Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Story Time & Visa/Travel Tips!

As usual, I got back into the swing of things in the writing world, just to get caught up in whatever land I happened to get lost in for a while, and now have some serious ground to cover in this post. In my last post, I went over the final things I had been doing in Los Angeles to wrap up, pack up, and move out. I have since been out of LA for quite a long period of time, living at my parents house, and since I know that they will read this, I will be kind in my assertions. No, I'm just joking, it's actually been quite an enjoyable time here. I have spent countless hours hanging out with the love of my life, my grandmother, and enjoying living a life of little to do. I realize I was only in the working force for seven months after graduating, but that many months spent in a cubicle from 9-6 really wears a gal out!

My main lady and I 

Living at home has meant: helping my grandma out with whatever she needs help with, aka Driving Miss Daisy all around town for her errands, lunches, and other sorts of "hang time," helping my dad out with the toffee/candy business we are building, and trying to unpack all my stuff (yes, that's right, it's been almost a month and I still have not put everything away, namely because there is more stuff than space, but also because it's a sad reminder of the life I gave up). Oh, and there have been lots of little trips. Most of them for the purpose of my visa and this whole moving-to-Spain process, but also some just to visit my dear friends.

But before I make you all jealous with my travels, I will start by reviewing a bit of the visa process, because it is a fairly crucial step for anyone to follow if they have the intention of going abroad for more than three months.

It's important that you find a website for the consulate of the country that you are trying to apply for a visa to because I assume they all have some sort of variations, and they usually include links to different sites you need to use, which could always vary too. Once you find the website, poke around a bit and then find what they require of you to get a visa. I recommend printing the list of things that you need so you can check them off, and do it like Santa..make the list, and check it twice! The list that I printed included nine different items, some of which include: my original passport + a copy, the visa application + a copy, a note from your doctor on medical letterhead that states you are "free of contagious diseases as per the international health regulations of 2005," a background check that has been verified by fingerprints, which must be notarized by a notary, and Apostilled by the Secretary of State (SOS), and originals and photocopies of several other things. Now, if you do all of this ahead of time and do not wait until a few weeks before you are supposed to be leaving, then you have nothing to worry about. So here is my first major travel tip: PLAN AHEAD! If you know you will be trying to leave and get a visa, plan accordingly. I would work on it at least a month in advance from when you need to have everything for your appointment (needed if applying in person, which many consulates require). You will be dealing with government entities and have no idea what kinds of hold-ups you will encounter with them, or any other part of the process. And trust me on this, because I am now in a position where I have a flight booked for the day after tomorrow, and all of the stuff I need for my visa isn't even in my possession.

I booked this flight about three weeks ago, knowing that my visa appointment was in San Francisco on the 24th of October. This would have given the Spanish Consulate 12 business days to process my paperwork and get me my visa (a reasonable amount of time). Unfortunately, I didn't look at the final steps that I needed to complete before I was ready for the appointment until a few days before my appointment, in true Allison Fedor fashion. So, the day before I was planning on leaving for San Francisco (I planned to go the night before so I wouldn't have to worry about driving there and arriving on time in one day), I went over everything to see what I still needed to get. I knew I needed to go to the Police Department (PD) and get a background check done so I could get it Apostilled, and that was the final thing I needed. I had gone to the doctor and gotten my letter saying I'm not a drug addict or walking contagion the day before, and was pretty sure it was semi-smooth sailing from there. So I went to the PD, got my paper, and then jammed. Naturally, I should have gone to the PD before the day I was planning on leaving/same day I needed to get it notarized and Apostilled, but like I said, it's me we're dealing with. After racing out of the PD like they were hot on my trail, I hopped in my car and left Stockton for Sacramento.

