I am departing in less than 24 hours from the United States and I am without my visa and passport. Yes, this is a true story. And what roller coaster of stress and anxiety this is. My phone has not left my side for the past 48 hours.
How could a girl who travels more often than not, let this happen? Well, somethings we learn the hard way and this was not the easy way.
With graduation around the corner, exams wrapping up and a quick visit home, India was not on mind. And it very well should have been. Eventually, with not as much urgency needed, I mailed in the documents for my visa.
This process is complicated, more so if this is your first time and it was mine. You need to have all the documentation in order and completed accurately, so if you miss something small, say like forget to put your middle initial somewhere they will send it back... so filling out a few of the documents took more than once. (The first time I spent a four hour flight completing one, to find out I was filling it out wrong...)
It was one of the most exasperating processes. It took me probably twenty hours to organize and complete everything necessary.
Since I am in Denver the closest embassy was in Houston, Texas. So I sent it there, shipped it overnight. They have had it for fifteen days.
I am also not one to worry too much about things because I know one way or the other it will pan out, but this case definitely had me up tight considering Monday when I called to check on it, it was still in the processing stage and they could not give me any information on how long it would take, but he said I should cancel my flight since my flight to JFK was the next evening.
My mother did not want to take that as an answer. And I am glad her relentless energy sparked something incredible. Needless to say she was not happy with me, but still believed she could pull some strings to get me my passport and visa by the time my India flight leaves.
Here's the break down:
DIA --> JFK airport Tuesday evening
Arrive in JFK Wednesday morning
Stay at my sister's house in Brooklyn Wednesday evening
Take off Thursday early morning from JFK --> out of the country on route to India.
Since it was still in processing they said that my passport/visa could not be tracked down until it was finished with processing which takes 3-5 days... and that is of course if I completed all the documents correctly.
Well, in the midst of this on Monday I was scrambling around trying to pack my 2-door jeep wrangler, which is like a go-cart. In the end, I had to take out my back seats in order to get some furniture that I could not give up and literally stuffed the car to the brim. A piece of furniture was sticking out the back window and we covered/wrapped it with some blankets and plastic wrap.
I could barely get my legs in under the steering wheel to drive it and my posture was straight, my body was literally at a 90 degree angle. Nevertheless, I fit in... I feel bad for the truck driver who has to steer the jeep onto the truck, but that is the least of my worries.
(Snapchat of me stuffed in my jeep)
Unfortunately, I had to leave some things behind, but I didn't really have a choice. By some miracle we were able to pack up the car and get it to the shipping place in time for them to give me a ride back to my place and for them to get to the airport return their car and check in my bags.
So, what now?
Good question. My mom miraculously found this place in Denver that deals with Indian visas. Thanks to Google it knew what she was searching and had it in her side bar. So thanks Google for keeping tabs on everything we do... And so she called them right away.
Unfortunately, they close at five and it was literally a few minutes past. She sent an email. This place apparently can get your visa completed in a 48 hours with a fee and since mine was already in process we thought there might be a chance they could intercept it and help us out.
There was hope.
I borrowed by roommate's car and I went over to the place as soon as it opened Tuesday morning. It was not the answer we were looking for... once a visa is in processing at the embassy it cannot be intercepted. She said there was nothing she could do.
I thought there might not be anymore hope.
My stepdad, before they left, mentioned maybe I should fly home with them because he did not think I was getting my visa in the next day. He has done extensive traveling dealing with visas so I was thinking, at this point, maybe he was right.
And for a typical person he was, I don't think many people can pull strings the way my mother can. But after all she isn't "super woman" so what now...
I started thinking about missing my whole yoga retreat and researching other yoga programs. After about five minutes I shut my computer. I was not thinking rationally, there was no point in waisting time when things are still up in the air.
But wait, what is in the air? There is no way to get information on my visa right now so what can I do? I am supposed to fly to NY tonight.
My mother may just be Superwoman... She got a hold of someone in the embassy in India. YES, in India.
And not just anyone but we were graced by an angel named Vishal. He should forever be blessed and I will always remember him.
Out of all the people who messed up like me and did not submit their visa with enough time, he was going to help me.
I could not believe it. From this point on my phone stuck to me like glue.
Vishal was able to contact the embassy in Houston and get information on my visa/passport. He kept in constant contact with my mother and I about the status. He said he would call back in two hours to give us the scoop.
A little over two hours later he found out that it is done processing and waiting on a signature. All that it needs is a signature from the embassy then to be sent back to Cox and Kings (the Indian Visa application service) and then mailed to me.
He said he would call back in another hour to see if he can get it signed and sent to Cox and Kings today.
The longest hour of my life. Now I know what it feels like to really want to get a call. I have never wanted a phone call or wanted to call someone so badly... and I couldn't call him because he was in India...
