Sunday, September 21, 2014

The application process for French Polynesia

Last week was all about paperwork.  We are in the process of applying for a French Polynesia long-stay visa.  This will allow us, as North Americans, to stay in FP for up to a year, rather than the typical 3 months usually granted for people just rocking up.  As FP includes the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Gambiers, the Society Islands (which include the famed Tahiti and Bora Bora) and the Australs, we knew, given our cruising style, that 3 months just wasn't going to be enough time.  We had a hard time getting out of Mexico, and we were there for 2 years.  In true, planning ahead style, we decided that the paperwork would be worth the effort.

After making our appointments with the French embassy in Quito, we were sent a full list of requirements we needed to provide.  Applications, one in English and one in French, photos for the visas, copies of our passports, world-wide certification for health care, copies of our boats' registration, a letter in both English and French that explained our reasons for wanting to come for such a long period of time, and.....6 months of bank statements, showing that we had enough money to be there for that long.  Hahahaha, after hearing stories of the costs of provisions in the islands, we doubt seriously whether we can afford to be there, but whatever...

The interview process was pretty straightforward, and I am happy to report that the woman that helped us was incredibly friendly, encouraging and helpful.  She remembered friends of ours from last year that applied, and inquired as to their whereabouts now, and cheerfully told Ron that he was staying behind, while she took his place.  There was only one glitch, and that was when we needed to give our fingerprints.  The machine didn't find it funny that there were only nine fingerprints on Ron's application.

One of these is not like the other...

I am in the process of once again lowering our waterline, with cheaply procured items from here in Ecuador.  Not that there is much to buy, but knowing that where we are going, there will be even less, has me looking with new found interest at Nutella, packaged soups, and canned palm hearts.  We've been testing various products here to see which ones we find adequate, and are discarding items that just aren't cutting it, like oatmeal that is more dust than oats. You wouldn't believe it, but canned tomates are like gold.  Not a single one here in our little community of Bahia, so when we were in Quito, we took our traveling backpacks and filled them with cheese, canned tomatoes and more cheese.

We've been told that this process should take from 4-8 weeks, so until then, we wait, and provision, and wait some more.  Every day, we try to get at least one little thing we reinstalled a few turn buttons that had snapped off about 2 years ago (actually, we don't know the names of them) for the removable side panels on the pilothouse.  And we read....lots of stuff about clear French Polynesian water, reefs to dive on, coral heads (bommies) to avoid, and reef entrances to stress over.


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