I was going to be pushing it on time, as the SOS closes at 5 o'clock, but knew I could make it. I got there no problem, found a parking spot that had over four hours left on the meter, and got up to where I needed to be. When the woman called my number, tragedy struck. I told her that I needed to get the background check notarized and Apolstilled (two things the information desk man said I could do there), at which point she informed me that they did not do the notarizing there. WHAM. What a slap in the face. Now, I've done this before. The last time I got a visa when I went abroad, I ran into the same procrastination-problem, and had to go and get all of these exact things taken care of in the same day, so I knew that I couldn't get it notarized there, but believed that maybe things had changed and it was now ok. It was, afterall, more than two years later. She told me that I could take it to the UPS Store and get it notarized there, but didn't think I'd make it back in time. Well, I was at the point where I was in Sacramento, about an hour and a half from SF, in an office that didn't open the next day until 9am, and my appointment for my visa was scheduled in SF for 10:30. My heart sunk and I saw my dream slip away. And then it happened, a miracle of God, the sign I had been waiting for and needing to assure me that this was the path I was supposed to travel -- there was ONE other person in that room waiting for an Apostille, and she piped up saying, "I can notarize." 8-O OH HAPPY DAYS! I couldn't believe it. I knew then and there that it was meant to be for me. She went to her car, got her notary kit, and then notarized it right there on the spot for me. It was amazing! I had to try my hardest not to jump on her with a hug. So I got it all taken care of, even got to get together with one of my best gal pals for a drink and a catch-up chat, and then hit it to SF.

When I woke up to go to my visa appointment, I was soaring so high in the sky. I knew things would work out, it would go smoothly, and I would be on a plane in two and a half weeks, ready to conquer the world and assume the role I was born to fill. Well, I've often said that things don't go the way we planned, and this was another one of those things. My heart broke as the good-looking Spaniard behind the visa desk belittled me, was rude, and told me what I'd done wrong. He informed me the letter I had from my doctor was wrong (missing five words it needed to be acceptable), and the background check that I had gotten, notarized, and Apositlled was also wrong (lacking fingerprint verification, and also not allowed to be from the City). Bottom line: every dollar and minute I had spent the day before running around, thinking I had gotten God's blessing, and everything, was essentially for nothing (other than a learning of how-not-to experience).

This is what I mean by do it like Santa and check it twice. Heck, check it three, four, five times, just make sure you read carefully and do not skip a beat, because they will nail you for it, and then you'll be forced to either cancel your flight for a 400$ fee, or reschedule it for a later date for another couple hundred dollars even though you paid for the trip insurance (my figures only, yours will vary -- don't use a cheap site if you're uncertain of your travel plans)!! So I'd learned of my errors, and got my doctor to write me the right letter, and figured out what I really needed as far as the screening was concerned. This required that I print a form and pay a fee to the FBI, and mail them the request form, with fingerprints. Now, this shouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that I sent out the form, money, and fingerprints to the FBI..... in West Virginia.... the day before Hurricane Sandy hit. Yeah, I'll give that a minute to sink in. . . . . .

RIGHT!?! How screwed am I!? As if sending something to the FBI wouldn't have taken a long time anyways, now I have a natural disaster to account for also! (Prayers, thoughts, and well-wishes to those affected over there!) So now, I play the waiting game, instead of the packing game. Instead of prepping to board at 9:30am on Friday, I am prepping to look into other alternatives and jobs. Instead of seeking out on the adventure of a lifetime, one that I have been manifesting for years, I am sitting in a green arm chair in my parents living room listening to KLOVE. (Not a bad option in retrospect, but still, you must admit that the former is a bit more exciting.) And again I repeat: PLAN AHEAD.

I have no idea when, or if, I will be going to Spain at this point. I have not heard back from the school where my job is to know if it's okay for me to arrive this late, and am unsure at this point if it's even what I'm supposed to do (big surprise). I have persevered through it all, because I refuse to believe that it's not what I'm supposed to do, and because, if at the end of it all, I've done everything I could and tried all the different things I could think of, and it still doesn't happen, I will know without a reasonable doubt I was not intended to go down this path. At this point, all I can do is wait, examine other options, and help my family as we try to grow a business, as well as pray and see what happens. It's a truly intense path of faith that I'm being sent down, which could be the real purpose in it all anyways. We'll see, my friends, we'll see.

Today's Thought: Do not live your life with expectations and thinking you can have it all figured out, because right when you think you've got all your ducks lined up, a curve ball comes and throws you off the track. It is better to just let life come as it may, and take it as it comes. Be patient, and slow to frustration and worry. Everything will work out how it's supposed to, even if it's not what you want. Let it be!

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