At this point my mother and I are on hold. We can't make any plans or commit to anything. We have to literally sit and wait. And I am hoping I did not mess up and that the signature can go through because if not... well I don't think India is in the books... (my program starts this coming Monday and to have to re-submit the documents and go through this lengthy process again... well I just hoped my twenty hours of work paid off)
An hour or so later he called to say that IT IS SIGNED and will be at Cox and Kings today. So we gave him some options --
1) To keep it at the embassy in Houston so I will fly to Houston tonight or Wednesday morning and pick it up and then fly a red eye from Houston to JFK to make my flight to India by Thursday morning.
(I immediately started researching which Houston airport was closer to the embassy (Bush or Hubby airport) and researching the cost of cabs, etc. )
2) To have it shipped overnight from Houston to Denver to get to my address before evening and get a new flight from DIA to JFK for Wednesday evening to make the Thursday morning flight.
3) To have it shipped overnight to JFK airport to my airline to pick up when I check in.
4) To change the address of shipment to my sister's address (sketchy process) in Brooklyn and have it shipped overnight there so I can fly to NYC, grab my passport, and make it for the Thursday AM flight.
Four options, but how possible / likely is this? Without the relentless energy and commitment from my mom, not possible. And without the help and inside scoop from our dear friend in India, Vishal, not possible. The combination was a miracle.
But it's not done yet.
He said he would call us back to see what he could do about delivery options.
We canceled my flight from Denver to JFK.
My mother, at this point, believed sending me to Houston to go get it in hand was the best option. I of course agreed but was hoping it would be delivered overnight to save the stress of flying to Texas etc. But I was down for any option - at this stage we just wanted to get the passport in hand before my flight out of the states took off.
This was the worst waiting part. But the best. The worst because we didn't know enough to let the stress go, the best because it is was a sincere miracle to have gotten this far with the embassy.
It's about four in the afternoon MTN and I am starving. But I did not want to leave my house and get the phone call and not be in a place where I could hear or miss the call. Also considering he had a strong accent so I really had to be tuned into him.
The option of going to yoga yesterday and today have been shot down... Point -- I was glued to my phone. And I was antsy.
I spent the afternoon on my porch laying there next to my phone. I didn't even want to touch it in case my phone would not receive the call because I would be on it. And I could not be in my room because it does not get good service.
The afternoon slowly but surely turned to the evening and a little before seven we heard back.
It was being shipped from Houston to Denver overnight. I would get it at some point tomorrow! What a miracle!
But by when was the next question? Rejoicing was not an option because we still had to fill a lot of unknown holes.
We profusely thanked Vishal for helping us and his commitment to our case for the past twenty four hours. He gave us the Fedex confirmation number and we tracked that package like it was a new born baby.
They said it would arrive by 8:00 PM Wednesday. That is wonderful news, but that means I would have to cancel my flight out of JFK because I could not make it to fly from DIA to JFK in time to make it for the early morning flight.
But we still had hope. So we did not cancel that flight. Fingers remained crossed all night.
Early today, Wednesday, we found out that it had made its way to Littleton, CO. Fed Ex does not open until 9:00 AM but as soon as it did we called and asked them to hold it at the store so I could come pick it up.
But by the time I heard back from a few friends to borrow their car they already shipped the package out!
We called Fedex again and told them the situation and they said it would be delivered by 3:00 PM MTN. Yes it would be here!
I made a flight from DIA to PHX to JKF to arrive 5:30 AM EST Thursday which gives me a little less than two hours before my departure to India (the original flight!).
I have never been so tense in my life, literally waiting. All morning I have been sitting in my living room with the window drapes open in full view of the mailbox.
It is almost 3:00 PM MTN and I see a FedEx man.. my heart drops as if I saw the future love of my life... but it was even better... MY PASSPORT!
I wanted to hug the man and bow to him. Thank you FedEx man for coming through and freeing me from this huge crunch.
Now? I depart to Arizona at 5:30 P.M. tonight. And surprisingly I have a few hours to kill and I am going to go for a run. I am going to enjoy this run as much as I enjoyed running for the first time after knee surgery.
And to make it even better I get to leave my phone and be away from it for the first time in 48 hours. No music, needed. My music will be my breathe, or perhaps panting. But either way the sound will be of freedom, happiness and gratitude.
So I am going to get to it.
Lesson of this story: So many.
1) First and foremost, I am one to not think about things until it is in the present... I never really picture what something will be like... and that isn't always a good thing. So for me and anyone else like me, make sure you are FULLY aware of what needs to be done and when it comes to things like traveling -- get your plans done.
--> as for the visa, get your visa submitted BEFORE you arrange a plane ticket. This way no doubt you will have your visa before you head off. (you think that would be a no brainer, but for people who are unaware of the time and complications, like I was, it's advice)
2) You can't always rely on your super hero A.K.A my mother to get things done. She pulls strings like no one I know and gets the best deals and simply works through most anything... like this one. It is incredible. And I need to realize it is NOT her job to get me out of every sticky situation I get stuck in. Plus we don't want to add stress to other people's lives.
3) GRATITUDE. We must have gratitude for the others that influence our life. Even in the smallest way. I am grateful for the delivery man,Vishal, my mother... all the people that did the smallest (and biggest) thing to get me my visa in my hand. Although many people are incompetent and nothing is easy... I was blessed with dealing with competent people who made this miracle come through...