The way I see it, when you want or need something badly enough, you have to be prepared to make some serious sacrifices.
This week, I will entitle this edition as simply:
JOURNEY TO THE VISA
I realized since last year that my 10 year American visa would effectively expire in March of this year and so I made the necessary sacrifices to save towards making another application for the important document, as I really enjoy vacationing in US territories, even though I have no desire nor intention to live in such places, on a permanent basis.
Two weeks max and then am good……home sweet home!
So I decided not to go the popular route through one of the well-known agencies that assist people in bulk but instead made an application on line.
Just to do some quick comparisons:
One of the persons from Nevis who was assisted by one of those trusted agencies, told me that she spent just over $2,000.00 EC. That took care of airfare; accommodation for one night; a complimentary breakfast of a toast and juice and taxi.
On the other hand, my online expenses were as follows:
Embassy charges: $160. 00 US ($432.00 EC)
DHL delivery charge: $95.00 BDS ($128.25 EC)
Airfare: $418.58 US ($1,130.16 EC)
Accommodation: FREE (Stayed with Friends)
Transportation: Driven by friends and regular bus at $2.00 BDS no matter the destiny. ($2.70 EC)
Total: $1,693.11 EC)
Now, take into consideration that you may generally have to include one night a hotel, at about ($95.00 US) and the agency’s package deal does not include DHL charges. When you return, you have to send back your passport (if you were successful)-at your own cost.
So, on Sunday 8th January, I got on the 8.00 am boat and got to St.Kitts safely and headed straight to the RLB to book in for my 2pm flight.
The news was not good, as I met a friend there who was scheduled to leave at 8.30 am and was now told that that her LIAT flight to the USVI will now leave at 9.30 pm
Well I newa!
I got scared and double checked but they said my flight was on time. I spent the time relaxing and watching the clock and had time to discover to my chagrin that there was absolutely no water running at the airport on that day!
The flight arrived slightly late but we boarded and then I heard a female voice say: ‘This is your captain speaking…” I held my breath. Between me and you ladies, I normally feel more comfortable when I hear a man’s voice coming from the cockpit.
However, to her credit, hers was the best flight I had for the entire journey. That lady landed the plane as gently as if it was a baby!
So we got to Antigua safely and then went into transit to await the flight to Barbados. Here is where I met the Nevis and St.Kitts posse that came via an agency. They were all upbeat, especially one named Vera from St.Kitts. She was elderly but boy if you hear chat!
The Barbados flight was delayed and the captain (a man this time), explained that it was due to the fact that they had limited crew and that they had to rest for a certain number of hours before they could fly again.
We landed in Barbados safely and that’s when I noted that our youngest visa applicant perhaps needed some guidance. He had some difficulty filling out his forms and seemed to get lost from the group quite easily. I told the others to ‘keep him close.’
Then I had a delay because it took a while for our bags to come in. Vera was loud: “Why you had to walk with two bags? You could have just put an extra shirt in the bag on your shoulder and two draws and you would not have to be waiting so long.’
And you know she had to say it so that everybody at the airport and in Bridgetown could hear!
Eventually, we parted ways, as they went to their taxi and I went to a private car.
I had a good night’s rest; a great breakfast and an early ride to the embassy before 7 am. My appointment was set for 9.45 am but I wanted to be early.
They asked us to sit in a car park area and await further instructions. Minutes to 8 am a security guard instructed us to come to the embassy.
Here, we were given a basket and a key and told to place our personal belongings in a locker assigned.
Then in the order of the line, we were allowed in two at a time for further security checks and then allowed into the main area, where the real action was.
Firstly, at a particular counter, I was asked for my documents by a friendly Bajan man who asked me if Runako Morton was related to me. I was only too happy to tell him that he was my late cousin, cause if he had anything to do with my visa, I wanted to be on his good side!
He then sent me to an area where we sat and waited for our turn for the interview.
I saw guys dressed in suits and ties and I started to wonder if I was impressively attired enough. I saw ladies with some fantabulous hair styles, like they were going wedding!
And I saw and sensed nervousness to the extreme. One of our contingent literally stopped talking. It was obvious that she was scared. You see, they seated us right next to the interview windows and you could hear virtually everything that was being said. I think they need to change that to a more private setting.
She said that she heard a man who said he was a manager at a place, get his application denied and she thought to herself, that’ if it is he they treating so, then what they gonna do with poor me?’
However, she went before me and she answered her questions well and I heard when the man told her that her application was approved.
One error some persons made on that day is the way they responded to questions. Now these guys are well trained. They ask a simple question like ‘why do you want to go to the US?’ and you answer directly and to the point. Don’t tell them when Columbus discovered Nevis and how many boats he had!
I heard this particular man answering that same question and I hear him telling the man all about he was married but his wife something or the other…
I knew he was going to be denied and he was.
I saw a woman literally do a somersault after she heard that hers was approved. I saw it all and the closer it got to me, confident me started to get nervous.
The young man in our group really needed some coaching. He was asked what type of employment he had and he said FARMING. Now he was obviously not prepared for the ensuing questions like how many acres he farmed and how much money he made per week? His responses were unsure and as iffy as they could get. Application denied. I was sorry for him.
I think the biggest fear is to spend all that money and then hear ‘denied.’
Vera went just before me. Oh, she was supremely confident. I heard her tell the man that she wants to go to the USA because her mom is making 90 and they are having a family reunion. Approved.
She gave me a thumbs up as she left the room.
Number 45-Curtis Morton. I walked briskly to the counter and greeted the man nicely and he responded in kind.
‘Mr. Morton why do you want to travel to the US?’
“Well, I have been vacationing in the US for the past ten years and besides our Masters Cricket team is due to play its annual tournament in St.Thomas this year, sir.’
‘Well, your application is approved……’ It seemed unbelievably simple and I thanked God so much.
Later, as I approached my country contingent on the outside, I put on a sad face.
‘Did you get through?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘Not like how I wanted.’
‘What you mean?’ ‘I wanted the man to tell me that I can get twenty years,’ I said and they all laughed.
I turned to Vera and said: ‘So your old mother making 90 this year?’
‘You were listening me? That’s not nice.’
‘You were not talking easy,’ I said. So I asked about her old mother. Only to find out that Vera’s mother was born in Nevis and is actually deceased!
I was astonished that she could tell that story with such comfort and get away with it.
My dear readers (don’t do this at home—practise honesty at all times).
The remaining time in Barbados was uneventful. Got a safe flight back to the RLB and was faced with some more drama because there was no taxi there for me to catch the midday ferry. Apparently some cruise ships were in and the taxi men had deserted the airport.
Well I newa!
I saw a young lady squeeze in four guests for the Marriott’s and their luggage in her small private vehicle.
Am sure she is thinking seriously now of becoming a Taxi driver!
Got home safely and got a call on Thursday that my passport was at the DHL office in St.Kitts.
It was a long journey and quite eventful but I wanted to use my experience to guide anyone who is going to apply for a visa, any time soon.
Remember, honesty is the best policy.
That’s the way I see it. How do you see it?