Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cambridge or Bust!

T-minus 20 hours and counting!  I still have things to do but miraculously I have been able to see everyone I needed/wanted to see and eat all the food I wanted to eat before I left.  I was able to go to the temple to do sealings will Dave this morning and in half an hour we are going to drive up into the canyon to see the Fall leaves that haven't quite made it into the valley yet.  We are going to the BYU choir showcase tonight to watch my little bro sing with Men's Chorus and to cheer on Sarah and Chiki at the same time.  I may be up all night to finish packing but that will just help me adjust faster to Greenwich time, right?  I love you all and will see you when I return, whenever that may be.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the Consulate's Lair

Some of you have been asking about visa updates. You haven't heard from me because there have been no updates; I have been waiting for a response just like everyone else! NOW, though, there is an update and it comes with a very good story. It starts 15 business days ago when I received an email from the consulate telling me that they were going to take 15 business days to process my application instead of the normal five. I hoped/assumed I would hear my visa status last week, since everyone has to assume these people will give you the outside date just to be safe. But by Friday I had still not heard from the consulate. I had a lot to do and so I didn't think of the grave implications until I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep. I had no choice but to push it quickly from my mind; I could have stayed up all night worrying if I had let myself think about it.

Saturday was an emotional day. The full impact of my move was starting to hit me. I felt like I was leaving my beloved home in Minnesota all over again, except this time I am leaving without my family or husband. I have made so many wonderful friends here; now I need to say goodbye to all of them without knowing when I will see any of them again. We've had people coming to see our apartment and it is finally striking me that my home - the place I created after my wedding and the place where my husband and I started our married life - is going to others. My last Saturday in Provo reminded me of how much I was losing - at least temporarily.

So, when my practical father reminded me of the reality of my tenuous visa status, I finally broke down. It's been verging for a few weeks now, but it wasn't until 1) I was forced to think about hard, cold visa backup plans [including an emergency trip to LA after I finished work on Monday] and 2) I realized that if I traveled to LA almost all of my remaining nights left with Dave would be spent without Dave, that the tears struck.

While David was on the phone with his mother that evening, he mentioned my predicament. At that point, the visa was not the biggest issue; rather, I could not leave the country without a passport and my passport was still in LA with my visa application. I knew that if I didn't hear from the consulate by Monday, I wouldn't have my passport in time to make my flight. Very stressful all around. David's mother, being the amazingly generous, wonderfully proactive woman that she is, volunteered to make the long drive to LA so that she could be there in the consulate at 8:00 am Monday morning. My dad called Imagine Learning's notary and at 8:00 am Sunday morning I was in his office, signing a Power of Attorney that gave Paula the ability to act as I would and retrieve the visa if possible.

So yesterday Paula drove to LA and first thing this morning, as she promised, she was standing in the consulate trying to speak with anyone who would listen. We knew beforehand that it might be impossible; after all, these people refuse both phone calls and emails. Sure enough, civilians can't get anywhere near the visa office. Apparently there is a guard standing cross-armed in front of the door. He refused to talk to any of the other people there. One lady had applied on September 1st and had a plane leaving tomorrow morning. She received no sympathy. Paula, though, showed him my re-printed application and when the guard saw the mid-August date he actually took pity! I knew I had just barely hit the backlog - Courtney and Kathryn had only applied for their visas a few days before I did and both heard back within a week!

So the guard took the application up to one of the visa clerks, who looked up my name and discovered that my application was due for processing tomorrow. I had to make a decision: wait the extra day and hope they approve my application and send the documents quickly or cancel the application, relinquish the $130 I paid to apply but receive my passport before Friday. I asked Paula if they would take the paragraph mistake explanation I had sent with her and consider it with my application. After GREAT persuasion (and a Utah guard who understood exactly how long the drive from Salt Lake to LA can be), the guard returned to the clerk's office and convinced the clerk to bring out my application and give a preliminary verdict. She did say that the application would be rejected due to the timing mistake, which made the decision easy: I sent the cancel request early this afternoon and received a UPS confirmation number within an hour.

So the news is generally happy. I don't have a visa but I have a passport! If I can get to England then I will figure out what to do there. Technically, you can stay in England six months without a visa. I owe so much to my mother-in-law. She was able to accomplish 100% more than anyone else who entered the consulate with visa concerns today and she allowed me to spend an extra two nights with my husband. I feel so unbelievably grateful for two families who love David and me so much and are always perfectly supportive. They constantly do little things for us and even when great things are required, they will not hesitate to do what is needed. What an incredible blessing to have celestial families here in our telestial earth! What would we do without them?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reading Together

Ever since we got married, one of our favorite things to do has been to read books out-loud together. So far we have read Watership Down (our first - I made Dave a believer!), multiple Harry Potters and Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle from the Chronicles of Narnia. We started reading Fire in the Bones about William Tynsdale but haven't finished it yet. Our next book together will be The Chosen but I guess that will have to wait until after we are reunited! Our latest book together was Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, the Newbery Award book in 1955. Amazingly, it was a favorite in both of our households growing up and after this last reading it has once again inspired us to be better people, to work harder, to learn more, to spend our time more wisely and to deal with life's challenges with more patience and hope. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"I made up a sort of saying for myself, Nat. I will lift up my eyes unto the stars. Sometimes, if you look at the stars long enough, it helps. It shrinks your day-by-day troubles down to size." –Nat's mother, 33 [I believe this! It is amazing how your problems change when they are placed in perspective. Nothing can help your problems seem smaller than staring at the universe…]

"Being happy takes a lot of practice, don't you think?" –Elizabeth Boardman, 73 [I really believe this one as well. Happiness is never guaranteed, no matter how wonderful life is. It requires noticing the everyday miracles, counting your blessings and being so grateful for every one, and recognizing that the day to day troubles don't matter so much.]

