Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Great Ordeal

or, Interludes From Gretchen’s Long and Arduous Quest For Her Visa. 

(This'll be a long one, folks.)

SO, first of all, let me reassure everyone who has been asking that YES, AS OF TODAY, I HAVE RECEIVED MY VISA!  With 36 hours to spare.  Yikes.  I received it on the last possible day that I could have gotten it, after a long and (somewhat) stressful journey.  The FedEx lady was not only very nice, but heartwarmed by my note of gratitude and interested in my trip.  I wanted to wait until the whole blasted thing was over until I posted about it, one way or the other . . . but then I decided that rather than record the whole sordid tale, I would pick out some of the amusing anecdotes and detail them. 

. . . . 

i.)  A great disappointment and a great praise

On our Monday visit, my father and I - along with twenty-some other people - were turned away at the door of the agency.  The security guards were two huge men who did their jobs well without being rude.  On Monday, when I wrote my previous post about being at peace about whatever happened, as I honestly didn’t think I would get it.  

But for my praise!  Because we were turned away on Monday, on Thursday my father drove me up to NYC . . . and through the city.  Let me repeat.  He drove.  Through New York City.  In our minivan.  Applaud him, y’all.  He deserves it.  

ii.)  in which my parents and me attempt to research the consulate

“All right,” the intrepid explorers say, soldiering on.  “Let’s check out the consulate website!”  Websites are Googled.  Addresses are found.  The brave three click on the link for the New York consulate.  

FORBIDDEN, is the first word to greet their eyes, followed by: “you are not allowed to access this page on the server you are using.”  There is a moment of blank shock from the explorers.  Forbidden?  Yes, friends, the word on the screen was indeed ‘forbidden,’ as if this web page was not in fact the website for a consulate but was instead a crime scene, a nuclear weapon, or an apple in the Garden of Eden.  

The backspace key is pressed.  Another link is tried.  “FORBIDDEN!” booms this page as well.  We attempt the next.  The ominous prohibition is nowhere to be found . . . and neither is the page, from what the screen is telling us.  (None of the links worked, but the consulate reviews were hilarious.)

iii.)  calling the consulate

The pre-recorded message for the Indian Consulate of New York was recorded by a man with the thickest New York accent I have ever heard.  It was quite disorienting, as I was expecting an Indian one.  

iv.) the magical post-it

My dear friend Emma, one of my traveling companions (and the other one from my school), went down to NYC the day after I did.  She found out that the agency was no longer accepting walk-ins.  But (unlike me, when I went the following day) she was given what I deemed the “Magical Post-It of Access,” which got her past the security guards and up the stairs to the magical place of application (see the theme here?) to submit her application.  When I came up on Thursday, the Magical Post-It was shared with great joy.  

v.)  The Crazy Lady (and I do mean THE crazy lady)

When going to NYC, I was told to not be a “pushy American.”  I didn’t know what that looked like until Thursday, when another applicant threw a tantrum.  Literally.  She started yelling at the security guard, then screaming at him, then finally began sobbing hysterically until they finally let her up the stairs.  Once upstairs, she calmed down (she even mentioned to me that she started crying so they would let her upstairs).  It was appalling!  I couldn’t believe that someone would actually do that.    

The worst part was that she flew out on September 15 - and she had an upcoming appointment with the agency.  Emma and I both flew out on Monday - we were visiting Thursday, but we only had two business days to get our visas!  There was also another student there who was flying out over the weekend.  And all three of us students - leaving out in 48 hours or less, mind you, and still without visas - were calmer and more mature than this woman who had over a week before she left, and a scheduled appointment.  

vi.)  Nilesh the Wonderful

But, lest you think that all was misery . . . when we finally got into the agency on Thursday, we were helped by a very nice gentleman named Nilesh.  He found my application - which hadn’t been processed - and was able to figure out what was wrong with it.  (It turns out that they thought I was the pastor, thus the required additional documentation.)  He then was able to submit it for emergency processing under a new number.  When we made it clear to him that we needed it processed within the next day, he gave me options for how to pick it up once it was done.  He did mention that once the consulate had it, it was out of his hands, but he would make sure it was listed as an emergency visa so it would be expedited.  

He gave me his name and his cell phone number, telling me that I could call him the next day to ask if he’d gotten it back from the consulate.  His personal cell phone number, not the work phone number, mind you.  When we were concerned about how to get it (we didn’t want to go up to NYC a third time), he actually offered to bring the visa back to his house in Pennsylvania so that we could drive there and pick it up from his house.  We decided on a FedEx envelope . . . and on Friday, he texted me not one, but TWO times to let me know that A.) it had been received, and B.) it had been shipped.  

I did not expect to get my visa in time.  But with Nilesh’s help, I did.  


  1. Gretchen,

    I will look forward to reading about your India adventure. Perhaps you will discover that your visa ordeal will have prepared you for things to come! One of the joys and burdens of living globally is that you will not be in control! And it will be amazing. Godspeed! You are in my prayers.
    Pastor Kate

  2. Just another lesson (one of many in your lifetime) that God is truly in control and He sends his angels among us to be His hands and feet! Hope it's OK that your dad sent me an invitation to your blog--can't wait to follow your adventure!

    Deb Sowers