So, for memories sake....I will tell it one more time :)
Once upon a time, a husband and wife decided to take a trip across the world to visit family. They prepared paper-work, bought tickets, and packed 4 great big suitcases. They shopped for good deals on chocolate and gifts. They took care of home chores before they left. They made phone calls and scheduled appointments, until it was time to go....
November 7th, 2008 - Left home to drive 4 hours and attend Grandma's funeral Saturday, visit family, and fly out Monday.
November 10th - Attended the burial, 1/2 hour later arrived at airport and went through security and luggage check. No problems. On our way to Chicago, first stop.
7:30pm - Arrive in Chicago. Change terminals. Go through security check again. Wait for plane.
9:00 - Plane arrives. Get in line to have tickets checked again and passports.
9:10pm - Ticket agent scans Mathew's passport and turns white.
"You can't get on this plane...you don't have a vaild US VISA."
"Well, yes we do. It's just in paperwork, see?" (Show him all the documents etc we are carrying)
"No. You need a London VISA since you just have it in paperwork. You can't get on this plane."
9:30pm - Our 4 suitcases are taken off the plane, plopped on a cart. We are handed a contact sheet for the British Counselate in downtown Chicago, and the gate closes. We are left in a terminal that is shutting down, lights are turning off, paperwork in hand, staring at one another.
10pm - We call a friend who lives in Chicago (thanks God) and he comes to pick us up. We tell the story. We make a plan. We call the ticket agency to switch our tickets to the next night's flight.
Tuesday, Nov. 11th - We find the counselate office and tell them our story and ask for a London VISA. We find out, in order to get a VISA, we must fill out this stack of paperwork, file online, schedule a fingerprinting appointment, and turn it all back in between 9 and 10 am only, to be picked up at 4pm. We get the first fingerprint appointment we can get....Friday.
Tuesday, 4pm - We drive the 1 hour drive to the fingerprinting office to see if we can get in early. They are closed.... for Veteran's Day.
Wednesday, Nov 12th - We rise early in order to get over to the office first thing. We arrive and they let us through no problem. We are done in 5 minutes. Now we just have to get back to the Counselate by 10am.
9:45am - Traffic is slow, but we make it back. We hurry in and hand over our paperwork. The watchmen calmly smiles and says we will have our VISA in 15 days...at least by Thanksgiving. What?! Well, in order to get it by 4pm (one day) you have to go through a VISA processing service.
9:55am - We zoom over to the service center. They look over our paperwork, stamp and seal it. They look at the clock and it is 10:05am. Sorry sir, we can't turn it in till tomorrow. We try our best to plead with them that we need it today and it's only 5 minutes....but it doesn't work. We call the ticket agency and change our tickets to Thursday night. We decide to go to Chinatown for fun tomorrow.
Thursday, Nov 13th - We are waiting for a call to pick up our VISA. No call. We go to Chinatown. No call. We wait till 4:30pm. No call. So we call.
"Sorry sir, the counselate closed for an unexpected holiday yesterday, so you will get your VISA Friday."
Amazing. At the beginning of the week, we were stressed, but by this point, we just break into crazy laughter. This can't be happening.
Thursday evening - We call to change our tickets again. We have to be in India at the lateset, on Monday, to attend an appointment for Mathew's US VISA so he can come back.
"Sorry sir, the flights for the weekend are booked. The earliest we can fly you out is Monday. You'll have to change your appointment date."
Friday, Nov 14th - We go to the zoo to use up time. 4:30 we get Mathew's London VISA. 9pm we go to the airport. We hope someone doesn't show up for the flight....hope someone cancels. Nobody does. We ask if we can be put on a waiting list. We are told there already is one quite long. The ticket lady says we could take a flight to London (it's not full) and wait there for a flight to India (this is the one that is overbooked)....but the problem is we have the wrong VISA....we have a type C and to wait in London you need a type D. Wow.
10pm - We head back to the apartment. We decided to just cancel the trip and go a month later when we can get a new appointment date, or recieve a travel VISA in the mail that we had hoped would come before our trip. We find the best way to get back from Chicago is by train.
Saturday, Nov 15th - We board the train at noon. It's a fun ride. We arrive in Mpls late and go to sister's place.
Sunday, Nov 16th - We get up early enough to drive the 4 hours home, to get there in time for church.
10am - We arrive home. We walk in the front door, and there on the table is our mail. On the top of the pile is a letter.....it is from the US dept....it is Mathew's travel VISA. It arrived Saturday. It means we could've travelled after all, because it means we don't need an appointment. But we are exhausted now.
Sunday afternoon - We call about changing our tickets to January. It turns out, we can't. We would have to cancel these tickets and re-buy them. It means a bunch more hassel. Packing again. Taking the time off work again. And so....we look into turning around and going back.
Sunday, midnight - Dad drives us down to the cities again.
7am - We board the train back to Chicago ( because we used up that part of our plane ticket already, and they won't re-fund us).
2pm - We arrive back in Chicago and go to the airport. We board the plane. We fly to India.
Wednesday, Nov 19th - We arrive in India. No problems. We spend 3 weeks visiting family, eating food, shopping, and looking around. We weren't near the terroist attacks, but we watched it on the news. We were asked multiple times
"Is the economy really that terrible in America?"
"Isn't it great that Obama got elected?!"
"Do all American girls wear mini skirts and short shirts all the time?"
(To Mathew) "Will your hair turn blonde too?"
It was a great trip. The only sad part was the Saturday before we left, Mathew's Grandma got sick and went to the hospital. His dad went the 8hr bus ride to see her, since it was serious. She died Tuesday afternoon.
December 10th we headed back to the United States. We were nervous, I must say, but everything went smoothly. All our paperwork was correct this time. We arrived right before a big weekend snow-storm....Welcome to Minnesota!
Things we are thankful to God for:
- That we got stuck in Chicago and not London or Minneapolis...since the British counselate was right there.
- That we had generous friends who let us crash at their place a whole week, and drove us around everywhere.
- That we could see Chinatown.
- That we were able to get the VISA.
- That we got to ride the train.
- That we got the travel VISA in the mail.
- That we were able to see Amachee (Grandma) before she passed away.
- For protection from the terrorists.
- For the wonderful friends and family we met over there.
- For a safe trip back.