An Election of Reflection

Three years ago, I presented the idea of creating a mock election at the Alliance Academy that would allow all middle school and high school students to participate.  It wasn’t a difficult activity to set up.  After all, the U.S. Government teacher was already doing this in his classes.  However, his class is exclusively offered to the seniors at Alliance Academy and they participate in the mock election for a class grade.  Therefore, all I needed to do was create a voter registration format and election process that would allow all secondary students to vote on the candidates being chosen in the 12th grade government classes.  That first year, we were able to host the mock election on the same day as the U.S. elections were taking place in the U.S.

For the past two years, however, the Ecuadorian holidays at the beginning of November landed on the same day as the election.  As I watch for the election results tonight, I’ll also be preparing the final details for our mock election to take place on Friday of this week. 

To give students a better feel of the election process, I began a voter registration drive at the beginning of September.  My civics club members were in charge of asking their fellow classmates if they had registered to vote and then giving them voter registration application forms to help them become ‘registered voters.’ By the end of October, we had more than 90% of the student body registered to vote.

My seventh and eighth grade civic club members

This coming Thursday, November 4, the 12th grade students will congregate in the school’s chapel to participate in a final press conference/presidential debate.  The U.S. Government class is split into two separate periods.  Each period has selected republican and democratic candidates and one class selected independent candidates, as well.  My journalism class will participate as members of the press to ‘grill’ each candidate on the issues facing U.S. citizens today.

My high school (9th-12th grade) civic club members.

All other secondary classes have been invited to come to the chapel during that time to listen to the debates in order to help them decide who to vote for

The following day, November 5, a special assembly will bring all secondary students together in the high school gymnasium to give each presidential and vice-presidential candidate the chance to express themselves one last times before the students (who are registered voters) ‘go to the polls.’

After they place their ballots in their ‘district’ (voting by grade level), I will have the privilege of counting up the votes and figuring out which candidates won in each of the two government classes. It will be interesting to compare the actual results after tonight with the voting patterns of the students at this school.

Student put up campaign posters in the locker area to promote their parties.

Luke Evan Meier: The Making of a “Citizen”

Cristina signs forms for Luke's birth certificate

Cristina signs forms for Luke's birth certificate

     One of the interesting challenges in giving birth in a “foreign” country is processing the paperwork to register the newborn child as part of a specific society.  The whole idea of “dual citizenship” becomes a reality as one has go through the “red tape” of two different countries. 

     Cristina’s adventures first began with giving birth to her son at the “Hospital Metropolitano” (translated “Metropolitan Hospital”).  After paying the bills and being given permission to leave the hospital, Cristina and Stephen in obtaining the certificate of live birth.  They were directed to the office of clinical records where they submitted the small card that identified Luke as “RN Meier Cobb” during his hospital stay.  The office gave them a certificate of live birth that also identified Luke as “RN Meier Cobb.”   

     RN is the acronym for “recien nacido” which is the Spanish word for newborn.  It didn’t matter how many times Stephen or Cristina told the doctors and nurses that the baby’s name was Luke Evan, they still referred to him as “RN Meier Cobb.”  Another interesting item was that the certificate listed the mother’s name only and it was listed as Cristina Rebeca Cobb (which is her maiden name).  However, the parents didn’t feel too concerned, because they were told that this certificate was not official.  The next step was to take the paper to obstetrician’s office (the doctor who delivered the baby) and get him to sign it in order to obtain the “official” birth certificate from a civil registration office.

     After making an extra trip to his office, Dr. Bermeo signed the document and Cristina put it away for several weeks without thinking anymore of it.

     As the days of February slipped by, Cristina realized that she would soon have to renew her own passport, because it was set to expire on February 28, 2009.  She also realized that she had not yet obtained the official birth certificate for Luke Evan.  After some urging from Stephen, she agreed to go to the U.S. embassy to try to renew her passport (and find out what needed to be done for Luke) on Friday, February 27th.

     Unaware of the adventure that awaited her, she packed herself and her two boys into a taxi and requested that the taxi take her to the U.S. embassy.

     “The new location or the old location?” the taxi driver asked her.     