"He had applied to Congress for a patent on a steam engine he'd made to run on a boat. He had also tried to get Congress to give him a patent on his idea for a steam wagon, too. But the Congressmen said that that idea was so crazy they wouldn't even consider it" (80) [Congress didn't know what they were missing! Can you imagine their faces if they were to see our modern-day freeways, filled with "steam wagons"?!]

"I'm just like a chair you stumble over in the dark," Elizabeth said. "It isn't the chair's fault, but you kick it anyhow."
Nat blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"Your brain. It's too fast. So you stumble on other people's dumbness. And – you want to kick something."
Nat felt his face get hot. "But I shouldn't."
Elizabeth agreed. "No, you shouldn't, because even if people are dumb, they aren't chairs, are they? They do have feelings" (82) [Sometimes I behave like Nat in this instance. I'm certainly not the genius Nat Bowditch was, but I do get frustrated if people don't understand quickly enough. My Customer/Technical Support job has sometimes been a great test of patience!]


Bonnefoy beamed. "Monsieur! You speak French! Why didn't you tell me?"
"I – I – guess I just didn't think of it."
Captain Prince roared again. "So you didn't think of it? And here I've been expecting all along I'd have to have an interpreter in Bourbon! Have you any more tricks up your sleeve, Mr. Bowditch?"
"No, sir, I – I – don't think so, sir."
"No more languages?"
"Just – just – Latin, sir. I learned that to read Newton's Principia" (112) [Love it! Hello, "I just learned Latin to read Newton's greatest book on Astronomy." This is why Nat is motivating both David and me to work so much harder than we normally do! ]


The Phoebe, from Boston, was anchored nearby. Her master, Captain Hudson, came on board the Astrea to ask news of home. "And how was it around the Horn?"
"We came by the Cape," Prince told him.
Captain Hudson stared. "Not in the teeth of the monsoon?"
Prince shrugged in an offhand way. "Why not?"
"The navigation. You'd have to have a man who could work lunars -"
Prince shrugged again. "What's so hard about lunars? Every man in my crew can work a lunar."
Hudson's face was blank. Then he laughed, "Come on, tell me. How did you do it? Just sheer blind luck?"
Prince said, "I'm not joking. Ask any man on board."
Charlie [the cabin boy],
who was nearby, straightened and cleared his throat.

Prince nodded. "Go ahead, Charlie. Tell Captain Hudson how to calculate a lunar."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Charlie stiffened, stared straight ahead and rattled off the formula. "That's the way we do it, sir. It's better than waiting for the moon to occult a star." He looked at the bewildered Captain Hudson. He added helpfully. "Occult – that means cover up, sir."
Captain Prince had a sudden coughing spell. (204) [This is hilarious, the cabin boy teaching the captain how to do complicated navigation! I love that Nat believed anyone could learn and worked hard to teach them.]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

There is suddenly a chance I may not go to England. Ever, actually! I might be permanently banned! How many people can say that?

Courtney Innes, one of my best friends from Jerusalem and soon to be roommate/program buddy, just received news that her visa was rejected. It's ridiculous; she was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and now they won't let her in! Their loss. But I made the same mistake as she did on the application. For the first time, our part-time program is requiring their students to apply for visiting student visas instead of full-time student visas. It's a terrible pain; it means I have to reapply for a visa after every term and leave the country every six months. And it makes me feel very un-official, like I'm just "visiting" Cambridge. On the visa application, they asked how long the program was going to be. Both of us honestly and naively told the British consulate that coursework lasted until mid-July. Apparently, trying to apply for a six month visiting student visa when you are going to a nine-month program guarantees you an automatic failed visa and a ban from trying to re-apply or appeal.

Unfortunately, Courtney didn't receive word about the rejection until four hours after I had spent $18 overnighting MY application (with the same exact problem) to the British Consulate in LA. So I spent Monday writing a lengthy explanation letter to the only people I could get a hold of: WorldBridge, the 3rd party company hired to answer all visa questions so the Consulate people don't have to have any contact with the outside world. They say right on their site that
"the decision to issue or refuse an entry clearance is made solely by Entry Clearance Officers at the British embassy. WorldBridge staff has no power or influence over the success of applications."
However, I received a rather hopeful reply from them on Tuesday:
"Thank you for submitting your email enquiry. In regards to your question, we would like to let you know that due to the nature of your request it is being escalated for detailed research. Please be informed that we understand the importance of your issue, and we strive to respond as quickly and thoroughly as possible."
I still haven't heard back, but I am praying hard that someone is actually taking care of things over there. If you have mighty prayers to ascend in my behalf as well, I would definitely appreciate them. In the meantime, anyone know of any openings in American Jewish-Christian Relations programs? :P