the computer says no....

Who´s familiar with this Little Britain sketch? You cross your fingers and hope this is only fiction and that in real life civil servants are nice and helpful people. Well not with the Social Security Administration (SSA) here in Atlanta. My adventures with them have been surreal! So for those who complain about Portuguese civil servants, trust me they are truly nice compared to the ones over here. 

I'm sorry this is such a long post but if you have the patience keep reading!
NOTE: Pedro received his SS card 2 weeks after our arrival. I'm still waiting for mine. 


1. The day after our arrival in Atlanta we went to a local SSA office to fill out the application for a Social Security Number. This was my first application. 
NOTE: the documents riquired are: passport with I-94 (Alien number) and because I have an L2 Visa, a copy of my marrigae certificate, which is written in portuguese (this will be interesting latter on!). 

2. In my first application they got my address wrong. So after waiting 2-3 weeks I went back, only to be told that they didn't know where the application was and how I applied so quickly for a SS number (because you have to wait at least 2 weeks before applying). To sum it up I had to fill out a second application.

3. I waited one month after which I returned to the SSA office. The nice man here told me that I had been attributed a SS number and wondered why I didn't receive a letter of notification. After a couple of minutes of searching his computer, he tells me he doesn't understand what was going on with my application and goes talk to his manager. He returns and tells me that something was wrong with the verification with Homeland Security (because I'm an "alien" the process goes through Homeland Security). Anyways, I would need to fill out my third application!

4. If you managed to read it up to this point, this is when it gets nasty. After one month I finally receive a letter saying that they weren't able to give me a number because Homeland Security was unable to verify my "legal alien status" but this did not mean I was ineligible for a SS card. The letter also stated that if I wanted someone at SSA could review my application. 

5. So I went to the SSA office once again to better understand what was going on. I had the most surreal treatment! The lady basically says: NO! No to all my questions. Refusing to review my application because she needed my marriage certificate (which I didn't have on me that day because they have 3 copies of it on file!) She says, and I quote "I am the one that works here!"; "I can't do nothing!"; "I can't search for your application!". I kept telling her that my application is on file, look for it! She says NO. Simply no. Come back tomorrow! 

6. I was furious! I exited the building, waited a couple of minutes, talked to Pedro on the phone and went back into the building, got another number and waited for my turn. This time I was attended by another "nice lady" that sat right beside the bitch that had served me just 15 minutes before. I asked her the same questions: can you review my application? can you tell me what was wrong? Not as bitchy as the first one, but without ever being nice, she gets up, goes to a file cabinet and gets out my application, reviews it and says: Homeland Security stamped your passport wrong with my first entry, instead of stamping L2 visa, they stamped L1 visa. Since I went to Toronto I got the proper L2 visa stamp but they still hadn't updated my status in the system. I would have to do a fourth application

7. The next day I go back to SSA office, with my passport and Portuguese marriage certificate (that had been accepted the other 3 times). I'm served by the same "nice" lady that had accepted my second application. She looks at my marriage certificate and hands it back to me saying she "can't read it"! I couldn't believe it! When I tried to explain, she interrupts me and says "DON'T TALK!"! Can you believe it! Don't talk! I laughed and ignored her and said that a couple of months ago I was sitting in the same chair and she accepted that same document, so she would have to accept! She literally snarls, gets up and goes check other applications with foreign documents. To her surprise and my pleasure, it's SSA responsibility to accept and translate foreign documents because there is no federal law that says English is the official language in the US! She snarls the whole way through the application and I sit there and smile in her face. 

8. Now I'm waiting for my SS card to come. If it'll ever come. And when it does, I will write a personal letter to the general manager of SSA in Georgia and to the office manager in Atlanta complaining about unprofessional behavior and explaining why courtesy and kindness should be universal principles in civil servants. They often forget that their paycheck comes from the people they serve. 
This post will serve as a draft. 

Thanks for reading.

