Oh Those Visas

My cat is very fury. In fact, we have fur on our floor, in our beds, in our food and cosmetics. Fur is everywhere. Doing his summer haircut takes me around an hour and a half and is indeed a very exhausting endeavor. Yet not half as exhausting as getting a simple travel visa.

Well, I tell you, with my Semester at Sea package it’s been quite a challenge. I’m a Russian citizen, and the trick was to get 5 visas in my passport in 2,5 months, which I almost did. Thank god Ireland has this new rule when you can enter it with a British visa if you went to UK first. And thank god I already had a US visa. I get shivers when I think about applying for a US visa in summer. Brr! Last time I went there in summer I’ve killed 6 hours and missed 2 exams…
My first step, having heard about the long processing time and consulate toughness, was the UK visa center. The amount of documents that they wanted was so damn high that I’ve spent 3 days collecting them here and there, and my application folder was the height of a hamburger. The application fee wasn’t low as well. But surprise, surprise – it was pretty much a piece of cake. They have a very cool feature when you plan your interview and come exactly at the appointed time – no earlier, no later. And they let you in. The e-turn, which allows you to go through very fast, let me do everything in 20 minutes. Receiving a visa was also a pleasure.
Next step was Germany – oh stupid, naive me! Why, why did I go there? I could choose any Schengen country from our SAS itinerary, but I wasn’t smart enough to read the visa rules and for some reason decided that if Germany is the first Schengen country of our voyage, I should apply for a German Schengen. Whatever. My bad. The thing with German consulate in Moscow (as well as with Austrian) is that they totally can issue you a 6-months or 1-year visa. But they NEVER do. They only give you the visa for the exact time of your stay.
So the first trick was to actually hand in the documents. The lady at the counter first sent me to print more papers (that weren’t stated on the website), and then refused to take my docs. Why? Because she didn’t like the medical insurance proof letter from SAS. She wanted the actual insurance paper, which for sure none of us have. I tried to explain. I seemingly failed. I left her. Went to print some other paper. Got a new number for the e-turn. And whoa, luck! – the other lady to whom I went did take my documents. And never even asked about the insurance… So I happily left and returned in a week and a half to collect my passport with the freshly issued Schengen. But wait, what… I open my passport, I look at the freshly issued visa… And I curse out loud. Because they totally confused September 30 with October 1, which is the day our ship leaves Spain, the last Schengen country on the list. I rush to the counter… The visa center guys look confused, apologize, and tell me to bring my passport the next day when the consulate approves visa correction. And then I have to wait for up to 3 days to get my passport back, and that’s from 4 to 5 days of delay before I can apply for the next visa. Minding that the consulates don’t work on weekends, it’s a total mess. I grabbed my passport and rushed to the embassy of Ghana – decided not to wait. But that day was meant to be a disaster. On their website the Ghanian guys said they were only closed on Wednesdays, and it was Monday. But what they didn’t say on the website is that July 1st is the national holiday and the embassy’s closed… I cursed and went to work.
The next day the German guys take my passport and promise to call once the new visa is ready.
Of course they didn’t. But I used the great art of MATHS. And went there on the third day without waiting for a call. Bingo! The visa was ready. They just crossed and stamped the old one and, instead of just putting a new visa right on its top, wasted another page of my 10-year passport.
I didn’t even curse. I grabbed a pancake on my way to the metro and hurried to the South African embassy. What I didn’t remember about it is that the consulate section only works till 12 pm. It was 11:50 when I came in. But they let me in. Well, guess what – the lady at the counter told me I cannot apply. Why? Because their visa is issued for 3 months, starting the application date. The ship arrives to SA on October 26… I was genuinely surprised. Why, asked I, can’t you just issue a visa starting, say, August? No was the answer. All I could get was the email address of some boss of hers. I emailed the boss while walking to the metro, landed in a nearby cafe and talked to my heartbroken best friend for over an hour. It was a good talk, because when she told me all her troubles I could curse. Out loud. And get her full support.

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