2007 Journey:
Africa, Russia, Mongolia and China

  • Waiting on a Visa, But Stuck in the Happiest Place on Earth


    Denmark, a safe haven to wait for a Russian visa.

    Golden colors welcome me to the countryside of Denmark. The trees offer a visible show of change that appears to reflect what travel has done for my own internal spirit.

    Friends dating back to the time when Peter was a high school exchange student in Fremont welcome me to the happiest nation on earth, at least according to the World Database of Happiness.

    “Russia, why would you want to go there?” asks Peter in his witty humorous way.

    “You’re going to go there and find out that it’s really cold and come running back to Denmark,” he says with a chuckle.

    Fair enough, but I have to go see for myself what’s there.

    City streetEarly one morning we drive onto a ferry that takes us across the open waters toward Copenhagen. Three hours later we pull up at the doorstep of the Russian embassy. I jump out with a plan to call Peter once I’m done with the visa process. I had been debating in my head about paying the extra fee to expedite the visa process, and finally concluded I would pay the extra money to help me keep moving.

    Walking up to the gate of the compound, I get in line with the others who are waiting to get into the building.

    For two hours I stand in the cold, as the line inches me closer to the door that holds the promise of heat. Finally I am called forward, the guard checks my bag and ushers me into the next waiting room. Stepping up to the counter window I give the embassy worker my visa application printed from the Internet. The woman behind the glass tells me she’s never seen this form and requests a new application to be filled out.

    OK.

    I come back and hand the completed form to her, then ask if it would be possible to expedite process? Yes, she says, and then adds: You will still have to wait two weeks for your visa.

    The expression on my face must have been a priceless book of pain and confusion.

    “It’s what the United States does to Russian citizens wanting a U.S. visa, so we reciprocate the policy,” she says in an apologetic tone. “Plus this also means your letter of invite will start before you get the visa or you will need a new letter. This means your time in Russia will be reduced to 21 days.”

    “That’s fine. It’s not your fault,” I say, while trying to adjust to the news that wasn’t expected.

    It’s not really bad news in that I am staying with people I really care about and provides me a golden opportunity to spend time with good friends. Plus it gives me a chance to have a moment of routine in my life, like taking Peter’s dog, Tess, for daily walks. This is one of the biggest challenges of a long journey: Having a sense of routine, when each day is a whole new experience.

    A call to Peter brings him curbside.

    “Do you want the good news or bad news first?”

    “The bad news,” says Peter.

    “You’re stuck with me for two more weeks as I wait for my visa.”

    “And the good news,” he says.

    “I get to walk Tess for two more weeks.”

    Peter smiles, as we head for home.

    If you’re going to stuck somewhere it might as well be in the happiest place on earth.



    Fremont Tribune








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