Brazilian bureaucracy makes buying even a bus ticket a hassle, so imagine trying to renew your visa. When your three-month visa has expired, there are three ways you can renew it. Either you stay in the country illegally and pay a ridiculous fine, go to the male-dominated federal police (who probably won’t renew your visa unless you are woman with a low-cut top), or leave and then re-enter the country. I chose the latter – a decision I would later come to regret.
Strolling up to the passport control, ready to relax with a coffee, nothing could put me in a bad mood. I calmly handed over my passport without any problems, and with no questions asked. However, with the stamp lingering over my passport, in barged a Brazilian, testosterone-filled U.S-style TV cop (you know the kind), with his aviators on and with his polished badge proudly on show. After snatching the passport from the lady’s hands, his eyes darted immediately to the date of my visa. Yes, I was trying to avoid paying for a new visa, and yes, he knew exactly what I was doing.
In a trembling Portuguese accent, I tried to play the tourist card. “I’m just here to enjoy your beautiful and amazing country”, I said. He didn’t buy it. Shit. His response was something along the lines of “You’ve spent too much time in my f**king country – when you return, you leave”. I thought, for one, this is definitely not YOUR country and secondly I’m screwed. At this point, you have to bear in mind that all my worldly possessions were still in my Rio apartment and my bank account was almost empty. After an over-aggressive stamp, he then turned and in a seemingly strobe-light-slow-motion launched the passport at my face. Clutching my face and with a quivering bottom lip, I made my way to the waiting lounge.
Upon returning to Brazil, I expected the worst. In the distance I could see the jock that had practically slapped me in the face with my own passport. With a book concealing the left side of my face I crept forward to passport control and without the assistant even batting an eyelid, was allowed back into the country. My advice: Don’t try and play the system, or the system will play you!