Across Continents

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Nuns on the run

By the time I was called the ticket was crumpled. Slightly sweaty. Decided to rest it on top of my small pocket book. Into which I’d shoved various documents to support my case for a US visa. Letter of introduction from The Outward Bound Trust. Outlining my venture. Evidence of funds to support myself. Of ties to the UK. That’d I no intention of over-staying.

Glanced once more at the number printed on the small slip. Three hundred and ninety. Must been the twentieth time I’d checked it. Sat in the waiting area of the US Consulate. High above Sydney. Fiftieth or so floor. People came and went. Called forward to the small interview booths. If there was an order to it, it wasn’t numerical.

Curious about my fellow applicants. Sat about. Family with four daughters. Quite a few students. Overhearing snippets from the booths in front. Questioned mostly on their ability to support themselves. And a couple of nuns. One of whom bore an uncanny resemblance to Robbie Coltrane.

Then my turn. A few questions. More of a pleasant chat than an interview. Explained the purpose of my visit. Why I sought a visa rather than use the usual Visa Waiver Programme. Added I had various documents in support of my application. But these weren’t necessary. Ten year multiple entry visa granted. Helpfully advised that the duration of each visit would depend on the immigration officer at point of entry. So wise to keep hold of the paperwork.

Reflecting a short while later with my flask of tea, I felt rather buoyant. For one thing, I’d found the US Consulate very understanding. A few days earlier concerned Chilean ash clouds might preclude me from getting back in time from New Zealand for my interview. I’d explained the situation in an e-mail. Personal response within the hour. If was delayed, they’d be able to accommodate me. Just get in touch. And the morning’s experience had been similarly pleasant. I was really looking forward to visiting.

[Author’s note: Ken sought a Class B-2 tourist visa because he needs more than the three months permitted by the Visa Waiver Scheme for British Citizens. Time that includes that spent in Canada. So, de facto, a North American visa. Cost. About one hundred pounds]

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