Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

It's many days since we went to Washington DC to get out visas, but here is the start of the story.

We arrived at the Indian Embassy on Massachusettes Ave. in DC, parked in a free "two hour spot" in the neighborhood across the street, and walked to the Embassy. We were greeted at the entrance by two stone elephants. It was all familiar: descend the consular steps, open the door, enter, take a number, look around at the sea of Indian faces which is dotted with just a few Westerners also waiting for their turn at the window, and listen to newcomers ask the question, "is there a line?"

The same Indian woman that took my visa application two years ago was behind the counter. She was dressed in a yellow "saree". I was a little worried about her, since last time she'd was short with me saying - like the man at the gate of the Emerald City - "come back tomorrow"and followed with "you had time to mail this in."

We were #71, and someone told us that the line was moving very slowly.

Finding three seats together, Natalie (7 years old) and I killed time by playing tic-tac-toe.

Every now and then, the woman behind the glass would yell instructions to the crowd: "please have your photos stapled to your applications". The application DOES plainly say to do this, but we were worried about putting a staple through the photo, so we'd left it undone. There was a stapler on the counter, but it was empty. A worker behind the glass came to use this stapler, and Martin told him there were no staples in it. He came back with staples and handed them to Martin who after filling it began fixing our photos to the applications, much to the consternation of the worker.

A little later, the woman in yellow instructed the crowd to make sure that you placed your application into your passport at the picture page of your passport, and at a certain location on the document.

If you got your application in before 12:30PM you were supposed to be able to receive it the same day. Although it didn't happen that way for me in 2004, I hoped for that this time because I was right on the day of the needed six months, to get my six month tourist visa.

At nearly noon, a second woman (dressed in a pink Punjabi dress) came to a second window and things started to move a little faster. We were finally called to the window of the yellow saree. I made a point of saying "Hello, how are you?" as I passed the documents through the window. She opened my passport and looked at my application. I heard her saying "artist"; looking at Ray's I heard her say "artist"; and then to me said "What kind of artist?" I said "painting." She looked at Martin's, calculated the amount for the three passports and said "$160.00" $20.00 less than we expected. Martin finally spoke, "Isn't it supposed to be $180.00 each?" The woman politely explained that a British passport holder is $40.00.

She stapled a receipt to a red "raffle" ticket with a number on it, pushed it through the opening and said, "They will be ready between 4:30 - 5:00PM." I was amazed at this apparent ease and said, "Today?" She nodded.

We walked back to the car and Natalie took us off to the National Museum of the Native American.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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