     Stumped by the question, Cristina guessed that it was the new location, but made a panicked call to her husband to find out for sure.  Relieved to find that they were traveling to the right direction, she sat back and tried to relax.   

     Thirty minutes later, they arrived at their final destination.  Fortunately, the long taxi ride only cost $3.  She thanked the driver and then walked toward the building.  The guard met her at the front door and asked her what she was doing there.

     After explaining that she needed to renew her passport, he shook his head and told her that the office that serves the needs of U.S. citizens is not open on Fridays.  She found out that this office is only open from 1:00-4pm on Monday through Thursdays, and that she would have to wait until Monday to process her paperwork. However, it was not a useless visit.  Two gentlemen standing on the curb had offered to take her passport pictures if she needed them.  So, she took her boys down to their shop and got passport pictures taken for herself and for Luke. 

     After returning home to put the boys down for their afternoon nap, Cristina decided to try to find the civil registration office near the hospital that her doctor had recommended.  Leaving the boys at home with the nanny, Cristina took a taxi out to the hospital.  She had the hospital certificate of live birth and the passports and Ecuadorian ID cards for herself and Stephen.  This, she was told, was all she would need to receive the official certificate.

     “At least, I can get this done now and be able to get Luke’s passport when I go back to the embassy on Monday,” she told herself in ignorant bliss.

     Her bliss was soon to be shattered when she began reading the sign on the door of the civil registration office located in the police headquarters of the “Hospital Metropolitano.”

     First of all, she needed to make copies of everything (hospital certificate, passports, visas, ID cards, marriage certificate).  After making copies of what she had, she realized that she didn’t have her marriage certificate on her.  She was also told that her hospital certificate was not valid, because the doctor was supposed to put his official stamp on the record…not simply sign it.  Therefore, she had to go back to his office to request the stamp and make another photocopy of the paper. 

     With a sigh, she left the building on another quest.  She stopped by her doctor’s office to obtain the missing stamp, went home to pick up her marriage license and got copies of everything she needed. At the end of the day, she returned to the civil registration office with Stephen and the two boys just in case they were needed.  They arrived to find out that the office closed at 2:30pm every day.  A little frustrated but not dismayed, the family returned to the office the next morning.

     Finally, the paperwork was being processed.  Cristina gave a sigh of relief.  She didn’t mind paying the 50 cents required of those who wait more than 30 days to register their newborns.  She watched joyfully as the clerk nodded her approval to all the paperwork presented to her and began to fill out a form that appeared to be a certificate.  She got excited as Luke Evan’s name was added to the form instead of “RN.” 

     When she finished typing on several sheets of paper, she handed a small document to Cristina and explained that the paper was to be presented at another office in the south end of Quito in order to proceed with Ecuadorian or U.S. registration.  Slowly it began to dawn on this family that the adventure was not yet over.

     “You must wait eight days before you can go to this office,” the clerk explained. “But this paper will not help you at the U.S. embassy until you visit the civic registration office of Turubamba and receive the official certificate for your son.” 

      Although Luke would not be eligible for a U.S. passport by Monday, Cristina determined to find out exactly what she would need for him when she went in to renew her own passport.

     Her Monday visit turned out to be the easiest part in the whole process. Cristina received some important documents that needed to be filled out before she could process Luke’s “birth abroad” certificate and his passport. Most of the requirements were familiar to Cristina and Stephen after going through the process in obtaining Jared’s passport.  The only surprising request was to bring in some kind of evidence that either parent had “resided” somewhere in the U.S. for at least five years of their lives.

     Children born to U.S. parents can obtain citizenship through their relationship to their parents, however, it is not allowed officially unless the parents themselves have lived within U.S. borders for at least five years of their lives.  It is almost a problem for Stephen and I, because we both lived most of our lives outside of the U.S. Fortunately, we both attended college and graduate school in the U.S. which covered six years for me and seven years for Stephen.  Therefore, we don’t have to rely on the three years of married life that we spent in the U.S. to count for our five years of U.S. residence.  Instead, we can use an official transcript from Stephen’s university to show that he was a campus student for five years while obtaining his bachelor’s and two of his master’s degrees there.

     Although the adventures are not yet over, Cristina and Stephen are hoping to be able to obtain all of Luke’s necessary paperwork done by the end of March.