Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The bad

So our trip to India was not all sunshine and bougainvillea and jellabies. To be fair, a large portion of the stress was entirely our own faults, and it all worked out ok in the end, but the run up to the trip was one huge 14 day bundle of cluster f***.

Here's what happened: a little bit more then two weeks before we were scheduled to leave, we discovered that we needed visas (bad news item #1). Now, anyone with an ounce of brain power who didn't live in the EU would have thought of this long ago, but we've gotten so used to being able to jet off to foreign lands without a care in the world, that it never even occurred to us that India would be any different. Ummm...

Good news item #1: as UK residents of more then two years, the average processing time for Indian visas was 2-3 days. Hooray!

Bad news item #2: The list of documents that fulfill the requirements for proving UK residency were very small, and my name wasn't on any of them. So I copied my mobile phone bill, my marriage license and the gas bill and head off to the visa processing center, hoping for the best. I was disappointed. And I sat there for more then two hours in line waiting to be helped.

Bad news item #3: When I finally got up to the counter, I discovered that none of the documents will work to prove residence for me. Not even the marriage license. More importantly, Boo had less then 180 days validity left on her passport (166 days to be exact), so they can't even put her name into the system. And also, since I've put Himself's profession down as "Researcher", I have to provide a certified letter from his place of business swearing left, right and center that he will not do any "Research" while in the country. I collect everything and leave in an absolute panic. Tears ensue on the train home.

The rest of the weekend was spent alternately wanting to throw up and wallowing in despair. I had visions of Himself and Dev going alone, while Boo and I wallowed in misery at home. It wasn't pretty. However...a little birdie (aka one of the other parents from school) told me about how this one time? She got a same-day emergency passport for her son. Hmmmm...

Monday morning I called the US Embassy. And then waited anxiously until 2:00 pm when I could actually talk to a human being. In the meantime I sent them several semi-hysterical emails - "I know emergency appointments are for life-or-death situations and this certainly doesn't qualify, but..." When I finally talked to a real live person, however, it was fairly straightforward. I explained our dilemma. She said "No problem. Can you be here at 8:30 tomorrow morning with all the paperwork?" We had all the paperwork already, but we had to take Elder Sister to school. " about 9:00?" "OK. Just be here as soon as you can and we'll get you a one year emergency passport." This is probably the only time I have ever thought "God Bless the US government!" (Good news #2)

After our whirlwind trip to the Embassy, I headed back over to the Visa Processing Centre, and barged up to the woman who had helped me previously, declining to sit and wait for 2+ hours (she told me I could, otherwise I never would have dared!). All the paperwork gets processed smoothly (Himself became a "businessman" and I became "unemployed"), but then we entered Bizarro world. Or the Twilight Zone. Or some strange universe in which the Powers-that-be try really hard to see what it will take to get Porpoise to lose her shit in a very, very public way.

This lovely young woman, who had told me four days before that even though I couldn't prove residency my visa should be processed within 5-7 days (which would have been fine), now turned to me and said "I'm very sorry, but the High Commission has just informed us this morning that the turnaround time on non-resident visas is now 14 working days."

I felt a bit like a bomb had just gone off - there was ringing in my ears, the world wobbled around the edges, I needed to have a little lie down. And then I let go. I pushed all the papers towards her and said "Take them anyway. I'll just wait and see what happens." Paperwork submitted, fees paid, I wandered back home and had several large drinks.

True to form, visas for the rest of the family took two days. On the day before we were to leave, I got pushy and called the Indian High Commission to find out what had happened. The result? "Your visa has been approved and processed, and you should be able to pick it up tomorrow." Should being the operative word.

I got my visa at 2:00 pm the day we were getting on the plane to go to Delhi. Nothing like cutting it close!

There is more bad on the travel end, involving traffic, snow and almost missing the plane, but you know what? I think the visa story is enough.

And I may need another little lie down now...

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