So, going to the foreign police to register (what is supposed to be the "easy" part of this whole process) is entertaining, frustrating, and enlightening with a dollop of frustration! So, we first tried to go on Monday, which was unsuccessful because the laws changed. Therefore, I had to go to the foreign police in the area where I live rather than any foreign police in Prague. So, we went to the office in my area Monday afternoon. After waiting in a non-moving line for an hour, we left because the office was about to close. The plan was to return today and get it done before my 12:30 class.
So, we arrived at the office at 8:15 am to a line out the door for the area for all "Third Country Nationals" (non-EU residents) to register. We snuck in to see what was going on and the line went the entire length of the building (about 150 feet) and out the front door. So, we stood in line. After two hours, we had made it in the building but still had about 100 feet to go to be seen. By the way, this line was to talk to the information person (there is only one) to determine which number you'd be given to talk to an actual staff member about registering. That's right. This line was to get a number to wait in another line!
So, it became evident that I wasn't going to make my class, so I called the office and we were able to arrange a cover teacher for the afternoon. My fabulous guide, Jana, left to go help that teacher find the school. Thankfully, at the same time, we got to the part where there were seats, so I was able to sit in line for much of the time. I was grateful for my ipod and internet on my phone to keep me entertained (of course I forgot a book) as well as the sandwiches and water I packed. Good thing I actually thought ahead that getting food might be tough today!
Observing the people in the room was amazing. There must have been 150-200 people in the room with about 150 of us in this massive line. The rest had already been in line and were waiting to for their number to be called to go register. When those people got called, it was kind of like that "golden ticket" moment in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as they got up and walked into the secure room all proud and giddy. The rest of us were happy for this person, but as the day wore on, each time the number board beeped a new number, you could almost hear a unanimous groan in the epic line I was standing in.
I observed several verbal arguements. I'm not really sure what they were about as I couldn't hear the details nor generally understand what people were saying (there were many languages being spoken), but I assume it had something to do with someone edging in on someone elses space or not giving them the right space back when they came back from the vending machine or the bathroom. What started out as an easy going day got more and more tense as the day wore on.
Let me not forget to mention that the room got warmer and warmer as the day went out. Interestingly, as the day progressed, the front of the line got more and more smushed together. So, once you finally hit the mecca of the final bit of the line (right in front of the bathroom and vending machines), you were literally on top of other people smooshed into this tiny area just constantly shifting and angling for the best spot. Up until this point, people were generally friendly and would hold your space if you left to get a drink, etc. But once you hit this sweet spot, all bets were off and each person was in it for themselves! It was absolutely amazing and intriguing to watch!
So, now I finally hit this sweet spot at about 1:30 pm (aka: I've been standing in line for 5 hours). It was getting warm and people were pushing and talking loudly and it really got to be frustrating. I started to feel lightheaded but I had to hold on. I was so close! There were probably 30 people in front of me and I could finally see the end of the road! This is where time started to stand still and every second ticked away at a painstakingly slow pace. It was starting to be clear to me that this queue was never-ending. At 3:00 pm sharp (they close early on Thursday, because they are not open Friday) they slammed the sliding glass door shut and walked away. That's it.
As the day went on, I overheard conversations. The people a few people in front of me got there at 6:30 am (the office opens at 7:30) and they didn't get in. One guy had been there three days in a row and still hadn't gotten in. What a mess! I honestly had moments where I felt like a third-rate citizen. It was absolutely amazing to me that in this day and age and this world we live in, business is still conducted in this way. However, it is what it is. There are just too many people who need to register and not enough staff. Or at least, this is what I'm telling myself. You have to laugh, or else you'll cry! Especially on a day like today! I found a little irony in the English translation of the office we were visiting: "Alien registration for third country nationals." I have never felt more alien or third-rate than this day. I stood and sat for 7 hours in a line only to get nowhere. I didn't even get a guaranteed spot at the beginning of the line on Monday. I just have to come back and try again.
In the grand scheme of things, it really isn't that bad. But I'll be honest, it wasn't a great day. I even had moments of wondering if this was all really worth it. But then I made it home and the sun came out and I decided to go for a walk. I saw the amazing river and Prague Castle and somehow things got better. I'm still not looking forward to returning on Monday very early in the morning. but once its done, it will truly be worth it. And afterall, it makes a good story so that helps.