August in Viana

This is a print screen of Blurb's Book Smart edit of my blog into book. It's a really easy editing tool for people like me who aren't designers but aspire to they're skills. 
This is the layout for my "August in Viana" series of daily photos during the month I spent with my family. Now that I think of it, it was a quite a month: baked bread and corn bread, harvested so many tomatoeskayaked the Neiva once again, just hanged around, said good bye to my grandfather, road-tripped with Pedro around Galicia and so much more. 
This current month, I'm not doing anything worth sharing.

blog to book

a student documentary on the future of print

I'm been spending my evenings editing this blog's content onto Blurb so I can have a printed version of my blog. I'm doing this mostly because my blog is a diary and I don't believe in the eternity of the electronic format. And because it's was on my list... 
Electronics are ephemeral, invisible and disposable. You don't feel it. And if you can't touch it, it does not exist. I need to "touch" this blog, only then I'll believe it really exists and I can store it on a physical and real shelf. Knowing that it's there and that I can pick it up at anytime. If you love books, you can relate. It's human nature. 
This however, is a hard process. Not because of all the copy/paste labor, but it makes me look back at my life in Portugal and it makes me cry with saudade. It's a process. 

bread in a dutch oven

Kinfolk's Dutch oven bread 

Making bread is a process. A slow and patient process. This film by Kinfolk portraits bread making beautifully: with every step follows a waiting period, so you need to take the time.
I've always read that to achieve better results in retaining moisture during baking to use a cast iron dutch oven. I finally got one. Last night I baked my first loaf with it.

Everyone always asks me for the recipe, but I don't really follow any recipe. I just randomly mix the ingredients. But I promise I'll write a post with a step by step recipe to make a loaf. 

Izziyana Suhaimi

It's not everyday that I find such a perfect combination between illustration and embroidery.
This is Izziyana Suhaimi, a Singapore-based artist. In her latest work she combines pencil illustrations with colorful folk-inspired embroideries.

Photo credits: Izziyana Suhaimi

ai weiwei

Let me tell you a true story.
Last year I was giving a tour at the Portuguese parliament to a group of Chinese visitors. I spoke in English and had a Chinese translator. I would say 2 sentences and then pause so he could translate. I got to the part of the 1974's Revolution and I explained that with it Portugal had become free of a long lasting dictatorship. I then paused to let him translate.
He looked at me and said - "Dictatorship? What does that mean?"
I naively responded back - "You know when a country is controlled by an autocratic form of government and the people have no rights and no freedom of speech."
He looked at me and listened in perplexity. I don't know what he translated but whatever it was, it was too quick to be a word for word translation.
When you live in countries where you can say anything you please, for the good and the bad, it's easy to discard that there are others who still fight for those basic human rights. 

Sharron Lovell / Polaris
this is Ai Weiwei
watch the movie
follow him on twitter

This is an image you don't see here in Atlanta: clothes hanging out to dry.
Here, clothes dyers are a "bare necessity" and also a major energy consumption, not to mention a source of house fires. I do recognize that sometimes it comes in handy, but this is Georgia, with sunny weather most of the year. In Portugal hanging out your clothes to dry is a cultural thing!
We've been trying to be sustainable in small daily things and buying this rack (on craigslist of course!) is just another step towards a more eco-friendly life. Aside from air drying our clothes, we've been using biodegradable laundry and cleaning detergents. They cost a bit more, (but not a lot more) and in the long term are better on the environment and on more gentle on our clothes. 


I spent the last couple of days at the Gathering Atlanta, an event that brings together the creative masses of the city for a 3 day networking event. It was very eye opening to discover major cultural institutions here in Atlanta.
From the pile of cards and info I brought home, here's just a few things I learned:
- one could actually rent out an apartment at the Goat Farm, an amazing place for photos and events.
- there are graffiti in Atlanta after all! And Living Walls makes it happen;
- after much googling and phoning I finally discovered that I can use a darkroom at the Wooder Root has open access labs for  members at the amazing price of 10$ a month.
- Mass Collective is bringing together art and science in one space after they finish renovating a 100 year old building.
- There should be a website like this one for Portugal.