Step 1: Receive a message from the embassy telling you that as of yesterday, you began driving illegally in Romania. Follow their link to see how much trouble you're in and how to resolve this issue.
Step 2: Follow a link in the embassy's information to a Romanian site which tells you all of the items you need.
Step 3: Gather all required personal documents (passport, driver's license, Romanian identity card) and make copies.
Step 4: Fill out the Romanian application form to change licenses.
Step 5: Get a picture of yourself taken to the exact specifications required by the application.
Step 6: Read the fine print and realize that you can't just go to any doctor, but only one of a few specified doctors in the city. Call to make an appointment. There are no appointments available. It's walk-in, first come, first serve but only between the hours of 3-5.
Step 7: Walk in to the doctor and realize that half of Romania is also attempting to get their driver's license. Fill out a form and wait. When called, have your eyes checked. Get sent upstairs to a group of three doctors who are going to do a 90 second physical. Translate weird phrases, like the "varf" of your feet (varf usually means mountain peak in my mind, as I was familiar with it) - and translate them quickly for the impatient doctors who have a thousand other people to get to. Do what they tell you. Walk on your toes across the room, then on your heels when walking back. When they ask you if you are mentally stable, it's best not to use words like, "cred" and "sper" (I think and I hope). They apparently want more confidence. I (and Chesterton) would have thought overconfidence was more a sign of insanity.
Step 8: Realize that while they have a whole slew of doctors who check you out, you also need your family medical doctor to check you out. What adult male between the ages of 20-50 has a family doctor? Since it's already late in the day, wait until tomorrow. Then go to some random doctor who can see that you have a pulse and is willing to sign the medical form for a quick couple of bucks.
Step 9: Go back to the first doctor between the hours of 3-5 and get the one final stamp you need. It's already late in the day, so wait until tomorrow to take your items to the police station.
Step 10: On the way home, roll up your car windows after the slip of paper which took you three days to obtain nearly flies out of the window. Make a note to self to get freon in the car so you don't need to drive with the windows open in the middle of summer.
Step 11: Go to the police station. Realize that as a foreigner you are only able to come between the hours of 1-3. Leave.
Step 12: Come back to the police station. Wait an hour and realize that none of the signs are changing. They aren't calling any ticket numbers. Realize that everyone else made appointments online. Look for your opening, and as someone comes out of the office, quickly step in and shoot your questions to the officer in charge. Show them the documents you have. They tell you you're missing some things. Apparently the information on the website isn't up to date. You need a driving history from your state's driving agency as well as a translated copy. Also, they tell you that you can no longer pay for your license at this location, like the website says. You have to pay at a specific brand of bank (CEC bank). When you come back, you should show up at 12:00 sharp so you can be the first to get a ticket for 1:00 (which hopefully they recognize, if others haven't signed up online). It's late in the day, so go home.
Step 13: Order your driving history online and take it to a translator. Drop it off for pick up, hopefully the next business day before noon.
Step 14: Go to the CEC bank. Have them stare at you blankly because they have no clue what you're talking about. They don't handle payments for driving licenses. They send you to a different place "near the wooden church" and "by the stairs." You must not only interpret Romanian, but also symbols. Fortunately for me, while I know 0 road names, I know exactly where the stairs by the wooden church is. I'm a landmark kind of guy.
Step 15: Go to the mysterious building, past the pretzel stand (my addition, but an important one), up the stairs, and by the wooden church. Wait in line and then pay for your license. Get the receipt.
Step 16: After walking back down the stairs, grab a consolation pretzel (or two) for all your hard work.
Step 17: Attempt to make an online appointment for the next day, but realize that only Romanian citizens can do this. Recognize your fate is in the hands of the ticket kiosk.
Step 18: Pick up your translated documents.
Step 19: Be at the police station kiosk before noon. At exactly noon, pick up your ticket to be seen. Wait one hour.
Step 20: Get called into the office and hand over your papers. Get very nervous because there are a million details which could ruin this - the size of the picture could be just a little off, the form you printed from the internet could have been the one they used last month, but not this month. Who knows? But if the process is held up too much longer, my physical form will expire after ten days and I'll have to get that step re-done.
"Your driver's license doesn't show your city of birth."
Oh no. Do I have to go back to the house and get my birth certificate, have it translated, and then come back? Whew, no. He'll accept an email of it from me. Fortunately I have it on my phone for times like this.
"Your driver's license only shows two years, but your file says you've had it for five."
Yes, I had a replacement license two years ago. The issue date shows two years ago, but it's just a continuation of the five year one. He doesn't like this, but he seems to continue.
"Your birth certificate doesn't list your city of birth."
Oh no, he's right. How does a birth certificate not list your city of birth? It just says "Dauphin County." Fortunately I find a page from the Apostille that says the city.
"This license is for cars and motorcycles. In Romania there are different requirements for vehicles with less than four wheels."
I assure him I only want the car license. Please don't make me jump through any more hoops.
"Did you have any licenses before this one?"
Yes, when I lived in Pennsylvania, but I have no idea how to get that information. I don't have a license number to access the PA department of driver services.
Any one of these items, and many others, could have held up the process. Fortunately our guy was very nice, awesome, and had a lot of patience.
Step 21: Get your picture taken and receive a slip of paper certifying that your license is processing. Carry that around until you receive your license in about two weeks - give or take a few weeks. Pray that it doesn't get lost in the mail.
Step 22: Sing the Doxology in the car on the way home with your compatriots. You have successfully navigated the system in a foreign country. You couldn't be more exhausted by the process, or more thankful.