07 August 2010

Top 10: Reasons I should go to sleep, but don't want to.

10. It is when I am at my most tired that I write things that I actually enjoy reading when I read them the next morning. Some examples are a) all of my college application essays, b) the journal that I unsuccessfully kept for about 2 weeks in 9th grade and c) that one story I wrote instead of dissecting sentences in 7th grade English class.

9. I very recently got off work (like 52 minutes ago recently) and so I am still used to being on my feet. Which hurt. Don't get me wrong, I love lying on my inflatable mattress, surrounded by packing crates and topping buckets, but I was cleaning and cheerily joking with customers not too long ago. So I'm unwinding.

8. Even more recently then I got off work, I ate a chocolate-covered Original Gourmet Hand Dipped (by me) Ice cream Bar. Which has enough sugar and chocolate to keep a 78 year old narcoleptic awake. Poor little me is wired.

7. The ability to express myself in blog form is addicting. Hence the two posts in a 24-hour period.

6. I enjoy spending time with my computer, which I have named Charlie, after the character in the West Wing (ps: BEST TV SHOW OF ALL TIME) Because he is very helpful, and always has an answer when I've forgotten something, and if I was the President's Daughters Computer, I would totally date him.

5. I got new toothpaste yesterday, and it tastes minty fresh, which is good in the morning, but when I brush my teeth at night, it kind of just wakes me up.

4. I slept in this morning. It was very nice to sleep in.

3. I am able to sleep in tomorrow! Due to my convenient work schedule of working the closing shift each night. Put that night-owl temperment to work.

2. I am thinking a lot of thoughts such as a) my visa that went through! b) my parents, who are berry picking in the Alaskan wilderness (with tasty tasty blueberries) and I'm not with them, which makes me sad (but its probably good practice for c)NEXT YEAR! When I'm in ECUADOR! and d) I would like to write a song with lyrics as clever as those of the Barenaked Ladies. (see: Humor of the Situation)

1. I ran out of reasons at 9. Actually, I was kind of grasping for reasons after number 6. But still. I had to finish, because Top 9 lists are stupid.

Reason #1? I was finishing my top 10 list.

06 August 2010

The trouble with visas: An epic tale of frustration and unhappiness. (spoiler alert: It has a good ending)

Picture this: You are a teenager, just graduated, and you have just made the harrowing decision of where to go to college. Furthermore, you make an independent, out-of-the-ordinary decision not to go to college the next year and instead take a year off to render service to the world of humanity, namely by traveling to Otavalo, Ecuador and teaching English and working with the Baha'i community there.

Because, in our hypothetical situation, you find making decisions one of the most difficult parts of everything (choosing your flavor of ice cream can be so mentally disturbing that you stay away from most gelatorĂ­as), this is to be seen as a major accomplishment. You know where you will be next year (at least the country and city. Housing looks like it'll come through for you, because of the lovely Bahais in Otavalo who have been so helpful.) You even know where you will be the year after that! And coming from a family who, for the past 6 years, has brought up the topic of moving, the knowledge of not having to make a major decision such as where to live and what to do for a whole two years is a very settling bit of knowledge. And so you're happy. Happy with your decision and looking forward to starting the next phase of your life.

Then your troubles begin.

Because before they let you into the country of Ecuador, you need to have a visa. And before you have a visa, you need to jump through hoops and spend your monthly allowance on Express Mail envelopes. You need to get a certificate from the doctor saying your healthy. You need to get a letter from the state troopers saying you have no criminal record. You need to get all sorts of documents from the "host entity" (this is where it starts sounding like a sci-fi/horror film) and letters from you declaring a number of things. And, although this isn't on the list of requirements, you get worried, because you're not sure if you're going to be able to get this list of things together, processed, and sent in to the "nearest consulate" (In San Fransisco) in time for your departure date. And, having already missed the first day of school (see: American Community Schools of Athens, 2004) and not wanting to repeat the experience, you pray and hope and pray that everything goes smoothly.

It starts out straightforwardly enough. I* got the doctor's note (although they had to take my blood sample twice because they LOST my first sample), my two shots (Yellow Fever and Typhoid, I am immune to you suckers and have a shot record to prove it) and a prescription for malaria. I got the trooper's signed, sealed, and signed again letter stating that I have no criminal record. (Whew.) I communicated with the "host entity" (more commonly, and compassionately, referred to as the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is in Ecuador)who were prompt and complete in sending all the requirements to me: clearly, they have done this before. I took out 180$ for the processing of the visa, and put it in a cashier's check (because normal checks were not accepted). I took my passport photos, kissed my passport goodbye and sent it all off, express mail, to the consulate.

And I wait.

Thanks to the US Postal Service. I can track my package. (US Postal service, you haven't failed me yet. Thank you, and thank you to you two sweet old men who run the Wasilla postal and probably recognize me not only as the One Who Freaks When Scholarships Are Due but also as The One Who Sends Her Visa Thrice.) I see it arrive, and three days later I call. To discover that they do not know where my paperwork is. The partial answer I receive is that they probably sent it back to me, because something was wrong. But they don't keep records of what they send back, so it could be lost in the void that lies between Wasilla, Alaska and San Francisco, California. And because I did not then have the firm faith in the Post Office, I am left freaking out about my papers, my passport, and the problems associated with re-doing everything.

Luckily, it was that my papers were inadequate. Not so luckily, it wasn't a visa. After calling the consulate ("Hello?"--Hi can you call back in an hour..."Hello?"--Hi can you call back in 30 minutes..."Hello?"--Sorry our public hours are closed) and having my mother call the consulate, we found out some problems (like that we had followed the requirements for the embassy, not the consulate, but really we needed both** ), fixed them up, and speed-mailed them, again, to California.

Having wised up to the idea that they wouldn't call me if there was a problem, I called them as soon as the package was delivered. And I talked to the consulate, and they said everything is in order. Except.

Except one of the forms would not print off of the website (Err: page not found). And I had printed the form, but it was from the consulate for Ecuador in Washington DC. So of course it had the wrong heading, which of course would in no way be acceptable. So I followed her directions to find and print the new form. I express mailed that to the consulate, tracked it, and prayed and hoped some more.

In the meantime, I'm waiting to buy my ticket, because I don't want to have to change the ticket (and pay the fine) if for some reason (which seemed likely) the visa didn't go through.

 I started to do what had then become a pattern: I tracked the package on USPS' website, and called the consulate when it arrived. And?

I TALKED TO THE CONSULATE THIS MORNING AND THEY TOLD ME MY VISA IS BEING PROCESSED AND WILL BE SENT BACK TO ME TODAY!!!!!! And so I am a very relieved person right now. Now, all that needs to happen? I need the Postal Service to pull through for me one last time. I need to reach my travel agent (the travel agent I didn't have until yesterday) to figure out when I can get to Quito, and how much it will be. I need to pack a minority of clothes from my closet, and add my worldly belongings into two bags which I will take with me to the Southern Hemisphere. But mostly, I need to just be happy and thankful that I will be able to enter the country.

Adios, my fair readers, and thanks for sticking with this looong and somewhat monotonous post--


*Because, as you may have guessed, this is not a hypothetical. This is my real life.
** ??? Your guess is as good as mine.