I had to get my fingerprints done for a job in Korea. I figured this would be a pretty painless procedure. Go to a police station, ink my fingers, and voila. Unfortunately, this is Bulgaria.
One of my friends here in Sofia also needed to get this done, so we left together on Thursday morning. The Institute of Criminology (НИКК) was impossible to find. We found some sort of police academy, and they didn't understand what we were doing there. They told us we needed an escort or something to go to the НИИК. Nobody wanted to escort us. So, we just went off and wandered around and finally found the building.
This building did not look like a formal institution. It looked more like a Communist government building turned crack house. It was, however, functioning, and we entered with slight trepidation. We finally found the right woman who questioned our intentions and asked us why we didn't have Bulgarian ID cards. Finally, she told us that we had to come back the next day at 9 AM in order to see the director.
So we did. Arriving at around 9:30, the lady greeted us and made us write, in Bulgarian, letters to the director explaining why we were here. She wrote out a sample letter and made us copy out the same thing. Then, she criticized the way we wrote our names in the Cyrillic alphabet. After an hour waiting with the dragon lady, we finally were allowed to go get our prints done.
The tension immediately dissipated. The guys that actually did the printing were nice and curious about what we were doing in Bulgaria and why we needed the fingerprinting. We chatted for a bit, did the fingerprinting in 20 minutes, and then headed out.
The whole time I was thinking about how easy this process would be in the states. One of the joys of living in a foreign country.