July 7, 2009

Getting Visas (Part 2) - Washington DC

July 2, 2009

Like mad scientists undeterred from their first explosion in the basement, today we were back at it for more.

Yesterday's trip to the embassies did not go well, but I do have to say that today's went worse.


(Zhou eating her hot dog stand hot dog in the Vietnamese embassy)

8) Do not arrive later than 9:45. I mentioned this yesterday, but it bears repeating. Today we arrived at 11:30 for our noon pick-up, and the line was four deep. This may not seem like a lot, until you think of the visa office like the DMV, with the only worker speaking very choppy English and customers who want handwritten driver's licenses. We left by 12:30, at which point the line was seven deep.

9) Do not forget your identification slip in the car across town, unless you really want to tick off the embassy worker. Although we were told (or so we thought) that we did not need the piece of paper with chicken scratch written on it, apparently we did so the lady could locate our file. She was not happy, and in turn the customers around us burned holes in us with their eyes as the lady disappeared to find our file.

10) Do not be dishonest. Ok, this one is just me bragging about being the bigger man with the smaller wallet, but the lady yesterday did not write down if we paid the expedited fee (we didn't) and today she asked us what we had paid her the day before. I told her the truth and handed over the extra $40, but got a good night's sleep afterwards.


(Kevin Doin' Work at the Kenyan embassy)

* If you guessed "(d) Kevin Doin' Work at the Kenyan embassy" to Sunday's quiz, then I'm incredibly impressed, since it wasn't a choice.

11) Do not forget your visa photos in the car across town, unless you luck out with really nice embassy workers. We showed up 15 minutes before Kenya's 1:00 closing, only to realize that we had left our visa photos in the car. We showed the workers that we had everything else, and had completed the application online, and they graciously told us that even though they were closing that we could knock on the window after retrieving our photos and they would help us out.

12) Do not assume every embassy takes cash. After hustling across town via foot and subway, we drove the car back and two hours later showed up at the window. We tried to hand over our $100 for the two visas, only to find out that they only take money orders. The lady told us where the nearest post office was, and we dashed off.

13) Do not be mean to the embassy workers. I think through all this, the only reason the Kenya people helped us out is because we were very friendly and seemed genuinely lost and confused (we were!). After coming back with the money order, I chatted with the lady for a while about the trip and our families and such. She gave me some good sites to see in Kenya, although we won't be able to follow her advice since the safari is planned out for us.

In the end, we now have our Vietnam visas, we have our Kenyan visas coming to us in the mail (if you're doing this option, bring a prepaid non-UPS envelope with you to the embassy), and we will be mailing our passports off to the Chinese embassy once we receive them back from Kenya. Although we don't have all three visas in our hands as expected, it looks like everything will have worked out.

Had this situation arisen in a non-English speaking foreign country (and I'm positive something similar will), Zhou and I will surely find out a good deal more about our problem solving and patience levels will each other. I'm looking forward to this.

Pictures of the Day:

Petite lady Zhou ready to attack her mussels at Granville Moore's (home of executive chef, Teddy Folkman)

The mussels attacked back (see Zhou's shirt stains), but buff hungry Zhou's muscles eventually won

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