Anyone who has stayed in Colombia for more than two months knows the
feeling of doom that creeps over you when That Time of the Month rolls
around again… Yes, the dreaded monthly visit to the DAS office for a
For a country intent on promoting tourism, they sure don’t make it easy for you to stay.
First of all there’s the waiting outside the office. Everyone stands around, clutching pointless photocopies of a million and one documents and chatting under the watchful eye of a slouch-shoulder 17 year old with an automatic rifle. For some reason, if you uncharacteristically arrive before the office opens, you’re not allowed to line up. Instead you must mill around aimlessly until a seemingly randomly appointed time, at which point there is a mad dash to be first in line.
Not that the waiting around is boring. Not at all. It makes for some fantastic people watching. Of course there’s the line up of the usual suspects. The heavily pregnant teenager with the squawking one year old. The toothless, gummy elderly gentleman. The tall, gangly gringo who looks about as at home as a giraffe in a parade of poodles. But then, to add a little kick to your curry, there are two Indian men, who look like they just walked out of a Bombay call center. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Spanish spoken with an Indian accent.
Finally when the first round of waiting is over, you are allowed in, one at a time. Upon entry you must surrender your cell phone and all other electronic devices so that you can’t take photos of all the DAS officials sitting around doing nothing.
Once inside you wait in another line until you are attended by a mustached Colombian version of pudgy Police Chief Wiggum from the Simpsons. Except that instead of donuts, he inexplicably chews on orange peel. Seriously.
You will have spent hours making copies and filling out forms just so the Colombian Wiggum can flirt shamelessly with a bored but buxom Colombiana co-worker, while he haphazardly scrunches your paperwork into a drawer where it will never again see the light of day.
Without a doubt the best part of the whole experience is getting your fingerprints taken. Standing in a small stuffy room filled with the pungent smell of old orange peel, you can pretend you are a narcotraficante just captured in the jungle amid a shower of bullets.
And then, with the ink still wet on your fingers, suddenly it’s over.
Until next month anyway.
For the uninitiated the DAS is the Colombian version of the FBI. They also process visas.