Interesting process, this 'obtaining an Ecuadorian driver's licence'.
We started more then a month ago, by learning the 330 questions and multiple choice answers in Spanish, for the theory exam. In the last weeks we mostly practiced the 20 questions test from the website that overlooks all traffic related things in Ecuador. We thought we were well prepared.
We received our 'proof that our Dutch driver's licence is real' appostilled and well a few weeks ago. Within a few days we had it translated to Spanish by an official translator and the translation notarised.
With our package of paperwork we went to Loja on Wednesday morning, last week. Monday was Easter, Eric had been sick with a tummy bug over the weekend and wasn't completely well on Tuesday, so the first option was Wednesday.
We started off by getting our blood type checked by the Red Cross. From there we managed to find the office where we could do the theory exam. From a distance we could already see that it was crowded inside.
In official government buildings, there are always scary looking guards walking around. And usually they don't have much to do, so they help sort out who's turn it is, where you have to go and where you have to sit. They are usually friendly, which is the opposite of what you would expect, looking at the millitary attire and huge gun or stick they carry.
The guard helped us to get to the people who needed to help us. However, when we eventually got to the right person -who was the only one in the building who really understood our licence and the specific requirements- he was very unfriendly. We could see it was busy and we could see he wanted to get rid of us. He went through our paperwork fast, said something like 'you seem to have everything, go home and make an online appointment', while he scribbled the name of the website on a piece of paper. We asked questions, protested at being sent away, but to no avail. He simply ignored us and called for the next person to come.
Loja is 1.5 hour drive and we were not happy to be sent away, but there was nothing we could do. He had the power and he was not willing to help us. Period.
It is funny when I look at how Eric and I try to understand what people are saying. The guy spoke a sentence rapidly, 90% of the sentence we usually don't get. But if we get one word, we can mostly piece together what they mean. The problem is then; we try to respond. This goes very slowly, digging in our memory which words to use and in what tense... They don't always have the patience to try and wait untill we are done. And this guy definitely didn't.
I felt enormously frustrated driving home. I am really not handling the feeling of being dependent on someone with power, very well. Especially when I feel that the person dislikes me and I don't even know why.
When we got home, we got online immediatly. To our even greater frustration, it was not possible to make an online appointment. The system of the website did not recognise our passport numbers or cedula numbers.
And before one can even make an appointment, one has to pay for the appointment. But a payment can't be made if one is not in the system.
We found this out on Thursday, when we went to a bank in Vilcabamba to try and make a payment to the driver's licence office. The payment couldn't be made, because we were not in the system.
There was nothing else to it. We simply had to appear In Loja, without appointment, at the office, again. We did this on Friday morning. Got up at 6.30, so we could show up at their door when they opened at 8.
Again the guard helped us from person number one, to person number 2. But there was no way around it; only the annoying guy could help us and he clearly didn't want to.
Another 'clear thing' was that he had known, when he sent us home on Wednesday, that we were not in the system. If my Spanish would have been fluent, I would have confronted him with this.
Very reluctantly and annoyed, he put us into the system.
After this we could go to person number 3. She had to finalize things, so we could do the theory exam. When she went through our paperwork, she realized we hadn't done the 'psychosometric exam' yet. The what?? Yes, you read it right.
So, off we went. She gave us an address to go to. We were very greatful for our navigation system that day. On the second floor of this address we were waiting for our turn. We had no idea what this exam was supposed to test. Our psychological state? Our fysical state? And how?
I had the first turn. I went into a small room where a friendly young woman was waiting for me. She pointed me at a chair, which was standing in front of a machine the size of a printer, with buttons on it. On the ground were two pedals.
My hearing was first tested. After this my sight. And after this my reaction speed. The last test was very difficult. I had to steer two cars on two different roads at the same time. One with my left hand on a steering button and one with my right hand. The cars had to stay in the middle of the road. I started to worry how Eric would do this, or some of the people that I had seen in the hallway. It took my full concentration.
I shouldn't have worried. While I was doing this test, Eric had been called into another room and he was given the 'easy test'. He had been chatting nicely with a friendly lady and only had his hearing tested (he is much more charming then me).
Apparently they had an easy test and a difficult test. I don't understand the sense behind this, when either test gives you the same opportunity to do the theory exam?!?
After receiving the paperwork from this 'exam', we drove back to the office for the theory exam. The woman there sent us to the bank across the street to pay and finalised the work (whatever it was what she did) and pointed us to the place where could wait to be admitted for the exam.
There was a lot of waiting involved, on that Friday, but we passed the test and received our Ecuadorian licence.
The strange thing was, however, that they had kept our Dutch licence. So we asked it back. But the woman said 'no'. She said a whole lot more, which we didn't understand. When Eric pointed out to her that it was ours and that we would need it- if we would travel to the Netherlands- she simply said we could pick it up in Loja in exhange again for our Ecuadorian licence??!!
It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But there was no way we would get it back from her.
In our opinion it is state property from the Netherlands and it is legally not allowed that they would keep it.
We have written the Dutch consulate in Quito about it. So, who knows. We might get it back some day.
However: we have the licence, so we are ready to travel.
This week we are emptying the house of our stuff. We found a good storage space.
In the weekend we will already stay at a hotel nearby to empty the last things and do the washing.
Next week Monday we will start off by visiting Cuenca for a week. The holiday begins there!