda

We actually had class for four hours today! Thank goodness it's taught by a local pastor named Monte who has an awesome accent, so it stays interesting. It's our "Celtic Christianity" class, but right now we're studying Christian Doctrine and the background of denominations. It's really practical stuff for understanding Christianity in general, so I really can't complain. Then at night we had chapel for another hour. But that I don't really think of as class. Today, we had guest speakers... sort of. They were 25ish year old guys that live in a house with our chaplain's son. I hope that made sense. One just spent a few months working with YWAM so we got to here about that experience. He also was a film major and worked in New Zealand on the movie "Yogi Bear." He's basically famous! Ok, maybe not, but it was cool to hear his perspective on combining his passion for serving Jesus with his love of film. I love hearing stories of God using our own skills and passions to serve Him!
But the epic part of my day was a trip to the Garda (police!). I'm working on getting my visa stuff figured out. Since I had all that trouble initially with immigration Monte currently calls me the "illegal immigrant," even though I technically am legal until March 1st... But back to the story. So Kyle, Kelsey, and I all go to the local Garda Station. We end up in this tiny waiting room that is pretty plain other than random political posters or ones about social justice issues. (Random side note: one of the posters was for human trafficking. Which isn't all that odd, except for the fact that the picture on the poster was of a black man. First of all, this is more common with females, and second of all there are VERY few black people in all of Ireland....) So we are admitted into the office. The guy takes my passport and proceeds to ask  questions about why there was a problem, if I had medical insurance, how I was going to pay for my time here, etc. Pretty much the same questions I was asked for an hour and a half at the immigration desk in the Dublin Airport. But this time I had Kyle! And he had all of the answers to these questions and the documents to prove it. Plus, we had a magical letter from Taylor explaining the whole Irish Studies Program. (The other students had gotten this letter before coming, mine came with them so I didn't have it when I first went through immigration.) The whole time I felt like I was trembling. Don't get me wrong, this guy seemed nice enough. He didn't yell at me like the other guy had, but he was very stoic and stern. Now, I have met a lot of really nice Irish people who are very bubbly, but I am convinced that none of them work for the Garda. These people are all business. I tried to answer his questions as simply as possible and let Kyle do any extra talking. It must have worked because he put a HUGE stamp in my passport which will let me stay through May when the program ends. That has to be signed by the chief of police (or something like that) so he's keeping my passport this week. Which means... we get to go back again! Woopee! Me and the Garda are definitely going to be best friends by the end of this crazy process! Maybe I'll even coax a smile out of one of them; then again, maybe not.
The good thing about this crazy process is that Kyle and Taylor University are working to make sure this doesn't happen again to some poor other student. The program here runs about 10 days longer than a typical 90 student visa. So they're trying to work something out so there is never a mix up again in the future. I'm glad my crazy experience might help things run a little smoother in the future.
So in a sense, I had a little extra "class" time today. Because here, everything we do is class, because everything is about understanding the culture better. By the end of this trip, I will be well versed in Garda processes and behavior. I wonder if I can get extra credit for that...

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